Here’s an event that downtown enthusiasts should put on their calendars. The first public session for the downtown plan is coming up and your feedback is needed.
Date/Time: Wed., Apr. 2 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Raleigh Convention Center Room 306
500 South Salisbury Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
Residents are invited to attend the visioning session to provide input and learn of emerging trends, key issues, challenges and analysis findings. These findings are being compiled by Sasaki Associates Inc., which is leading the consultant team for the Downtown Plan. The visioning session also will include breakout group discussions on how Downtown Raleigh’s role could evolve and transform over the next 10 years.
There will be more sessions in the future as the plan comes together throughout this nine-month process. Organizers are also taking a district-by-district approach with focused sessions on each one. Those are upcoming so stay tuned.
Last week at a public information session, plans for Raleigh Union Station and the Downtown Bus Facilities Master Plan were shown off and discussed. While Union Station gets all the press, see the updated renderings (via N&O), plans for the Moore Square Transit Station are now unfolding. With less pizzazz, and less progress, compared to Union Station the question of how downtown will handle the hub of Raleigh’s future bus system is very important.
The problem revolves around one question. How will the rail networks serving Raleigh Union Station compliment a future expanded bus network, and vice versa? Our current Moore Square Transit Station, the central hub of the Capital Area Transit system, is nearing capacity. If it were located near Union Station, there’s still not enough room to incorporate all the future routes and riders.
What planners are trying to figure out now is how to use bus terminals at both Union Station and Moore Square so that they compliment each other effectively. During the meeting last week, I took some photos of the current thoughts on how the Moore Square Station may evolve over time.
Click on this image below to see a possible solution for the current, near future, and long-term traffic flow of Moore Square Station. Excuse the blurry cam.
The first image shows the current layout and bus flow through the station. Buses turn in to the station on Martin Street and depending on the route, they either leave on Blount or Hargett Streets.
As the system grows and Union Station is worked on, Moore Square will have to accommodate more buses and routes before Union Station can alleviate some pressure. The second image shows how that could work. The inner lane can be expanded and converted to two-way. After removing some planters and parking, there actually is room to make that expansion work. I had to go and see that for myself and sure enough…
With another lane for buses, capacity is increased. At the same time, the station is pretty much maxed out.
The third image shows what the future of Moore Square Station could be once Union Station is up and running with bus routes circulating here and there. The one-way street and connection from the station to Blount can be removed, leaving only the two-way lane for buses.
There is still lots of work to do with planning routes, which stations they will serve, and how to effectively connect both Union Station and Moore Square Station. This just shows that Union Station could be one piece of a major transit network overhaul in Raleigh’s future.
A crane is up at the site of the Elan Apartments on Wilmington Street. This is one of the quietest projects I’ve ever seen with very little information about it out on the web.
With the potential for many more residents on this end of Peace Street it could significantly increase the pedestrian traffic. Glenwood South and Blount Street Commons are the bookends of Peace Street, the only real east-west connection in northern downtown. That funnel effect may make the street more urban over time, especially after the Capital Boulevard bridge is worked on.
Municipography is a summary of current issues going through the Raleigh City Council and other municipal departments in the city. The point is to try to deliver any video, photos, and text associated with the discussions happening at City Hall or elsewhere. Since this is a downtown Raleigh blog, the focus is on the center of the city.
Email readers, this post contains embedded video which you may not see in your inbox. I recommend jumping to the blog to see all the content.
Last week at the Raleigh City Council meeting, a few projects we’ve discussed on the blog were presented and discussed. The council approved the sale of the city-owned lot on Salisbury Street, known as “Site 4″, to Summit Hospitality Group, Ltd who plans to build a hotel. The plans for the new Capital Boulevard bridge over Peace Street were also discussed as construction on that project is planned for Summer 2016. Finally, an update on the 2030 Comprehensive Plan was given by the planning department.
Residence Inn on Salisbury Street
In short, the council approved the sale of Site 4 to Summit Hospitality Group, Ltd to build a Residence Inn hotel. This sale was recommended by the Budget and Economic Development Committee last month and now makes it final.
From the city’s press release:
Following a Feb. 18 Public Hearing, the Raleigh City Council approved the sale of .52 acres on South Salisbury Street, between South Street and Lenoir Street, to Raleigh-based Summit Hospitality Group, Ltd. Approval of the $1.73 million deal will result in the construction of an 11-story Marriott Residence Inn with 140 to 154 additional rooms within walking distance of the Raleigh Convention Center. The site is also known as Site 4 and is considered to be “one of the most important infill sites within the Convention and Cultural District” in the City’s South End Master Plan.
For more details on this project, jump to a recent post with all the details.
