The State of Seaboard Station

Seaboard Station

Seaboard Station sits at the northern end of downtown Raleigh and is a unique area compared to Glenwood South or Fayetteville Street. Over the last few years, the area seems to be riding with the downtown revitalization wave but there’s just something that’s holding it back. Why don’t people come to Seaboard and stay for awhile? I’ve always felt like the area was convenient for quickly getting there, but just the same, easy enough to get right out.

The Shops at Seaboard Station website plays on the locally owned theme of restaurants and services. 18 Seaboard and J. Betski’s have been serving at Seaboard for a few years now and the recently opened Tyler’s Taproom seems to be an instant favorite. While not included on their website, Sunflower’s needs a big nod for doing business here for almost thirty years.

In retail, Seaboard is creating a little variety for shoppers. Logan Trading Co. may be the anchor tenant and the family-owned garden shop has been open since 1991. Over the last few years, places like Seaboard Wine, Ace Hardware, and O2 Fitness have moved in to diversify the list of services.

But the most dramatic story in recent history may be what happened in 2007. A grocery store, Capital City Grocery, opened in Seaboard Station with high anticipation. The news was all over it, saying it was the pinnacle of downtown Raleigh’s re-birth. However, over time the hype died down and reviews were mixed about the store. For whatever reason, the grocery store closed and re-opened in 2008, only to close permanently later that year.

Around that same time, condo projects were even planned for Seaboard Station. The 111 Seaboard condos were planned along Seaboard Avenue but that project never came to be. Now, the empty building will not be razed for development but renovated for more retail spaces.

Today, Seaboard Station has a few new tenants in addition to the previously mentioned with plenty of empty space for more.

Empty Storefronts at Seaboard Station
Empty Storefronts at Seaboard Station

The events, the largest probably being the Music on the Porch series during the warmer months, have been fine but what will it take for Seaboard Station to naturally be a hub of activity?

The area has some natural obstacles all around it. To the south, the black hole that is the state government complex will almost never contribute more than a steady lunch crowd. The customer base to the east is not growing much with Peace College and the Mordecai and Oakwood neighborhoods. The area is also cut off somewhat with the train tracks to the north and Capital Blvd to the west. The area is somewhat isolated.

Seaboard’s contribution to downtown is not urban at all so its suburban nature makes it compete with other places of similar style. The vast parking lots make it easier for cars to go in and out so it is now competing with other shopping centers around the city. If I have to drive to Seaboard Station, then why choose that area if getting to someplace better outside of downtown is just as easy now that I’ve made the decision to drive? You can see it in the map below.

In my opinion, Seaboard Station cannot do it alone and needs to be tied into a few other projects in order for it to be a place to stay awhile. The Blount Street Commons project that essentially stalled when the economy went bad a few years ago needs to be re-energized in some way. More residents need to move into the northern end of downtown to feed Seaboard. The Capital Blvd Corridor study will also be a huge factor in realizing Seaboard’s potential. This study also includes a Peace Street corridor redesign which could greatly improve Peace Street.

The location is great but the barriers are too restrictive at the moment for Seaboard Station. The current stop on the R-Line is another plus but even greater connectivity is needed for this area to feel like an integral part of downtown Raleigh.

Comments

I agree. The State Government, Peace College, and Capital Blvd make Seaboard a virtual island. Amazing dining options ONLY do not make for an entertainment destination. I think a playhouse makes a lot of sense in the Seaboard area in addition to O2 Fitness, restaurants, and retail options.

Great perspective. I love the Seaboard area but agree the isolation makes for a challenge. I think the opening of Tyler’s has brought some new life to the location but more is needed. Just a side note, but the Music on the Porch series really isn’t even in Seaboard anymore. Last year they moved it over to the Historic Mordecai Park off Wake Forest Road. Still in the vicinity but not really adding to the attraction of Seaboard any more.

One of my comments for the Capital Blvd Study was to include a pedestrian bridge connecting N. Blount St to Carson St in Five Points to improve the connectivity across the great divide that is Capital Blvd and the freight yards.

