Downtown Raleigh 2011 In Review

Tubes of Light by dtraleigh, on Flickr

2011, what will we remember you by? All-star weekend or Hopscotch 2? Could the food truck saga of this year be the one that sticks out in your mind? Or perhaps, if affected, you may still be dealing with damage from the April tornadoes?

On planning downtown Raleigh, this past year has been pretty active with long range plans becoming more detailed, less alternatives, and more decisions. Missing was another Raleigh Wide Open but there were plenty of events that kept spirits high. One of the biggest feather in downtown’s hosting cap was the 2011 NHL All-Star game, bringing a new format from years past and was reviewed very positively across the hockey world.

As always let’s first start with the 2011 wishlist. This list only consists of items that can be done in one year’s time.

  • Bookstore
  • More Hours
  • Counter Service Food
  • Food Markets
  • Mass Transit Plan

For a second year in a row, a bookstore has not happened. Reading articles about Amazon selling a million Kindles a week this holiday season really isn’t helping new bookstores open especially an independent store in a relatively low traffic, downtown area. Probably the best thing is for downtown residents and workers to support the Wake County express library on Fayetteville Street. The library is open Monday to Friday from 10am to 6pm so if you can work it into your schedule, give this location a shot.

I feel some businesses have tried to expand their operating hours this year. I didn’t keep track of this one very well so correct me if I’m wrong. A few examples that I can think of are The Pit opening on Sundays, Wilmoore Cafe having weekend hours, Poole’s Diner opening on Tuesday nights, and Mecca adding some hours as well. The wish really is to get to the point where downtown Raleigh is “open for business” at all times of the day and night so that people feel there are several options available to them. This pushes the 24/7 idea closer to reality.

Counter service food options are still out on the horizon. Chuck’s attempted counter service but later changed it due to requests. Perhaps more residents in the area will help expand the quick and cheap eats category options.

The downtown Farmer’s Market continued to serve up City Plaza each Wednesday this year during the warmer months, just like the last one. This is probably the closest thing to market style food buying that we’re going to get for awhile. There is however a produce shop over in City Market that a lot of people don’t know about. Walk over there and give them a try if you are into Farmer’s Markets.

There was plenty of transit talk this year and plans are taking steps forward. In light-rail news, the city picked their preferred alternative which involves a light-rail line to enter downtown from the west on Morgan Street and hang a left on to Harrington Street to exit downtown to the north. A comprehensive bus plan has also been released with plans to significantly expand bus service around Raleigh and the rest of the Triangle. High-speed rail is also moving along with a new plan to bridge the trains over Capital Boulevard into Glenwood South as they head for Union Station in the warehouse district.

Construction in 2011

New building construction moved along in 2011 with projects continuing to take shape or break ground. Here is a list of construction projects we’ve been following all year.

  • The American Institute of Architects North Carolina building on Peace Street has finished, or is close to finishing, up now as we close out the year.
  • The Wake County Justice Center started the year as a formation of steel beams in the ground. The construction project will go into 2012, topped off and mostly covered up. County officials have also let everyone know that this project came in under budget.
  • The Green Square project has partially finished with the rest set to open in April 2012. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources offices are fully open as well as the parking deck across the street. The Nature Research Center, with it’s eye catching globe at the corner of Salisbury and Jones Street, will open in 2012.
  • Glenwood South’s first hotel, a Hampton Inn, has broken ground at the corner of Glenwood Avenue and Johnson Street.
  • The North Carolina State Bar has started construction on their new headquarters at the corner of Edenton and Blount Street.
  • All year we’ve watched the State Employees Credit Union building on Salisbury Street rise up and peak at about twelve floors. Glass is being installed on the building now and construction will continue into 2012.

Go here for a gallery of renderings of SECU and Green Square.

Other highlights of 2011:

  • Numerous electric vehicle chargers have been installed around the city with several in close proximity in downtown.
  • A large scale development project, The Edison, has scaled down tremendously.
  • The still empty lot where The L Building is planned now contains attractive banners to cover up the gray wall of the parking deck.