Capital Boulevard Bridge
The Capital Boulevard bridge over Peace Street is slated for replacement in the next few years and designs have been in the works for quite awhile. The latest on this topic is covered in good detail in the post linked below, including some excellent conversation by readers.
Between the “base” alternative (cheaper) and the “enhanced” alternative (costlier) this is where the city has to step up. There is strong public support for the enhanced alternative but the feds only have enough money for the base alternative.
According to the presentation, in May 2014 an alternative will be chosen with construction planned for Summer of 2016.
From the city’s press release:
Each bridge is proposed for replacement under the Federal Highway Administration’s bridge replacement program. City staff has coordinated the replacement of these bridges with NCDOT to be consistent with the City’s adopted Capital Boulevard Corridor Plan. In each case, NCDOT has developed base alternatives that rebuild each interchange following the existing configuration, and enhanced alternatives that more closely follow the City’s corridor plan recommendations. In order to pursue the enhanced alternatives at either location, the City would be required to pay for the difference in cost above each base alternative.
2030 Comprehensive Plan Update
The 2014 Progress Report was presented to council and can be found on the city’s website. Some highlights from the presentation:
- Our city’s comprehensive plan continues to be a national model for city planning.
- Updates are meant to keep the plan up-to-date with emerging trends and any city restructuring.
- Of the total 465 action items since adoption, 61 have been completed and now removed, 275 are in progress and 50 have still not been started.
The newest emerging trends that city staff will be studying are:
- Community Resiliency – planning for extreme weather and emergencies and how the city continues to be responsive and can recover.
- Innovation Districts – how to foster new growth nodes around unique ideas and innovation.
- Autonomous Vehicles – how to plan for the upcoming use of self-driving cars and taxis.
- Sharing Economy – services like bike share, car share, self-rental properties are a future trend. Examples include Airbnb, ZipCar, and B-Cycle.
For downtowners, this is the only photo that should go viral. There are a select few coffee shops and restaurants that are open during this winter storm. Enjoy it and stay safe!
I get asked for help all the time while walking the sidewalks in downtown Raleigh. People ask me for directions most of the time but sometimes for an ATM location or for a nearby place to eat. This happens either because I walk so often or I just have a friendly face. My bet is on the first theory.
Another question I get asked about a lot are parking related questions. You may have seen this exact scenario yourself. A person banging the buttons on the parking meter like it was an arcade machine. That person looks like they are losing. They are losing because it’s the weekend and it hasn’t hit them that parking is free.
The frustrated parker is a common occurrence in downtown Raleigh and the plethora of signs on each block are responsible for informing a visitor of the rules. I’m going to say it straight up that there is a lot of room for improvement in signage around downtown, not just for parking but we’ll stick to just one topic for this post.
This is why a project by Nikki Sylianteng caught my eye. Highlighted in The Atlantic Cities, the New York City designer is attempting to make the parking signs more informative there. Nikki built a prototype and put it out on the street with a comment box for real-world feedback.
Here are some photos of Nikki’s work, borrowed with permission.
On her project page, Nikki writes:
My strategy was to visualize the blocks of time when parking is allowed and not allowed. I kept everything else the same – the colors and the form factor – as my intention with this redesign is to show how big a difference a thoughtful, though conservative and low budget, approach can make in terms of time and stress saved for the driver. I tried to stay mindful of the constraints that a large organization like the Department of Transportation must face for a seemingly small change such as this.
I’ve always thought that the main problem with parking signs is that they do not tell the whole story. For example, the Raleigh signs indicate the hours of enforcement, those being from 8am-5pm, Monday to Friday. They do not indicate what to do outside of those hours. A more ideal sign leaves no doubt during any time of the day, any day of the week.
The Raleigh signs also emphasize the wrong information. “2 Hour Meter Parking” is in the largest font on the sign with the hours being smaller. To the eyes of a driver, the “2 Hour Meter Parking” is most likely all they can read while cruising down the street. With more distractions in downtown compared to the suburbs, drivers have only so long to look at small signs. This portrays that parking enforcement occurs always and the sign is not clearly informing drivers.
What Nikki’s designs show is a 7 day week, 24-hour picture indicating to a parker whether they should be there or not. While the sign is still difficult to read from the driver’s point of view, it more accurately helps someone after they have parked.
During hours of free parking in downtown, I’ve always felt that nervous parkers feel better if they are reassured in some way that what they did was legal. No one wants a parking ticket and this keeps new visitors on the alert because there’s the possibility of a ticket when parking in downtown. Signs must instill confidence in people that they know how the system works and they can avoid the big bad parking ticket.
So there’s clearly room for a design overhaul here. An alternative would be to rethink the parking enforcement system entirely or perhaps throw more technology at it, a suggestion one of our city councilors has brought up.
The next downtown Raleigh plan is in the works and here’s your chance to participate. Next week is the kickoff event for a process that may take most of the year. Public comments on ideas and suggestions are needed to shape what downtown Raleigh strives to be over the next ten years.
