Pic of the Week

Firestone’s downtown Raleigh location has now closed and plans for a hotel are in the works at this location. At this time, the building is being emptied out and no demolition has taken place.

This brings it up to three proposed hotels for this block. The “Firestone hotel” will go here, in the southwest corner of the block. We’ve heard for years about a possible Hilton Garden Inn for the southeast corner but still, nothing has taken place. Last, a hotel was proposed for the northwest corner of the block earlier this year. 

This cluster of hotels would be great to meet the demand in downtown. Let’s hope construction starts soon rather than being the same-old news of proposals that never happen.

Checking in on Moore Square

The Moore Square kiosk under construction. December 2018.

The Moore Square kiosk under construction. December 2018.

As the weather cools down and the leaves start to fall, Moore Square becomes a little clearer to see between the trees and the fencing. I thought it would be a good time to take a walk around the square as we wait for it to reopen sometime early in the new year.

Three major things jump out at as you look around the square. There’s a huge lawn in the middle, the sidewalks are being greatly improved, and the cafe/restroom structure is starting to take shape.

The grass has been put down for the big lawn and the walking paths around it are being put together. The lawn has a slight slope to it which makes it great for laying around or possibly sitting for a small show if a stage is set up at the bottom. This may make the square feel much bigger than it was before.

The Moore Square lawn under construction. December 2018.

The sidewalks have been completely overhauled. The corners of the square are spacious with bulb-out sidewalks The angled-parking that used to be along Martin Street is now gone and the sidewalk is being poured over this, making this end of the square feel much larger. Bulb-outs also exist for some of the crosswalks which makes crossing the street much easier.

New sidewalks around Moore Square. December 2018.

New sidewalks around Moore Square. December 2018.

Through the fence, workers sit for lunch along the new wall seating. The former sidewalk remains as the new sidewalk waits to be poured. December 2018.

The cafe and restrooms are coming together and the faux-stone siding is starting to be installed. The architecture around this should be high-quality and already it looks great. From a distance, it looks like a gathering place that should draw people into the park.

Moore Square cafe being constructed. December 2018.

Moore Square cafe being constructed. December 2018.

It’s exciting to see the square come together and the timing seems good to have it open before Spring 2019. Fingers crossed!

510 South Person Street Hopes to add Restaurant Space and Height

510 South Person. November 2018.

510 South Person. November 2018.

A smaller-scale project on the 500 block of South Person Street is currently going through the Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) review process. The developers behind 510 South Person want to demolish the current one-story building here and replace it with a three-story commercial building that could include a restaurant.

When looking at the COA (COA-159-18) case, which is required as the location is inside the Prince Hall Historic District, the new building would not be a contributing structure.

However, when you look at the building that’s currently located here, it isn’t contributing to the historic character either. The cinderblock building currently at 510 South Peron is covered in a faux-stone, stucco exterior and, according to the submitted plans, cannot be renovated.

510 South Person. November 2018.

510 South Person. November 2018.

Site plan for the proposed 510 South Person building

To the best of my knowledge, this kind of in-fill commercial space hasn’t been done in a long time. It would be great to see more commercial space like this, at a neighborhood scale and in a transitional area between downtown and east Raleigh.

See the Downtown Transit Plan Maps Side-by-Side

Combined graphic with all 4 downtown transit plan scenarios.

Click for larger

GoRaleigh is working on the downtown portion of the Wake Transit Plan and there are lots of factors to consider here as additional bus service is in place. The bus-rapid-transit lines have, more or less, been planned but how they connect and transfer in and around the downtown area is still a work in progress.

The large graphic above comes from the latest draft of the plan which you can see here. For my own review, and maybe yours, I’ve chopped up the maps and compiled them into the large graphic above so you can see the plans side-by-side.

BRT is a hot topic over on the Community so I invite others to come discuss this as it will have a pretty sizeable impact on downtown mobility in the future.

Pic of the Week

The Metropolitan Apartments. Novemeber 2018.

The Metropolitan apartments over in Glenwood South is nearing completion. Walking around the area, the new building has a nice mix of materials compared to similar developments. There are a few blank walls that aren’t that exciting but being near all the upcoming retail at Smokey Hollow, residents in this area will probably be thrilled with its location.

