Chavis Park Master Plan Meeting on February 16

Downtown Raleigh and Chavis Park, photo by Lift Aerial

Downtown Raleigh and Chavis Park, photo by Lift Aerial

One could argue that Chavis Park is basically downtown Raleigh’s main park. A new master plan for the historic park that sits to the southeast of the city’s center has been in the works for most of last year and the final meeting on the phase 1 improvements is next week.

Park development steps, beginning with Phase 1 design plans, will be underway in the summer of 2016 when there will be a follow-up public review session. Construction documentation, engineering, and permitting, will then follow, preparing for Phase 1 construction in late 2017.

We’ll take a look at John Chavis Memorial Park and how it currently ties into the fabric of downtown later but to dive into it now, take a look at these links and get over to the meeting.

John Chavis Memorial Park Master Plan Implementation

Date/Time: Tuesday, February 16 from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
3:30 pm Presentation* 4-6:30 pm Open House 6:30 pm Presentation (repeated)*
*The presentations at 3:30 and 6:30 will be the same, so you can choose which works best for your schedule.
John Chavis Community Center
505 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
Raleigh, NC 27601

Heck-Andrews House Sold By The State

Heck-Andrews House

The Heck-Andrews house in a 2009 photo.

After being owned by the state for about 30 years, the elegant Heck-Andrews house has finally been sold. The N.C. Association of Realtors will pay $1.5 million for the house.

Important to note is that this sale is part of the governor’s plans to revitalize the state government area, Project Phoenix as it’s called. The sale of more state-owned mansions along Blount Street is planned in the near future.

For more on the Heck-Andrews house itself, I highly recommend this fantastic read on Goodnight, Raleigh. A Storied Structure: The Heck Andrews House — Inside Out

Municipography, Downtown Hotel Parking and Moore Square Transit Station Renovation

title

Click for larger

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.

Downtown Hotel Parking Requirements

If the video above does not show for you, click here to watch it.

If the development of hotels in downtown Raleigh is of interest to you then you first need to jump back to this October 2015 post about the Downtown Hotel Market Study. (if you haven’t seen it already)

A point from that study that was discussed at this council meeting was the fact that the hotel parking requirements in downtown were the same as the rest of the city. One parking space was required for each hotel room built. However, with higher land prices and alternative transit options, that need was recommended to be too high and the city should explore reducing it.

From the council agenda:

At the October 20, 2015 meeting, City Council directed staff to investigate reducing parking requirements for downtown hotels in response to a recommendation presented as part of the Raleigh Downtown Hotel Market Study. The current requirement downtown is the same as the citywide standard: one parking space per room. Staff analysis finds that the parking requirement can be reduced by half or more without adverse impact, which would greatly improve the economics of downtown hotel development.

In the video above, there was some discussion among the council about sending this piece to the planning commission for a recommendation.

Councilor Mary-Ann Baldwin wanted the planning commission to explore reducing it to more than half. Councilor Bonner Gaylord even wanted to expand the reduction to other property types. Councilor Kay Crowder suggested that a trial be done first before implementing the changes.

The main takeaway from the discussion was that these reductions are a move that supports mass transit. With momentum building for the new Wake County Transit Plan and a possible referendum this year in order to finance this transit plan, the reduction in parking would further support these initiatives.

City Manager Ruffin Hall mentioned that a downtown comprehensive parking study was underway, looking at hotel parking and other uses so more data will be available in the near future.

It was decided that the request to planning commission would be only on the hotels parking piece rather than all parking due to the fact that some hotels are being planned in the immediate future. They might benefit from a quicker decision rather than wait for a complete parking strategy overhaul for downtown.

We’ll follow this next in planning commission.

GoRaleigh (formerly Moore Square) Transit Station Renovation

No video is attached to this one as this line item was in the consent agenda and approved during the council meeting without discussion. From the agenda:

Bids were opened for the GoRaleigh (formerly Moore Square) Transit Station Renovation Project December 3, 2015. The GoRaleigh Transit Station project will provide a comprehensive renovation to the Downtown Raleigh Transit Transfer Facility. Improvements will include but are not limited to new restrooms, crew quarters, northern stairwell, elevator, and ticket/information office. The facility will have enhanced passenger waiting areas and advanced technologies for customer convenience, such as Wi-Fi-access and real-time arrival and departure information. American South General Contractors Company submitted the lowest responsive bid of $9,560,000; the proposed award contains the addition of five alternates with a final proposed bid award of $9,671,000. American South General Contractors Company submitted the lowest base bid and remained the lowest bidder when factoring the alternate options. American South Contractors Company proposes to utilize 9.9 percent Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) and 15.5 percent Small Disadvantage Minority and Women Owen Business (SDMWOB) firms. The Raleigh Transit Authority unanimously recommended this bid award during the December 10,2015 meeting.

