A Triangle developer has added a high-rise apartment building to plans for the Edison, an ambitious downtown project showing signs of life after a recession-induced slumber.
The glass-and-steel tower will make a bold addition to Raleigh's skyline, Gregg Sandreuter told City Council members this morning at a Budget & Economic Development Committee meeting.
At 20 to 22 stories high, the 320-unit building will anchor a portion of the northern end of the Edison site, which will eventually encompass most of the downtown block bounded by Blount, Davis, Wilmington and Martin streets.
"It's a pretty exciting project if he can pull it off," City Manager Russell Allen told council members.
Sandreuter said he's working with a corporate partner on financing and hopes to submit a site plan in the next two to three months.
"We're working our best to fast-track the project," Sandreuter said.
Plans for the Edison have gained momentum in recent months following lengthy delays amid the recession. The project, which once imagined four towers situated on a full city block, now involves a more modest collection of buildings.
The high-rise is the second building proposed for the site. It would complement to the first phase of the project: a six-story mix of apartments and shops on the southern third of the property.
Originally, Sandreuter envisioned a 24-story office tower on the southern half. But the recession sapped demand for offices, and few investors have since been willing to finance such projects without commitments from big tenants.
As the economy rebounds, Sandreuter notes there's still room for an office tower on the northern end of the block, but it'll be part of a later phase.
Apartments are a healthier segment of the market. Beginning in late 2012, downtown could see more than 600 new apartments finished within a matter of months. The sites range from a residential neighborhood off Hillsborough Street to the lively Glenwood South entertainment district.
Sandreuter, who also developed the Dawson on Morgan condo project in downtown Raleigh, has said previously that he hopes to finish an initial phase of Edison by the middle of 2014, provided the plans pass muster with city planners and financing falls into place.
A grocery store would be a welcome addition to the ground-level of the proposed tower, City Councilman Randy Stagner told Sandreuter. Downtown advocates have long pleaded for a grocery store within walking distance, calling it a key step in the revival of downtown.
Sandreuter said he would be willing to offer rent-free space to a grocery. But based on his conversations with Harris-Teeter and other grocers, the market is not ready.
"All grocers that I know of, who have looked at downtown, say we just don't have enough people yet," he said. "We just don't have the demographics to support it."
At least in the short-term, a small urban market would be more realistic, Sandreuter said.
A parking deal with Raleigh is key to getting the Edison project off the ground.
Sandreuter worked out a rent-to-own deal with Raleigh officials for part of the 1,224-space Blount Street parking deck that divides the block on which Edison would be built. Highwoods Properties built the deck in 2008 to support the RBC Plaza.
Sandreuter has already agreed to lease 300 spaces and give the city $8.3 million over 20 years, after which the developer would own the spaces.
To accommodate the high-rise apartment building, Sandreuter now proposes a similar rent-to-own deal for the remaining 396 spaces. The City Council Budget & Economic Development Committee recommended approving the proposal this morning, setting up a final vote by the full council.
Under the agreement with Edison, the city also would be able to collect parking fees from the spaces in the Highwoods deck during hours when many residents are at work, which would help Raleigh generate income to deal with its parking revenue deficit.