Rezoning Approved for Kane Realty’s The Dillon

Latest rendering of The Dillon.

Latest rendering of The Dillon. Click for larger.

A quick one today just to tie up loose ends. At this week’s city council meeting, the rezoning needed for The Dillon project to move forward was approved. It’s expected that the development will include a mix of office and residential on top of ground floor retail.

It also wasn’t very hard to predict that the city would look to this Kane Realty project as a way to infuse more parking into the area. It was a major gap seen for the nearby Union Station. Public comments about this parking project will take place in October.

This wraps up all four major rezoning requests for the year, something I highlighted back in January. 2016 could see multiple cranes in the sky at once.

No Class on this Sidewalk Drinking Ordinance At All

No Alcohol signs outside of The Oxford

I took the photo posted above, click for larger, this past Saturday morning. I was out for a walk and Fayetteville Street is littered with these cheaply printed signs that say, “No Alcohol Beyond This Point.” How many can you count in that photo?

I had to sigh and this is yet more ugliness coming from this sidewalk seating ordinance. It’s literally ugly as these required signs basically tell visitors on Fayetteville Street, “Hey, this is a pretty crazy drinking street and not a pleasant place to be.”

I was irate recently to see that the new ordinance forced businesses to consolidate their seating against the building. Ugliness resulted.

Sidewalk blocked in front of The Big Easy

Sidewalk blocked in front of Anchor Bar

Sidewalk blocked in front of Paddy O' Beers

Sidewalks were completely blocked but was fortunately only short-lived as the split seating seems to be allowed once again. I hope so anyway.

This issue has been frustrating from so many angles.

What hasn’t been talked about is the clear bias being shown here on this issue. Emotions are running high and decisions are being made in haste because of it.

A recent N&O article asks, “Does downtown Raleigh have a drinking problem?” There’s so much exaggeration and bias going on here that it makes me face palm.

The tone of the conversations suggest that we’ve peaked, that we have too many bars, that the nightlife crowd is out of control. This may or may not be true but that doesn’t matter from my point of view.

Emotions are leading the decision making process and that is not going to go well. Thoughts like, “Why would anyone be out that late?” or “Everyone should be sleeping at night.” is what it really sounds like. It’s a bias against people that partake in downtown’s unique nightlife, something nowhere in the Triangle comes close to matching.

Isn’t the city supposed to be an inclusive city, a true character trait of a 21st century city?

It seems that everyone is cherry picking the few bad apples. I’m talking about those that vomit after drinking too much or trashing our sidewalks. If you have traveled, it should be pretty clear that humanity is like this and it can be handled in two ways. Crack down on it or embrace it.

We’re currently trying to crack down on it, a tactic I think we should avoid.

To embrace it would be to own the problem and just handle it. Where is the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, with their ambassadors and street cleaners, in this? They own street cleaners and have ambassadors that pick up trash. Is someone slacking on the job here?

I’d also love to talk to law enforcement. I bet enforcing the new ordinance is going to be quite the hassle with restrictions like “one person per 15 square feet.” I’m sure they will have plenty of feedback to provide once the three-month trial is over.

My spidey-sense just goes off on this one because how could so few, create so much change?

From the N&O article:

The city said it received 51 complaints about downtown nightlife between June 2 and July 30. A dozen of them were filed by police or city staff, and 15 came from three people.

*Does downtown Raleigh have a drinking problem? via N&O.

That’s 51 complaints across 58 days.

Who were those three people? What kind of pull do they have?

I haven’t seen the data but I’m going to go out on a limb that they were mainly clustered around Friday and Saturday nights. A different way to look at it is that there were 51 complaints across 8 weekends, or 7 complaints per weekend.

It just doesn’t add up to me.

And shouldn’t Raleighites across the city, all the way up to Brier Creek, be upset about this? In the early 2000s, it was the entire city that paid for the Fayetteville Street makeover, taking the old Fayetteville Street Mall and making it a fancy parking lot.

Business boomed as you can see.

Why should so few have the say over what happens on our city’s Main Street?

It’s all ugly. The process of handling this “problem” as well as the ugly signs all over the sidewalks.

