The newspaper industry’s booming success during the past decade has allowed the McClatchy Company, which counts among its holdings the News & Observer, to build out a new home for its online division in the heart of downtown Raleigh. Although permits for the $2.5 million-plus project were issued less than three weeks ago, construction at the 111 W. Hargett Street location is already well underway.
Plans for the renovation of the historic 23,903 square-foot Martin Building and a 7,325 square-foot addition were drawn up by local firm Maurer Architecture. Best known for its restaurant and brewery work, Maurer may strike some as an appropriate choice to design a structure for an industry whose employees are not renowned for their sober lifestyles.
Scheduled for completion in December 2014, the new headquarters for McClatchy Interactive will serve as the hub of the newspaper chain’s online division. Although once viewed as little more than a novelty by the industry – a publisher of the New York Times is purported to have dismissed the Internet as a threat because “no one wants to bring a computer into the bathroom” – the web has served as a major disruptor in the news business. The News & Observer first launched its online arm, known then as Nando.com in 1994. The paper was purchased by McClatchy a year later.
In preparation for Raleigh’s annual road race season, which this year will finally feature the Sexy Schoolgirl 5K (Seriously, that’s a thing now—and it’s happening Aug. 8), the Triangle Town Center will soon be home to a new DTLR, a footwear and urban apparel retailer. The 4,010 square-foot store will be built out at a cost of about $145,000. Not to be outdone, the Crabtree Valley Mall will soon be adding a new location for The Walking Company, an outlet whose name is slightly more self-explanatory. Although it will occupy significantly less space than DTLR at only 1,372 square-feet, the cost of construction will run about $20,000 higher.
Those more inclined to consume than burn calories will soon welcome the arrival of Insomnia Cookies, a chain specializing in the late-night deliveries of cookies, brownies and other assorted sundries. Located on Hillsborough Street across from N.C. State University in a space once occupied by Planet Smoothie, Insomnia will offer a welcome alternative to the healthy, plant-based diet most college students adhere to between the hours of midnight and 3 a.m.
Just one block to the east, on the Bell View property that was once home to Sadlack’s and Schoolkids Records, work will soon commence on the 135-room, $12.3 million Aloft Hotel. The hotel will be accompanied by a two-story, 37,146 square-foot parking deck. Although many have decried the loss of two classic Hillsborough Street institutions, they were likely unaware that most Aloft Hotels are also home the exclusive w xyz bar, touted on the company’s web site as the “hub of hip” where “the fun flows freely.” Look out, Solas.
The Marbles Kids Museum will soon feature a new, 900-square foot exhibit focused on smart grids, with the hope that it will foster discussion about the way energy is consumed. Known as the “Kid Grid,” the project was awarded to local firm Clancy & Theys Construction in October 2013 at a cost of $619,461. The exhibit is scheduled to open in May.
Planning Commission this week heard case no. Z-04-2014, which will see the construction of a 200-home subdivision off of Hillsborough Street near the Raleigh/Cary Border. Attorney Tom Worth spoke on behalf of the developer and explained that a number of adjustments had been made in accordance with the wishes of local residents, including a reduction from 230 in the number of homes and a reduction in the maximum number of stories allowed per house.
In a display of the sort of braggadocio not typical among land-use attorneys, Worth boasted of achieving with the project a “consistency trifecta – it’s very, very rare, as a matter of fact, I think unprecedented in my career, it’s consistent with the Comprehensive Plan, with the Future Land Use Map and the Urban Form Map.”
So in awe of this achievement were the Planning Commissioners that they voted unanimously to approve the case and allow it to move forward, although they did express a desire for the subdivision to contain a pedestrian cut-through to Hillsborough Street.
The Commission also heard case no. Z-09-2014, a residential mixed-use development on Friendly Drive off Hillsborough Street. Although concerns were raised regarding the dangers of pedestrian traffic in the area, Z-09-2014 hit the same consistency trifecta as Z-04 and was likewise given unanimous approval by the Commissioners.
A Dix Move
The state of North Carolina on Wednesday rejected Raleigh’s $38 million bid for the Dorothea Dix property and countered with an offer of $52 million that would include 64 fewer acres and shift the responsibility of on-site environmental cleanup from the state to the city.
Under Gov. Perdue in 2012, the state agreed to lease the property to the city for 75 years at an annual rate of $500,000. The city planned to build what it deemed a “world-class” destination park on the property. When Republicans gained control of the legislature is 2013, the deal was rescinded, and negotiations between the mayor and governor’s office have been underway since last year.
When the original lease was signed, many Republicans in the state senate argued that the property should be sold to developers at a “fair-market” value – although what this value amounts to varies widely depending on the source. One of the sponsors of the bill that would have rescinded the lease, State Sen. Ralph Hise, claimed the deal with the city was “well below market value.” (Thought we’d be remiss if we didn’t note that in 2011 however, Hise, an employee of Mayland Community College, introduced Senate Bill 159, later passed into law without Gov. Perdue’s signature. The bill granted the sale of state-owned land — the former Blue Ridge Correctional Center — to Hise’s employer for the sum total of $1.)
If sold to private developers, the property, which was described in 19th century reports as having “beautifully undulating” grounds and a “commanding view of the city” would likely see the construction of yet more condominiums and mixed-use developments, structures which are hardly lacking in downtown Raleigh.