Caswell Square has made the news recently as a piece of the state-owned land is being considered to be sold to a private developer. A few buildings on the square are planning to be renovated for medical offices. The North Carolina Council of State needs to approve the sale of these properties.
At first, it doesn’t sound like a big deal but if you aren’t familiar with Caswell Square then allow me to inform you.
Caswell Square is one of the original squares of the William Christmas plan. This plan laid out the street network for Raleigh and was to include five public squares, owned by the state.
You almost certainly have heard of Nash and Moore Square, operating as parks today, and also Union Square, where the historic North Carolina Capitol building sits. Lesser known Burke Square has the Governor’s Mansion, also called the Executive Mansion, and finally, Caswell Square.
Bounded by Lane and Jones Streets to the North and South, McDowell and Dawson to the East and West, Caswell Square, for over 100 years, has had state government buildings on it.
The entire block is now consumed by buildings and surface parking. Some of those buildings are even empty and boarded up. Still owned by the state, they sit waiting to be torn down or for renovation work to take place.
As part of the Governor’s plan, called Project Phoenix, to revitalize the state government complex in downtown Raleigh, a portion of Caswell Square, owned by the state since the birth of Raleigh in 1792, is up for sale for private use.
Plans for medical offices in now empty buildings are on the table as millions of dollars in renovations would take place in the old buildings on the square. The sale would generate $1.75 million to the state.
Preservationists have come forward and claimed that the state should not offload the historic piece of property as it dates back to the original plan of Raleigh, the Christmas plan.
Below, are the three empty buildings being discussed for sale. They are located primarily along Dawson Street, next to each other, starting from the corner of Dawson and Lane.
For me, I’ve been a huge supporter of the ideas in Project Phoenix but this one makes me pause. Offices can go anywhere but public squares aren’t being planned anymore. I’m not sure I agree with those that want to sell of parts of Caswell Square.
First, let’s take a look at what it’s like around Caswell Square. Below is a Google Map I made. (If you can’t see it, click here)
The square is in green, in the center, with the eight blocks surrounding it loosely categorized. We can notice a few things:
- To the east and south of the square, the properties today are largely dominated by state government properties, mainly offices and museums.
- The museums are a relatively new addition compared to most of the other offices, having been there for decades.
- To the west, you have the fringes of Glenwood South residential, a relatively new addition (The Metropolitan is under construction now)
- A mix of commercial activity exists to the east and north of Caswell Square including law offices, the Days Inn hotel, Babylon restaurant, and other office space. I would consider this very small scale.
- Edenton Street United Methodist Church has also owned land, been a presence nearby for quite some time.
The eastern edges of Glenwood South and the state museums are basically the new, the momentum, with the church and state government offices being the old, the legacy downtown. They are starting to mix and this brings us to Caswell Square, stuck in the middle.
We don’t know yet the impact of Glenwood South and how much it’s success could cause more development to the east. Hillsborough Street projects, with 301 Hillsborough being close by, could also impact uses at Caswell Square in the future. Work on Project Phoenix within the government complex could create new uses for Caswell Square.
You also have all the work taking place along Capital Boulevard and the square loop at Peace Street.
In my opinion, the future is bright for downtown and taking this opportunity to sell off a historic piece of land for a cool $1.75 million isn’t the right way to go. In the 1950s and 1960s, when the state government complex was built, lots of land was acquired, some with eminent domain. I’d like to see some of that land sold back to private hands for reuse first before even thinking of carving up a major piece of Raleigh history.
I’m not sure I’ll see the day but I’d like to see the state government clean up and efficiently use the properties with no historical significance, the northern end of downtown, before they start discarding history.
Instead of immediate gains, I’d like to see the state, partnering with Raleigh, to use Caswell Square as a way to boost nearby activity. It just so happens you have a top 5 visited attraction, the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, in the state nearby to the square. With the Nature Research Center recently completed, maybe a park extension in Caswell Square could boost the museum’s profile and bring more tourism to the area.
To the east of Caswell Square sits a massive surface parking lot. Parking consolidation is easily a project that the state should undertake, freeing up new land for either more office buildings (mixed-use office buildings by the way) or to be sold for private use.
Ideas like these could have long-term benefits that if done well, could bring the state much more than $1.75 million.
The discussion to sell the land was on the agenda for the Council of State last week but a decision was delayed until a future meeting.
Free Tickets to A Taste of India on Saturday, January 14 for the Smithsonian’s Beyond Bollywood Exhibit
The first Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit to ever come to the City of Raleigh Museum is here. Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation had its grand opening this Fall and I, as a member of the Friends of the COR Museum, invite readers to come make a stop to see all the work put into hosting this new exhibit.
I have the unique opportunity to send two tickets to this event to one RalCon reader.
Here’s how it works.
1. Sign up to become a member of the museum before the end of the year. Your donation supports what we do.
2. Make sure to tell them DTRaleigh sent you in the comments box. Say something like “I love the COR Museum!”.
3. I’ll randomly choose one new member for a pair of tickets to the Taste of India event on January 14.
It’s that simple. You can parlay your contribution into even more if you are the lucky winner.
