- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 6, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - State-owned property sitting on one of Raleigh’s original squares won’t be sold for now, despite outgoing North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s impassioned efforts to unload surplus government land with aging or shuttered buildings on them.

The Council of State - comprised of McCrory and several other top statewide elected officials - delayed action Tuesday on tentative agreements by McCrory’s administration to sell that tract and another tract in downtown Raleigh.

The council did agree to sell an old state prison in Charlotte for $6 million, to be demolished and replaced by multifamily housing.

Council members say they want more time to consider the Raleigh transaction on Caswell Square because of concerns raised by historic preservation advocates who are worried about the land becoming privately held.

“Once you’ve taken this away, we can’t take it back and I do think there’s a tremendous responsibility that we have to preserve our precious history,” Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin said. The $1.75 million proposed sale included three vacant state buildings, two of which a developer wants to restore for medical offices.

While McCrory accepted the Caswell delay, he was less understanding as a majority of the board members present opposed selling a nondescript state building and adjoining parking spaces for close to $5 million.

“That piece of land is the biggest damn eyesore coming into our state capital,” McCrory said during the council meeting. “It’s an embarrassment to the state.”

Developers envision building a small high-rise on the site close to William Peace University, with retail on the ground floor and housing above it, said John LaPenta, a deputy secretary in McCrory’s Department of Administration. But Secretary of State Elaine Marshall said she had concerns about the congestion and construction near where many state employees walk and dine. The building is currently used as a training center.

McCrory has made revitalizing the state government complex in Raleigh a priority. Several empty century-old homes owned by the state near the Executive Mansion have been sold and will be preserved.

Revisiting the Raleigh transaction will be left to Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper, who will succeed McCrory as governor next month. McCrory conceded to Cooper on Monday.

Cooper wasn’t at Tuesday’s council meeting, which marked the last for McCrory and three Democratic members. Goodwin and Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson lost on Election Day, while State Treasurer Janet Cowell didn’t seek re-election.

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