SECU to Build 12 Story Tower in Downtown Raleigh

Credit Union Goes Up

June, 03, 2009, by Jedidiah

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As hopes for one tower are dashed, another one rises from its ashes…but a half a mile away. The new State Employee’s Credit Union tower will be on the same location as their former branch which was torn down earlier this year. It previously featured one of the few, if not only, remaining walk-up window tellers in downtown Raleigh. Oh how I loved that teller window, it made that end of downtown still feel a bit urban.

From the rendering, the building looks to be very simple and in a very early stage of design at the moment, but is that a skybridge I see between the adjacent Green Square project and the Science Museum? Weren’t those outlawed after the 70s/80s interior downtown malls were considered failures (i.e Houston and Charlotte)?

The North Carolina State Employees’ Credit Union (SECU) has unveiled plans to build a 12-story branch and office facility on Salisbury Street in the State Government Complex in downtown Raleigh, NC.

The new 240,000-square-foot building will include a six-story parking deck, a credit union branch and about 77,500 square feet of office space reserved for future growth. SECU said in a statement it has considered building the facility for several years and now plans to begin construction in fall 2009 “in order to bolster the NC economy and to take advantage of the much lower level of current construction costs.”

The credit union is building the facility in conjunction with the state of North Carolina, which plans new offices for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and to expand the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, both adjacent to the credit union site. Coordinating project planning will save both the state and the credit union a substantial sum. An existing SECU branch on the site has been demolished in preparation for the new development.

SECU, which has owned the site since 1960, plans to occupy 13,000 square feet in the new building while renting the excess space until the credit union grows into it, said Bobby Hall, senior executive vice president. The credit union now owns five operations support facilities in the Raleigh area encompassing over 400,000 square feet of space. All existing facilities are operating at capacity, while the credit union continues to grow at double-digit annual rates.

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  • smitty
    06/04 12:21 AM

    As a member, I must say this is a waste of my money.

  • eric
    06/04 01:25 AM

    smitty… then pull your money out then.

    I like what it brings to downtown.

  • John
    06/04 02:16 AM

    Glad to see continuous development in DT.  But, let’s be real….12 stories is a nice building but hardly a tower.
    For those who say it’s a waste of money, let’s talk about the impact of continually cutting forests on the edge of the city, extending city infrastructure, services and causing more sprawl.

  • Clay
    06/04 09:03 AM

    I know they, SECU, have been on a building spree over the last few years with new branches, but this is a big change. I’m glad to see my money being put to good use and building new offices, especially downtown.

    Smitty- I don’t know how long you have been a member but the benefits that are offered far outweigh any perceived waste.

  • Matt W
    06/04 09:13 AM

    For what it’s worth—I used to live in Minneapolis, which has a ton of skywalks (kind of a necessity with the weather).  I thought they added a lot to the downtown, and it was fun to crawl from one end of downtown to the other without going outside.

  • kg
    06/04 09:49 AM

    what, no condos?  who’da thunk’it?

  • Ken Metzger
    06/04 10:01 AM

    From my understanding the skybridge is there because there will be an exhibit in the Green Square that is part of the Natural Science Museum.  That said, I hope it does not become a trend.

  • roi
    06/04 10:04 AM

    As a member of the SECU for over forty plus years, I support their decision to construct this new building.  I remember when SECU built their first branch building at this location.  Some of the space was rented for a few years. Then within a few years they grew into it.  The same happen when they built a branch and office on Hillsborough Street.  This is a wise use of money and serves the needs of the members. It is my understanding that the SECU is one of the best managed Credit Unions in North Carolina and in the US.  If Smitty knew how well it has served the members since 1934, he should support this project.  If he can find a finacial instutions that has better rates on loans, savings, and services then he should do his business elsewhere.  If he can find that finacial institution, then let me know.  I doubt it.

    And remeber that SECU has many of its operations in rental spaces in Raleigh.  They will save money with this move.

  • Betsy
    06/04 10:37 AM

    The most important thing about the new building, from the public perspective, is how it meets and interacts with the street and sidewalk at the ground floor level. 

    Alas, the state, and SECU, both have a very poor track record in this regard—featuring the use of berms, planter-walls, monolithic walls without door or windows along sidewalks (especially when they face important public buildings), reflective glass at street level, no leasable retail bays at street level, suburban-type landscaping such as useless ‘greenswards’ and sprawling juniper-scrub plantings, skywalks that take pedestrians off the sidewalk (automotive modernists fear entering the fray of the public sidewalk more than any other single thing), roaring super-sized HVAC units that ventilate directly onto public sidewalks on landmark streets, lifeless Corbusian pedestrian malls (both of which still suppress the northern half of downtown), utopian murals in lieu of richly articulated human-scale facades—and of course, acres and acres of surface parking lots, all of which are heavily subsidized by taxpayers across the state so that employees in the district most richly served by public transportation in the state can drive to work more easily.


