Union Station December 2015 Update

Future Raleigh Union Station

Not a breaking update but rather, here’s what we know so far. I walked by the site recently and still nothing new since the groundbreaking took place in May. (that’s seven months ago)

It seems we’ve been going through a financial obstacle course with this project. All interested should jump to the project page on the city’s website where you will find this piece of information:

At the March 3, 2015 Council meeting, the Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) team was authorized to proceed with bidding and finalization of a guaranteed maximum price (GMP) not to exceed $44,737,870.

In July and September of 2015, bids were received on the project which exceeded the estimate. The bid yielded a GMP of $60,000,000, which yielded a project gap of $15,300,000 when compared to the March estimate. Value engineering and steel rebid resulted in project savings, lowering the GMP to $54,700,000, leaving a $10,000,000 gap. Project partners have addressed the funding gap by identifying scope reductions totaling approximately $2,900,000. Remaining additional funding of $7,200,000 is required.

Various options were presented to Council at the Work Session on Oct. 20 and at the Nov. 3 City Council meeting, full funding, no scope reduction for Raleigh Union Station was approved with gap funding of $7,200,000, and a revised total project budget of $54,700,000.

*Union Station: Raleigh’s Multi-Modal Transit Center

The way I read it is that they wanted to do the project for about $10 million less than anyone was willing to do it for but in November, they figured it out.

Let’s have a good holiday season and then build a train station!

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  1. I think we’ve all sat around and watched as Union Station went from a promised economic gift that would keep on giving to the money pit that keeps on growing.

    I like the idea, we certainly do need an upgraded train station, but the implementation has been slow and shaky plus the final product seems underwhelming. I doubt this is the last we will hear of cost overruns either. I still have faith it will be a net positive but they need to actually build it first. Having the groundbreaking as prematurely as they did just looks silly now.

  2. Might be done by 2020. I felt like it took the SECU building a long time as well. Gov’t Projects for ya!!!

  3. Bob, SECU is not a government but a private entity. The SECU building was actually built within a very reasonable time, considering the people that had to be moved prior to the ground breaking, the building’s LEED certification, the parking deck and the rather odd shape of the structure might have made it felt like it took a long time.

  4. I remember back in the throws of the recession politicians were foregoing larger projects because it didn’t seem “responsible” to spend money during tough economic times. Well here you go, now that times have improved we are paying through the nose.

  5. The main larger project I can think of that was cancelled was the Lightner Public Safety Center. One of the arguments against it was about spending money in a recession, but I think there was a very valid criticism of the concept that project was based on: it wasn’t ideal to put the emergency response center inside a downtown high rise in the first place, because it winds up being the tail that wags the dog with respect to programming the entire structure. Everything then needed hardening which made it way more expensive per SF than standard construction.

  6. With regards to Clarence Lightner Public Safety Center, there was also the argument about adding to the city’s already high debt. The terms of the loan options were not good for the city, and this was a very good argument. The thing that upset me the most is how the entire momentum was generated before support from the city council was secured. We spent money for nothing. If the functionality and uses of the building were not agreed upon, why spending any money? Yes, we ended up with a nice rendering that got us excited. At least the new Justice Center was delivered on time and under budget.

  7. Government projects have to jump through more hoops and undergo greater scrutiny. However, private projects go through cost increases too. I hope it is something that we can be proud of when its said and done.

  8. @CX, Thanks for the perspective and I completely concur with your comments.
    I get tired of the “government sucks” discourse without a balanced perspective.
    As someone who’s been in the private corporate RE industry for 20 years and has seen lots and lots of projects get delayed, defunded, subjected to significant scope creep, etc., I can’t even imagine going through that process under public scrutiny and while doing the job at the discretion of the elected officials in the community, the state or the federal government. So, while nothing’s perfect, we should all appreciate that the “government” has built most of our nation’s infrastructure and continues to do so in an environment where income tax rates are still near historical lows compared to the boom decades of the 50s, 60s and 70s.

  9. It’s not a case of “government sucks” so much as “government getting over ambitious then embarrassing itself” in my opinion. Raleigh has plenty of failed and/or heavily delayed private sector projects that either never happened or came out underwhelming due to various circumstances. But I don’t think that the private sector messing up too means the handling of the Union Station project from the day it was announced up to the present as excusable. Given that we are all the stakeholders here since it is a public project it makes sense that more feedback/criticism is happening. There is plenty to be critical about regarding Union Station.

