Site Plans for Smokey Hollow Show Johnson Street Connection

Click for larger

A quick one today before folks peel away for the holiday weekend.

The submitted plans for Smokey Hollow, a mixed-use project mainly along North West Street near Peace Street, shows a connection between a currently disconnected Johnson Street. The screenshot above says it all. Check out case S-040-16 on the city’s development activity page for more.

No other plans about the building are shown. I imagine you need to get the street right before moving on to that part. Jump to this google map to see what the area currently looks like.

Revisiting The Gateway Center

The end of Kindley Street, June 2016

The end of Kindley Street, June 2016. Click for a larger, wider view of the site.

I wanted to turn our attention today to what is being called downtown’s Gateway Center. The Downtown Plan calls out the area around the Performing Arts Center and the Raleigh Convention Center as a possible “catalytic project area” and sums it up as:

Coined the “Gateway Center,” this area is the only part of downtown capable of accommodating multiple blocks of large-footprint mixed-use development. Its proximity to the Convention Center and Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts will naturally lend its future to expanding tourism and entertainment-related uses, such as a large-scale sports and/or cultural facility, additional hotels, or a campus of related businesses.

*Raleigh Downtown Plan

Regular readers are probably familiar with this already because of the plan’s two concepts for this area, one of them includes a sporting arena. Let’s revisit those two concepts from the plan.

Concept 1
Gateway Center Concept 1

Click for larger and more info.

This concept imagines space to develop an Urban Innovation Campus for a new anchor employer or cluster of businesses. With easy access to several forms of transportation and close proximity to Fayetteville Street, the Warehouse District, and the heart of downtown Raleigh, this location has much to offer. New landmark structures provide the missing link between the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts and the rest of Fayetteville Street. These buildings could be linked to the Urban Innovation Campus, home to another employer, or even a hotel.

Concept 2
Gateway Center Concept 1

Click for larger

In this concept, the heart of the district is a new citywide destination. Either cultural, entertainment, or sporting in nature (or a mix of all three), the center anchors the district and provides a new draw for the city as a whole. The specific location for this use in the southwest corner
of the district is advantageous for several reasons. Positioning any large-footprint building towards the southwest corner of the district allows its architecture to frame the new southern gateway. The rest of the site is arranged into walkable city blocks that link the new district back to Fayetteville Street. In this way, a single entertainment or cultural use acts as a magnet to draw visitors to and through the district without becoming a barrier to walkability. Siting the largest development at the edge also capitalizes on the site’s natural topography, allowing the potential for underground parking easily accessed from main roads around downtown. Throughout the district, active ground-floor uses and building setbacks help break down the scale of larger buildings.

There’s more in the Downtown Plan which I recommend you download and take a look.

I also want to give some love to one of the most popular posts here on the blog. Reader Will imagined a baseball stadium in the Gateway Center and submitted some sketches. Check them out once again.

It’s important to note that the focus in the Gateway Center, at least according to internet chatter, is around where this possible stadium could go, the southwestern tip. The actual focus area does include the convention center, performing arts center, and the southern end of Fayetteville Street.

However, it’s that southwest tip that I want to zoom in on with a Google map showing the four properties there.

A bit of related news for the Gateway Center. The Exploris School, a charter school in downtown Raleigh, has purchased one of the properties that make up the Gateway Center. (highlighted in orange in the map)

Exploris has been a middle school for some time, located on Hillsborough Street. Two years ago, the elementary school opened in a temporary home on New Bern Avenue. The school has been looking for space to consolidate it all.

The former home of a data center for Duke Energy, the property actually looks perfect for a school campus. The lot has surface parking, an open field, and more room than Exploris needs. Plans call to renovate the extra space and lease it out as office space.

At this point, you, especially the skyscraper fans, may be noticing an incompatibility. This doesn’t seem to match the vision laid out in the Downtown Plan. It may stifle dense development in this area of downtown.

I think you are right but I’d like to lay out a different, more positive perspective.