    Will this design be different?  Here’s hoping that it will be the beginning of positive change, and will show a true understanding of how an urban building relates to urban surroundings—readily engaging with the sidewalk and the urban fabric around the site, in more than a symbolic way.

  • RaleighRob
    06/04 10:38 AM

    As a member, I can’t see why anyone would think this is a waste.  There has been, and should, be a strong location in downtown.  (It is the capital city and thus the area with the most customers…state employees!)  The building they used to have there was old and too small.  It makes sense.

    (IF SECU is wasting money with any of their buildings, it would be most likely the ridiculous size of some of their sprawling suburban and exurban branches….but certainly not with a prominent downtown headquarters.)

    SECU is strong and secure…unlike many of our for-profit banks out there.  I trust that they know what they are doing here, building while construction costs are low.  I agree with roi…they’ll save in the longterm doing this now.

  • smitty
    06/04 01:32 PM

    Let’s see, a non profit financial organization owns an extremely valuable piece of land a block from the capitol.  What would be in the best financial interest of the members?  Build a 12 story building there or sell the land and move your headquarters into one of the hundreds of half empty office buildings in Raleigh.  What is the benefit of having it right smack downtown? 

    SECU used to have the best interest rates in town, but after building unnecessary branches on every corner of the state, and now this, they are less than competitive.

  • Micah
    06/04 01:59 PM

    Every branch of SECU and all other banks that I have ever been to had plenty of walk-up teller windows….Inside!

  • RaleighRob
    06/04 02:20 PM

    ^^@Smitty- It’s in their financial interest in that they don’t have to buy any more land…they already own this one, and being a nonprofit, they wouldn’t be paying property taxes on it.  (Thus the value doesn’t play into it.)  Additionally, they will be leasing out space in the building so will make some money out of that. 
    .
    Benefit of having it smack downtown?  That should be obvious…it’s the friggin’ capital city.  Being in walking distance of tons of your customers’ workplace is a benefit, period. 
    .
    I’ll agree with you on the “unnecessary branches on every corner of the state” comment though….they do have more out there than probably needed.

  • WiseOne
    06/04 03:38 PM

    Okay first off I am a lucky SECU member (not quite 40+, but a good 30+ years) and support the tower. They are not wasting money…they are the money. This non/not for profit bank does makes profit but tills it under to keep the State Employees’ employees paid, for investments and then some for physical plant expansion. Build the damn thing 40 stories tall with cigar bars and breweries inside…it’s just composted taxpayer money. Poltiburo in the breeze smells like home to me. Government welfare…we are legion!

  • Betsy
    06/04 04:06 PM

    @RaleighRob ... well, yes—SECU does not have to make an outlay ... but there is a cost, an opportunity cost—the value of the land if sold or leased, instead of used directly for SECU’s building.  And we know that opportunity costs are often ignored or under-valued by the ‘costee’, which an economist would call irrational behavior—but it happens.

  • myk
    06/04 05:17 PM

    The skywalk is for the connection to the new Natural History Museum space planned on that block (I suppose similar to the one at the National Aquarium in Baltimore).

    I support this SECU tower - the sad thing is the main reason why the old building was torn down is that it was the only privately owned land on that block and it was in the way of the state doing their ‘green square’ project.  There is nothing more ‘green’ and sustainable than adaptive reuse of an old building (rather than tearing down), but at least SECU is making something great out of the situation.

    By the way, the SECU branch that was in that building is now across the street in the Department of Agriculture building where they are leasing space from the state - how do you like that?  You get evicted by the state, but they are nice enough to RENT you space in the meantime…oh yes, and I heard that SECU even had to make improvements to the state’s building with their own money because of Department of Insurance rules on ‘state construction projects.’

  • richardfoc
    06/04 05:52 PM

    Branches “on” every corner of the state? Huh? I live on New Bern Ave. between 440 and 540 and there is exactly one SECU branch in the area bordered by downtown, Knightdale, Louisburg Road and 40 East. And God forbid you go down east and try to find a branch. Not exactly “on” every corner of the state.
    Anyway, I think this is a great idea. They have the land (and money), it creates more critical mass downtown (a good thing right?) and provided they get all green and what not it seems like a no brainer.

