11-story office building approved for downtown Raleigh

ccampbell@newsobserver.comJuly 12, 2013 

— A long-delayed 11-story office tower in downtown Raleigh will break ground later this year after it was approved last week by the city’s planning commission.

The commission voted unanimously in favor of the Charter Square project, which will be built atop an existing underground parking deck across from the Marriott hotel on Fayetteville Street.

The $54 million project has been stalled for years thanks to a weak real estate market. That’s left the roof of the parking deck bare, surrounded by a chain-link fence. “This site has sat dormant for far too long,” said Ken Thompson, a landscape architect working on the project. “Hopefully everyone’s as excited as us to finally see something come up above the deck.”

Dominion Realty Partners is developing the site, which will be the first speculative office building in downtown Raleigh in years. Still, some have criticized the project, suggesting that the architecture is too bland and that the site warrants a taller tower.

Architect Neil Gray addressed those concerns at the planning commission last week. He says there are two reasons to stick with an 11-story building. For one, the project must fit existing concrete supports from the underground deck. “If we go taller, we’re applying much greater load on that existing structure,” Gray said. “We would have to go back in and dig up those footings, and it’s a city-owned deck.”

And while Charter Square will be dwarfed by the PNC Plaza tower down the street, Gray argues that’s not a bad thing. He says PNC should be the tallest building, with each successive building to the south getting shorter.

“Everything coming down Fayetteville Street just steps down lower to acknowledge the significance of the Center for the Performing Arts,” he explained.

The project leaves room for a taller second building to the north, next door to Bank of America Plaza. No date has been set for construction on that building.

Charter Square and its future neighbor will be separated by a 11,500-square-foot pedestrian plaza, which will connect to Fayetteville Street’s centerpiece, City Plaza.

The ground level of Charter Square will feature 27,875 square feet of retail space fronting Fayetteville and Wilmington streets. The section of the building facing Wilmington will be just two stories tall.

Dominion plans to make the tower environmentally friendly, adding green roofs and seeking a platinum certification from the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) program. It would be the first office building in the state to get that distinction.

But the appearance commission wants the design to be more distinctive, with one planning commissioner noting that “it’s not as much of a signature piece as they had hoped.”

Gray said he hopes to add some more architectural flourishes before the building breaks ground at the end of the year. Construction is expected to take about a year.

Campbell: 919-829-4802 or twitter.com/RaleighReporter

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