Development Beat: Miscellaneous Monday

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A rendering of the Soleil Center

Perkins + Will

A rendering of the Soleil Center

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Monday, July 11, 2016

A dearth of New Building permits from last week has birthed a new feature here on the Development Beat: Miscellaneous Mondays.

The premise is simple: throughout Raleigh, there’s a large stock of developable land now sitting vacant, half-abandoned or otherwise undeveloped. When we started the Development Beat, the idea was to answer the question of: hey, what’s that getting built down the street from me?

In that spirit, we’re opening up the Misc. Monday feature to any and all requests. If we’ve already covered the subject, all the better: I’ll just rewrite the old post and call it a day’s work.

Today’s subject site is one I was reminded of this weekend when I was out by the Crabtree Valley Mall: the site that would have been the Soleil Center, which is now fenced in and severely overgrown and located at the southwest corner of the intersection of Glenwood and Creedmoor. If you want to skip the history lesson, AKA the bulk of today’s column, just click here.

The vacant lot formerly known as the Soleil Center

James Borden / Raleigh Public Record

The vacant lot formerly known as the Soleil Center

A not-so-quick refresher on the project: it was a proposed 665.900 square-foot, 43-story hotel/condominium development that, at 480 feet, would have been the second-tallest building in Raleigh. The Soleil Center actually made it as far as the permit stage in early 2008 before it was dropped like a good habit. And yes, we know the phrase is actually “dropped like a bad habit” but let’s be honest: which kind of habit are you more likely to drop? Exactly.

The preposterous residential portion of the project, which would have offered 54 condominiums, was officially known as “The Westin Raleigh Soleil Center Residences.” The hotel would have offered 290 rooms. The address was 4501 Creedmoor Road.

A rendering of the Soleil Center

Perkins + Will

A rendering of the Soleil Center

According to news reports from the time, those condos would have sold for between $1-$4.5 million. Look: I’m about as anti-communist as you can get, but if I knew someone had paid had paid $4.5 million for a condo next to the Crabtree Valley Mall, of all places, I would have been more than happy to redistribute their wealth directly into my checking account.

$4.5 million for a penthouse condo next to a shopping mall in one of the most heavily-trafficked and frequently flooded parts of the city, and no one saw the real estate crash of 2008 coming. Right.

 

In the interest of science, we pulled up a cached version of the Soleil website from back in those heady days of early 2008, which contained a wonderful description of the place. I was only going to post a portion, but I didn’t have it in me to cut any of this out. If I was trying to craft an argument in favor of bringing back the sumptuary laws of ancient Rome and Greece that prevented ostentatious displays of wealth, I really couldn’t do much better than the text below.

In every great city, there is one address, one location, one extraordinary place that can never be duplicated.

The moment you arrive at The Westin Raleigh Soleil Center Residences, you will know-this is what coming home should be. From the valet who carpingly sweeps your vehicle toward private parking, to the elegantly appointed residents’ lobby, to the concierge who delivers your tickets for Friday night, living at Westin Raleigh Soleil Center is a distinctively different way of life.

Step into the high-speed elevator and luxury travels with you; you are whisked upward to the serenity of home and your day fades graciously into the shrinking landscape below. Open your door to the scent of fresh flowers, then step across to panoramic windows that beckon toward the spectacular view below. A quick call to the chef signals him to prepare your meal, the clothes you had sent out are now ready and waiting, and an appointment at Westin’s Heavenly Spa means the day ends with complete and utter relaxation.

When you live at The Westin Raleigh Soleil Center Residences, you soon discover that its stunning exterior is matched only by its sophisticated interiors — walls of windows, European-designed kitchens and baths, sky-high balconies — plus all the incomparable services and everyday luxuries that come standard in this exhilarating ownership experience.

Replenish. Rejuvenate. Breathe. You’re home.

A rendering of the Soleil Center

Perkins + Will

A rendering of the Soleil Center

That description makes the place sound more like a real-world version of the Croker Concourse from “A Man in Full” than any project that’s actually been developed in Raleigh. And yet … it made it all the way to the building permit stage, so credit where it’s due.

On January 11, 2008, a $90 million permit was issued to CMG Builders out of Charlotte (of course) for the construction of a 42-story shell building. This was preceded by the issuance in August of 2007 of a $110 million permit, also to CMG, for foundation work. One of the many problems this project faced was uneven bedrock, which delayed the project for more than a year.

