Raleigh Agenda: The City of Raleigh wants to improve the Southern Gateway

I’m contributing to a new online site called Raleigh Agenda. They launched earlier this month and I’m hoping to expand on some greater Raleigh development and other topics there as an addition to the blog. I recommend you check it out and subscribe to the email newsletter.

I have a post up there now about the city’s and the vision plans around invigorating this tired, neglected area of the city. From the article:

It may be ironic then that this area, the Southern Gateway, is lacking the same kind of investment that other areas of the city are experiencing. An extremely vehicle-accessible area with roads like Saunders, Wilmington, MLK Boulevard, and the behemoth, I-40, are actually negatively impacting new investment.

*The City of Raleigh wants to improve the Southern Gateway via .

Comments

That site is nice and has some good content. Hopefully they can add an RSS feed and comments section as those are what keep me coming back here between posts.

After decades of pandering to North Raleigh it’s nice to see the city remember “Oh yeah, there’s a south side too, I guess we should make sure it’s not completely ignored after all.” I mean, the neglect to areas south of downtown have long been so obvious, it’s mind-boggling.

I’m glad finally SOMEbody is starting to realize this now. Hopefully, it’s not too late to do some good there.

Some new development would be great. (Wasn’t a shopping center supposed to go in next to Red Roof Inn with a grocery store?)

Maybe when I-40 is finally finished, something good can get moving.

Yes, south raleigh has a lot of potential as well. I think if someone were to come in and build some major buildings for a businesses in those large vacant lots just north of 40 on S Saunders.. that would definitely gravitate more to that area. I’ve heard that Goodnight has been buying up all that land in the south for a while now. So if true and they start to sell or develope… that could be huge.

I can just imagine a tall building there on those lots with a roof top bar/restaurant. That would be one of the best views in Raleigh!

To be fair, all gateways into DT Raleigh suck in one way or another. While the promise of the northern gateway via Capital has been discussed for years, it’s still not improved. Most of the roads from the east and the west don’t feel like gateways at all and encounter ugliness just before one reaches downtown. Western Blvd probably has the most appeal from an experience perspective but it has to pass that damn prison and it doesn’t really take you into the core of DT; you have to switch to another road. The same is true for Glenwood. It’s lovely drive actually from the Beltline to its terminus but it dead ends into Morgan rather abruptly and unceremoniously.
HIllsborough Street is a very nice approach to DT and is getting a lot of attention but it does not move traffic in a way that a gateway would intend.
New Bern also has a really nice approach to DT and a lot of upside potential but it’s not coming from a direction that has a lot of exposure to the thru traffic on I40.
That all said, the southern gateway is the most critical and the most important part of that is S. Saunders. More than a ball park, Raleigh needs a serious streetscape plan NOW for S. Saunders to address both landscaping and the built environment. When the best looking things on a street are a Harley dealer and a cemetery, you know you’ve got a problem.
Wilmington and Hammond also need work but these roads spill into neighborhoods and should never be encouraged to be thoroughfares or gateways. That said, the areas south of DT on those two roads also has a ton of potential.

I am happy that the city is beginning to recognize that the southern gateway is long overdue for development. The vast majority of visitors who fly into Raleigh are directed to this route. Once you exit 40 to South Saunders, you are immediately greeted with older, unkept warehouse facilities, overgrown lots, dated strip malls and used car lots. I would hope that the city would realize that aesthetics are important. I am especially appreciative of the monster truck that sits just north of Red Roof Inn.

In my mind the gate to a city’s downtown is the start of where pedestrians are the focus, and no longer in [serious] danger (though I was lightly tapped by a city truck that didn’t stop at a Hargett st stop sign this week). This is how ancient cities were arranged….the gate lets you into the walls, and inside the walls you are safe. Raleigh’s “walls” need to be expanded out quite a bit I think…i.e., expand the area where pedestrians are primary and not secondary. Rebuild street grid in some places ( I am crazy enough to propose installing a grid all the way to Caraleigh such as can be done). Sure, monumental art akin to ancient triumphal archs (that little brick circle at Hillsborough/Edenton seems to beg for some big industrial piece of art to me). For gods sake bury all of the power lines downtown and add boom signals at every intersection. Stretches of Lane and Harrington don’t even have sidewalks! I am overflowing with ideas…I wish I could get the ideas out of my head and onto a basemap of downtown just to see how it might all look…

The article makes a good point about S. Wilmington being the BRT line for Wake County’s transit plan. I can see it being lined with taller buildings, with medium density (especially townhouses) flaring out in either direction from there.
Another great point was made about Western Blvd. How amazing would it be to replace Central Prison with a high density residential area? I think apartments might be hard to sell, but I’m imagining a rowhouse neighborhood like Capitol Hill in DC, or Back Bay in Boston, with like 10K+ per square mile type density, and a main street connecting to Western. I know the prison isn’t going anywhere for a long time, but by the time it does, I imagine the land will be worth a lot of money. People would have a hard time complaining about heights and/or the “character” of the neighborhood if the buildings are all 2-3 stories and there’s absolutely no neighborhood there right now.

