Workers are breaking ground this summer on the first building in an ambitious and modern $1 billion development in Midtown Raleigh, a project its developers said they’ve been working toward their wholes lives.
Todd Saieed and Ven Poole are CEO and senior partner, respectively, at Dewitt Carolinas.
“We’re two guys who have been in Raleigh our whole lives and this is a legacy project for us,” Saieed said in an interview.
He and Poole were seated in a conference room with floor length windows overlooking the cleared land.
“Our kids and our grandkids are going to come play in this park,” Poole said. “We just want to do it right.”
The vision for The Exchange Raleigh includes offices, condos and apartments, a luxury hotel, and retailers in buildings with a contemporary aesthetic, woven among a park filled with trees and water features. Dewitt hired a consultant with Disney experience to help with the design.
“We’re spending a lot of time, effort and money to make this park the central amenity,” Saieed said.
The holding company associated with the project owns 44 acres of land assessed at $89 million, amassed over the past 14 years.
Full buildout will take place over the next decade, but the infrastructure is already in place.
“We went ahead and put all the roads in,” Saieed said, a $15 million endeavor. “That was a real big investment. Typically as an investor, you don’t do that.”
Poole said retailers will be carefully selected to cultivate a vibe that encourages families to hang out and spend hours roaming the park and grounds.
“It’s a ‘come and stay’ type of destination. We’re not going to have dress shops and jewelry stores,” he said.
The city is pursuing a $275 million parks bond, $4.5 million of which would go to a Raleigh Greenway connector that would extend the bike and pedestrian pathway to both The Exchange and North Hills. Voters will decide on the bond this fall.
“We want that greenway to be the nicest part of the greenway in Raleigh,” Saieed said.
12-story tower to be named 1000 Social
The first office tower, to be named 1000 Social in keeping with its planned address. It will be 354,000 square feet, mostly office space, though 20,000 square feet will be reserved for retail and 7,500 for shared conference rooms and meeting spaces.
A mirror image of 1000 Social will go up next, including a hotel and residential units with office space and retail. The twin buildings are to be joined by a skybridge covered with an outdoor terrace. A cylindrical glassed-off “oculus” will allow for a view of the land below.
“That skybridge is going to be something Raleigh has never seen,” Saieed said.
Saieed said half of the new office tower has been pre-leased, though he declined to name any companies yet. Dewitt is aiming for a large company to headquarter in the buildings.
“Your new HQ, future-ready,” their website proclaims.
The building was designed during the COVID-19 pandemic — which Saieed and Poole said put health considerations top of mind. There’s individual bathrooms on each floor, outdoor balconies on every floor and bipolar ionization technology in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.
“The air in this building will be the highest quality circulation of any building in town,” Saieed said.
Both men said office space was a solid bet, despite the popularity of working from home.
“There are industries where work-from-home works fine. It’s a mixed bag,” Poole said. “For the corporate user, it’s a significant draw to have people want to come into the office.”
“We’re bullish on this is what people are looking for,” Saieed added.
Saieed said they’re building with every intention to hold onto the property for decades, though time is of the essence.
Construction prices have shot up amid the supply chain woes sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction goods are up 21.4% year-over-year, more than double the 8.6% inflation consumers are experiencing.
1000 Social is adjacent to One Renaissance Center, Dewitt’s six-floor office building on Benson Drive built in the late 1990s.
Land was site of Isaac Hunter’s tavern
Saieed recalls walking along Big Branch Creek and chasing crawfish and venturing into the woods they would later own.
“We would come over into what was then a wooded area and ride our bikes and explore,” Poole recalled.
They were far from the first to roam the land, however — Isaac Hunter’s tavern was on the property.
The tavern was a popular stopover for those traveling north and south some 250 years ago. In 1788, North Carolina’s constitutional convention famously decreed the state capital should be located within 10 miles of the tavern, according to historians.
No town existed there at the time, but Raleigh was plotted out four years later.
The tavern fell into complete disrepair over the course of the 20th century, and was lost and found by historians and archaeologists several times.
Poole said it emblemizes The Exchange’s vision as a “modern-day crossroads,” and they plan to incorporate the preserved foundation blocks into the development somehow.
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