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Published: The News & Observer, May 17, 2005

Author: Dudley Price
Staff Writer

Edition: Final
Section: Business
Page: Page: D3

Plans in works at water plant

RALEIGH -- Developer Greg Hatem, one of downtown's largest private landlords, plans to redevelop a landmark water treatment plant into an office, condominium and restaurant complex that could spur development south of the city's new civic center.

Hatem is buying the historic E.B. Bain Water Treatment Plant on Fayetteville Street near the intersection with South Wilmington Street, about a mile from the emerging convention center.

"It's an amazing site," said Hatem, a principal at Empire Properties. "It's also part of the southernmost link to downtown."

Hatem plans to convert 4,000 square feet of the two-story Art Deco building into a restaurant. The remaining 25,000 square feet will be for offices. A five-story or six-story building with several dozen condos also is planned for the 2.88-acre tract.

City officials hope the project will prompt more development south of downtown, which hasn't been redeveloped like other inner-city areas. City Market and Glenwood South, for instance, have been redeveloped with shops, bars and restaurants, but the area on South Wilmington Street near the Bain plant has little commercial development.

"The site could be the spark plug to convince other investors to recognize the area's potential," said Dan Becker, executive director of the Raleigh Historic Districts Commission.

Becker said that adaptive uses of other historic properties such as the former Pine State Creamery and Powerhouse Square boosted redevelopment in the Glenwood South entertainment district. City Market renovations more than a decade ago helped transform an area around Blount Street.

City officials have had hopes for the water treatment plant before.

Designated a city and national historic property, the plant was built in 1940 by the federal Works Progress Administration and has cast-iron hanging lights, detailed French doors and gold moldings.

It was used for water treatment until 1987 and water storage until 1997. The city sold the property in 2001 to a private development partnership, Water Works II LLC, which planned to spend $7 million to convert the building into offices and a restaurant. The project never got off the ground and Hatem recently contracted to buy it.

Hatem declined to name the purchase price but the property is assessed on Wake tax records for $328,560. Hatem said he won't begin redeveloping the site for about two years. By that time, the $192 million civic center should be nearing completion, as will an adjacent 400-room hotel.

"We'll stabilize the building [but] we want...the market to focus more on the southern end," he said.

Caption: The E.B. Bain Water Treatment Plant on Fayetteville Street, built in 1940, was used for water treatment until the late 1980s and water storage until the late 1990s. Staff File Photo

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