Leases are already being signed and new residents may move in at the start of 2019. Once Jones Street is open and neighbors have moved back into the Quorum Center, there will be huge reasons to celebrate here!

See more at their website. www.metropolitanraleigh.com

The Metropolitan Apartments. November 2018.

Pic of the Week

Recently installed bikeshare station at GoRaleigh Station. November 2018.

The first Raleigh bikeshare system, Citrix Cycle, is rolling out with stations being installed in multiple locations. Above, the station for GoRaleigh Station across from Moore Square is in place, minus the bicycles of course. The last update I heard is that the system should be available for use before the end of the year.

See more about the system including the full map of stations over at Citrix Cycle.

One Glenwood + Two Hillsborough + Parking Deck = Bloc 83

700 block of Hillsborough Street. October 2018.

700 block of Hillsborough Street. October 2018.

More renderings and plans are being submitted for the Heritage Properties developments along Hillsborough Street. Readers might already be familiar with the soon-to-be-completed office tower, One Glenwood, and the second tower is coming soon with Two Hillsborough. The two towers will have a plaza in between, mid-block, with retail supporting a lively sense of place.

The latest renderings show the two towers with the plaza in between.

Rendering of the Bloc 83 development.

Click for larger

The collection of towers is being called Bloc 83 according to the latest submissions. The third piece of the puzzle is a parking deck with ground-floor retail. Located on the 700 block of Hillsborough Street, the former auto shop and next-door house are slated to be removed for the new deck. The deck’s 693 spaces are most likely going to support Bloc 83. You can spy the deck in the renderings above.

The site plan looks pretty typical but with retail along both Hillsborough Street and a part of Boylan. Entrances to the deck will be on both Hillsborough and Boylan Avenue. Below is a snapshot of that site plan.

SIte plan of the Bloc 83 parking deck along the 700 block of Hillsborough Street.

Click for larger

I can’t help but roll my eyes at more parking decks especially when you consider that one has already been built behind the Origin Hotel across Morgan by the same developers. I believe between the two decks there will over 1,000 spaces provided.

However, as I look at the plans and where we’re coming from, the new office towers moves the needle just a little bit towards a more urban and transit-friendly Raleigh. The parking decks are just a bridge that helps us connect to the rest of the region.

The way retail space really surrounds the outside and inside of Bloc 83, even in the parking deck, feels hugely positive. If the landlords can land some service retail and add to downtown’s plentiful list of tasty places to eat then by all means, bring it on.

The vibe on the Community is a tad negative over another parking deck but does give more reason to support pro-transit and pro-bike orgs to keep the mobility options varied in and around downtown Raleigh. As for me, I’m seeing a future where I spend more time in this area compared to what was there and I think others may agree also.

As One Glenwood wraps up over the next few months, I expect work on the rest of Bloc 83 to take place in 2019.

Municipography: Downtown Wayfinding Kiosks

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.

An IKE wayfinding kiosk on display in front of Union Station.

An IKE wayfinding kiosk on display in front of Union Station.

During the October 2, 2018 city council meeting, councilors received an update on the latest downtown wayfinding plan that comes from the Downtown Raleigh Alliance. The presentation given introduces IKE, a free-standing kiosk with a touchscreen, that presents downtown retail, transit, and event info to pedestrians. The company, IKE Smart City, makes revenue off advertising with the DRA getting a cut of that revenue.

In addition to the touchscreen, a built-in camera can be used for selfies, pedestrian counting, and even public safety if the city wanted it too. A lot of features seemed optional, tailoring the IKE experience for each community as Jibran Shermohammed, Director of Development & Corporate Counsel at IKE Smart City, mentions during the presentation. Below is the video of Mr. Shermohammed as well as DRA president Kris Larson at the council meeting followed by the discussion.


If you can’t see the embedded video, click here to watch it on YouTube.

The presentation by Mr. Larson and Mr. Shermohammed is near flawless, describing the kiosks and the agreements between IKE Smart City and the DRA. Wayfinding comes back into the picture from our 2015 Downtown Raleigh Plan and the system checks all the boxes in terms of accessibility and equity.

