Pic of the Week

The crane is gone at RBC Plaza. The scaffolding has also been removed over the sidewalk across the street and we can now see the full Martin St. frontage.

(The photo stitch did not work so smooth, but you get the idea.)

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  1. It will take a little time to get used to not having that crane next to RBC Plaza :) The building’s impact on the skyline is very significant, though, and we don’t need a crane to add anything more. The activity is now at Charter Square and the L Building, where we can see a couple of towers. 712 Tucker and The Hue are two more sites where cranes can be seen, but with minimal impact in the skyline.

    Great photo, BTW!!! Hard to get it without using wide angle, or without using some stitching. You did good, though :)

  2. Looking good.

    Who owns the building/property on the corner to the left (across from RBC Plaza)? That building needs to go (waste of valuable real estate). Great location for a 50 story building. A signature building on that corner would be a great compliment to RBC.

  3. Cool photo. I think that there are plugins for Photoshop that will handle the lens correction needed to straighten the lines out.

    It’s good to see the more disruptive elements of this building’s construction fading away now.

  4. Tony – Are you advocating the violation of the private property rights of the owner of this “waste of valuable real estate”? I should hope not. Raleigh has been doing quite enough of that lately.

  5. Tony, I am in total agreement with you. After demolishing a very nice mid-rise, they built an eyesore that causes me pain and blindness every time I look at it… Thanks, First Citizens Bank – or whoever is responsible for that mess :( That corner deserves something tall and elegant.

  6. RaleighMSA, I applaud you. Your right, I believe that is a First Citizen site. Our hometown, homegrown bank that adds no value to the area. The joke with a number of professional friends (lawyers, real estate developers, etc.): First Citizen HQ on Six Forks – that ugly circular building – we call it “the flower pot” – what a pathetic design for a bank HQ – this company should be supporting downtown Raleigh and a new vision. Sell that downtown structure to a developer with vision (a Soleil type building would look great at that location).

  7. The building First Citizens Bank is in is actually in a pretty unique location. You could take this building out and it would have sidewalk access on three sides because of One Exchange Plaza, the mid-block alley between Fayetteville and Wilmington St. A taller building could go here and provide good retail space and perhaps incorporate the outdoor area of exchange plaza also.

    Not sure how I feel about this but if the entire site all the way back to Wilmington St. was demolished for something even larger, you would then have 4 sides of retail. However, this would take out some historic Raleigh buildings, like The Mecca, that already provide that retail space density we need. Not an issue I see coming up any time soon.

  8. Why do most folks around here love demolition so much?

    Erasing history isn’t the answer. Re-purposing is a much better solution.

  9. In terms of RBC, I think it re-purposed that old parking lot pretty well.

    The building with FCB could easily be renovated for ground floor retail space, which is something, I think, everyone ultimately wants; a better pedestrian experience.

    It’s really a clash of the different opinions of what people want Raleigh to be. Do we renovate and keep the current density while at the same time pushing projects outward just like sprawl? Or do we build a solid urban core with high density through taller projects? I think Raleigh has not figured this out yet and both sides are just as vocal as the other.

  10. Well sometimes you have to tear things down if you want the density for people to live/work/play downtown in certain areas. Else we’ll run out of land and end up building out past the 540 horseshoe.

  11. There are multiple parking lots in downtown that would be better suited for a tower, justice center, and/or police station before tearing down a building. We are tearing down (at least) two high-modern buildings in Downtown to make way for buildings that create more density? I don’t think so.

  12. Jedidiah, you are raising an excellent point, and I couldn’t agree more, if we were talking about Savannah, Charleston, or Old Salem. First of all, it is the people that make history, not the buildings, particularly the ones that have nothing architecturally appealing – I know, this is subjective. We are not speaking of ancient Greece, or ancient Rome. Raleigh does have some nice historic buildings, with decent architecture that we MUST preserve, but we have done so for the most part, and very successfully so. Preserving old neighborhoods, like Oakwood, Mordecai and Boylan Heights may do a lot more for our historic fabric. “Old” doesn’t mean “historic”, though.

