Sidewalk Seating Ordinance Survey Results

This is a cross-post from the Raleigh Downtown Living Advocates. I helped put together a member survey to get an idea of what people thought about the currently under trial outdoor dining ordinance.


During the month of October, the DLA conducted a survey that tried to get an idea of how things are going with the new sidewalk seating ordinance. DLA members were asked a few questions about how the levels of noise have changed recently and how they felt about the new ordinance.

The trial period for these new outdoor seating rules is almost over and we wanted to get the results over to the Raleigh City Council for consideration. Here are some key takeaways:

The majority of responses show that residents feel that noise levels have stayed the same.

The Fayetteville Street and Glenwood South districts were the two main areas under discussion throughout the draft of the new ordinance. Below is the breakdown of support between the two districts.

For the entire survey results, download them here.

Christ Church Expanding along Edenton Street

Construction site of the future Christ Church expansion.

Construction site of the future Christ Church expansion. Click for larger.

Along East Edenton Street, Christ Church will be expanding, eating up some of the surface parking lot that’s behind the church. The groundbreaking was this week and removal of the asphalt is already underway. A sign on the fencing shows a rendering, drawn up by Raleigh-based Clearscapes, of the new hall.

I’m always a fan of anyone removing surface parking. Christ Church members will probably be using the surface lots across the street which are far from full on nights and weekends. It will be fun to watch this new construction take place and see how it meshes with the historic sanctuary, which opened on January 4, 1854.

Rendering of the Christ Church expansion.

Fall 2015 Restaurant Roundup

Future home of Dram and Draught

Future home of Dram and Draught.

Before we dive into this season’s restaurant roundup, I just want to point out that this is my 1,000th blog post here on The Raleigh Connoisseur!

I want to thank everyone who has participated in some way with the blog. Those who’ve read, commented, those I’ve met, and emailed with have all kept the conversations going about downtown Raleigh and fueled the energy to keep this thing chugging.

On towards post #2,000!

This Fall hasn’t seen as many openings but plans are in place for a big wave of new eats and drinks hopefully in the Spring. Lots of spaces in downtown are still in the early phases of renovation.

For a complete list of eats, drinks, and coffees in and around downtown, make sure to bookmark the DT Eats page. Try something new!


Coffee and beer bar at Devolve Moto

Pic of the Week

Townhomes at Blount Street Commons
The townhomes on Person Street, as part of the Blount Street Commons project, have been mostly built out. The more northern units look almost done and give us a sense of what they will look like.

I am a big fan of these types of residential units and hope to see more, a lot more, in the future in and around downtown Raleigh. Hopefully future projects can have a better sidewalk entrance as these are pretty bare.

Townhomes at Blount Street Commons

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:

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.

Full breakdown of costs for Peace Street.

Full breakdown of costs for Wade Avenue.

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.


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:

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:

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.

Centerline Digital Expanding in Glenwood South

Centerline's office space

Centerline’s office space

After noticing the construction work taking place at Centerline Digital, I was invited in for a tour to find out more about them. The construction on North Street in Glenwood South is an expansion of Centerline’s space to accommodate a growing team. What started with 2 people in 1995, the digital marketing agency now has around 140 members.

Centerline moved into the larger space at 509 West North Street about 3-4 years ago. You might remember it being a gym that turned over a few times. They’ve acquired the single-story brick building next-door, (517 North Street) are adding a second floor to it, and “bridging” it to the main building. They should be up and running in the new space in the Spring of 2016.

Centerline expansion

In addition to a few companies locally, Centerline has some big-name clients including IBM, GE, and Lowe’s. My walk-through included seeing Centerline’s office and meeting spaces. Desks, benches, nooks, and crannies were filled with people working on a variety of tasks. Less walls and open spaces were at the heart of the design behind this workspace.

The place felt like a creative powerhouse and I certainly am happy to see these kind of locally grown companies doing big things in downtown Raleigh.

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)

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)

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.

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