After a second round of bidding, the council signed off on a $9.4 million plan to reopen Fayetteville Street Mall to traffic. The original budgeted amount was $8.5 million. The bids came in closer to $9 million.
"This ought to turn out to the best or one of the best streets in Raleigh," Mayor Charles Meeker said.
City Manager Russell Allen also wanted to add a $400,000 contingency. He said there is money available to make up the difference. He cited leftover funds from the construction of the new BTI deck and profits from the sale of the Belk Building as examples.
However, everyone is not on board with the plan.
"What strikes me is how easy it is to find money for the Fayetteville Street Mall project and we can't find money for these personal police vehicles, so police can take patrol cars home," councilor Mike Regan said.
George Chapman joined the planning department more than two decades ago, shortly after Fayetteville Street became a mall.
"It was a good idea at the time," he said.
Chapman said what planners did not realize is that downtown needs to be more than a nine-to-five environment. Leaders nationwide began to question downtown areas as just office centers. They needed to become places to live, work and play.
A majority of the City Council and Chapman agree that opening the mall is the right thing to do. Chapman, who is retiring after 24 years, said the project alone will not be the cure all for downtown.
"If we don't attract the types of businesses to Fayetteville Street that enliven the street to make it a safe, comfortable, exciting place to be, it's not going to be a success," he said.
The completion date for the project is slated for May 2006.
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