Date/Time: Tues., Feb. 11 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC 27601
You can see a lot more information about this on the city’s website. I’ll of course be following any released materials throughout the year and put them up on the blog for discussion.
Downtown Plan – City of Raleigh
Last month, the city had a public meeting at the Raleigh City Museum and showed off more firm plans for the remake of Exchange and Market Plaza. This is a project that coincides with the renovation of 227 Fayetteville Street, announced almost a year ago. First, background reading if you need it:
*Innovate Raleigh Opens Up 227 Fayetteville Street, Renovations Underway – January 25, 2013.
In addition to the work being done at 227, the plazas to the north, Exchange Plaza, and south, Market Plaza, of the building are getting a refresh. Here are the plazas in Google Maps.
Market and Exchange plazas still have the look of when Fayetteville Street was closed to traffic and was a walkable mall from the 1970s to the early 2000s. Any new readers should know that the current design of Fayetteville Street was implemented in the mid-2000s and ended the era of the Fayetteville Street Mall. However, the same planters, benches, and pavers still exist on these two plazas from that mall time period.
This year, we expect construction to start on the remake of the two plazas. There’s more information about the entire project on the city’s website.
Here’s my attempt to break down the latest information.
Like I’ve mentioned before, the two plazas are around the currently under renovation 227 Fayetteville building and the new designs attempt to both compliment the adjacent buildings and bring unique public space to downtown Raleigh. There are plans for outdoor seating for nearby restaurants as well as public seating similar to what City Plaza currently has.
Visibility was a key focus here. The plaza designs attempt to trim back some of the greenery in order to give pedestrians a deep line of sight through the spaces. Adding extensive but tasteful lighting will hopefully make the spaces feel comfortable and friendly during nighttime use.
Programming was also considered. There are plans for how to fit different sized tents on the plazas for small events. The next Beerfest won’t be setting up here but smaller arts, maybe First Friday gatherings, would be more appropriate.
One important obstacle that I thought was interesting was the need to protect the 227 basement. If you look at the sketch above, you can see how the basement protrudes a few feet underneath both Exchange and Market Plazas. A heavy car or truck can’t set up on top of that so the design has to prevent that.
The new Exchange Plaza will be more about walking and seating rather than events. The space is somewhat divided with a low wall for impromptu sitting as well as comfortable separation between the retail seating, that of current restaurant Bolt, and public space near 227 Fayetteville.
Here are some renderings for the possible future of Exchange Plaza.
Only two trees are planned for the plaza. This is to help with that visibility factor, to allow pedestrians to see all the way through the plaza and feel welcomed to walk through it. The area around the tree roots would be appropriately landscaped.
The planters you see, on the right of the first two images, would not be permanent and can be moved if this space fits the need for some small event. Outside of events, the planters will accompany seats and tables, the same ones on City Plaza, for downtowners to enjoy.
Lighting would consist of overhead bulbs in a grid-like pattern. There was indication that special care would be taken into the lighting to make sure it wasn’t overpowering but at the same time bright enough to make the area feel safe.
Market Plaza, true to its name, offers more of an opportunity for events. In my opinion, there’s a bit less desire here to stop and hang out but walking through looks like it’ll be a nice experience.
The new plaza is more uniformly shaped with a more defined public space compared to Exchange Plaza. This allows for more flexibility and physical space for event setups. It’s almost as if the new plaza is built for walking down a market with vendors set up on your left and right.
The plaza is planned to have a few shelters, a bad comparison would be something similar to a bus shelter, offering pedestrians something comfortable to gravitate too. The same public seats and tables would be scattered around the 227 side of Market Plaza as well.
One compromise here is with the electrical boxes that are placed closer to the Fayetteville Street side of Market Plaza. It was deemed too costly to move or bury them so this piece of infrastructure stays and will be hidden in a creative way. You can see how one rendering proposes projecting some video onto the wall of First Citizens Bank from that piece of utility.
The lighting would be similar to what was proposed at Exchange Plaza.
I’ll admit my first reaction to the plans are of enthusiasm as any decent plan to activate the plazas is better than what we have there currently. I’m a little skeptical on how the plazas will function during events. Market Plaza seems like it has a better chance and I don’t see much happening at Exchange Plaza when it comes to proper programming.
Still, events are not the only thing that happen in a downtown and I think these spaces only enrich urban Raleigh. They help set the stage for random encounters, those serendipitous moments between pedestrians, that can’t happen anywhere else in the city. It’s fitting to create these spaces around 227 Fayetteville, a building that will host entrepreneurs and people that believe in that kind of urban business ecosystem.
This project’s timeline has construction planned for late Summer 2014 and completion in Spring 2015.