According to additional information included on those permits, CMG/the developer (Glen Tree Investments) paid just under $47,000 in fees to the City of Raleigh. Were this any other development, we’d be hoping they got at least some of that money back, but remember, these are the folks who wanted to build a place where “a quick call to the chef signals him to prepare your meal, & the clothes you had sent out are now ready and waiting,” so, yeah. Tough luck.

But that’s all in the past now. Let’s look to the future.

In March of 2015, the original site plans for the project (SP-52-05) were resubmitted to the City, in an effort, the property’s owners said at the time, to preserve the entitlements for its future owners, which turned out to be a subsidiary of Shamin Hotels out of Virginia.

Shamin ended up paying $5.35 million; Glen Tree had paid $5.7 million back in 2003, when the site was home to a Sheraton Hotel. Glen Tree is rumored to have spent around $20 million on land acquisition, site work and other assorted costs before the plans for the Soleil Center fell apart. Schadenfreude at its finest. Not surprisingly, there were countless lawsuits following the project’s collapse: everyone from its designer, Perkins & Will, to CMG and even the insurers.

Sorry, didn’t mean to backslide into the past again.

So Shamin bought the land at an auction in April 2015 from Rialto Capital Advisors, which had acquired the property at a 2011 foreclosure auction for $4.2 million. They initially tried to sell it for $7.5 million back in 2014, without any success.

vacantlot2

James Borden

The site today

In the period between the bottom falling out of the real estate market in late 2008 and the eventual foreclosure sale in 2011, plans for the Soleil site shifted to the development of a 16-story Westin hotel.

Here’s some information on the original plans for that hotel, which we found on an archived version of the website for Soleil from way back in 2006.

The pinnacle of awe-inspiring architecture. Breathtaking Views. Lavish finishes. Enviable location. Pre-eminent address. To that list we respectfully add access to a suite of deluxe hotel and luxury spa services. A Four-Star, Four-Diamond Westin Hotel. Conference Center. Spa and Wellness Center.

As far as we’ve been able to find out, it looks like those plans are still more or less in place. Here’s our evidence, as it is. Keep in mind, this was written on a Sunday, so it’s not like we were able to pick up a phone.

  • On the “locations” page of Shamin Hotel’s website, the property is not mentioned specifically, but it is included on the map of sites on that same page, where it’s described as “Westin”
  • Real estate broker CBRE, which is currently listing an adjacent office building at 4901 Glenwood formerly home to Capital Bank, describes the Soleil site as a “proposed full-service hotel.”
  • An article profiling Shamin CEO Neil Amin — weird coincidence with those names, right? — written in March or April of this year includes this paragraph. Bolded for emphasis. “But it doesn’t stop there. Shamin Hotels has 10 other projects in development; some are under construction, some in the design phase and some are in the planning phase. These projects include a full-service Westin in Raleigh, N.C., a few other full-service hotels in Virginia and another dual-branded Hilton Garden Inn and Home2 Suites by Hilton in Herndon, Va.”
  • There’s already a ton of mixed-use office and residential projects that have either just been built, are under construction or will be coming soon to the immediate area, and a new hotel seems to make the most sense.

Were I a betting man, I’d be willing to lay some money down on the prospect of this site getting developed into a luxurious Westin Hotel within two years. One last thing before we wrap up today’s overstuffed edition: when the plans for Soleil were scaled back to a mere 16-story hotel, it was mentioned that the condominium portion could always be added later. We’d wager against that happening, but the later addition of a separate office structure, mentioned in the original plans? Maybe.

While we have at least two more weeks of this feature lined up, we’d be happy to pre-empt those with your suggestions, so please drop us a line to let us know what site you’d like to know more about!

A rendering of the Soleil Center

Perkins + Will

A rendering of the Soleil Center

10 thoughts on “Development Beat: Miscellaneous Monday

  1. I was all for this project in 2008, now I can’t imagine what the hell I was thinking. 48 stories @ Crabtree!….wow!

  2. A few spots I’d love to know more about:
    -the huge parking lots next to the Museums of Science and History, one of which now has the State Bar building on it – are these lots included in Project Phoenix? What are the current zoning laws on these lots? I could see them housing multiple high-rises one day, but am interested to know their current state (who owns, has there been interest in selling, etc)
    -The Enterprise lot/connected surface lots (next to the convention center) – I know there has been talk about a hotel on the Enterprise portion of the surface lot, but there’s also the huge lot next to it (Connected but not included as the Enterprise lot) that Poole’s uses for parking, then there’s the lot next to Myriad Media & the parking deck (across the st) that could all house multiple high-rises, and honestly would be the next best spot for a true skyscraper (along with the N&O lot)
    -the surface parking lot on the North/West corner of E Morgan and S Blount, right next to the North Carolina Dept of Transportation building – has this building been rumored to ever be part of Project Phoenix? This surface lot could easily house a 20-30 story building
    -huge surface lot connected to the North Carolina Department of Administration building on Lane St
    -the big gravel surface lots next to the Red Hat amphitheater and the Convention Center – who owns them and are there/have there ever been any plans to develop these lots?