Let’s look at the timing of things. The Downtown Plan was adopted in late 2015. Exploris has been looking for space since 2014, maybe even earlier. With the plan being a 10-year vision, we shouldn’t expect announcements for multi-building clusters in the south of downtown not even one-year into the plan.

We have until 2025 to really see the Gateway Center blossom and we can’t assume that Exploris is going to stay in this space forever. Like any other business or institution, they may outgrow the space or move into the new development of the future.

For me, I’ll take a progressive school like Exploris here than a monolithic infrastructure company like Duke Energy any day. I see Exploris “cracking the mold” to that site in a way.

One factor that I believe greatly ties into Gateway Center is Dix Park. These two areas are so close and Gateway Center could really be the connection between downtown Raleigh and Dix Park. Planning is in the infant stages as this year’s city budget, recently approved, starts the purchasing process for the land.

The MLK/Western interchange with McDowell and Dawson Street limits connectivity but it could be a great challenge for the future with respects to tying Dix into the downtown fabric.

The city also has a Southern Gateway Corridor Study underway with a final plan expected by this Fall. This is the area from MLK/Western to about I-40.

The City is exploring ideas for land use and transportation improvements along the corridor that will benefit businesses, residents, motorists, transit riders, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

The study even highlights Gateway Center in their map!

With more development taking place back in downtown, there are a lot of moving parts here. The Gateway Center and the vision laid out in the downtown plan still have a great shot at coming to life.

Pic of the Week

The Dillon Warehouse

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The Dillon Supply Company warehouse is mostly gone and the walls that are planned to be saved as part of the new development, The Dillon, have been braced up by steel supports.

New Office Space Coming to the Former Dr Pepper Warehouse on Dawson Street

Former Dr Pepper Bottling Plant on Dawson Street

Former Dr Pepper Bottling Plant on Dawson Street

The former Dr Pepper Bottling Plant is being renovated for new office space. The recruiting firm Personify will be moving about 70 employees to the new space on Dawson Street from their current Cary location.

Maurer Architecture has a great blog post about the work taking place at the site and I recommend readers jump over to see more.

The new mezzanine structure will connect to the existing second story which once held the bottling offices. The original second story faced Dawson Street and was closed off to the adjoining gable-roofed warehouse space. Now the upper wall between the two spaces has been eliminated and the mezzanine will provide a nice full height connection between the entry level and the upper story.

*Former Dr. Pepper Bottling Facility

The building is owned by Empire Properties and their site says that the building was built in 1935. It operated as the Dr Pepper Bottling Plant for almost 40 years.

From what I’ve read, they hope to have Personify in there sometime this summer.

Pic of the Week

Demolition of the Greyhound Bus Station on Jones Street

The former Greyhound Bus Station on Jones Street has now been demolished. With the site cleared, construction of the Greyhound Apartments should begin. Personally, I hope they change the name but that’s just me.

Imaps shows the property having a built date of 1971 so the Greyhound Station made it 45 years if that is what the data is referring to. The small warehouse next door, at the corner of Jones and Harrington, probably was around longer. Not demolished was the Levin-Tarlton House which rolled through downtown this February to its new home on New Bern Avenue.

The new apartment building should go from Jones to Lane Street. I expect a similar configuration as The Lincoln because the footprints are about the same and so is the developer.

Last thought, looking at a map of the nearby area I can’t help but wonder if Lane could be extended to West Street? (or even Glenwood) A traditional street with sidewalks and travel lanes may not work but perhaps something nontraditional that is only for bicycles and pedestrians. Lane doesn’t end at the state government complex like other nearby streets but rather goes way east.

Riding a bike or walking, in some way, to Glenwood Avenue would be fantastic down Lane.

Save The Date, November 8, 2016, For A Vote On Transit in Wake

The Wake County Board of Commissioners are in on the recommended transit plan for the county and they want voters to approve a tax increase in order to pay for it.

This week, the vote passed and on the November 8 ballot, we’ll have an opportunity to approve or not a 1/2 cent sales tax increase that will be used for transit. A similar vote has taken place, and passed, in Durham and Orange counties so now it is our turn.

You can read more at WakeTransit.com.