    In the case of the four buildings we mentioned, I would most definitely hate to see Mecca losing its space there. This is a historic establishment, run by a family that has been breathing downtown for a VERY long time. However, as buildings get older and the need for renovations becomes evident, Mecca, along with many other establishments, will have to relocate, even temporarily. Or shut down for a very long time until the building gets completely redone inside – thus losing its character, whether we want to admit it or not. Successful renovations have been made, but the new tenants didn’t have to replicate their past image.

    What would I do if it was up to me? Tough call, but there are a few solutions to consider: 1) Take that unused [former] Wachovia Bldg and that 5-story eyesore and build something new, leaving the four low-rises in place. The L-shaped parcel would allow for some unique design, while still preserving part of old Raleigh. 2) Incorporate the facades and most of the old low-rise structures into the new project. It would be unique, but it has been done before with much success. 3) The least attractive solution is to take up the entire site (including the former Wachovia Bldg) and build something elegant. As Leo mentioned, one of the most attractive features of this location is the ability to have 4 sides of retail.

    Let me emphasize that no matter which solution we’d go with, it is crucial to the success of any project that the existing businesses would have a way to evolve within their current territory. Closing a place for a complete renovation is not a small thing… It is not like the owners will take a vacation and when they return everything will be normal. Eventually, old buildings will deteriorate and become unfit to house most businesses, particularly restaurants. I am a strong advocate of keeping as many of the existing businesses as possible, but at the same time I need to remind some of the forumers that one of the reasons we don’t have pedestrian activity after hours is the fact that the vast majority of the businesses close after 5pm. A closed store front is not a contribution, no matter how attractive the building, although we hope this to change with the addition of residents. To achieve the latter, we’ll may have to sacrifice some of the buildings we consider attractive – it would break my heart, too. Naturally, there are different opinions and I can see the pros and cons of every scenario I heard so far.

  13. I agree MSA to most of your points but what has got me all worked up lately are some photos that came across my desk a couple of weeks ago. They were of Downtown Raleigh in the mid 20th century. I, or very few architects around me, couldn’t identify any buildings in the photos. There was a history that was erased years ago and we are repeating this pattern. True cities do this more carefully.

    To make a true city of density, we need to use up all the empty space before tearing down the core. Name a project that is tearing down a building in downtown and I’m sure we could find a better (empty) location for the new building.

    Downtown Raleigh needs to expand, from the core out. To do this we need MORE buildings, not the same amount.

  14. DPK,

    “Else we’ll run out of land and end up building out past the 540 horseshoe.”

    Run out of land? Are you kidding me? Have you ever been to the top of the Clarion and looked out? Should I really start listing all the parking lots in downtown that could use programming?

    Corner of Dawson and Davie, across from Firestone.

    Corner of McDowell and Dave, across from Poole’s.

    Two blocks from N. Wilmington to N. Person (between Edenton and Jones), sadly not part of North Blount Street Development.

    Multiple Parking lots in the Warehouse District.

    S. Salisbury Street to S. Wilmington Street (Between South and Lenoir).

    Two at the corner of Edenton and McDowell.

    S. Person and Hargett.

    S. Bloodworth and Hargett.

    …..to name a few

    You want to make a downtown that is dense? Start with these plots, not ones currently occupied with buildings.

  15. DPK: I absolutely agree with filling the lots (too many ugly lots in downtown, the city should purchase everyone one of them starting yesterday – these private owners of lots add no value to downtown – it’s 2008 – we are over 100 years behind NY and Chicago – we will never catch up – but let’s see some vision and creativity moving forward).

    Other commnets: Historic buildings, please, Raleigh has a handful. If anyone considers the building across from RBC historic, than you must love 1960 and 1970 architecture which is not historic, it’s pre-historic. Come on, stop the tree hugging nonsense, downtown needs walkable streets with retail, any building that does not meet those requirements – “tear it down or have them add retail at their expense”!

  16. Anonymous: I love walkable retail as much as the next person. And I’m certainly an unofficial booster for downtown, but I don’t think we can create growth out of thin air. Having the city buy the lots wouldn’t guarantee that anything good would come of it. Raleigh, or any other city, has to grow at a rate commensurate with the population’s demands and funding/loans realities. I’d rather see Raleigh grow at a reasonable rate than to jumpstart a bunch of projects that won’t have buyers or stores that won’t have customers.

    Also, while I haven’t done my research on this, I’d be willing to bet that at least a few of those parking lots that are sitting idle already belong to the City. No need for them to buy buildings as well!

