On Aug. 4, Trammell Crow Company (TCC) announced plans to develop a 30-story tower over the site of Legends Nightclub. The complex is the latest development in an almost-two-year initiative by CityPlat, a commercial real estate developer, to develop the area.
In 2020, Legends co-owners Tim Bivens and Matt Cozzi sought a buyer for the nightclub property. It was bought by CityPlat for $4.3 million. After the sale, Bivens told the News & Observer that “the deal with CityPlat ensures the long-term survival of Legends as an on-going business and an opportunity to collaborate for future development. We are coming up on our 30 year anniversary and plan to be around for another 30.”
As the property owner, CityPlat is acting as a consultant and advisor for TCC’s project. In 2021, CityPlat submitted rezoning plans to allow projects for up to 40 stories to be built. CityPlat principal Vincenzo Verdino said that the rezoning would “keep [Legends] in place for the time being.”
Since its opening in 1991, Legends has been a staple in nightlife for the LGBTQIA+ community. Olivia Mason, Class of 2023, explained that the club is meaningful to Raleigh’s LGBTQIA+ community. “People go to Legends to find a little sanctuary in Raleigh where they can be their authentic selves and not feel the societal pressures to conform,” she stated.
Micah Hysong, a trans man who regularly visits the nightclub, recently turned 21. Unlike most nightlife in Raleigh, Legends is an 18+ establishment. Hysong was still able to patronize the nightclub before his birthday and enjoy what Legends has to offer.
“It really [is] its own little community, being one of the only LGBTQ[IA+] clubs and the only one I know of that lets in people under 21,” he said. “I think they did that to offer a safe place to queer people as soon as possible.”
Verdino spoke with The Herald about the new development. He stated that CityPlat currently has a lease with the nightclub that they are extending, though no timeline was given.
“They are not closing down as far as operations for sure, their operations will continue and I will let them go into the details of it,” he stated, referring The Herald to previous interviews done by Bivens and Cozzi.
Bivens told the Triangle Business Journal that the club still has no plans to close. He and Cozzi are currently deciding between relocating or opening the club on the ground floor of the new development.
“We will continue to operate in some fashion, it's just the question of where,” Bivens said. “We have some good options, but we haven't finalized everything yet.”
When asked about the possibility of businesses leasing spaces in and around the development, Verdino stated that it was “pretty early on” in the process to know, but that he didn’t anticipate “any heavy leasing activity” happening on the project.
He explained that plans were submitted to the City of Raleigh in 2021 for a residential development. “The rezoning process [is] already completed, so [the] building structure is already permitted to be built on that site,” he stated. The development is currently going through the permitting process.
In February of 2021, CityPlat held a neighborhood meeting to discuss the rezoning. At the time, Verdino explained that there were no plans for a building. “We knew that we wanted to have the flexibility of going higher than what was intended,” he stated, citing their initial submission for 40 stories rather than 30. “There wasn’t a ton of input from the community at all, it was actually a pretty seamless plan.”
Verdino mentioned rezoning that had already taken place in the area, saying, “It’s not as though it was out of touch with what the intent is for the city. The city said it was part of their plan as well.”
He went on to say, “It fit in line with future land use plans and the development of the city. There wasn’t a ton of opposition or much feedback [from the community] that we were asked to tweak or keep in mind.”
Despite this, Mason feels that the changes are disrespectful to the LGBTQIA+ community. “Once again, money has trumped the much-needed equality for LGBTQ[IA+ people],” she said.
Mason criticized those behind the development, saying, “It is more important for these decision-makers to pocket another dollar than to protect safe places for the growing queer population in their community. If apartment buildings are needed badly enough to close a popular nightlife destination, why does it have to be one that serves those who are already marginalized?”
Though Legends has not announced their official plans, Hysong hopes that there will still be a space in Raleigh for LGBTQIA+ people. Construction for the residential development is set to begin in early 2023.
By Aminah Jenkins, Editor in Chief