This is my second year on the Friends of the COR Museum board and behind the scenes, we are putting things together to continue to raise awareness and get more engaged in the city and the region. This new exhibit will do just that and raise the level of programming that the museum has done in the past.
While A Taste of India is a ticketed event, the exhibit is free to the public and makes a nice stop over the holidays if you need something to do with the out-of-towners.
Demolition is taking place at the corner of Wilmington and Martin Streets, the former site of the future Edison Office tower. I say “former” tower because earlier this year, Highwoods Properties has acquired the parcel from the past developer. No plans are public yet for what the new owners might do with it.
When I took this photo on Tuesday of this week, it looked like some asbestos was being removed from the center building in the photo, where Reliable Loan was originally located. If full demolition is planned, I imagine in a few days these old Raleigh buildings will be gone.
More plans for development aimed to support One Glenwood have been posted. Site plans for what is called Two Glenwood were submitted to the city for a parking deck and 150-room hotel. Built as part of two phases, the deck will come first with the hotel following.
The image above shows the floor plan of the new structure. The parking deck and hotel are actually a smaller portion of this lot. Along Morgan, a 7-story parking deck is planned with 800 spaces. Retail space is also shown in the plans below the hotel.
However, the narrower portion of the lot facing Hargett will be used as surface parking and what looks like another entrance to the parking deck. There’s a side note on the plans that the surface parking lot is being saved for a possible future development.
From our look back at One Glenwood in July of this year, these plans confirm the loss of the warehouse where Shelton’s Furniture is currently located.
With all this activity happening at the southern end of Glenwood Avenue, I wonder if One Glenwood and Two Glenwood could be the “bookend” that Glenwood South needs, possibly extending the district?
Last, I’ve included one of the maps from the site plan as well as a surround shot of the area and more photos. It’s sure to look very different here over the next few years.
Completed over the summer, The Gramercy Apartments is now open.
The Glenwood South apartment building also has one retailer in it’s space at the corner of North Street and Glenwood Avenue. Glenwood South Pharmacy and Market is a full-service pharmacy and small grocery store. Below are some photos showing a wide selection of eats and drinks.
Home cooks may not find everything they need but with hours of 7am to midnight every day, the service is really convenient for grabbing essentials.
Email readers: This blog post has a virtual reality image. Read the post on the blog to see it.
Recently submitted site plans for 301 Hillsborough give us some more details as to what might come for the surface parking lots along Hillsborough and Morgan Streets.
SR-93-2016, listed on the city’s development page, shows almost a full-block development consisting of a “mixed use building with approximately 220,007 sf office; 242 residential units; 40,832 sf retail, 176 hotel units, and structured parking (991 spaces)”
The site plan shows a floor plan that will encompass practically everything on that block except for the 3-story brick building at the corner of Harrington and Morgan Street. You can kind of see the new building coming up against the old so perhaps it’ll blend right in.
All the existing surface parking will be gone. In addition, the two-story house at the corner of Hillsborough and Harrington will also be removed. That house seems like a perfect candidate for a relocation.
There are a couple things we can see from looking at the site plan. Remember that it is preliminary so things may change but from my assessment Morgan, Hillsborough, and Dawson will change dramatically.
Along Morgan starting from the west:
- Service driveways, garages (trash, service unloading/loading, etc.) are planned approximately across from the ones in The Dawson.
- A parking garage entrance will go along Morgan also.
- In between, there will be retail space.
- Retail and lobby space only.
Along Hillsborough starting from the west:
- There will be primarily retail and lobby space for the hotel and residential units.
- A parking garage entrance closer to Dawson.
Overall, the parking garage entrances on Hillsborough and Morgan line up and on the inside of the building, there is a roundabout for hotel parking. You can also access the upper levels of the parking deck from here.
Just a detail, the site plan also shows 30 foot planters along the sidewalks of Hillsborough Street and with numerous bike racks. That’s a nice enhancement to the pedestrian space as well as supporting the dedicated bike lanes along Hillsborough Street.
I’m definitely excited for this one as an infusion of this many different uses is sure to add activity on the streets and sidewalks to all different times of the day and week.
I was recently invited to talk about the R-Line on the Raleigh transit podcast, Inbound Raleigh. We gathered some ridership numbers over the lifespan of the R-Line, which is approaching its eighth birthday in February, and talked about the history of the downtown circulator.
Have a listen and let me know what you think, about the episode and the R-Line in general. You can subscribe on iTunes and most popular podcast-listening apps out there.
Here are some links to the data and images (some from those links) for your reference.
- R-Line Stats dated Sept 2016 (Google Sheets file)
- R-Line Ridership graphs by Leo Suarez (Google Sheets file)
I’ve been a little behind on posting about completed projects so expect a few of those over the coming weeks.
The Christ Church expansion looks to be completed, at least from the outside. The new accessible entrance and meeting spaces were built over some of the surface parking at the corner of Edenton and Blount Streets.
The expansion maintained the stone, exterior look of the historic church and while it takes a sharp eye to notice the difference, I bet once there’s a little wear on the exterior, it’ll match the historic parts of the church.
In the photo above, the addition starts at the stairwell behind the tree in the center and goes to the left. The new addition adds rooms for a library, parlor, kitchen, and other amenities, according to the proposed floor plan on their website.