The kiosks are also data gathering points collecting information such as pedestrian counts and usage, all anonymized and available for the city. The kiosks themselves are maintained by IKE Smart City including both the hardware and software. Any damage to the units are taken care of and each kiosk receives regular software updates.

The advertising complies with all City of Raleigh advertising policy so anything you see around town right now, like on the buses, is basically the same as you’ll see on the kiosks.

Finally, all this comes free of charge to the city. The company just needs the blessing of the council to allow them to be installed on public property. The approval to move forward with implementation, as well as a text change to our sign ordinance, was needed to make these kiosks happen.

It seems like all bases were covered here on this project yet councilors had concerns or at least perceived concerns, about the IKEs. From my viewing of the discussion, I picked up unreasonable criticism of the system as well as far-reaching efforts to derail the project.

The Council of No

Masked as defenders of the public right-of-way, a subset of the council, which I like to call “The Council of No”, were pulling extreme edge cases here as reasons to not move forward. Rather than tailor the IKEs to something that satisfies council, some councilors were against the kiosks for reasons with little or no backing at all.

NOTE: Councilors Corey Branch and Dickie Thompson were not present.

Both Councilors Kay Crowder and Stef Mendell were concerned over the brightness of the kiosks. From the meeting discussion, Travis Crane, an Assistant Planning Director, called out the acceptable brightness levels in our city’s signage ordinance. Mr. Shermohammed confirmed that the kiosks were lower, operating similar to how a smartphone dims at night or in dark rooms.

Yet, the councilors were still concerned over brightness.

Map of potential locations for the kiosks

Map of potential locations for the kiosks.

Councilor Russ Stephenson compared the kiosks as “last-century technology” and wanted to see something more mobile, like for a smartphone. While I agree with Councilor Stephenson to a degree, he may be forgetting that we are surrounded by tried and true technology all around us. Why should the city adopt the latest and greatest at a high cost?

Better yet, what disadvantage do we have if the kiosks are deployed in addition to some new mobile tech? To be against the kiosks and pitch something else is a project-killing move from my point-of-view.

Councilor Stephenson’s data privacy concerns are also unfounded. He claims that Raleighites don’t want to be tracked or have data collected about them, even if it’s anonymous. He must not be aware of the dozens of pedestrian, biking, and traffic counters that have been deployed all over the city, collecting the same information that IKE would. This is a feature that could also be turned off if the city wanted it too.

Councilor Stewart, not a member of The Council of No, asked if any other cities are worried about the IKE’s screen brightness and it’s contribution to light pollution. Mr. Shermohammed says that no cities have raised issues with this.

Councilor Cox also tried to derail and discount the work of the DRA by lofting up a suggestion about Bluetooth beacon technology. The tech itself doesn’t matter but, as a city councilor, to have allowed the DRA to go forward with the kiosk project about a year ago and now suggest something completely different isn’t helpful for anyone and is borderline disrespectful.

It was clear to the Council of No that this effort would alter our sign ordinance and possibly allow even more signs that looked like a “bright” IKE kiosk in the future. This is precedent-setting moves and the Council of No always takes the unreasonably fights against projects like this rather than taking a collaborative, compromising approach.

While certainly not the biggest issue downtown Raleigh faces, I take issue with the treatment of this project because there are so many things this helps, so many angles that are covered here and yet we have councilors that can’t move things forward because of perceived negative outcomes and a perceived future that “looks like Las Vegas” as Councilor Crowder states.

It’s either close-minded thinking or some kind of inferiority complex at play here when smart people come forward and pitch new and exciting things to our city. The Council of No has been like this on a variety of topics over the past year and I fear it impacts when really creative efforts want to come forward. (or squashes them early on cause who wants to deal with that, right?)

In the end, the Council of No asked city staff to create a high-level list of what other cities are doing in terms of wayfinding, something the DRA has already done and chosen a solution for. This belittles their work, in my opinion, and am really questioning our councils commitment to downtown Raleigh.

Come chat about council’s support of downtown Raleigh on the Community.