  3. The project was ill-fated from the beginning. Thanks for bringing it back into focus… hard to believe it’s been almost a decade. At what point do the experts hired by the developer look in the mirror and say to the team: “Not feasible,” “Not recommended,” or “Not appropriate.” Ha.

  4. Unique1: I have no idea what you were thinking either; glad you’ve come to your senses! 🙂

    Jake: Wow! These are all better than what I had in store. I’ll have to start digging and see which one I can come up with the most information on first so I can run it next Monday. Thanks so much! I’m especially curious about those adjacent museum sites, so I’ll probably be starting there. Thanks again!

    Scotty: Hahaha, good question. The answer was probably always “Not today.”

    -James

  5. Ever track down the proposed use for the ongoing renovation at 1125 Capital Blvd? (previous storage space being converted to A-3 use was the last update I saw)

  6. Thank you for the update, James. I was initially skeptical about the Soleil Center and disappointed that such a tall building would be built in Crabtree Valley and not Downtown Raleigh. Still, I was hopeful that its introduction would mark the beginning of a more urban form for Crabtree Valley and departure from the typical suburban mall surrounded by big box stores and a few hotels. We haven’t exactly seen the creation of an urban neighborhood but recent in-progress development does seem to show a (slow) transformation occurring. I think there needs to be a big project to bring it all together.

  7. I would have thought the Westin still made sense… until Marriott began to acquire Starwood, which owns Westin. Marriott, of course, already has a hotel at Crabtree. That’s not to say that the project will not proceed, but it might get more scrutiny now.

    Of course, Sheraton is also Starwood and the Sheraton Raleigh in downtown will be a short walk away from the Raleigh Marriott City Center.

    And if you go back far enough, you might remember that the Soleil property itself was a Sheraton.

  8. OMG – laughing so hard over here: “Look: I’m about as anti-communist as you can get, but if I knew someone had paid had paid $4.5 million for a condo next to the Crabtree Valley Mall, of all places, I would have been more than happy to redistribute their wealth directly into my checking account.” Yes. That said, a hotel makes a lot more sense here than a swanky condo…

  9. This is such a good write-up because as we laugh at the ridiculousness of this proposal, we also must consider how close perhaps it was to happening. The best outcome from that case would be for Raleigh developers, planners and city officials to learn from history. Individuals can make up their own mind if any lessons were learned. Mack Paul is a renowned land use attorney. The original Soleil project progressed to the point that Soleil attorney Mack Paul appeared at City Council June 5, 2007 to request a text change to the city’s sign ordinances (presumably for a big ole sign at Soleil and another at a North Hills development). See http://raleigh.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=132&meta_id=10206 if this doesn’t go to the item on the agenda, it begins at the 44 minute mark.

    In my community’s case, Mack Paul also represented the developer for the infamous Z-1-14 rezoning proposal (what many know as the “Publix” case) in North Raleigh. To us, that proposal was just as egregious as Soleil. It would have created a strip mall at the entrance to two neighborhoods, practically across the street from Falls Lake, off Falls of Neuse Road. Neighborhood streets would have become shopping center cut through routes. Wholly inappropriate and like Soleil, with 20/20 hindsight, we can look back and shake our heads at how outrageous that proposal was as well.

    Raleigh is a desirable market for any business. We can be very selective. Here’s hoping city bureaucrats and elected officials use that advantage in weighing development proposals, and only permit those that respect adjacent property owners, neighborhoods and natural resources. My cynical view is that we cannot rely on developers to hold these same values and objectives.

  10. Hey James, Know anything about what is going in at the corner of Wake Forest Road & McNeill Street (“McNeill Pointe”) or what the status of the development is? I live down the street and I’ve seen the sign up for a while (and overgrown grass) on that lot. Just curious if anything is going to happen there!