Starting this week, myself and a group of passionate Raleigh residents are ready to show off a new way to get engaged. We’re calling it Downtown CAC and we think this new effort will resonate with long-time civic activists as well as newcomers who want to get involved. You might even have fun in the process!
Inspired by the community that has formed over on the DTRaleigh Community, a group has come together to find a way to get more people attending the Raleigh Citizen Advisory Councils. (CAC) These meetings, which all Raleigh residents are part of one, are the best way to get engaged with what is happening in your city and more specifically, what is happening near where you live.
The meetings contain updates from the police, parks, city planning, and more. The CACs even get to weigh in on issues regarding rezonings or transit. That feedback makes its way to our city council so your voice is heard by decision makers front and center.
The issue we see is that downtown Raleigh is made up of several CAC boundaries, see the map above. Downtown residents feel a part of the downtown as a whole and not really a part of a specific CAC so public engagement could be diluted to a degree.
With a virtual effort, our Downtown CAC, we are making more people aware of the CAC system and how to participate on specific issues.
More updates and information to come through our website. If you’d like to know more, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
I had the pleasure of meeting up with Steve Rehnborg over at the Raleigh Night Market recently and he showed me his first wave of products that his company, Civic Flags, is offering. This includes a City of Raleigh flag!
Partially inspired by this 2012 blog post about the flag, Civic Flags fills in a gap in our city: you can’t easily order a flag for your own enjoyment!
I’ve got my flag so wanted to inform readers of the new site. Jump on over and see what they got. You can also follow them on Instagram to keep up with them.
Since downtown's fireworks were abandoned this year for the fairgrounds, I decided to head to Knightdale to look back on the city. This year's "fireworks with the Raleigh skyline" made possible by Raleigh citizens launching their own. pic.twitter.com/KJ7GFLro7K
See tweet by @metroscenes of fireworks with the Raleigh skyline on Twitter.
Ten years ago today, there was a dedication ceremony held on the roof of our city’s tallest building. The spire of the PNC Plaza, then called RBC Plaza, was lit up for the first time. As I noted in this August 2008 post, then RBC Bank CEO Scott Custer said:
The lighting of the RBC Plaza is a symbol of the progress of the revitalization of downtown Raleigh.
Ten years have gone by and the 33-story PNC Plaza is still the tallest building around. That could mean a number of things. Some of us may measure progress with height and flash while others with amenities and vibrancy.
A lot has happened over the last ten years in downtown Raleigh including a great recession that scrapped plenty of projects that may have joined PNC Plaza’s height. A wave of apartments has crashed in downtown Raleigh since then and PNC Plaza remains the only building with residential units at that height.
You could say PNC Plaza was the end of an era.
RBC Plaza under construction seen from the Boylan Bridge. May 2008.
While height above 30 floors doesn’t seem to be something popping up in and around downtown Raleigh since the completion of PNC Plaza, downtown continues to deliver new buildings that are filling in around her. People keep moving here and new businesses continue to open up here.
I’d like to think that the PNC Plaza spire lighting up ten years ago wasn’t exactly a symbol of our revitalization but rather the homing beacon for future newcomers. It’s also a welcome home sign to long-term residents journeying back.
It may be hard to spot but you can see it with the right window seat when landing at RDU at night.
It’s become a part of our home.
Here’s hoping we never miss a night with that light off.
If you spend time in downtown Raleigh, it’s not hard to run into historic photos of our city. Restaurants, shops, and offices have been getting photos from the State Archives office and framing them as part of their renovations and presence throughout the growing times of downtown Raleigh.
These photos are maintained, labeled, and identified by the good folks at the State Archives office. A local star among these efforts is Karl Larson who has done great work in helping to identify photos and where they may come from.
His detective work is top notch and this new Indiegogo campaign was an easy one for me. I encourage you to take a look and consider it if this kind of work is important to you.
This is kind of a thinker post that I wanted to put out there. I haven’t talked about Raleigh’s image, including the image we’re trying to give off, in awhile but it is something that I’m always sort of thinking about.
I was watching a talk from Aaron Renn about Columbus, Ohio a few weeks ago. Normally, I wouldn’t catch this sort of thing but since I find myself in Columbus once or twice a year and I like Renn’s work, I watched the talk.
This one quote really stuck with me as he talked to a crowd about what people around the country are saying about Columbus.
