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Supporters, Opponents Voice Opinions About Proposed Raleigh High-Rise

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Leaders of Crabtree Valley Mall, the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce and the RBC Center joined local residents Tuesday to support a proposal for the tallest building in the city, to be built outside of downtown.

A developer wants to take the abandoned Sheraton hotel near Crabtree Valley Mall and build a new 42-story Westin hotel, along with condominiums, a restaurant and spa. The cost of the project would be approximately $100 million.

Many residents who live along Glenwood Avenue said Tuesday they believe the high-rise is just what the area needs to replace the Sheraton, now a dilapidated hotel.

"While we usually think of artwork as a free-standing sculpture, I do consider this project as a definition of art," said area resident Bee Weddington.

But while most people at Tuesday's Raleigh Planning Commission meeting supported the construction project, others think a high-rise does not belong outside the downtown area.

"I think the tallest building in Raleigh should be in our downtown," said Betsy Kane, the only member of the planning commission who did not support the plan.

But RBC leaders said Raleigh would stand to gain more than just a top-quality hotel if the proposal were approved.

"The lack of four or five star hotels in proximity to the RBC Center is the single largest obstacle to attracting events like attracting the NHL All-Star Game," said Steve Stroud with the Centennial Authority.

The next step for the project would go before the Raleigh City Council, which makes the ultimate decision. Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker, who has been opposed to the plan, said he would reconsider it.

Others on the council, however, say they have already decided. While it is a beautiful building, Councilman Thomas Crowder said it does not belong outside the city's center.

"What we are trying to promote is urban, livable streetscapes and having iconic, tall structures is not the way to get there," Crowder said.

The City Council could consider the proposal as early as November. If approved, developers said they hoped to begin construction in early 2006.


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