Downtown Thoughts Over A Pint

There is an article on WRAL about the predicted population growth of the city. City Planner Mitchell Silver says that downtown should be the central hub of the region.

It’s about choices, and we believe we can capture some of those firms that want to be in an urban setting.

Mitchell Silver

The article also says that for downtown to become a destination it needs an outdoor concert venue, a sports arena, and a better transit system. I have no idea how the city is planning to accomplish this but while they plan it out we can discuss each point for downtown.

The city will have to lure new companies that are outside the typical tech sector that this area is known for. Software and web companies simply need space for cubes and offices but the more high tech companies that are out in RTP need to work in large campuses. They have labs, manufacturing, and other tech that will not work in a high-rise building. From what I can see, the triangle’s reputation as a tech hub does not lead to tall skyscrapers and density. Diversifying Raleigh’s workforce would be key in helping downtown land more companies and, for you skyline freaks, build taller structures.

The outdoor concert venue is planned for the block west of the convention center. The old warehouses were recently torn down to make room for the venue. I have actually changed my thoughts on this topic. I was originally against it because it will be a dead zone for most of the year. However, the large tent that will go here will not be permanent at all. This is actually a good way to use the space until a larger development comes along in the future or the convention center needs to expand. It is kind of a way to save some valuable space for the future.

The sports arena topic is a tough one. In my opinion, we would need another sports team or need to wait awhile for the Hurricanes fanbase to grow. There is no point in replacing the RBC Center so fast, we should wait until it really needs to be demolished. It is only six miles away from downtown, why can’t a clever transit system link the two together? A transit system would be needed IF we built one in downtown so either way, we need to think outside of our cars.

The transit topic is also a hot one. I do not think this is just something for downtown to become a destination but to link all of Raleigh and the triangle together. I’m not going to speculate much on this because of the upcoming Open House for the comprehensive plan. Let’s see what they have to say about this one.

I like to hear about things that are coming downtown that are open all of the time. Not 24 hours a day but things that are accessible almost every day. The Fayetteville St. revitalization or restaurants open seven days a week, right now, contribute so much to downtown and creating its character. An arena or concert venue are ‘planned occasion’ kind of places so they add to my weekends, maybe after work plans but do nothing for me while closed. I’d like to see more examples of ‘always open’ activities; some public art, an urban park on the Dix property, leave the capitol building open for public viewing would be great examples of things to do. I’d also like to see the Raleigh City Museum be open every day with extended hours. I’m sure funding is an issue currently but it could use a little facelift in the near future, especially since the visitor’s center is located here too.

Any thoughts?

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9 Comments

  1. Leo, I think you touched everything. I would single out your mention of “diversification” which I find extremely important for our economy. Putting all eggs in one basket is not good, and in our case it works against our effort to bring more high-rises to downtown, along with more residential. However, I would point out that technology companies do not necessarily need campuses. There are cities like Portland, Seattle, and even Durham, that have brought their technology companies to their more urban areas.

    Regarding a new sports arena, I would first push for urbanization and high-density around RBC Center, along with improved public transit, before I dream of a new arena in downtown. In other words, the promises made by developers and the visions created on the paper prior to the building of RBC Center should materialize. Create an urban area around RBC Center and then think about expanding to downtown. This is my 2 cents, or course…

  2. I’ve love it if the History and Natural Science museums would extend their hours. I love to wander through their new exhibits (or just revisit old ones – I can’t get enough of the whales or the pre-history timeline). But their hours are dreadful! I would suggest that the museums be open every Friday evening ’til 8, not just once a month! (Also open later on weekends.)

  3. I agree with Matt. Retail is crucial for the success of our downtown. When it comes to new residents, we are a bit slow, but things should pick up once the 1000 new residents – according to WRAL – that Raleigh will add to its downtown this year flood the streets, looking for more venues. Without more residents, retail will be hard to attract.

  4. Ernest, I agree. It is an interesting conversation but I think right now, residents drive retail, not the other way around. Some places will take risks and stay open late or on weekends. These are the businesses that are really helping downtown grow, the risk takers. Their success will put confidence in other developers keeping an eye on downtown.

