RALEIGH, NC-A vacant department store and a mall that goes dark after Downtown workers go home are two key issues that face the city council here as it considers revitalization plans for the central business district. Raleigh is 125 miles northeast of Downtown Charlotte.

The city has been trying to sell the vacant, 60-year-old Hudson Belk department store for the past two years. A final decision on the property’s fate is expected by year end. The store is located in the 300 block of the Fayetteville Street Mall and is considered by many the most visible eyesore Downtown.

The city has received eight proposals to redevelop the property. They range from replacing the building with a 40-story office and residential tower to renovating the structure for condos and retail shops. The council considered opening the mall to traffic about four years ago, but failed to do so. Mike Williams, vice president of Karnes Research Co., believes that opening the mall to traffic and filling all the stores could turn the area into the entertainment center of Raleigh.

Four of the eight proposals would tear down all or part of the department store. Developer Roland Gammon would replace the structure with a building that would have a parking deck, retail at mall level and condos above fronting the mall. Developer Roland Britt would also demolish the structure and build a high-rise with about 40 floors of offices, retail and residences.

Offices are in demand Downtown, according to Karnes Research Co. During the third quarter, the Downtown office vacancy rate was just over 5%. About 400 condos, townhouses, homes and apartments have been built Downtown or on its periphery since 1996. New condominium developments, such as Park Devereau at Nash Square in Downtown Raleigh, continue to attract professionals who want to live closer to their work, notes the Downtown Raleigh Alliance.

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