I missed the renaming of the Moore Square Transit Station to the GoRaleigh Transit Station. I’m not surprised as the new branding is being pushed pretty hard throughout the system.

The overhaul of this station will be pretty extensive and could start this year. For more, here are two links for you as well as a rendering of the completed station below:

Municipography, Capital Boulevard Bridges

Capital Boulevard going over Peace Street

Capital Boulevard going over Peace Street

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.

During last week’s city council meeting, there was a presentation with the latest updates on the bridge replacement projects that are going to take place on Capital Boulevard. This is a topic that’s been covered here on the blog for almost five years and we’re now under a year until construction starts.

If you need to play catch up, I recommend reading about the planned ‘square loop’ design here:

In addition to the Capital Boulevard bridge over Peace Street being replaced, Wade Avenue at Capital is also being replaced.


If the video does not show for you, click here.

Eric Lamb, Transportation Planning Manager for the city, gave a brief overview of the latest updates of the project. Here are some notes I took:

  • The project will remove the Jersey barriers and glare screens going down the middle of Capital and a landscaped median will be put in.
  • Seeing as how this is an NCDOT/City of Raleigh collaboration project, NCDOT will cover base costs with Raleigh covering enhancements like aesthetics, lights, etc.
  • The city’s share for the project is now estimated to be between $12 and $13 million.
  • During construction, one northbound lane on Capital will be closed for about two years.
  • At some times, Capital will be closed entirely but crews will focus on nights and weekend closings.
  • The official detour will be to use Blount Street and Person Street/Wake Forest Road.
  • The new bridges will have an art deco design maintaining a theme with nearby railraod bridges.

Rendering of the bridge going over Peace Street without columns

Rendering of the bridge going over Peace Street without columns

Rendering of the bridge going over Peace Street with columns

Rendering of the bridge going over Peace Street with columns. Click for larger.

The major enhancements of each bridge primarily revolve around adding either lights or decorative columns or both. As you can see in the rendering, the columns could have public art on top of them of some sort. Only a concept is shown in the rendering not the final art piece.

Of course, the more you add, the higher the cost becomes. City staff broke it down into four available options.

  • Option 1: Full enhancements to both bridges: +$2.4 million
  • Option 2: No treatments at Wade, full enhancements at Peace: +$1.16 million
  • Option 3: Enhance both bridges, including lights but no columns: +$1.61 million
  • Option 4: Enhance both bridges without columns or lights: +$1.21 million

Full breakdown of costs for Peace Street.

  • With columns and lights: +$1.25 million
  • With lights: +$860,000
  • Without lights: +$660,000

Full breakdown of costs for Wade Avenue.

  • With columns and lights: +$1.16 million
  • With lights: +$748,000
  • Without lights: +$548,000

Those figures make it seem like lights are a $200,000 cost per bridge. The columns come in around $400,000 per bridge.

Option 3 seemed to be, according to the light conversation, the one councilors preferred but no decisions were made at this time. There is still more work to be done to prepare an agreement with NCDOT and when those details are more solid, there will be a followup presentation. That will probably take place in a few months.

Construction will first start at Wade in July 2016 with Peace Street seeing work in July 2017. Everything should wrap up during the Summer of 2019.

On a slightly related note, I haven’t covered the Wade Avenue bridge much but I did notice this one little jewel in the renderings. Take a look at the Wade Avenue bridge design below. The right-most portion shows a greenway trail going underneath.

Rendering of the Wade Avenue bridge with columns

Rendering of the Wade Avenue bridge with columns. Click for larger.

We know that the city wants to get a greenway to go along Capital and the Pigeon House Branch Creek which is mostly buried. In the future, the creek may be opened up and we all can walk or bike along it starting from a park that sits just north of Peace Street between Capital and West Street.

Rendering of the Wade Avenue bridge with columns

The rendering suggests that there are plans to keep a connection open here at the bridge for such a future project. Good stuff!

Reading Through the 2015 Downtown Hotel Market Study

Raleigh Marriott City Center

In December 2014, the city started the process on a downtown hotels feasibility study. These efforts were to understand the Raleigh hotel market better and determine the benefits of going after another large hotel in the downtown area in order to support much larger conventions than we have today.

