The L Building Wants In On The Residential Action

Banners on the Wake County Parking Deck
Photo taken July 2011

I noticed this small update yesterday on the city’s development activity page. The people behind The L, the still yet-to-be built office tower on the corner of McDowell and Davie Street, are looking to change it to a residential building. This five-year-old project keeps getting extensions from the city. That’s a good thing as this project is the missing piece that goes next to the Wake County Parking Deck.

With new residential projects being built and office space more in the renovations category, this may be a good move to build on the commitments previously made, ride the hot rental market, and finally be done with this project.

The site plan shows a lot of retail space on the ground floor and lists 100 apartments for floors 2-6. That should adequately cover up the walls of the Wake County Parking Deck, now only covered by colorful banners.

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Comments

Sounds good to me. To make it work though, they’ll have to have some pretty effective sound-proof windows and walls. That’s a noisy area. But if they can do it, those units will be pretty sought-after for location.

This will work only if the pathetic Empire Property is out of the picture. Bring in a REAL developer instead of someone only interested in food

Pathetic Empire Property? Um I wouldn’t say owning pretty much every restaurant you see downtown ‘pathetic’. You’re absolutely ridiculous. Woops sorry Greg Hatem hasn’t built a 4,000 story condo for you so you can somehow prove to the rest of the world that Raleigh has a skyline too!

Hatem doesn’t have the strongest record outside of the restaurant/renovation end. But to be fair, there hasn’t been a lot of new construction from any developer. Some of his new projects fell through for a host of reasons, I wouldn’t be so flippant towards his successes. But that’s just me. Anything that fills the void and gets this few blocks moving towards a more active 24 hour (or evening just into the evenings on weekends) would be good. The auto businesses that abound in that area are probably more of a hindrance than an asset and hopefully they’ll get enough money to relocate in a more suburban area.

This was always prime realistate. If this Empire group (which I agree, is a developer joke), wants to go residential, this building g must go to 20 stories minimum!!!
Enough prime property being wasted on these low profile buildings. No office or apartment building should be less than 15 stories moving forward. This low rid crap is getting old!!!!
City Council, wake up you clowns!!!

Wake up you clowns?

So you think that downtown Raleigh would be a BETTER place if every time a developer proposed a midrise, Raleigh said “Sorry, not tall enough, not approved. 15 stories or hit the road chumps!!!” Uhm, no. Sorry. Especially given the odd shape of this lot, it’s not as “prime” real estate as you suggest.

Also, there are plenty of lots remaining that can be developed.

100 more apartments in downtown is huge! My thought is when Skyhouse and Edison break ground -and maybe with announcement of 1 more residential development- we could be looking at a major grocery store in the core being feasible.

Unless you’re midtown Manhattan or some crazy dense southeast Asian city, 5 or 6 stories is just fine if not ideal. Try telling somewhere like Paris or even Washington, DC that they are doing it wrong because they don’t have 20+ stories.

Well I think the main issue with the L is that it won’t cover the deck (if you look at the renderings, the deck is peeking out over the apartments) which is kind of ugly. Also, I agree with you on DC and Paris but some people forget that Paris has La Defense, soon to be home to the tallest building on the European continent and Alexandria, just across the river from DC, is full of high rises. There’s also been a new debate in DC about lifting the height restrictions. I’d like to see something a little taller in the L spot, mostly because I think downtown will grow explosively and in 20 years it might look like a missed opportunity if L is only 5.

Also, a major grocery store needs probably 3,000 people to support it. DT has more than that, but remember that most people aren’t going to walk 1/2 mile or more to get their groceries, there needs to be a few thousand people within a few blocks (granted I’m basing this on big suburban groceries and an urban grocery would be much smaller). Building a grocery with extensive parking would either mean a big surface lot or an expensive deck. However, it’s basically a critical mass problem, because once there’s sufficient population for a grocery, that will contribute to the number of people who want to live downtown.

Was just in Savannah this past weekend and I was overwhelmed at how many people were walking pretty much everywhere.

Savannah is smaller than Raleigh’s population in both City and Metro area. Most buildings are 6 stories at most with only a couple over that. They have a good amount of retail both national and local boutique stuff in the downtown. So, it is clearly possible to have a thriving downtown without 40 story buildings everywhere.

I like tall buildings and wish Raleigh had more, but if the vacant areas were suddenly filled with 4-6 story buildings with a mix of residential office and retail, Raleigh could be thriving also.

Because the buildings are smaller, people are going out more I think and also this causes the downtown area to be larger, which encourages people to walk further and brings in the people whomlive adjacent to downtown in single family housing (Oakwood is not as dense as Savannah but that general type).