@Mark, I love the idea of expanding the grid of DT but I wouldn’t hold my breath. We couldn’t get that done for just a small area (Peace and Capital).
@Steve, I have always been a proponent of taking the prison & the morehead school and combining them with Pullen park to make Raleigh’s central park that is largely flat, adjacent to neighborhoods to the north and useful. This park can extend to the other side of the of Western in the Dix property and western can tunnel under sections of it so that the parkland area is contiguous. In turn, the upper area of Dix Hill could be developed with high density that connects it all the way down Lake Wheeler to downtown proper.

@Steve – just convert the prison into apartments. Call it “the jail house” or something. ha.. jk

@john – the capital project should be starting next month. and when that is complete.. that will be an excellent gateway straight into raleigh. especially with the kane project going in right there as well.

@Bob,
The gateway needs to be more than just the few blocks north of DT on Capital. It needs to be addressed from 440 & Capital southward in the same way that S. Saunders needs to be addressed from 40 northward into downtown.

Despite the fortune of not having an interstate highway slice through its center, Raleigh could take some cues from other cities who have or are planning to remove their urban freeways. For the best results, big ideas are needed.

S. Saunders Street and S. Wilmington Street need to be redesigned — slower traffic, street parking, urban frontages for buildings. Lake Wheeler could use some attention too.

More solid connections are also needed between Southwest and Southeast Raleigh. I envision an extension of Centennial Parkway from Lake Wheeler Road to Rock Quarry Road if not further. With the planning for Dix, I’d put a lot of thought into connections to the park as well.

@RaleighRob yes Cracker Barrel was suppose to but they had to have the big sign on pole and COR said NO.
@CX Centennial Parkway won’t connect to Saunders as behind gas station/BK is EPA brown field site and new Caraleigh Commons is backing up to flood plain & walnut creek. No room left.
The land across from Harley dealer is the land that needs a 10-15 story building and yes Lake Wheeler needs upgrades & sidewalks. The area has more potential than Capital & New Bern. I was hoping the City would built complex by red roof and put 1200 employees there in 18 story complex.

Please show Ray Price and his Harley dealership some respect. He has kept his business on the south side when he easily could have moved to a nicer area of town decades ago. His company was sponsoring events downtown when the only thing down there was homeless people and pigeons. I hope Ray Price Harley, Earp’s Seafood, Murray Tire, and Bob’s Army Surplus don’t eventually get priced out of the area.

@cx, what other cities are you referring to? Just curious.

The South and East ends of Raleigh have largely been ignored. The New Bern Ave. revitalisation plan is about adding bus lanes and sidewalks. Not really going to improve the gateway entry. Capital’s gateway will look nice but too short. Here’s to hoping Capital improves out to the beltine.

Perhaps a stadium could go in at the Cargill site or central prison?

The city needs to provide incentives for companies willing to expand/relocate to the South and East so we can start to redevelop those areas. The zip code 27610 should be of highest priority.

And then when businesses and developers come to the South and East sides of downtown, there will be the complaints that it’s gentrifying and pricing out the “original” residents/businesses. Can’t win.

@bam, I stand by my earlier statement. I am not disrespecting Ray Price. I said it was the best looking thing on that stretch of road. That’s not being disrespectful.
I still say that a Harley dealer shouldn’t be the nicest thing on a gateway entrance road. We should aspire to be better than that. Ray Price should be the floor of our expectations, not the ceiling.

@BC: Never heard anything about Cracker Barrel. After more digging, the project I was thinking about is “Penmarc Village”.
http://www.loopnet.com/Listing/18986572/1701-S-Saunders-Raleigh-NC/

@BC: I get what you’re saying about extending Centennial Parkway. Based on the potential benefits, alternatives should be explored, be it a new street (elevated through the flood plain) or better connections along existing streets that skirt the flood plain.

@Paul: San Francisco removed its Embarcadero Freeway and part of the Central Freeway. New Orleans has explored removing the Claiborne Expressway outside of the Treme and French Quarter. Dallas and TDOT is considering removing I-345 east of Downtown. Many other have or are considering removal, trenching, or covering highways in hope of reconnecting neighborhoods.

Raleigh has this opportunity too with neighborhoods south and north or Downtown.

