Project to Save Historic Homes Could Bring Cohousing to Downtown Raleigh

Houses on West Street

Houses on the 500 block of South West Street

During the November 21, 2017, council meeting, a proposal to sell two city-owned lots on Bloodworth Street was pitched as a way to save two homes that are planned to be demolished. The folks behind The Fairweather will have to remove the two homes shown in the photo above that are located on West Street.

With the Raleigh Historic Development Commission’s help, the houses would be located on these lots with certain restrictive covenants on them and a piece of Raleigh history could be saved. The houses fit well in the Prince Hall Historic District as they date to the historic Fourth Ward, a predominantly African-American neighborhood in the early 1900s.

The move seems to make sense from a preservation aspect. Below is a map of the current location and the proposed new location, lots the city currently owns.

Map showing current location of the houses and proposed new location

Click for larger

To sweeten the pitch, Matt Tomasulo, the brains behind the project, talked to the council about the preservation of the homes and how he wants to use the houses for a cohousing project, a concept that would provide affordable living for service workers in downtown.

For me, this council video is a must watch for readers. At 20 minutes (you could probably just jump to the 2-minute mark and start from there) it’s an easy watch or listen. If you can’t see the video, watch it here on YouTube.

The idea has a lot of merit in my opinion but when you watch the video, you get a sense that creative problem-solving isn’t welcome to some of our councilors.

The motion to sell the properties was denied because there was not the 60% majority needed to approve the sale of the land. Council members Kay Crowder, Dickie Thompson, and David Cox voted against. (Branch was absent)

I don’t want this post to be about politics but this one just doesn’t sit well. I’m not sure who might lose in this scenario and am curious as to what kind of council we will have for the next two years.

Councilor Crowder and Thompson had concerns that approving a sale of city-owned property to a current sitting planning commissioner (Tomasulo) “doesn’t pass the sniff test” or wouldn’t be seen positively from the public’s perspective. There were also concerns that the properties should be open to public bid rather than a direct sale.

However, it was made clear that no public bid was needed when it was used for historic preservation. This process has been used in the past as a way to save historic structures when the alternative is demolition.

It was also made clear that planning commission members are volunteers and get no compensation for their work.

Corner of Bloodworth and Cabarrus Streets.

Corner of Bloodworth and Cabarrus Streets where the houses would go.

You can clearly see the lacking ability of objective decision-making during this exchange by some council members. In my opinion, the council should have no business in the end user here. If the Raleigh Historic Development Commission OKs the sale (they are the experts here) then it is in the public’s interest to sell city-owned land for preservation. (it is in a historic district after all)

I always try to consider the alternative but this is an example of creative problem-solving that institutional forces sometimes can’t appreciate. The only counter I can think of is if other needs are a higher priority than historic preservation. The councilors against didn’t voice any other concerns though with the land’s end use.

They used emotional “feelings” to deny something.

It should be seen as a bonus that they were able to ask questions about the end use, meet the eventual owner, etc. Tomasulo is just as much a Raleighite as you and I and the vote was carried out with an obvious bias.

The houses are set to be demolished in a few months. It is possible for the party behind this effort to come back in January to try again. I’d like to keep an eye on this one and see if RalCon readers can let their councilors know how they feel about an effort like this.

Pic of the Week

Construction site of The Metropolitan, December 2017

A crane has shown up at the site of The Metropolitan. The parking deck is being put together and foundation work has begun. It’s great to see the site being rebuilt after the fire in March of this year. The area nearby is undergoing a lot of change so it’s nice to see planned residential come through.

Hopefully, the roads will reopen sometime soon. Feels doubtful though as the Quorum Center is still in pretty bad shape from what can be seen on the outside.

Harrington Street, December 2017

Map of the Week

Retail Street maps of downtown Raleigh in the comprehensive plan

Click for larger

I was perusing through the latest updates for the city’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan when I spotted this beauty of a map. Technically, it’s not new but just a revised (better looking) map of proposed retail streets in downtown Raleigh.

I wanted to post it here for reference. New developments along these identified streets should be encouraged to provide continuous, ground-floor retail and/or active spaces. That’s something to keep in mind for new proposals.

Downtown Wayfinding Kiosks

If you can’t see the embedded video, click here.

During the November 8, 2017 city council meeting, city staff and the Downtown Raleigh Alliance gave a nice update on plans to bring interactive wayfinding kiosks to downtown Raleigh.