  10. I have to agree that Union Station going way above the projected budget is not a shinning moment for the City of Raleigh. The only excuse, IMO, is the great importance of this project and the impact it will have in the nearby area, as well as our transportation improvement efforts. The more we look into the impact, the more pressure we have to ensure that we don’t miss anything. At the end, the “missing items” list grows exponentially.

    Anyway, I want my city leaders to succeed with this project, but thus far I have little faith in them.

  11. People,

    The reason the Union Station project has gone over budget has nothing to do with a ‘shining moment’ or lack thereof by the City. Building costs are skyrocketing, period. I’m in real estate development and material and labor costs have been steadily rising for the last couple years, in part due to the massive amount of construction, public and private, that is occurring across this City, parts of the State, and nation.

    You have to get off your ‘bash the city’ tirades. Private construction project costs are rising as well.

  12. uncle jessee, it’s not just over budget or city bashing. If the budget was the only problem with it I think most people would be willing to accept it. While costs rise, promised features continue to drop. The city was originally planning on relocating all transit to the station; Amtrak, possible regional/light/high speed rail, GoRaleigh (formerly known as CAT), GoTriangle (formerly TTA), along with space for Greyhound and room for other bus coach services. Now they are revamping Moore Square for additional millions of dollars to house GoRaleigh buses for the foreseeable future and there are no signs that Greyhound is interested in leaving Capitol Blvd for a return downtown either. Just how multi-modal will the end product be? Commuters like myself who transfer from GoRaleigh to GoTriangle buses every day are in for rough mornings if GoTriangle ends up relocating to the new facility while GoRaleigh stays put. Decentralizing the buses, even with increased frequency, isn’t a good choice. Maybe the hope is that service will be so greatly increased that it won’t be an issue but I have enough experience with our public transit options to know to be skeptical of them until I see tangible results.

    The Union Station will have a huge increase for foot traffic into the Warehouse District even in its current state. This is undoubtedly good for downtown. Yet the impact could have been significantly greater had things gone according to the original plan. The whole process has been confusing to follow (example from the article: why did they break ground so early??) along with the anxiety brought on by the funding issues to top it off. When this much is on the line I think it is good for the public discourse not just be a chorus of “well good job even though x,y,and z have gone wrong. We have complete faith in you.” We have a right to be concerned and critical when issues arise.

  13. My understanding was that Moore Square Bus Station renovations have been the plan for many years. The goal was to EVENTUALLY move much of that bus traffic to Union Station, but in a second or third phase. I don’t know that this has significantly changed. I do wish they would move that bus station out of there, though. It is a blight on the entire block it encompasses, and the surrounding area. Moore Square and City Market’s biggest enemy are the homeless and the loitering bus “riders” who hang out there all day and night.

    On the other hand, do we really want this to just get moved to the Warehouse District?

  14. I don’t mean to change subject, but I saw an article in today’s TBJ about Heritage Properties, a Baltimore developer, negotiating space in Downtown Raleigh. Here is the excerpt:

    “Blair also hinted that the company is negotiating to buy property in downtown Raleigh for a second major real estate project, but he wouldn’t disclose which property, yet.”

    Of course, I will not hold my breath for anything really big, since their only Raleigh project is an under construction 4-story building in Brier Creek, but I wonder if the company’s second project will be in The Warehouse District. Even a LEED-certified 4-story project can be a nice fit in this transitional area. It sounds like a solid company that thinks long-term.

  15. @Jeff
    It would put a hurting on Taz if the bus stationed moved.

    Speaking of Taz, I thought I caught wind of a comment on this site a while back that he wanted to move into the bottom a skyhouse. That would be awful if you lived there.

  16. I believe Jeff is correct, the plan was always to renovate Moore Square station for GoRaleigh’s continued future use, and to EVENTUALLY move the Greyhound station to Union station (I have never heard anything about GoRaleigh also moving there). And yes, Bob, Taz is indeed moving to a space in SkyHouse, and it is rumored to be like a NY Deli style convenience shop, something SkyHouse residents should enjoy.

  17. I am thinking back to before the project even had a name and was just a promise. Lots of links on that time are dead now but here it is:

    The Wikipedia page, which hasn’t been updated in a long time as proof by what the agency names are, also alludes to CAT using the station: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Union_Station_(Raleigh,_North_Carolina)

    Then there was this twist in 2012:

    And so on and so forth…I can’t find the old renderings or discussions about it online but I remember them happening and the excitement they generated. Things have changed a lot over the years in terms of price and promised features as we’ve crept into the current proposal.

  18. @Jake
    Sounds like TAz wants to do something different with that space other than sell loto tickets and conduct a check cashing business.