It has been widely talked about how lacking downtown Raleigh is with respect to the quantity of hotel rooms there are but the study would take this conversation one step further. Is another hotel the size of the Marriott, for example, really needed and if built how would it perform?

The results of the study are posted here and I’d like to go through it.

Introduction

The study starts off by saying that the Raleigh hotel market is at a record high this year, recovering from and surpassing prerecession levels now at a 73% occupancy rate. Downtown, including nearby, hotels are working with an average $135 daily room rate. The business community are our biggest visitors, making up 46% of the demand. The Marriott is currently leading with per room revenue at $108 each and the Hampton Inn has the highest occupancy rate.

In terms of supporting the convention center, the Hampton Inn, Marriott, and Sheraton are the biggest supporters. The Holiday Inn, formerly Clarion, was the weakest but the report suggests that the recent change should help improve that.

2015 Downtown Hotel Study

The report breaks down the current hotel demand into three main categories:

The market benefits from a healthy mix of demand sources. Commercial travelers make up nearly half of all room night demand. Local businesses such as Citrix, Red Hat and PNC Bank drive much of this demand. The Raleigh Convention Center and hotels with function space attract meeting and group business, which makes up nearly one-third of occupied room nights. Leisure demand drives business on weekends and holidays.

That split comes down to 46% commercial, 32% meeting and group, and 22% leisure.

Seasonal demand does fluctuate with Spring and Fall being strongest, a dip in the summer, and the lowest hotel demand is in December and January. During the week, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are strongest because of that large commercial demand. After that, the leisure visitors are filling rooms on Friday and Saturday. Not surprisingly, Sunday is the lowest.

2015 Downtown Hotel Study

2015 Downtown Hotel Study

Insights From Event Planners

A part of the report analyzes responses from a survey that was taken by event planners. 116 responses from planners in and out of North Carolina were put together to bring us the following messages:

  • An inadequate hotel package is the greatest obstacle to attracting convention events.
  • Specifically, planners note the lack of hotels within walking distance to the RCC.
  • Event planners have a favorable view of Raleigh as an event destination. They like downtown dining and retail amenities and natural beauty.
  • The majority of planners prefer to host an event in downtown Raleigh in a full-service property with an upscale or upper-midscale brand.
  • Booking hotel rooms within walking distance to the RCC is important to event planners.

From the survey responses, some strengths and weaknesses were extracted. Our two biggest strengths were the amenities of downtown and the ease of access while our biggest weaknesses were due to inadequate hotel packages and limited air service.

2015 Downtown Hotel Study

2015 Downtown Hotel Study

2015 Downtown Hotel Study

The air service weakness, while being the second biggest, is still far behind the hotel package weakness so looks like this one needs to be addressed. The others are low enough to the point where we maintain them at those levels or better.

It looks like we’re also losing bookings due to the amount of rooms in one building. We don’t have a hotel where one can book a large block to support an event. With the Marriott being the biggest at 400 rooms, if this data point increases over time that might justify a hotel with more rooms in one location in the future.

Walking distance hotels are also very important with two-thirds saying it is a must.

2015 Downtown Hotel Study

From an event planners point of view, it looks like we have some work to do.

2015 Downtown Hotel Study

Market Outlook
The Market Outlook section focuses on upcoming projects that will provide a new supply of hotel rooms. About 750 new rooms are projected to be in Raleigh by 2018.

In downtown, we can look to this blog and elsewhere for news of projected hotel projects.

I’m getting a sense from this report that a couple of factors are tightly coupled. Occupancy rates will fall if we are building faster than demand which will cause the prices to drop. (ahem, and revenue) However, at this point, it seems that a larger hotel (400+ rooms) than we have available today is what is needed. It also needs to be near the convention center.

The report assumes that the planned 750 rooms through 2018 are going to be built and shows us what the occupancy rates would look like if we added an additional 400-room hotel to the market.

2015 Downtown Hotel Study

In 2020, we would see a higher occupancy rate in Raleigh with a 400-room hotel versus not having it or even getting something as big as a 1000-room hotel. It looks like a balancing act here for sure.

To get a hotel of this nature, public incentives could be looked at by the city. These include tax incentives, federal programs, infrastructure investments, or even straight cash. The report lists out what Durham has done in their downtown including $1.2 million from the city and county for The Durham Hotel and $1.3 million from the City of Durham for the Residence Inn.