It doesn’t show class. It doesn’t show style. We’ve practically demoted ourselves from a burgeoning medium-sized city to a bustling college town.

Maybe we’ve outgrown the current class of downtown leaders.

Park In Glenwood South Like a Pro

park_gs1

We hear it time and time again. “There’s no parking in downtown Raleigh.”

With so much technology around us, why aren’t we making this parking thing a lot simpler?

I worked with members of the Glenwood South Neighborhood Collaborative (GSNC) on a very helpful web app to guide visitors around parking in Glenwood South. There are actually a lot of spaces right off the main strip in the district that people are not taking advantage of. You can even use your phone to pay for your space.

We compiled all the info and are running it on the GSNC website so I encourage all readers to check it out.

Updated Renderings of Charter Square North

Charter Square North, South and North elevation

Charter Square North, South and North elevation. Click for larger

Last week’s Raleigh Appearance Commission meeting contained a site plan review for the north tower of Charter Square. Included in the agenda are some renderings that I wanted to post here. You can also watch the presentation from the architects that took place at the commission meeting.

Highlights of the upcoming tower are:

It’s also interesting to note that this building is the tallest that can be at this site. Due to the underground parking deck that exists there today, Charter Square North cannot be any taller.


If the embedded video doesn’t show for you, click here. Discussion starts at 18:00.

Charter Square North, east elevation

Charter Square North, east elevation. Click for larger

Charter Square North, west elevation

Charter Square North, west elevation. Click for larger

Charter Square North, perspective from City Plaza

Charter Square North, Perspective from City Plaza. Click for larger

Charter Square North, perspective view from west

Charter Square North, perspective view from west. Click for larger

Charter Square North, perspective view from south

Charter Square North, perspective view from south. Click for larger

Downtown Apartment Buildings in 2015

The Lincoln Apartments

Earlier in the week, I highlighted the next downtown apartment building to open, The Lincoln. Today, I wanted to step back a bit and share some thoughts about the general downtown apartment landscape and the market around them.

Here are some quick thoughts on the state of new developments that cater to the rental market.

Many more to come?

The downtown apartment mid-rises that have been built over the last few years seem to have a specific formula to them. There are several hundred units wrapped around a parking deck and courtyard. If you add in amenities like a gym, pool, and lounge then you can now, most likely, make a profit providing rental housing.

This isn’t specific to downtown however. Apartment complexes all over the city apply the same formula. The difference is in the built environment. For example, a 200+ apartment complex in North Raleigh may be spread among several buildings (3 or 4 stories) surrounded by surface parking and all the amenities built into a clubhouse.

It’s built this way because it is most likely cheaper and purchasing the available land to accommodate this is cheaper compared to downtown land. Projects are more compact in downtown because of this.

Nothing terribly new or shocking here but to me, it sounds similar to another development model.

Cheap land and a very large footprint is the model behind the big-box retail store. Lots of inventory under one roof and cheap surface parking further keep costs down. This is why there are no big-box stores in downtown, the environment doesn’t fit to the model.

So how are “big-box apartment” projects cropping up?

My thoughts start out with the fact that downtown land is expensive but not expensive enough for these projects. If a nice square or rectangle plot can be acquired (a less complex building is cheaper most likely) then a several hundred-unit building can be profitable.

You also have to consider construction materials. I’ll let any engineers chime in but from what I understand it to be, there’s a threshold around the 6 or 7 story limits of a building. Higher than that, steel construction has to be used and therefore is far more expensive. If you can stay under that threshold and build with wood, then the project is viable.

So if you wanted to build another apartment project, here’s the formula in a nut shell:

The point I want to make here is that between all four corners of downtown, there is a lot of available land to play with. A plethora of surface parking lots that are more valuable than they seem are waiting to be built on.

I’m not an expert on the economics here but it really feels like we’ll be seeing many more mid-rises in coming years. Just take a look at all the available surface parking in downtown Raleigh in the graphic below.

Yellow indicates surface parking in downtown Raleigh. Data is dated 2011.

Click for larger. Yellow indicates surface parking in downtown Raleigh. Data is dated 2011.

The graphic is a few years old and only a few lots need to be changed but it still makes my point. We have lots of room to grow within.

