Local News

Construction to start on downtown Raleigh plaza

Posted October 9, 2008 3:47 p.m. EDT

— Almost three years after city officials first floated the idea of a public plaza at the south end of Fayetteville Street, crews will break ground on City Plaza in 11 days.

Officials envision City Plaza, which would include glass retail pavilions, light towers and water fountains, as Raleigh's "public living room," offering a gathering place for local residents and a space for public concerts and other events.

The $14.8 million project has been dogged by controversy, first in a disagreement over public art and later in a land dispute.

Spanish artist Jaume Plensa was commissioned to design art elements for the plaza, but some people said his display of flashing lights over Fayetteville Street would detract from the view from the State Capitol to the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts.

After Plensa withdrew from the project and new art elements were drawn up, negotiations on an easement bogged down between city officials and the Atlanta investors that own the plaza site. Officials threatened to condemn the land and seize it, but an agreement was hammered out at the last minute.

The disputes delayed work on the plaza, which was supposed to open last month at the same time as the new downtown convention center and Marriott hotel.

A groundbreaking ceremony for City Plaza is scheduled for noon on Oct. 20, and construction of the plaza is scheduled for completion  next October.