The report then ends with some projected impact statements about what a new, 400-room hotel would do to the convention center. It would cause 31,000 new room nights per year, would result in an additional 30 events per year and an additional 51,000 attendees.

Wrap up

What I’m seeing here is that from a hotel market growth point of view we’re doing just fine. Hotels are being built in downtown as well as around the city. These are 100 to 200 room hotels that are considered limited service or boutique.

However, another way to look at this is how that hotel growth in Raleigh is supporting our convention center. It is likely that it will not and according to the projections, the convention center has plateaued versus seeing steady growth year-after-year. If Raleigh wants to compete in the convention business we’ll have to seriously consider adjacent, larger hotel development. (larger being the key word)

The report also makes some interesting statements about impediments to downtown hotel development:

  • “The primary barriers to development of full-service hotels are land assembly, overall development costs, and relatively weak average daily room rates for a downtown market.”
  • “The need for structured parking in a downtown hotel development increases costs and places downtown sites at disadvantage relative to suburban locations. The City should consider revision to its parking ordinance to allow for fewer spaces per room in downtown hotels”

I really like that second one. Why is our development code saying that a downtown hotel needs to have one parking space per room when almost half those staying are here for business? They most likely came in to the airport, got a cab into downtown, and can be perfectly fine without a car. This needs to be rethought, among other things.

Now, me personally, am wary about Raleigh’s plans to grow the convention business. Convention-dominated downtowns are pretty stale and lack the diversity of uses that I would like to see here at home. The convention business is also a pretty crowded one, with a huge list of competitors out there.

I would really like to see us find other ways to make the convention center more attractive versus just following the standard downtown convention playbook that all other cities are reading. What impact would a premier downtown museum, Dix park, or a hip shopping destination bring to the table?

It’ll be interesting to see where the city goes from here.

Municipography, Downtown Raleigh Plan

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.

Raleigh City Council chambers

At the last meeting of the Raleigh City Council, the latest Downtown Plan was adopted. The final version can be viewed on the city’s website here.

If you can’t see the embedded video, click here to go directly to it.

A process that started in February 2014 has now been adopted. The Downtown Plan is described as a 10-year vision for downtown Raleigh with specific supporting goals and actions on how to achieve them.

The high-level themes are largely the same from an October 2014 post I did so I recommend catching up there. What wasn’t in the plan back then were the goals and action items we have now. There are a lot listed so downloading the plan and reading is the best way to get into it.

Here are some that jump out at me.

Goal: Create strong partnerships with allied public agencies to accelerate implementation of mutually beneficial projects that enhance livability in downtown.

Action: (1 of 7) Assist the N.C. Department of Administration by contributing to a master plan for the Capital District.

Goal: Create a robust retail environment in downtown that diversifies beyond nightlife to include a complement of local and destination retail.

Action: (1 of 6) Identify a toolkit for retail recruitment, such as a retail-specific fund that functions as a below-market interest loan or grant program that assists with construction and up-fit costs.

Goal: Ensure that downtown remains a clean, safe, and hospitable place to live, work, and visit.

Actions: (2 of 5)

  • Update standards for Private Use of Public Spaces (PUPS) to incorporate growing hospitality-related issues.
  • Explore the adoption of a hospitality management district in other areas of downtown,
    or modification of the existing amplified entertainment permit program.

Goal: Accommodate vehicles using a multi-modal grid of complete streets, as well as on- and off-street parking facilities located in areas of high demand.

Actions: (2 of 13)

  • Study Wilmington and Salisbury Streets to consider the restoration of two-way traffic.
  • Improve Peace Street’s accessibility for all modes of travel both along it and through safe intersections across it.

Goal: Extend the greenway system into downtown and use it to connect and integrate downtown’s public open space resources.

Action: (1 of 5) Extend the Pigeon House Creek restoration south of Peace Street by exploring the
opportunity to daylight the creek and make it an amenity in future redevelopment projects.

This is just a small sampling of what is in the document. There really are lots of ideas out there to keep pushing downtown Raleigh to higher levels. There will be tons of things to continue talking about over the next ten years. Let’s hope the council sticks to it.

Downtown Rezoning

Downtown Raleigh Proposed Rezoning map. Click for larger image or get the pdf.

Here’s a quick one while I catch up after a long vacation. Tonight’s City Council meeting has lots of good stuff in it but the highlight will be the Rezoning Public Hearing section under the new Unified Development Ordinance. Above is the downtown Raleigh section and below are some links to dive into.