As far as affordability goes, there is definitely a premium to pay with these new apartments only because they are located in downtown Raleigh. The supply is trying to catch up with demand so right now, the prices are high. (compared to the rest of the city) This seems to happen in other industries also. Prices drop when things have been out for awhile and access is easier.

What people are forgetting is that before 2005, maybe even later, renting in downtown Raleigh was an extreme niche. There were only a few hundred units (if that) spread across random buildings and in small clusters. We essentially had a seedling of a rental community at the time. Then, downtown living become a thing real fast and developers are trying to meet that demand. In the grand scheme of things, everything is still so early. The prices should fall once supply increases and some of the first units to come out start being dated.

If you are a fan of Jane Jacobs then you should believe that to create affordability, you want a mix of housing with a mix of ages. New apartment buildings can command high prices because they are new, have the latest amenities, and styles. Buildings that have a few years on them, may be a little dated but are perfectly fine places to live and priced a little less. Buildings older than that may be even cheaper because they only have one of something or don’t have such and such amenity. You get the picture.

It takes time which is tough for some to realize and puts downtown Raleigh in a awkward position because all this rental housing is really just starting to be built. We don’t have that history and those range of options like the rest of the city has.

Still, I don’t think it should surprise anyone that the development will keep coming (my prediction anyway) until land prices increase or market preferences change. I say we continue to cheer on these developments because what we really want is a vibrant residential community with a variety of living options.

We also need some of that available land to be built on so that newer project have to be more creative.

I don’t feel like these mid-rise projects, with their “big-box” footprints and lack of design, are that urban in nature. However, what they are doing is moving Raleigh up just a few more notches on the urban scale. I believe a few less car trips will be taken by these residents and that is the path we must take as we approach a true urban center in the future. It’s transitional and reflective of the current market preferences and political climate that we live in today.

I’d love to keep this conversation going with anyone who has insight on topics like this.

The Lincoln Apartments Now Open

The Lincoln Apartments

The Lincoln Apartments

I was fortunate enough to be invited on a tour of The Lincoln Apartments recently. The 224-unit apartment building that is located one block east of Moore Square brings luxury studio, 1, and 2 bedroom apartments with plenty of amenities to keep residents happy.

I wanted to write about the tour and, in a separate post, mention some thoughts and trends I’m noticing about the wave of rental buildings that have really hit our downtown. Think of this post as an introduction to that analysis.

The Lincoln will have its grand opening on September 10 but that shouldn’t stop anyone interested to get in touch with them now. I was told people are already moving in.

The clubroom, The Lincoln Apartments

The clubroom, The Lincoln Apartments

The tour started us in the clubroom, an open space with kitchen, lounge, and billiard table with contemporary flair. Small groups could socialize comfortably here and there was easy access to the outdoor courtyard. The courtyard had the pool, a sundeck, outdoor TV and couches, built-in gas grills with high-top tables, and a shuffle board table. Sprinkled around these were a variety of fireplaces. The clubroom and courtyard should be the social center of The Lincoln.

The courtyard, The Lincoln Apartments

The courtyard, The Lincoln Apartments

Walking back inside, we saw the fitness center, outfitted with brand new equipment. Attached was a yoga studio. While not large in size, the access and equipment probably rivals any public gym out there.

Transportation was next as each bedroom, not unit, gets a parking space. We took a brief peak at the parking as a way to show off the electric charging stations. The highlight, in my eyes anyway, was the bike storage room. A small room for storing bikes was easily accessible from the street. In addition, a bike repair stand, similar to the one on Hargett Street, was available for residents. Kudos to The Lincoln for providing this.

Bike storage room, The Lincoln Apartments

Bike storage room, The Lincoln Apartments

Down the hall, the pet spa. Not yet finished for the tour but a large tub was installed for washing pets. A pet dryer was to be installed later.

The rest of the tour took us through some of the units. The layout of the studios and one-bedrooms were optimal to make it seem larger. All the units have high-ceilings (9′ or 10′) and great access to natural light in most cases. Flooring consisted of faux wood throughout the units with carpet in the bedrooms. The kitchens were up-to-date with granite countertops, modern fixtures, and stainless steel appliances. Everyone gets a washer/dryer. Trash chutes and recycling are available on every floor.

