Suds and Speculation: Your Third Place In Downtown Raleigh

Landmark Tavern
Landmark Tavern by abbyladybug, on Flickr

Suds and Speculation posts are ideas I come up with, usually while drinking and socializing with friends or people I meet. The posts also use real data leading to some idea, or dream, that we can speculate on for downtown Raleigh.

Where is your third place? Not sure what I’m talking about? Actually I’m referring to the concept of everyone’s social environments throughout their lives. Our “first place” is generally our home, followed by our “second place” being where we work. But the term “third place” refers to where we spend time outside of home and work to get our social fix. One of the things that downtown Raleigh naturally offers are unique places for anyone to call their own.

Coffee shops, museums, bars, barbershops, they all play a role as someone’s third place. It’s where you go to see familiar faces or to be in a comfortable environment. The concept is huge in downtown Raleigh and was mentioned extensively in the 2009 Retail Market Analysis. (link to the pdf) These types of spots are all over the place.

The report mentions that the “third place” in downtown is important to residents and those that live in the surrounding neighborhoods. I think that is true for nearby residents but the ease of parking in downtown at night and on weekends allows anyone living further out to access their third place rather easily.

While barbershops have been an established “third place” in downtown Raleigh for some time now, a growing number of coffee shops now have longer hours and are drawing in more people. The increase in the number of bars in downtown has also created regulars crowds and bar owners that can expect business outside of the weekend. The regulars crowd is diverse and fits that third place description.

One thing that downtown Raleigh still needs is for third place options that are free. The easiest one that comes to mind is a library with public space accessible at most hours of the day. Grabbing a drink at a bar isn’t always on my mind and I don’t drink coffee so more options for third places would really raise the bar for residents and frequent visitors.

A bookstore would work also. I could see myself visiting enough times and buying enough books that they wouldn’t mind if I stayed in and read inside their lounge area. Just hide the power plugs and no one will mooch the space.

Being outside could be a third place to some. Moore and Nash Square are nice outdoor areas to be around. City Plaza on Fayetteville Street is also a great urban setting to stop and enjoy the scenery. The weather could ruin things though and you don’t get that “familiar faces” environment that shops and food places give you.

My third place is Landmark Tavern. It’s the default place to go whenever I can’t decide where I want to spend my time. In my head, I always compare it to Publicans in J. R. Moehringer’s The Tender Bar. (great book if bar culture interests you)

I think this social, third place concept is something that downtown leaders should recognize very heavily because it is a unique offering when attracting new business to downtown. The suburbs have “free” parking but downtown has people, that you can interact with outside of work and your car.

More on this topic below.

Raleigh DLA: Find Your Third Place In Downtown Raleigh

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  1. I never thought of that term with regard to the name of the coffee shop in 5 Points. Interesting. I don’t just have one Third Place. I have several. The main ones are: Borough, Helios, Landmark, Times. And I really, really miss book stores. I don’t like drinking much, and I feel like there’s always this requirement to buy alcohol. I like the culture of bars so much more than the alcohol of bars, and it’s hard to pull that off sometimes. I mean, I can make it work. Honestly, when Gary’s working, I get my drink before I even order since he knows what I like. And the feeling I get from knowing I’m a regular is kind of awesome!

  2. Great post Leo – I haven’t spent as much time downtown as I should after being here nearly 2 years. That’s about to change. I constantly hear of the coffee shops and bars that just have a great community feel to them. I really like Busy Bee.

    Great photo by the Abby.

  3. You know, every time NewRaleigh or one of the other DTR blogs asks, “What does DTR need?” people are all over the bookstore idea. I’m dying for it and pushing it hard… There isn’t even a NEWSSTAND for those of working downtown during the day! It drives me bonkers. I’m not even one to give my money big corporations, but I swear if I saw construction begin on a B&N down here, I’d squeal with glee.

    FYI, my 3rd place is most definitely Landmark. fav place in Raleigh, hands down. I probably know you and don’t even realize it!

    ps- HEY ABBY! xoxo

  4. Great post. The third place is part of the fabric of downtown living, where the pedestrian lifestyle expands your social area from a living room to your neighborhood. I like Cafe Helios. I would love to hang out at a downtown bookstore, that had a place like Helios attached where I could ger a coffee or snack. I visited Portland recently, and they have this incredible bookstore downtown, billed as the largest I dependent bookstore in the U.S. Raleigh will get there someday.

  5. I don’t know if I even have a third place anymore. When I was single, it was the nightclubs, but now I guess most time spent outside of home & work would be dining out at various restaurants. (Mostly downtown of course! ;-) )

    I guess you could say the gym can be a “third place” for some. (Since hitting my thirties I feel I have to spend at least 4-5 hours a week there or start buying larger clothes fast! LOL)

    I agree again with the need for a bookstore.
    You mentioned library also, but we do have one downtown on Fayetteville Street. It’s ok, it’s just woefully under-funded by the county (which seems to always prefer spending money in the burbs), and thus has very short hours and not enough space. But it’s there, and us downtown boosters need to show the county there’s a demand for it, by visiting it as much as possible.

  6. I never knew this meaning of “third place”, so thank you for teaching me something new today. My third place downtown is the open pedestrian “mall” between the government buildings, just off Lane St. I walk the 6 blocks there every evening with my dogs and we all get some exercise. It is mostly cleared out by 6pm, but we will occasionally come across a frisbee game. I catch my favorite view of downtown from here also and the sunset’s pretty nice too.

  7. Having a third place is part of my being. The Landmark is that place that makes me smile and feel comfortable…and I mention it a lot in my most recent blog post. Which leads into me completely agreeing a bookstore or library would be an amazing addition…if that could be combined with an outdoor space…wow. Moore Square however is not a nice outdoor space. There are plans in the works to completely revamp it, but unfortunately, as it is without a farmer’s market there (so every day but Wed) is too sketch. Too many dudes talking to the dirt and trees with blood-shot eyes. Ha.

  8. The nice thing about the bar culture in downtown Raleigh is that many have outdoor/patio spaces. Sure, there’s still the pressure to purchase alcohol (or food), but at least there’s fresh air.


    Some other options: There are newsracks (no news stands though) on Fayetteville Street, as well as chess/checkers tables.

    And there’s the aforementioned Wake library. A bookstore or public stage could be very cool, too.

    I, for one, liked the free concerts at Moore Square in previous years, but I don’t think we’ll see (m)any more.

  9. Not sure this counts but I’m a fan of Fletcher Park, (not downtown but close enough). A great spot for outdoor lounging and people watching.

  10. I was in Durham last night and talking with a close friend and Durham local. I had noticed their new red and yellow bus (free route similar to our R line), and she and I started talking about the differences in the two towns. She actually praised Raleigh, saying we were a little further along in terms of walkable downtown culture. Thinking about it, it really is true. I love Durham, but there are even fewer places to just relax and get a little work done. Maybe Toast? But do they have WiFi? It’s not really the kind of place you’d want to camp out for too long. Guglhupf or some of the spots on 9th Street are good. But I do think we do fairly well. We’re just a young city, but I’m glad we have (dare I say it?) some excited loudmouths like you making stuff happen. From me, that’s totally not an insult. It’s a big, big compliment. So thank you! Your motivation to make Raleigh great is admirable.

  11. […] and meeting others. I talk about the concept of the “third place” over on my blog at The Raleigh Connoisseur. The third place can be many things including your church, a specific shop, or any type of regular […]

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