We’ll cover more parts of the plan here on the blog leading up to the vote as downtown Raleigh’s central location and urban nature is poised to be a hub of bus and rail activity if voters approve the tax increase.

Stay tuned.

Downtown Raleigh Employment Breakdown

2016 Downtown Employment By Sector

Last one from the 2016 State of Downtown Raleigh report. Here is the employment breakdown by different sectors. When comparing it to the figure from 2015, there are just a few changes to note:

The 2016 figure doesn’t mention “Finance and Insurance” or it’s lumped into “Miscellaneous.”

The numbers in this sector could be dropping. At the same time, the other sectors may be growing making this particular one seem to shrink.

Raleigh Magazine recently asked, “Is Midtown NC’s New Financial District?

within just two miles you’ll find corporate headquarters, campuses for five major banks plus bank branches for PNC, BB&T and Yadkin Bank.

*Is Midtown NC’s New Financial District? via Raleigh Magazine.

The relocation of Bank of America from downtown Raleigh to North Hills may be a factor in the changing percentages.

Keep in mind that the figures aren’t quantitative but instead show the employment distribution. In my experience, technology companies prefer to cluster and collaborate. I’m not sure if that is the case with the financial sector. I’d welcome anyone with insight into that kind of thing.

If true, then expect the tech companies to attract even more tech companies leading to a rise in this sector in 2017.

Consolidating City Offices Into a New Downtown Campus

Corner of McDowell and Hargett Streets

Corner of McDowell and Hargett Streets

The City of Raleigh has around 1,100 employees and in downtown, you can find them in a variety of places. One Exchange plaza on Fayetteville Street, behind the old Raleigh Union Depot facing Nash Square, and the City Hall block are just a few of them. In May, the city started discussing the possibility of consolidating those spaces, possibly others, into a downtown municipal campus.

The idea is to plan for new growth in a cost-effective way. The process to get there might involve selling off some city-owned properties. Right now, the thinking is to build this new campus on the current site of City Hall, the block bounded by Hargett/Morgan and McDowell/Dawson Streets. It would be paid for, partially, by selling some of the properties mentioned above and possibly others.

By looking at data from iMaps, I created this map of city-owned property in the downtown area.

For completeness, I searched for two terms, “City of Raleigh” and “Raleigh city of” to get those properties. There may be more but this covers a good amount. I combined a few together where it made sense and did not add some individual properties that I would consider to be in the East Downtown neighborhoods.

It’s interesting to see how much land there is but some of it makes sense with all the parking decks and cultural places like the Performing Arts Center and the Convention Center. The city owns, basically, zero properties in Glenwood South.

At this time, the city will work on landing a consultant to help with the process.

Long time readers may be experiencing Déjà vu here as the city has gone through a similar approach in recent history. Consolidating offices into a downtown tower, the Clarence E. Lightner Public Safety Center, was a big controversy in 2010. It eventually was scrapped as the cost, around $225 million, was seen as too high, among other concerns.

Rendering of the Lightner Tower

2010 rendering of the Clarence E. Lightner Public Safety Center

In the rendering, you can see that the 17-story tower would have replaced the Raleigh Police Department Headquarters building at the corner of Hargett and McDowell Streets. Since about that time, the RPD building has been empty and temporary offices set up elsewhere. (the downtown district offices are on Cabarrus Street)

Here we are in 2016 and a similar proposal is on the table with some differences. Rather than the term “tower” the term “campus” is being used. I cringe when I hear this term as “campus” reminds me of an office park with short, expansive buildings set back way too far from the street. Or worse, it reminds me of the state government “campus.”

I’m open to it though as the Downtown Raleigh plan makes a few recommendations for this area.

Hargett Street Should be a Pedestrian-oriented Street

That last one brings it home. In fact, the entire idea of redeveloping the City Hall block is right in the plan itself.

Hopefully, the consultant is shown this plan and can create active edges, especially along the Hargett Street side. Office space and parking will most likely be a part of the “campus” plan so to create more active streets and sidewalks, ground-floor retail space and an interior parking deck would be great elements of the plan.

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