  5. Given the recent shake-up in the banking/finance world and the inevitable consolidation that will follow, I wonder if we couldn’t do more to attract more banking/finance HQs and offices. High-rise buildings and finance go hand in hand – take a look at what Charlotte has accomplished over the past few decades. Finance jobs offer the highest return per capita [and probably per office space square foot], for a city – with well paid individuals spending and investing their high incomes in the community. This will not be easily done, but there are a lot of companies and people who are now looking to “start over” – and a physical/geographical change (with the right incentives) could be a start. Again, Charlotte definitely has a huge head start – but now would be as opportune a time as any to take some “market share”. And it’s not like we’re starting from scratch – look at some of the buildings that we already have downtown – RBC, BB&T, Wachovia.

    An even grander idea is to take advantage of an industry that many consider to be the next big opportunity – equal or greater to the computer industry of the late 70s – while still in its relative infancy; the so called “green industry”. No matter your view on this, the billions of dollars being invested into companies that are in this industry cannot be ignored. Private equity and VC dollars are being funneled directly into companies who provide an array of products and services related to renewable energy. Many financial funds and companies are being created for this sole purpose.

    Why not make Raleigh the center of all of this? Why not try and attract Green Tech VC and Private Equity groups to downtown Raleigh? Attract the HQs of startups and established renewable energy companies to the area. The greater metro area has plenty of available manufacturing space for which these companies can perform their necessary operations. Take for example a company like SunPower Corp. who makes high-quality and efficient solar panels. They could have their HQs in downtown Raleigh with next door access to all kinds of “green” capital. SunPower could have manufacturing facilities just up the road in Wake Forest. And we have a very capable port 2 hours down the road in Wilmington in which they can import their low-cost supplies from China and export their final product throughout the world. Not to mention the university system containing some of the brightest minds in the world that make up the different industries that can contribute to and benefit from sustainable energy. I am reminded of Marshall Brain’s plan for Raleigh as “City of the Future” (http://marshallbrain.com/raleigh/) – why not make a play on this and really make Raleigh the green capital of the US. An east coast silicon valley for the renewable energy industry. All the resources are here; it just takes some organization and the will to attract the necessary players.

  6. I tend to agree with the observation about the outdoor music venue. As for the sports arena point, I believe the city has more or less thrown its weight behind the RBC out of necessity — while it is considerably out of the way (nice foresight in planning that one), it still has a great deal of shelf life left. I remember reading something to the effect that having the RBC so far removed was in line with the spread-out concept behind the Triangle as a whole…

    It would definitely be great to have that arena saddled up to downtown, but I’m content with the setup now (though I totally agree on a shuttle-type system).

  7. In recent new it was stated that GSK has decided to name RTP it’s headquarters. Mind you, they are not abandoning their high-rise in Philly that was one part of their dual headquarters setup. But, I would of thought that we could sway them into consolidating their locations (all 35 of them in RTP) and perhaps coming to the Raleigh’s core. I’m sure all 35 aren’t labs. The good news for Raleigh’s core is as RTP rapidly runs out of land more office components should come online DT.

    Prime example, look at Quintiles and their 10 story mid-rise (nice looking building by the way). That could of put a Westin downtown. How are we losing these opportunties. I wish i knew more about how these negotiates are handled once a business even expressed mere interest in our region (the triangle).

  8. City of Raleigh needs to strongly atract Corporations in downtown instead of Suburban office parks.That is so 1990’s.Look at Charlotte for example,Raleigh has such potential. What about the plans for building around the RBC Center with offices and Hotels,what happened to that.Or the So called Solei center that was suppose to be built near Crabtree. Boy what a Bummed deal. They should of Built it Downtown,Folks know that Condos dont sell that well in this market anyway, Good or Bad. That would have been an awesome sight to see,and the tallest building in Downtown Raleigh at 43 stories.Build more Hotels and guest will see what Raielgh is really all about.

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