Savannah has a lot going for it that Raleigh doesn’t (not least of all are the ‘to go’ beers). The river front is a fantastic place and they have a number of public plazas/parks that compliment the high density around them. The green squares and incredible density also contribute, plus, as you pointed out, the retail, as well as the high number of bars, restaurants and hotels (and a lot of tourists). I could support your plan for development if I thought the buildings would be more than the bland, relatively uniform stuff we’re getting. The new L isn’t much different from the several buildings going up in Glenwood. I’m a huge proponent of cleaning up the use around Moore Square and trying to enhance Nash Square (both are missed opportunities, IMO). Those are the only real green spaces we have in the city center and they’re not used very well, plus they’re surrounded by businesses that don’t encourage park usage.

What a rediculous comparison!!! Savannah vs Raleigh, that is like Raleigh vs New York. I have been to Savannah. Nice, but you would have to force me to live in that TOWN. Other than a few amenities, NOTHING to do there. Raleigh is a growing metro area, Savannah will NEVER be a Metro area with big city amenities.
Call me when your bored after a month, I was ready to get out.

Jerry, from my reading comprehension skills it wasn’t a comparison. I think you missed the point.

Savannah’s a ‘town’ yet it has a much more active downtown than Raleigh. Just because Savannah is smaller, that doesn’t mean it has nothing we can look to for inspiration. The same is true of New York. Just because Raleigh will never be New York, that doesn’t mean we can’t try to emulate a scaled down version of something we like…

To build on Steve’s comment re Raleigh vs. Savannah, the comparisons aren’t fair primarily because of Savannah’s appeal as a tourist attraction. Similar to Charleston. Downtown Raleigh does not have attractions that draw tourists, other than people coming in for conventions or for special events. That draws retail, casual strollers, etc. But doesn’t always mean the city is alive and well (New Orleans). Development of green space, a vibrant and unique food scene, music scene, museums, boutique hotels with spa, etc could be the building blocks toward making downtown Raleigh more of a tourist destination.

Why are we comparing Savannah to Raleigh, a City and metropolitan area 4X he size of Savannah? you are talking a couple hunderd thousand, at best to a nearly 2 Million MSA? Why don’t we draw comparisons to Elizabeth City?

Correction: Make that 14X the size of Savannah

Uncle Jesse, I don’t mean this disrespectfully, but you’re argument is kind of silly. The size of a place is irrelevant, as I’ve previously stated. If a town or a city has something we like, I don’t see why we cant try to emulate it (perhaps on a different scale). As I’ve said, Savannah has a much more active downtown than Raleigh, despite being so much smaller. This website is about downtown Raleigh, which is actually probably smaller than downtown Savannah.

I think your argument underlines a crucial point about Raleigh, the downtown is tiny for a city its size. Roughly 1 square mile in a city of 140 square miles, less than 1% of the city’s land area.

Also, most of my argument in favor of looking at Savannah is the walk-ability of the city center. High density building and large quantities of well-kept parks and gardens make it a much nicer place to walk than downtown Raleigh. If we could enhance some of our open spaces and emulate the ‘Old World’ atmosphere of Savannah, I don’t see how anyone could complain.

I’d like to chime in here on a multitude of issues being discussed in the comments.
1.) I disagree that every new housing project needs to be 15 stories minimum. An interesting and thriving DT core is best assembled with a variety of projects with a variety of elevations. HighRise apartments/condos are great when you have a view but are terrible when you just look into the windows of another HighRise. Plus, believe it or not, not everyone wants to live in a HighRise. As for the L, consider that the parking that’s already constructed has to support whatever project is put there. I highly doubt that it will support a tower and the overall municipal needs of the city.
2.) I think the DT grocery idea is way overvalued as a key to DT’s success. While it’s romantic to think of Raleighites will walk through the streets with one or two bags of groceries each day as they make their way on foot from their jobs to their homes, it’s not how most Americans live their lives. Americans drive their cars to increasingly larger grocers and fill up their carts and trunks with weeks worth of supplies at once. For many in DT, reasonable access to grocers are already available in Cameron Village. Would it be great to have a grocer downtown? Yes. Do I think it’s the show-stopper that I perceive from the DT community? I don’t think it is. As a part-time resident of DT Raleigh and part-time residents in SouthBeach, I speak from experience. Guess what? We have 4 significant grocers in SouthBeach and most everyone drives to them. For small trips, I always take the public bike share program and some of the elderly take the SouthBeach local loop bus to shopping but nearly everyone drives.
If one had to drive to North Hills for groceries, I would understand the issue. I also understand that the East side of DT is more challenged for groceries than those on the West side of DT. But, for me, I’d rather see a department store downtown again first or some other type of specialty destination store because people can actually walk and carry their typical purchases. This is a key differentiator in my opinion. Also, a department store is a destination. People will come downtown for the day to shop, dine, tour, etc. The same can’t be said for grocers.
3.) We can learn a lot from many differnt cities. There are lots of lessons to be learned and there are often similar programs in various cities. We can learn from Savannah and other cities about the importance of small parks as a mechanism to encourage urban neighborhoods. The vision to restore the lost “square” is a good idea for Raleigh and the edges of DT could expand the urban footprint of the city by purposely restoring grids to the city center edges and establishing more public squares.

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