  • messocollards
    06/04 06:17 PM

    As a life-long SECU member I enthusiastically support this project. 

    This building is a sure bet.  This part of downtown is devoid of office space, and there is a lot of demand for office space that close to the General Assembly.  IIRC, the N&O article said they have already had numerous law firms inquire about space.  I bet those are firms with government relations business that want space across the street from the GA.

    Also, its befitting that the second largest CU in the nation have a greater presence in the spot it was conceived.

    Good for SECU and good for Raleigh!

  • John
    06/04 09:21 PM

    Hey Smitty.  The city of Raleigh sold the land to the Credit Union for a dollar in exchange for the bank arranging for the financing of the Green Square project.  For a buck and partnership with the city, I think that the Credit Union made a very sound business decision.

  • smitty
    06/04 10:50 PM

    Hey John.  Who do you think is going to pay up the $98M for the building?  A building with no tenants lined up?  The SECU.

  • nate
    06/05 01:29 AM

    As a member, i think it is simply awesome they are building this. Anything to bring a little more to downtown is great. Our downtown needs all it can get.

  • myk
    06/05 10:42 AM

    don’t know where John is getting his information about the City of Raleigh selling the land to SECU for a dollar???  The SECU bought that land from a private indivdual in 1960.  The Green Square project is a State of North Caroina project, not a City of Raleigh.  The State owns the rest of the property on the block except for the small piece owned by the SECU.

  • richardfoc
    06/05 11:16 AM

    If the State Employees Credit Union owns a “small piece” doesn’t that mean the State owns that same “small piece?” Any why do people think that just because there are no tenants lined up right now that there won’t be any when the building opens? They won’t even break ground until this fall and I am pretty sure there will be some tenants ready to move in when the building opens.
    As a member I am 100% behind this decision and I think it will be great for downtown.

  • Oberlin
    06/05 11:17 AM

    SECU does not enter lightly into any type of building, product, or service without first considering the benefit to its members. I’m a member, and continue to use SECU because I know they will make sound business decisions. As a non profit, they had no reason to do sub prime mortgages etc because it wasn’t good for their members, and as a result SECU is stil financially solid. Just look around, no names on arenas, no sponsorships of self serving events, etc. They simply are frugal with member assets.  This is what allows them to open branches in all areas across the state, offer lower loan rates and usually be able to pay higher deposit rates.  I’m glad to see this project happening, and know plenty of other state employees within walking distance of this building who will also be pleased.

  • James C.
    06/05 11:49 AM

    Just wanted to hop in here, as an employee of SECU, to correct a couple of misconceptions I’ve seen thrown around:

    - RaleighRob said: “It’s in their financial interest in that they don’t have to buy any more land…they already own this one, and being a nonprofit, they wouldn’t be paying property taxes on it.”

    Actually, Rob, SECU pays quite a bit in taxes every year. Property taxes, in fact, is one of the largest expenses on SECU’s balance sheet every year. From SECU’s 2008 audited financial statements (which you can find here - http://www.ncsecu.org/AboutSECU/AnnualReport.html):

    Taxation: SECU is not exempt from taxation. SECU pays property taxes to local municipal
    and county governments within each of the 100 counties of North Carolina. In 2008, SECU paid
    $4.0 million in property taxes to various local governmental taxing authorities ($3.4 million in
    2007). In addition, SECU pays state and federal sales taxes on goods and services purchased by
    the Credit Union. During 2008, SECU paid $3.0 million in sales taxes to state and federal
    governments ($2.6 million in 2007). The Credit Union also pays Federal payroll taxes under the
    Federal Insurance Contributions Act. In 2008, SECU paid $10.6 million in FICA taxes…

    Because SECU is a non-profit, some mistakenly think that means they get a free pass from ALL taxation, which is not true.

    - richardfoc said: “If the State Employees Credit Union owns a “small piece” doesn’t that mean the State owns that same “small piece?“”

    SECU is a non-profit, independent organization that was founded to help state employees. They have no tie to the state government beyond that, are not funded in any way through public dollars, and do not share ownership of property with the state. They often do collaborate with the state on projects whenever possible to assist its membership, especially when these projects are to the benefit of state employees. But the two organizations—the state, and SECU—are wholly separate entities.

