|The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jun. 16, 2005 - Developers want to turn the former Crabtree Sheraton hotel into a 40-story glass tower filled with a luxury hotel, offices and condominiums.
"It will be an iconic building," said Sanjay Mundra. Mundra and Dicky S. Walia, owners of the Soleil Group of Cary, are planning the $90 million project called Glen-Tree.
"Raleigh will be recognized by this building," said Mundra.
Plans for the project will be submitted to city officials next week, but some council members who have already viewed them think the design is too tall, Mayor Charles Meeker said.
"I've been concerned about the height," Meeker said. "We've never had a proposal of this scale before." Suburban structures typically don't exceed six to eight stories, he said.
The building would be Raleigh's tallest and one of the highest in the state. The highest is the 60-story Bank of America Corporate Center in Charlotte. The 29-story Two Hannover Square BB&T building in downtown is now Raleigh's tallest building.
Glen-Tree is the second proposal Mundra and Walia have made for the old hotel which they bought out of foreclosure for about $5 million. In March of last year, the two said they were going to spend $30 million to renovate the site and open it by this summer as a Westin franchise.
But Walia said that those plans changed when it became apparent that the hotel's support system was inadequate and that the building would need to be demolished.
The partners decided to incorporate condos and offices under a luxury franchise such as has been done under the Ritz Carlton banner in Atlanta, Walia said.
They hired a Chicago design firm Perkins & Will to draw plans. The result is a layered, glass-walled structure for the five-acre site next to Crabtree Valley Mall.
Plans call for a six-story parking deck whose first level would be 17 feet above ground to reduce the possibility of flooding from adjacent Crabtree Creek. Three floors of offices with a total of 60,000 square feet of space would be included with the deck.
A 250-room luxury hotel would be built in four to eight floors layered atop the deck. A 20-story addition above the hotel would include 45 to 60 condominiums costing from $800,000 to $3 million.
Mundra and Walia hope to break ground on the project late this year.
The partners are in a race to develop Wake County's first luxury hotel. Concord Hospitality Enterprises of Raleigh plans a 240-room Renaissance Hotel at the North Hills mixed-use development by 2007. And Ann Goodnight, wife of SAS co-founder Jim Goodnight, is building The Umstead, a $70 million luxury hotel to open next year in Cary.
Also, about one mile south on Glenwood Avenue, developer Gordon Grubb plans to redevelop a portion of the 10-building, 24.5-acre Glenwood Place office park into a five-story, 118,000-square-foot boutique hotel.
The Glen-Tree is similar to Raleigh developer Ted Reynolds' plans for the 300 block of Hillsborough Street. Reynolds last year told the city of he wanted to build a 32-story building with offices on the lower levels, a 60-room boutique hotel in the middle, 25 residential condominiums on top, and a 660-space parking garage.
On Wednesday Reynolds said that he expects to announce the start of that project by the end of the summer. He wouldn't name potential tenants, nor would he say whether the building would be scaled back or remain 32 stories.
"You build these buildings to the market," he said.
By Dudley Price and Jack Hagel
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