The more different you are as a city, the easier it is to get market attention and that’s what I’ve kind of noticed that while every company tries its hardest to tell you how much different and better it is than every other company, every city basically tries its hardest to tell you how it’s exactly the same as every other city that’s conventionally considered cool.
I wanted to see if that was true for Raleigh. How unique are we? Without having the resources for a full-on marketing effectiveness analysis (or whatever this might be called) I looked at what our Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau was putting out there.
Another watch shows quick shots of food trucks, the trolley pub, people walking on sidewalks, the Cary Theater, Ashworth Drugs in Cary, and fireworks.
While the production level of the video is high and those interviewed have done some great things in Raleigh, I’m sad to say there isn’t anything unique there as this list of items can be found in a lot of other cities around the country.
Also, no greenways? Really?
I’m going to pick on John532 who posted in the comments a little while back that, “IMO, the city is way too humble and needs to go on a ‘bragging tour’ and sell itself better.”
There may be more material out there showing how unique Raleigh is but it doesn’t seem easy to find. I too would like to see some unique elements pulled out of this city and broadcast out for the world to see.
The thinking piece for you, reader, is what should, or even could, that be? What unique thing could we take a chance on?
I have my ideas but want to end the post here and take it to the comments.
This week, a six-month pilot program starts for having food trucks in and around downtown Raleigh. This means that the trucks can operate outside of just events. There are four areas for the trucks to set up at including:
South State Street near the NC DMV along New Bern Avenue
Polk Street near the state government
South Bloodworth near the Pink Building
Harrington Street near HQ Raleigh
The hours for the trucks to be here are between 10am and 3pm. On First Fridays, they are allowed out there until 8pm.
The food truck debate really does put our public spaces, more specifically the public on-street parking spaces, into view. Parking, and the threat of reducing it, gets emotions running. In my opinion, these designated food truck areas provide a greater public good then a few more parking spaces. They support a diverse of uses, especially a use that provides to pedestrians in an urban area rather than vehicles in an urban area.
Skepticism over food trucks isn’t new in Raleigh. The City of Raleigh Museum has a good blog post about the debate over ice cream trucks in Raleigh during the 1960s.
Before the modern food truck, the ice cream truck fought for the ability to sell in Raleigh. The main points of contention were child safety and littering. City officials and parents argued that ice cream trucks were a hazard to the community and posed a threat to children. Like food trucks, ice cream trucks divided the community.
I was walking down Fayetteville Street recently on a gorgeous Spring afternoon. On this particular day, a Saturday with no major events taking place, people were wandering the sidewalks enjoying the same comfortable weather. I’ve done the walk thousands of times but it was when I noticed a small, new detail that refreshed my perspective and sense of where I was just a tiny, little bit more.
I was crossing Martin Street and to my right, way in the distance, I could see the newly placed dome of the large Catholic church being built to the west of downtown. For a quick second, I had a new perspective of where downtown was located in relation to other areas of my city.
This has nothing to do with the church itself, I’m not a very religious person. It’s the idea of being able to view, in the distance, other parts of our city that gave me a sense of place in relation to other places in Raleigh.
I want to think this feeling is an aspect of the term “sense of place.” (or at least that’s how I interpret it)
The same could be said of the towers in North Hills as you cross Dawson Street. When walking, I always look north up Dawson and can see where North Hills is located.
On Peace Street, you can see the apartments at Cameron Village.
There may be more examples of this but I thought it was cool to kind of reflect on what downtown is also a part of. We follow what is happening in downtown but while out walking, it is nice to see (literally) the city we’re a part of taking shape around us.
I feel like these are little details that make it special to be in downtown Raleigh.
Elan Apartments on Wilmington Street in downtown Raleigh
I thought this podcast from Charlotte Talks called “‘Ugly’ Development In Charlotte” was an interesting listen. The same exact thing is happening in Raleigh and for most conversations in the podcast, you could replace “Charlotte” with “Raleigh” and it would still apply.
As the second fastest growing city in the country, Charlotte’s population is exploding and developers are trying to keep up. Hence, all those apartments cropping up around town. But some architects feel those building are too similar, too bland and because there are so many of them, they are beginning to negatively impact the look of the city. Those architects are suggesting stronger design standards need to be adopted and we’ll hear their ideas.