    And as an employee of SECU who once worked in that old building on Salisbury St. (and even worked the walk-up teller station a few times), I’m 1000% on board with this project. Its existence will allow SECU to continue improving and expanding our ability to offer many of the services other commercial banks do, which (Smitty) will allow SECU to remain competitive as a financial institution many, many years into the future.

  • myk
    06/05 03:37 PM

    very well put James - most people don’t get the fact that SECU is totally separate from the State government…that was the point I was trying to make when I stated that the State evicted them from their privately owned building on their privately owned piece of land (to do the Green Square project), to make them pay rent for their temporary space in a state owned building, and then have a governmental agency make them spend their privately held money on upgrades in a State owned building (yes, even upgrades to parts of the building they were not occupying.  Heard that straight from people involved with the State Construction Office).

  • AberZombie
    06/05 04:19 PM

    Does 12 floors equate to a tower?  I don’t think so..

  • roi
    06/05 05:01 PM

    This is in regards to several comments made about all the branches across the State. SECU serves State Employees and Teachers State wide.
    Its field of membership includes teachers and school employees in every county, employees of all the State supported colleges and universities (UNC, NC State, UNC Greensboro, NCCU, Pembroke, and on and on); they also serve employess of county social service, health departments; State Mental Hospitals; hospital employees at Med Schools in Greenville and Chapel Hill; and members of their immediate families.
    If I am not mistaken until about 1975 about 75 percent of the SECU business was in Raleigh because that is where their first branch was opened.  They were not serving (well) all of their members in Morganton, Asheville, Boone, Greensboro, etc. because the member did not have access to branches.  If I am not mistaken the SECU’s growth is such that about 75 percent of its business now comes from the rest of the State and only 25 per cent from its Raleigh offices. So Smitty and others that is the reason for all the branches….that is what the members from across the State wanted.  And another fact is that through a contractual arrangement members of Local Government Employees Credit Union (LGEFCU) use these branches to transact their business. LGFCU pays SECU about 30 percent of its gross income to SECU for this service….which is a wise use of brick and mortar and is a profit making arrangement for SECU.  This has been considered by Federal and State Credit Union Regulators and the Credit Union industry nation wide as one of the best arrangements, cost effective ideas known. So these braches are not only serving members of SECU but also members of LGFCU.

  • roi
    06/05 05:41 PM

    And I might add the following: SECU also serves employees of all the Community Colleges throughout the State. (How many Community Colleges are there in NC? 15, 20?) And remember that there are DOT employees, and employees of Correctional facilites throughout the State.  They need these brances also.  As for LGEFCU it too has a state wide membership which serves employees of towns, cities, and county employees.  Although the two credit unions have different fields of memberships and differnt charters,one a State charter and the other a Federal charter, why duplicate brick, mortar, and people when both teachers and State employees and local government employees are located in the same towns, cities, and counties.  It makes sense!

    In regards to the “tower”, I understand that it is a 12 story building because the lot is small.  If the lot was larger, they could go out rather than up.

  • Pepper
    06/05 06:34 PM

    I’m pretty sure a tower is anything taller than it is wide. No one said skyscraper, just tower. Quorum Center is about 15 stories. Is it not a tower?

    What would you, ye of modern mindsets, call it…just a building?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tower

  • ChiefJoJo
    06/06 02:55 PM

    I agree with Betsy that the devil is in the details of how the building adresses the street, but given that this is SECU and not the state govt, maybe we will get some type of retail in this area, or at least a few street level ingress/egress options, and lots of windows, etc.  In general, this is a no-brainer project and it’s good to hear about a project downtown that actually has solid financial backing.

  • myk
    06/06 05:46 PM

    not to get off onto too many tangents, but - there are 58 community colleges in north carolina (several with satellite campuses).

    The term ‘tower’ is somewhat subjective based on location, but the IBC (International Building Code) defines anything above 5 stories as a ‘high rise.’

  • arthurb3
    06/11 12:32 PM

    Any building that can throw shade blocks away probably is a tower. Its just a few stories short of the Quorum so I guess you can call it a tower. The RBC building is only 32 stories (400 feet) but from a distance it looks alot taller. Expecially comming in from New Bern Ave at the beltline.

  • Donata Lewandowski Guerra
    07/28 09:17 PM

    Hafta’ say: the rendering looks beautiful,  leaving me even more annoyed at what passes for “eye candy” in Cary these days—the ugliness of the new McDonald’s on Kildaire with its appalling legoland yellow roof. One has to wonder who the McDonald’s folks had to sleep with over here to get the darned thing up before anyone could scream at the yellow eyesore.


    http://www.scribd.com/DLGuerra

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