I go to Seaboard quite often but even walking from shop to shop feels like walking in a strip mall parking lot (i.e. car-oriented instead of pedestrian-oriented). Pie-in-the-sky dream would be to bury the parking below grade like North Hills and at street level, just have a few on-street parking spots and mostly pedestrian plazas. Add some mid-rise apartment buildings and there’s your urban Seaboard district. $$$$

I think Oakwood, Mordecai and Pilot Mills creates a great customer base, but Peace College sits there like a fortress buffer between them. They cut off Franklin Street several years ago so no Delway/Halifax and Peace Streets are the only way to get there. It’s a shame because there is a recent surge of interest in building up retail in the North Person area (particularly with Market & Escazu’s announced moves down there). It would be wonderful if the two areas could be better linked.

It’s not, and never will be an integral part of downtown. It’s dependent on cars, but good news… everyone in town just loves driving.

I could think of a few more out of the way places to try to start a business, but not many.

Connecting Wade Avenue to Halifax Street would:
(1) Make the Seaboard area a lot more visible
(2) Take some traffic off of Peace Street and allow for a road diet.

I for one think this could be done tastefully and I’m sure Seaboard would appreciate the extra traffic, but I’m sure Peace College, Halifax Park, and Pilot Mill Village would not be too happy about the idea of cut-through traffic in their neighborhood.

TriangleExplorer, good call. Even though Music on the Porch has moved, I still think it was the largest event held at Seaboard in recent years so it moving isn’t a good sign unless something replaces it.

I’d like to throw out a few corrections/comments:

1. Logan’s isn’t part of the Seaboard Station development per se. They’re there and they’re awesome at what they do, but they’re their own entity, unrelated to the re-development that happened 5 years ago.

2. Seaboard Station has exactly *one* small retail vacancy. It’s about 1500 square feet. There’s not “plenty of space for more” in the existing buildings. The building at 111 Seaboard is going to be torn down/rebuilt, and as such, can’t really be considered to be vacant, since it’s unusable right now. It’s also owned by a group different than the ones that did the big Seaboard Station upfit 5 years ago.

3. We are actually the largest retailer by square footage in Seaboard Station, and we’re doing just fine. While I’m sure a lot of people were upset about the two failures of Capital City Grocery, I’d like to point out that we have filled the space with a practical, useful business (the only pet supply store inside of the beltline), and we are profitable, are providing good jobs, are socially responsible, are locally owned and managed, and are staying in the space for the foreseeable future. We’re also one of the fastest growing, privately owned companies in the US (http://www.inc.com/inc5000/profile/phydeaux). While the downtown Raleigh pundits bemoan the loss of Capital City Grocery, they tend to ignore the fact that our use of the space is an excellent fit, probably even more so than a grocery store of any kind could be squeezed into a 14,000 sq ft space.

4. The owners of the newest Seaboard Station development are still planning on building condos at the far end of the property, and those will probably get going after they finish going through Chapter 11.

5. The idea that retail can do well without parking strikes me as funny. The only other really successful retail inside of the beltline is Cameron Village…. because they have parking. Raleigh isn’t nearly dense enough, and probably won’t be for many decades, to support big city style street-level retail. There’s no way that our business and others in Seaboard and would work without significant parking and truck access.

6. The idea that Seaboard is somehow not part of downtown also strikes me as funny. We’re exactly two blocks from the “happening” part of Glenwood, exactly two blocks from what the Raleigh-ites consider “downtown”, and exactly two blocks from the Oakwood/Mordicai neighborhood. It’s easy to get to by car or by foot or by bike or by bus from anywhere inside of the beltline. We really couldn’t be happier with the connectivity, and I don’t know of any retail area in all of Raleigh that is more accessible to more people than Seaboard Station.

Overall, I think that Leo’s take on Seaboard Station is unnecessarily negative and largely incorrect. Seaboard Station is still relatively new, but is already one of the most successful developments in downtown Raleigh since Cameron Village, and our success and the continued success of our neighbors proves it.

– Thanks, Frank Papa
Top Dog, Phydeaux

Frank Papa, I’m sorry you think the post was negative. I can assure you though that the intentions were completely different. Clearly you have a handle on the business happenings of Seaboard and surrounding businesses, more so than I and probably most readers of this blog. The post is an attempt to mention what I, a pedestrian and downtown resident, see when visiting Seaboard.