@RaleighRob, thanks for the link to the proposed Penmarc project. While it looks like it would definitely be an improvement to the area, it sure is uninspired and completely ordinary. I’d certainly hope for something better. I’d almost rather nothing happen than something lame that will be there for the next few generations.

@John – I agree with your last comment. Although it would be nice to have something there, I would much rather hold off until we can get something much better. That looks very unappealing.. and my opinion is.. it would not be the best thing to see first thing when you enter into downtown. I think something similar to what they have done in North Hills would be great.. maybe on a slightly smaller scale.

I’d like to see S. Saunders become a tree lined boulevard with periodically accessed service roads to the east and the west for the businesses. A tree buffer between the thoroughfare and the service roads would give the city the opportunity to shape the experience of travel to and from DT without necessarily requiring a complete overhaul of the land use of all properties that currently line it. If necessary, I’d trade the center median on S. Saunders for east and west landscaped buffers. The service road could be initially accessed going south from McDowell and the fork of S. Saunders where those two roads meet and the north bound service road could have one lane that starts from the south side of 40 and a dedicated offshoot turn lane from the exit off of 40. Certainly there are some buildings that are simply to close to the current road configuration to make this work but one can dream. Once the configuration is in place, it could raise the land value of adjacent properties and encourage better, more thoughtful development.

The very first thing the Dawson/McDowell connector (proper name of this segment from downtown to Caraleigh) is freakin’ sidewalks. The whole situation here was a trumped up reason to demolish the southside neighborhood between South Street and Rocky Branch…it really doesn’t need to exist in its current configuration (though I understand that this all essentially our only N/S route all the way through downtown). There are a host of minor changes that can be down to properly urbanize the area and not touch the Rocky Branch buffer area and flood plain, such as 1) take out the South Saunders light at Dawson/McDowell and make use of the jug handle intersection at Prospect/Saunders and the way into that corner. You can then take out the stretch from the light to the old Saunders alignment, smush the Dawson/McDowell lanes together eastward and develop Saunders across the road from Ray Price. I also still think taking out the MLK-Dawson/McDowell interchange vastly improves the area and expands the downtown footprint. Dropping West St to MLK, taking Dorthea *back to Dawson (like it used to be) and developing the SE corner of that old interchange. I realize this means moving Heritage Park but it is aging and in need of a rethink anyway.

Why not create a large roundabout at the intersection of S. Saunders and McDowell?
There’s quite a bit of land taken up by the existing intersection and a large roundabout would provide an opportunity to locate some sort of DT entrance feature like a fountain, a sculpture, etc. The N/S thru corridor could engage the roundabout in a fairly gentle way that won’t significantly slow the movement through the intersection. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a circle, it could be more oval in shape if necessary.

I know this is changing the subject, but when you mentioned roundabouts, I couldn’t help but think about our need for one at five points. I have SEVERAL reasons why, probably too many for a comments section. But alas, I’ll just keep watching near-misses at the awkward red light.

So you I guess you know Five Points used to have a roundabout? Pics hanging in The Point. https://localwiki.org/raleigh/Five_Points_Traffic_Circle

@Mark, thanks for that link. Certainly any new roundabout would need to be better than that sad little one that they used to have in Five Point. It could afford to have one more like the one on Hillsborough at the entrance to NC State.

Probably too much for the comments section on the Southern Gateway… but my vision for a Five Points roundabout is similar to Dupont Circle in DC. Lose the median. From the north side, Glenwood starts dropping 4 center lanes (2 each direction) around Alexander Rd (elev 306′). Two side roads start ramping up on both sides. So by the time you get to the intersection, 2 thru lanes each direction of Glenwood are tunneled underneath and there is a surface roundabout for local traffic (only need a simple 1 lane circle since lower traffic volumes).

On the south side, similar story, local lanes ramp down and reconverge with the thru lanes somewhere before Harvey St (elev 288′). Current elev of Five Points intersection is 320′, so the topography naturally lends itself to the idea.

The pedestrian experience would be improved simply by hiding all the thru traffic and basically restoring the neighborhood feel to the sidewalks and shops rather than feeling inches away from a thoroughfare. And it solves the complicated turn movements that people can’t seem to understand. You’d lose some of the current street parking but I think that’s a price worth paying. And I could see it as a catalyst for mid-rise development at the Yadkin Bank & gas station properties.

Mike, I suggested the exact same thing on the Urbanplanet forum! I think everyone wins…commuters bypass a choke point. Pedestrians have many fewer cars to dance around. Thomas Circle also has submerged bypass lanes, and probably others in DC.

@Mike…wait, actually a guy whose handle is Green_Man suggested it first and also compared it to DuPont….sorry for taking credit…also…you two one and the same perhaps?

