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Design Team Unveils Plans For New Raleigh Convention Center

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A design team unveiled its final plans for a new $138 million Raleigh Convention Center that will take up an entire city block. Some of the most talked-about features right now about the center are unfunded, but leaders hope that is where the private sector can help.

The design team for the proposed convention center envisioned a shimmering wall, similar to one at a Charlotte parking deck. The pricetag for that project would be $650,000.

City and county leaders also want companies to fund art around the building in exchange for naming rights.

"I'm very hopeful this community will rise to the occasion and see this building as a beautiful building, not only for today, but for the future and also want to invest in it and create that magic," Wake Commissioner Betty Lou Ward said.

For $500,000, a model tower at the southeast corner of the proposed center could come to life. For $1 million, water could jump to music, similar to that at Centennial Park in Atlanta.

"The amount of money involved is actually a very small percentage of the overall budget -- about 1 percent, so I think it's reasonable," Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said.

Meeker said the city would even consider naming rights for the building, possibly $1 million a year for 20 years. But for now, the focus is on the main design.

Thomas Crowder, a Raleigh councilmember who is an architect, called the large wall from one angle of the proposed convention center "brutal." Councilmember Philip Isley said the building is cold.

"I still think the design needs help. I would say today, it looks like a gym, basketball coliseum. It's not inspiring to me of something that will have a long-lasting impression on the city," he said.

Still, most of the decisionmakers like the plan. The project incorporates glass, limestone and granite.

"The design now is somewhat more traditional with more stonework in the front. It looks really very attractive," Meeker said.

The Raleigh City Council and Wake County commissioners are expected to vote on the final design plan Thursday. Both groups received some encouraging news Tuesday. The new convention center is within budget and the construction schedule is on time to open in early 2008.


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