Negotiations are ongoing with Orange Barrel Media, producers of IKE, an “interactive kiosk experience” and if all goes well, the rollout of the system could take place in Spring 2018.

The presentation to council is embedded above for your viewing pleasure but some of the highlights include:

Since downtown Raleigh doesn’t have a designated shopping street these kiosks can only help direct folks to the right places or even find ones they didn’t know about. With transit info alongside this information, it may make users aware of the system and consider an alternative method.

The kiosks may be outside as well as inside some locations including the convention center and union station. Other proposed locations include City Plaza, Moore Square, Seaboard Station, and Shaw.

Council approved the proposal and we just might see these pop up in 2018.

Pic of the Week

Boylan Flats construction site, November 2017

The construction site at Boylan Flats is really moving now. The 48-unit apartment building on the 600 block of North Boylan will most likely finish sometime next year.

I wonder if those south facing units may one-day be just a few feet away from a future development on the corner of Boylan and Johnson. That may just be a risk when building a narrow development mid-block with interior windows I guess.

Site Plans Show Renovation Work Planned for 107 West Hargett, Father and Son Building

Father and Son at 107 West Hargett, November 2017

Here’s a pretty cool project that popped up on the city’s development site. SR-103-17 gives us hints at what is planned for the building at 107 West Hargett, the current location of Father and Son. The shop will be moving over to the warehouse district in the near future but until then plans for additional floors and renovations to the current building are underway.

Currently, the property at 107 West Hargett has a single floor from “front to back” with a second and third floor on the front half facing Hargett. There’s also a basement in there but the plans do not indicate anything about it right now.

Here’s a Google Maps “aerial” of the building.

Google Maps view of 107 West Hargett

Click for larger

Clearscapes is the architect behind this project and they want to renovate the three-story building while adding five stories in the back. The fourth and fifth floors will actually go over the front older section and face the street with balconies. See the rendering below.

Rendering of additional floors being added to 107 West Hargett

Click for larger

If that’s not quite clear, here is a shot of the back of the Father and Son building. You can see the one-story rear and floors 2 and 3 of the “front” half as seen through this surface parking lot along Salisbury Street.

Father and Son at 107 West Hargett, November 2017

The site plan suggests that offices will be used in the upper floors with a restaurant on the ground-floor. Maybe that basement can be put to use also for more restaurant or bar space too.

This sounds like a great project that maintains a little character in downtown while also adding space for more uses.

The Willard Shows Plans for Hotel and Residential in Glenwood South

Email readers: This blog post has a virtual reality image. Read the post on the blog to see it.
Rendering of The Willard from site plan submission.

Plans submitted to the city for The Willard are showing a 7-story building for the southwest corner of Glenwood Avenue and Willard Place. It will consist of 121 hotel rooms, 16 condos, and ground-floor retail. The hotel will be an AC Hotel by Marriott brand.

Let’s get into the maps.

Map of The Willard from site plan submission.

Click for larger

Map of The Willard from site plan submission.

Click for larger

The brick office buildings and associated surface parking lots will be cleared out for The Willard. I want to say some residential units are here also but I can’t confirm. Maybe a reader knows more about the makeup of these current buildings and can share.

Willard and Glenwood, Nov 2017

The Willard will have its own parking with an attached deck containing 61 spaces. The entrance/exit will be on Willard Place in the rear of the building.

When looking at the site plan for the first floor, there’s a bit too many walls and glass for my taste. Glenwood South is one of our more intense pedestrian corridors so if this is the final layout I would consider this poor support for street life activity.

Here it is below with only the lobby and one 3,100 square foot retail space on the corner of Willard and Glenwood.

Rendering of The Willard from site plan submission.

Click for larger

I’ll admit though that I have no experience with this “higher end” brand of hotel. The bar/lounge area may be a site in itself so maybe it’s not that bad.

I’ve always felt that Glenwood South needs a solid southern bookend and One Glenwood is probably going to be it. The addition of a hotel on the southern end will help make the street feel longer with a variety of activity.

Here’s a bonus, a VR view of Willard and Glenwood from November 2017.

Pic of the Week

Construction fencing around Moore Square

Fencing is going up around Moore Square making it officially closed for the renovation. Art should be placed along the fencing soon as a way to keep the area looking lively. 

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