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$23M More Approved For Over-Budgeted Raleigh Convention Center

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Raleigh city leaders gave the green light Thursday morning to pay more to fund the biggest construction project in the city's history -- even though the project cost continues to increase.
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    In a 7-1 vote, the Raleigh City Council approved a 12 percent increase in funding for the city's new convention center, bringing the total cost from $192 million to $215 million. The extra $23 million will come from taxes on restaurant meals and the hotel-motel tax fund.

    Because of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the costs for concrete and other materials are rising, forcing the 12 percent increase.

    And even though city leaders approved it, members said they have serious concerns about the climbing cost of the convention center, which originally started out at $180 million.

    "We haven't started coming up out of the ground," said City Councilman Tommy Craven, who opposed the increase. "There are still more surprises ahead. So, don't get tied to the $215 million. I think that's just a temporary stop."

    But City Councilman Philip Isley said that if construction crews come back saying they need more, he may not support another increase.

    "They're not getting it from me," Isley said. "They'll need to find somebody else, because I will not support that."

    Leaders hope to build a first-class facility that attracts conventions and visitors to downtown. Some believe that cutting back on some of the center's finishing touches, such as some of the materials that would be used inside the convention center, could prove to be a setback later on.

    "I think we have to be very careful that we don't build a substandard convention center that doesn't get any business," said Raleigh City Councilwoman Jessie Taliaferro.

    Critical to the convention center is a four-star hotel to be built next to the facility. Set to open in spring 2008 when the convention center opens, leaders are concerned because there are issues with the hotel's design, which need to be finalized before a building permit can be issued.

    "You won't get the convention business without a four-star hotel for people to stay in," Taliaferro said.

    Once the permit is obtained, construction on the hotel is expected take about 18 months.

    The City Council is expected to meet to discuss those final design plans at its next meeting.


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