Local News

'Public Living Room' to Feature Retail, Fountains

Posted August 7, 2007 7:15 p.m. EDT
Updated August 7, 2007 7:49 p.m. EDT

— Glass retail pavilions, light towers and water fountains will become part of City Plaza at the south end of Fayetteville Street next year under a plan adopted Tuesday by the City Council.

The plaza's design has been up in the air for a year since the council nixed a design by renowned Spanish artist Jaume Plensa. City officials complained the design would block the view along Fayetteville Street.

Local residents, artists and city officials held a series of workshops in the ensuing months to hammer out details of a new design.

Officials want City Plaza, next to the new downtown convention center and near the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, to become Raleigh's "public living room," offering a gathering place for local residents and a space for public events.

Under the design plans approved Tuesday, four 1,000-square-foot glass pavilions would be built at the four corners of the plaza and would house retail shops. The pavilions would be constructed, owned and leased by The Simpson Organization, which owns the Bank of America building next to City Plaza.

"We've had two national name-brand prospects that are very interested in the pavilions," said Gil Hearn, real estate asset manager for Simpson, which also owns the land and parking deck beneath the plaza.

"From my standpoint, the taxpayers of Raleigh, N.C., are getting a phenomenal deal on these four pavilions," Councilman Philip Isley said.

Other design elements approved for the plaza include four light towers and four water fountains, which allow for changing light patterns and water flows. Trees, structures for shade, flexible seating and improved paving also are in the design.

"This is very beautiful, and I think they've done a wonderful job," Councilman Thomas Crowder said. "(But) I think the pavilions themselves are just chewing up too much of the public space."

The council plans to vote next month on providing $16 million to complete the new design. If the funding is approved, construction would begin this fall, with an eye toward completing it at the same time the convention center is completed in late 2008.