Triangle: H street shuffle
When the storied Velvet Cloak Inn was torn down last month to make room for a student apartment complex, it marked the latest in a series of massive changes taking place along Raleigh’s Hillsborough Street. An Atlanta developer bought the 54-year-old New Orleans-style property, which in its prime hosted U.S. presidents and celebrities but in recent decades had fallen into disrepair.
After years of uncoordinated growth, the area is now a hub of new development, with more than $308 million funneled into projects since 2009 along the street’s busiest 3-mile stretch. The figure swells to $1.2 billion if you include planned or completed investments by N.C. State University and others in surrounding areas, according to a December report by the Hillsborough Street Community Service Corp. The municipal service district was established in 2009 to boost the area’s economy and improve property values. The district extends from St. Mary’s School in the east to Interstate 440 in the west.
“It’s one of the fastest-growing districts in one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States,” says David Dean, the group’s director of programs. Major changes began in 2008, when the city launched a streetscape plan that includes reducing traffic from four lanes to two, adding roundabouts to improve traffic flow, widening sidewalks and adding bike lanes.
Recent projects include Stanhope Center, an $80 million student apartment complex developed by Kane Realty that includes 20,000 square feet of retail space. The six-story structure opened in August 2015, wooing college students with its 300 furnished apartments, cyber lounge, two-story fitness center and saltwater pool.
While many venerable properties have been demolished, some landmarks remain, including the former Varsity Theater. It reopened last year as a 240-seat restaurant called H-Street Kitchen after a $1.8 million renovation. An old Nehi bottling plant is now home to Knowledge Tree, a technology company, after a $2.5 million investment from Meetinghouse Properties, the development company started by James Goodnight Jr..
Not everyone has welcomed the changes. After N.C. State bought the property across from its bell tower with plans to build a 135-room Aloft Hotel, patrons of Schoolkids Records and Sadlack’s Heroes, a sub shop with a hippie vibe that opened in 1973, lamented the fact that the businesses would have to relocate.
Still, property values have appreciated more than in any other part of the city, according to Will Gaskins, the district’s economic-development specialist.
“As Raleigh is growing, the downtown core is creeping west,” he says, and the group’s supporters hope Hillsborough Street will remain a favorite destination for not only college students but business owners, diners and shoppers of all ages.
DURHAM — Brad Wilson, president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, will retire later this year. Wilson has worked for the company since 1996 and became CEO in February 2010. His successor has not been named. The health insurer with more than 3.7 million customers had net income of $185 million and revenue of $7.8 billion in 2016.
DURHAM — LED lighting company Cree scrapped a plan to sell its Wolfspeed power and radio frequency division to Infineon Technologies, a semiconductor company based in Germany. Frank Plastina, chief executive officer of Wolfspeed, resigned after the $850 million deal was canceled. According to the termination agreement, Infineon will pay a fee of $12.5 million to Cree.
CHAPEL HILL — Cempra laid off 91 employees, about 67% of its workforce, following the FDA’s rejection of its pneumonia treatment. The drug developer based here last month hired Morgan Stanley to help it seek a buyer. Shares traded at $3.75 in mid-March, down from $18 a year earlier.