  17. Jedidiah, you are right on the money about the lost historic buildings… In the past, particularly before the 70’s, developers and city officials were unaware of how major the loss will be if they allowed uncontrolled tearing down. We had an abundance of nice buildings above 5 stories that were lost for no reason. With the exception of The Yarborough, which was lost to a fire, most of other buildings met an unnecessary death.

    Today, I am grateful to see several nice buildings still standing. They deserve to remain around and remind us not only of our city’s past, but also educate us about the architectural masterpieces of the past – I don’t care for post-modernism and prefer neo-classic and Art Deco styles.

    You made a good observation about the direction Raleigh should expand. Unfortunately, downtown still appears to be a bit disconnected – in spirit, not physically – from the rest of the city. To build continuation will take MANY years, most likely over 20, given the current pace. In the meantime, we may have to replace some of the older structures with newer, better ones. It is not fair to say that we only replace number of buildings, when in reality we add density, too. Where a few low-rise buildings stand today, we can put not only additional offices, but hundreds of residents above them, and some good retail on the ground level. We can do it, and we should.

    Ideally, we may begin with the empty lots – I am all for it – but a research should reveal one of the biggest problems we face here. Too many landlords and too expensive to assemble contiguous parcels. This was an obstacle when the city/county assembled land for the new convention center. This was an obstacle when the idea of developing Block B was first born – thankfully, Greg Sandreuter managed to offer good terms for the rest of the block and now we can be proud of a MAJOR proposal coming to our city. When we waste valuable land on a tiny visitors center, instead of pursuing a public-private alliance and maximize the land use, it shows how small our vision is. Granted, the state government is to be blamed for most of these poorly planned projects. There are a lot of parcels we can redevelop before anything else, but how can we convince the developers to look into those areas first? I wish I had a way, but so far I haven’t heard of any ideas. The closest attempt, IMHO, was Glenwood South. There are tremendous opportunities there, and along with the Warehouse District it can be a model for redevelopment. However, with 4-5 projects already stalled or canceled – however small some of them may be – our hopes for a quicker revitalization have to be put on hold. What should we do in the meantime?

    By the way, I totally agree with Anonymous’ comment on the 60’s and 70’s architecture… My eyes still hurt from those monstrosities :( Not only they replaced elegant buildings, but nobody seems to be interested in tearing some of them down and replace them with buildings of elegance. I am sure some forumers would love to keep many of them around, and I would not object if they contribute something, but in most cases I find them uninteresting and ugly. If we are to replace some of our older buildings we’d better do so with nicer ones, nothing less.

    Sorry for the lengthy responses :(

  18. Jenna, there is definitely no guarantee about anything… The city does own a lot of land, but not as much as we may think. One of the largest challenges for developers is assembling enough land to justify major projects. Without sufficient space, nobody will come downtown to develop. Naturally, if the city owns a parcel, we can somehow provide a list of things we want to see when publishing an RFP, although we may run into issues, anyway. It is really tough!!!

    You are correct, though. It is preferable to work slowly and let the population’s demands dictate the growth. I can’t say I am always ecstatic when forumers demand retail in every single project. It is desirable, but not always feasible. Not until we get the downtown population numbers high enough to create demand for more retail.

  19. Jedidiah: My comment was generalized and of course I agree with you that there are a plethora of vacant lots to build downtown. However for developers that want to build in certain areas (see: Fayetteville Street corridor), which I denoted in my early post, a tear down sometimes happens to achieve the level of density wanted.

    I don’t in any way think we should go crazy and start ripping down everything, but at the same time we need to be realistic that there are only so many places to build things that “make sense”. Such as building a 40 story tower in the warehouse district probably isn’t the best place for it (for example). I’ve always thought that Glenwood would see mid/low-rise buildings, the warehouse district would be repurpose the existing structures or see low-rise structures, and the taller buildings would cluster around the Fayetteville Street corridor. That’s just me though and I’m always open to change, else we’d still be living in buildings with architecture from the 1900’s for example. Where’s the variety/fun in that.

    The 540 comment I made was probably a bad example I admit. I’m just tired of seeing sprawl everywhere and I guess I threw it in where it wasn’t merited.

    It’s a holiday weekend and I’m a bit groggy so I hope that makes sense in some form, lol.

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