Local News

Raleigh breaks ground on downtown plaza

Posted October 20, 2008 11:45 a.m. EDT
Updated October 20, 2008 5:00 p.m. EDT

— Almost three years after city officials first floated the idea of a public gathering place at the south end of Fayetteville Street, they broke ground Monday on City Plaza.

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.

"It's always nice to have a groundbreaking. The only thing better is a ribbon-cutting when we're done," Mayor Charles Meeker said.

The $14.8 million City Plaza 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.

"It has taken us a while to get to this point, both in terms of the design and getting squared away on the easement for the site, but it's finally done. It's taken about a year. We're ready to move ahead now," Meeker said.

Construction on the plaza is scheduled to be completed next fall.