Modern kitchens at The Lincoln Apartments

Modern kitchens at The Lincoln Apartments

Pricing depends on the floorplan but here is a general idea:

The bulk of units lean more towards the lower end of those prices. Only 7 units in The Lincoln are asking more than $2000. The units along Bloodworth Street have a great downtown Raleigh view, with most price points represented on that side of the building.

View from The Lincoln Apartments

View from The Lincoln Apartments

On the inside, The Lincoln, like most downtown Raleigh apartment buildings, offer a great list of amenities to renters. Combine that with the stellar location of being close to downtown and today’s high-demand for rentals, you can’t really be shocked by those asking prices.

We’ll get more into the downtown Raleigh apartments scene in the next post. Overall, I enjoyed the tour and look forward to seeing people move in to The Lincoln.

Church on Morgan Builds Community, Literally

Rendering of Church on Morgan

Rendering of Church on Morgan

At the corner of Morgan and Blount Streets, there is a lot of renovation work taking place. The formerly quiet corner is being turned into a church. It’s not just ‘another church’ as some may be quick to judge but rather a space that is dynamic and can be used as the community sees fit.

After taking a hardhat tour with the leader behind this new effort, Justin Morgan, there’s something unique going on here. The group is working with In Situ Studio to really make this place stand out.

Called Church on Morgan, no relation with Justin’s last name but rather the street, this space is being planned to directly serve the downtown Raleigh and surrounding areas. It’s an extension of the Edenton Street United Methodist Church, which you may be familiar with their historic location at the corner of Edenton and Dawson Streets. The new space is a response from Edenton Street United Methodist to serve and engage with downtown.

The new sanctuary of Church on Morgan, August 2015

The new sanctuary of Church on Morgan, August 2015

The location has significance as well. The congregation here believes that the power of food can really bring people together for good and as such the place is envisioned to be a hub for Second Saturday, a monthly event that takes place along the Raleigh Food Corridor.

While some folks may prefer the traditional approach to prayer, Church on Morgan’s approach is different. In addition to food, entrepreneurship, supporting local community, and gathering are also key elements. They told me that they are here to support people with ideas who need a space to try them out. For example, the outdoor patio is built so a food truck can roll up and serve. Wifi isn’t private, it’s a public resource for those that show up.

Rendering of Church on Morgan

Rendering of Church on Morgan

The idea is to tailor the space for a growing demographic, the urban demographic that Raleigh is acquiring over the years. You may see Church on Morgan hold tech events, pop-up food vendors, or even neighborhood meetings from those that live nearby.

I am not a member of the Edenton Street United Methodist but when I heard about this project, I became intrigued and love the idea of them helping create “collisions” in downtown. By collision, I mean where people are brought together and form relationships around common interests. That’s how you build community and teams that are set to do good around the neighborhoods we live in.

Church on Morgan plans to open in October and will be an active part of First Fridays. I encourage you to stop by.

Corner of Blount and Morgan Streets, August 2015

Corner of Blount and Morgan Streets, August 2015

The Location’s History

In addition to hearing about the story, I asked for a little history of that corner. The project includes three distinct buildings.

  1. The two-story building on Morgan Street where H&R Block used to be.
  2. The office building on the corner that used to be a gas station.
  3. The attached warehouse building along Blount Street.

Church on Morgan will flow between all three of these buildings and very little additions are being added. Other than some entrance/exit changes and a new outdoor patio on the corner, the buildings should look the same even with a new paint job.

This corner of Raleigh was very automotive heavy in the first half of the 20th century. Car dealerships, gas stations, and repair shops clustered the area.

All photos below come courtesy of the State Archives of North Carolina.