Yes! Now, just need to get the city to understand the benefits of dropping some serious cash on the project!

Here’s an excerpt from a letter I wrote to NewRaleigh with reasons for a 5-points roundabout:

1) Pedestrian safety. Five Points is a residential area, and, as such, people like to jog, walk their dogs, stroll their children, etc. The way Glenwood is traveled is downright dangerous for pedestrians. Creating a roundabout would sufficiently calm traffic and bring an element of safety to those walking the neighborhood. To the opponents arguing it would stifle traffic on Glenwood, that’s precisely the idea. Traffic-calming was the rationale behind building the roundabout on Hillsborough St., a similarly traveled road, and it has worked beautifully. The right lanes fronting The Rialto and Lilly’s are parking lanes after 5:00p and on weekends; I would suggest making these lanes permanent parking lanes, creating a less-complicated one-lane entrance to the roundabout.

2) Mitigation of driver confusion. I live off of Whitaker Mill Rd., and I see–almost daily–a near-miss accident involving drivers unfamiliar with the Whitaker Mill/Fairview right-of-way. Despite the (small) posted sign instructing Whitaker Mill drivers to yield to oncoming Fairview traffic, these drivers either a) don’t see the sign, b) are distracted by pedestrians crossing Glenwood in front of The Rialto, or c) engage in an awkward stalemate with Fairview drivers who don’t know they have the right-of-way. A roundabout provides simplicity for drivers: yield to traffic in the circle.

3) Resumption of two-way traffic on East Fairview Rd. The one-way block of Fairview east of Five Points creates an awkward interruption of flow, requiring westbound traffic between Capital Blvd. and Oberlin Rd. to divert onto Scales St., a street that is not designed for cut-through traffic. A roundabout, coupled with resumption of two-way traffic on Fairview, would create a seamless pathway from Capital to Oberlin.

4) Aesthetics. Five Points is one of the prettiest neighborhoods in the city, and I love living here. However, I believe the area’s appearance would be VASTLY improved with buried power lines, removal of traffic lights, and an attractive roundabout “hub,” perhaps highlighted by landscaping (a large “city-symbol” oak tree?), a fountain, a statue, whatever. A fantastic model to follow is Monument Ave. in Richmond’s Fan District. Their use of roundabouts and accompanying statues create an eye-catching focal point for the neighborhood and the city.

I can’t be the only one disappointed that Will’s letter to NewRaleigh about reasons for a 5-Points roundabout was only 4 points, right?

@Jake HAHA. Also, am I the only one who thinks it’s weird that it’s not called six points?

A LETTER? to NewRaleigh??? Why a letter? And why to NewRaleigh? And is this even possible? Maybe try City Council, the Mayor, or Office of Transportation Planning.

Is there a new brewery coming to ‘South Raleigh’?

Was on Hoke street I believe this afternoon (which is much further south than much of the current gentrification) and industrial. Looked into a building that i was riding by and could clearly see the brewery tanks through the window, where the paper had come down. Area could be a great area for breweries, etc lightweight industrial, etc. You certainly have to leap over an area that has been slower to change but its closer to Downtown proper than many of the east Raleigh areas that are transforming.

Would Love to see Taller High Rises along the Southern End of Downtown and near Shaw University. I think that it will Better Enhance that part of Downtown a lot. Raleigh is About to Explode and When it Does….WOW.!!

Why are so many of your words unnecessarily capitalized?

lol

Great points Will. The grey, out-of-place, now furniture shop would still be there unfortunately, but a roundabout would definitely be an aesthetic asset to the neighborhood. A small statue in the middle referencing historic Raleigh, similar to the way Richmond does with Monument Ave would be pretty nice!

Why do you even care ?

LMAO!

Because of a few odd new comments on this thread, I re-read the entire thread from the top, and found some really interesting and thoughtful posts, especially from the poster named “John” (no relation to me).

With downtown spreading down from the north…Pullen Park, NC State Centennial campus, Farmer’s Market, and Dix Park along the west side…I agree it is definitely time to pay some more serious attention to the layout and streetscapes on the immediate south side, especially where Dawson becomes South Saunders, and rolls over that short rise, less than a mile, to I-40.

Think about it: I-40 is THE great east/west expressway from California to Carolina, and downtown Raleigh is right there, in view, just one mile north of that expressway. If I were Raleigh, I would want that one mile from I-40 into Downtown to really make a statement about Raleigh.

As for this one odd comment here, I came to this site to express my love for Raleigh,i live here and I love this city. I love reading the comments here and love to see the progress that Raleigh is making. are my capitialized words less enough for you Jeff. And in case your wondering why Jeff because I have a crappy laptop that is why.

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