Thank you for sharing some insight into what may be going on behind the scenes. As of this morning, the buildings along 111 Seaboard Avenue are empty with a “For Lease” sign on them, clearly indicating that much more space is available than the 1,500 sq. feet you mention. While it may not be part of Seaboard as you mention, drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians probably don’t see it that way.

As for the condos that are coming on the northern side of Seaboard, I wish them luck and really hope for a groundbreaking soon.

We’ll also have to do some work with the Downtown Raleigh Alliance as their website significantly under represents the businesses in Seaboard.

This blog supports walkable, livable environments. Seaboard currently serves Raleigh with ease of access through parking but may one day be faced with a necessary change as urbanity heads its way in the not too distant future.

There is also a pet supply store just ITB on Wake Forest Rd in the plaza by Trader Joe’s quite close to where I live. Not that we’ve ever been, we always make the trip (drive) to Phydeaux, which really is a good use of the space. I know Tyler’s has brought a lot of people to that area, even my friends from the Lynwood Grill area of Glenwood and beyond. The thing is, most people have to drive. It would be great if everyone could just walk or ride their bikes, but Raleigh is a driving city…for good or bad. It would be better if Seaboard wasn’t walled off by the State Government complex and the college, but they aren’t going anywhere. I think the best thing to do is to increase connectivity where possible, but especially with the revitalization efforts on N. Person St. Midrise condos would definitely help.

Everyone makes good points and thanks to Mr. Papa for his comments.
While I still think some better connectivity for pedestrians is always a good thing, I’ll just simply point to my post above about better connections to North Person. (Since Peace College cut off Franklin Street, it’d be nice if they took that fence down and made a walkway connecting Halifax to Blount…sigh.)
Anyways, I won’t criticize Seaboard for being Car-dependent…like Mr. Papa says, it’s more integrated into downtown than Cameron Village is. And I’ll give Seaboard props: they got bike racks all over the place (I should know…I use them almost daily!), and every building does have sidewalks surrounding it, and they are well-lit at night. I dare say it’s more pedestrian & bike friendly than most of the state government complex!

Also let’s not forget the retailers there. Logan’s, Seaboard Wine, Ace Hardware and Phydeaux all depend on having customers fill up their trunks with their goods. If these businesses couldn’t have a locale with parking, then they’d never even be downtown, or might not even be inside the beltline at all! I’ve biked to Ace to buy a screwdriver before, but if I want a couple gallons of paint or big bag of mulch, I’m driving! :-P

I, too, want to thank Frank for his input and useful insight. As an optimist by nature, I see a lot of potential in Seaboard Station and the surrounding areas. Leo’s comments, however, were not exactly negative… Leo said something VERY important, and that is the need to have a bigger effort. Tie Seaboard area with downtown better and give it the attention it deserves.

As Frank mentioned, Raleigh is not the dense urban cities to attract the strict urban patterns of development. This is like the chicken and egg question. Some people may argue that we should “build it and they will come”, but who has the funding and financial backing to make this happen? Unless I see a few residential and mixed-use projects delivered in the Seaboard area, I cannot be excited and very positive. The 111 Seaboard project was going to be pivotal to the revitalization of the area, but we are looking into renovations instead. Also beneficial would be a serious revitalization along Peace Str, between West and Salisbury streets, but that will probably take too long :(

Personally, I support Seaboard Station businesses whenever I am in the area, but for most of my shopping North Raleigh – where I live – provides everything I need. No reason to visit Seaboard Station, but if I lived nearby I would certainly support the businesses located there.

Seaboard Station is too strip mallish for me.

If they could build some retail spots that abut Peace Street (intersection of Vaugn & Peace), then I think it would have a more urban/downtown vibe.

I love Seaboard and I also want to point out that the R line makes a stop there. My husband and I have taken the bus from Glenwood over there multiple times.

The owner of Seaboard is in bankruptcy and rumor are floating around that William Peace University may purchase the property to expand.

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