N_53_15_6011 Atkins Motor Company 1947

N_53_15_6011 Atkins Motor Company 1947

N_53_15_6012 Atkins Motor Company 1947

N_53_15_6012 Atkins Motor Company 1947

N_53_15_6013 Atkins Motor Company 1947

N_53_15_6013 Atkins Motor Company 1947

N_53_15_6014 Atkins Motor Company 1947

N_53_15_6014 Atkins Motor Company 1947

N_53_15_6015 Atkins Motor Company 1947

N_53_15_6015 Atkins Motor Company 1947

N_53_15_6016 Atkins Motor Company 1947

N_53_15_6016 Atkins Motor Company 1947

N_53_16_5380 Prob Atkins Motor Co Engine Tune-Up Equipment Feb 28, 1947

N_53_16_5380 Prob Atkins Motor Co Engine Tune-Up Equipment Feb 28, 1947

For digital copies of these images, note the call number, and contact Kim Andersen at State Archives at 919.807.7311 or email to kim.andersen@ncdcr.gov

Municipography, Outdoor Seating, Wilmington Street Hotel, Moore Square, and Stone’s Warehouse

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.

I recommend email readers click through to the website to see the embedded video.

I need to think of better titles for these posts.

Lots of downtown Raleigh related items were on this week’s council agenda. I don’t see the video for the daytime session on the city’s website so no video will accompany some of the sections today. They said they were experiencing some technical difficulties that day so perhaps that is why.

Either way, let’s recap.

Outdoor Seating
The hottest topic of the week was the discussion around PUPS, Private Use of Public Space. I’ve covered this before, even sent a letter to city council, but this week the council has changed the hours of operations of our outdoor seating. This is a city-wide ordinance change by the way.

Outdoor seating now has to be closed at midnight Sunday-Thursday, 1am Friday and Saturday nights. To be clear, this only affects outdoor seating that takes place on public property, basically sidewalks. Private outdoor seating is unaffected.

Affected downtown businesses fought this as some of them depend on the sidewalk space for a higher quantity of customers. Reducing their capacity earlier means less dollars. Others against the change claim that we’re biting into our economic success.

Those for the changes claim that downtown is not vibrant and the rowdy bar scene is a burden. It boils down to nearby residents who’ve complained about noise and the inability to get adequate sleep.

My thoughts, in short, are that the reduction in hours are unlikely to do anything while hurting businesses. No one wins, only people lose. The market for bars is thriving. That’s not the problem. The problem is the lack of diversity in downtown business. Opening a bar, clearly, is the most profitable, least risky business right now in downtown Raleigh. How can we make other services and retail more attractive? We don’t have any leadership on this issue currently and I’m disappointed that the Downtown Raleigh Alliance was not an active leader in this debate.

Wilmington Street Hotel

The rezoning request for the proposed 12-story hotel at the corner of Wilmington and Lenoir Streets was approved. From the agenda:

A hearing to receive a request of the Trustees of the General Baptist Convention of North Carolina and Derrick L. and Heather Z. Scales to rezone approximately 0.51 acres from Neighborhood Business with Downtown Overlay and Historic Overlay District-General (NB w/DOD & HOD-G) to Downtown Mixed Use – 12 stories – Urban General – Conditional Use (DX-12-UG-CU). The property is located on the southeast quadrant of the intersection of S. Wilmington and E. Lenoir Street and extends eastward on the south side of E. Lenoir Street.

To catch up on this project, read 12-Story Hotel Planned for Wilmington Street Moves Forward.

Moore Square
The Moore Square redesign plan is moving forward. From the agenda:

Staff seeks authorization to proceed with the second phase of the Moore Square improvement project which generally includes master plan adjustment and development of a preliminary schematic design process for the period of August through December, 2015. This phase will also include regulatory meetings with the Department of Administration, the Raleigh Historic Development Commission and the State Historic Preservation Office. Schematic design will be presented to the public through an open
house; to the Parks, Recreation, and Greenways Advisory Board; and to the City Council for final approval in December.

This item was approved and that means that the redesign moves into Phase 2, schematic design. As a note, I’m on the Moore Square Public Leadership Group for this project so will report here after the next meeting when some work on design is released.

Stone’s Warehouse

If the embedded video doesn’t show for you, click here.

The sale of Stone’s Warehouse was approved. Transfer Company will be buying the site for $2.02 million. Plans for the space include a food entrepreneur incubator as well as a general store and community hall. Market-rate townhomes will be built as well as another building for additional food business space.

Catch up on Stone’s Warehouse here.

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