  19. Encouraging news in N&O yesterday concerning Gov. McCrory’s “Phoenix” program. The state is looking to open up many valuable locations on north side of downtown to private development.

    Search on “McCrory wants development on state properties in Raleigh” to read article

  20. TBJ also has an article about the Phoenix project. If this vision begins to materialize it will take years for us to see the benefits, but we’ll most definitely be grateful that it happened. This area would be ideal for some Washington DC-type of development, with walkability, mixed-uses and a superb street-level experience. Not that Washington DC’s center is the epitome of all that, but its urban fabric is definitely something to learn from. I would hate to see the Archdale building go, although it is not as pleasing – I worked there for a few years – but if it is to be replaced with something more iconic and appealing, I may “forgive” the state government for it.

    Hopefully, the powers that be will plan on consolidating the DHHS employees into a building downtown. They moved a bunch of us to RTP and I hate EVERY second of it. What they save in leasing costs, we (employees) more than pay for in gasoline. Hopefully, they will bring us downtown some day, before I go insane :(

  21. There is an article about John Kane in the TBJ, along with a slideshow. There is an interesting photo with something that looks like a small high-rise in the background, with he caption mentioning apartment communities, or something like that:


    The building looks to be below 20 floors – our most popular height “limit” these days – and kind of skinny, but nevertheless interesting. My guess is that it will probably be planned/envisioned for North Hills, but now I am curious.

  22. FYI, Kane got approval to go up to 40 floors at some spots. He has a 28 story building that is currently pre-leasing (to go next to Captrust tower). 16 story Plaza apts appears to be grading work in progress (next to “midtown park”).

    The rendering in that photo appears to go in place of the parking deck south of JC Penneys at the back entrance to Target. Lastly, Kane’s heights are determined by his market analysis – not by your incorrect interpretation of the zoning code.

  23. The state would be smart to start finding sites to relocad employees now. While there is cheaper land at the edges of Downtown, a series of buildings can be built inexpensively while also furthering Raleigh’s long term land use, transit, recreation goals etc.

    My first initial ideas would be inside the beltline along Capital or S. Wilmington.

  24. @mike: FYI, I am fully aware of the height limit in the North Hills East section. It is 35 floors (not 40) and 365ft, whichever comes first, as it was set years ago. My reference to “limit” – notice the double quotes – was not about any zoning restrictions by the city, as you INCORRECTLY implied, but the fact that we don’t get much above that (Charter Square North being the only exception) due to market conditions. I am also fully aware that Kane would go for the maximum the market allows and I am thankful for his contributions. No complains on my part.

    Last, but not least, you need to read carefully before you reply. On more than one occasion in the past I recognized that what you stated about the height limit is correct. The developers can go higher if they want, but the process is more involved. Still, I maintain my position with regards to the way the 20-story limit is presented (and encouraged by some city leaders). Developers, journalists, city leaders and planners STILL emphasize that the height limit in some areas is 20 floors. Maybe you ought to write them a letter and ask them to state the zoning rules correctly, instead of shooting the messenger.

    @CX: As a state employee who was relocated to RTP a few months ago I can tell you this: State government should only look at Central Raleigh for sites. They (we) can build a series of taller mid-rise buildings – and even a few small high-rises – on several state-owned underutilized lots. The building costs should be the same and since the state already owns land downtown it should be easier. Of course, locating the money for the new buildings will be an uphill battle.

  25. Off topic but drove thru downtown yesterday and noticed the lot at Salisbury and Lenoir is blocked off and the jobsite trailer is in place for the Residence Inn. I think I remember it being 9 stories and 130 ft tall unless it has been updated recently.

    I think its a nice addition to the south side of downtown but my fear is that will all these smaller hotels going up in downtown, it will discourage a chain from developing a large hotel complex. For example, we are about to add 3 small to midsize hotels that are 150-200 rooms and now we no longer have demand for a 500-600 room Westin or Four Seasons for example.

  26. Glad to help educate and with the confusion. Some exciting stuff in the works! Hoping for more positive vibes on this site!

  27. Daniel , if my memory is right , The Residence Inn is suppose to be 10 stories / app. 160+ ft. with a restaurant on the top floor .

  28. Daniel: Thx for update – that is good news, finally a building that will hide that ugly tan Marriott (hopefuly this hotel looks better from front and back views).

  29. Anthony – not quite, Charter Square is 215 feet, and barely gets above the Marriott by 30 feet or so. 160′ will hide most but not all of the 16 story Marriott Hotel.

  30. Daniel , I know & hate it ! I think this project may have been revised since the Pre. Plans , but I’m not sure on this !

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