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  1. Thanks for the review, Leo. It’s always good to take a step outside of the current state of things and look back at all the things that have happened over the last year. I for one think this was a great year for downtown Raleigh (not because I finally moved here, of course).

    Looking forward to 2012!

  2. Cimos, which opened recently on E. Hargett, sells a random assortment of gifts and candy and has a small but well-picked selection of books. Perhaps we can demonstrate that there is a market for a bigger book store (or bigger book section) if we support cimos.

  3. Any positives should be expected, we are the Capital City (it takes us forever to progress around here).
    Where are the plans for a new arena downtown for Canes and NC State BB? Let’s wait till the 11th hour and put an ugly building in a terrible location. NOW is when you plan, well in advance. This is a project that is a MUST for our downtown future/entertainment/growth. By the way, not just any areaa, one with restaurants, shopping and entertainment built in and around it (one with a public ice skating rink inside the arena, just like the one in Columbus, Ohio)

    Now the continued BS that goes on with cutting costs and building below average spaces and buildings

    Has anybody ever seen the City Plaza water feature on?
    What a pathetic fountain!

    City Plaza has been more than disappointing.

    Now we are talking about the UGLY Dillion supply area for a Union Station (we all knew cost cutting was going to happen her, instaed of building a signature station for the next 100 years. Fill an ugly void, just like that CAM Arts hole-in-the-wall.

    Anyway, you get the picture. Same cutting corners is getting very old. I have NEVER seen a signature structure go up in downtown Raleigh (not even a structure that symbolizes the Raleigh/Triangle/North Carolina.

    What about a ACC BB Museum? Are we going to wait for another city to approve of this idea (when it only belongs in downtown Raleigh). Our city council is a joke and the developers are awful. No vision, no creativity.

  4. Another notable item from 2011 is the return of residential construction to downtown, with FMW officially underway, not to mention at least six more proposals: four more apartment buildings n Glenwood South, and another two elsewhere downtown.

  5. I would just like to add a few more to the wish list..

    1. Tobacco Road Museum
    2. Aquarium
    3. Downtown Big Box Retail (H&M,Crate & Barrel, Dave & Busters)
    4. Dorthea Dix City Park with fountains and statues

  6. Agree with Kacey on all counts, especially the Aquarium. This building should be in downtown Raleigh, not in no- man’s land on the beach (it’s a joke where that sad little Aquarium is located in NC).
    Also, a REAL Zoo and a REAL Amusement Park (that is not a zoo in central NC, it’s a large walk through farm – and when you walk through it, you cannot see most of the animals).
    Raleigh is the Capital City, it should have a Zoo and Amusement Park (there is very little for kids in the Triangle). Need a new Amusement Park located near downtown Raleigh. Will never go to Carowinds again, dirty and disgusting (food was awful, bathrooms very dirty).
    Again, get your heads out of your pants Raleigh (Commmissioners and city council have been awful for years – get the old crusty thinking members off each board – they have NO vision for our city and are not proactive, only re-active)

  7. @Aaron: Thomas means well. He just gets a bit over excited on things downtown Raleigh. It’s best to take his posts with a grain of salt however.

  8. Well, the NC Zoo is actually by acreage the largest zoo in the country (well, they own the most land, they’ve only developed around 25% of it) and they have some big plans for the future, especially an Asia section (currently it’s only North America and Africa) and a big swanky hotel. Charlotte has been looking at getting a zoo and it’s been a real uphill struggle, as much as I’d like a zoo in Raleigh, it’s probably not going to happen.

    There’s already an ACC museum in Greensboro, called the Hall of Champions, we might be able to have a Tobacco Road museum but you’d probably have to combine the museums at Carolina and Duke, and neither of them is likely to move their museums to dreaded Raleigh.

    North Carolina actually has 3 aquariums, all located on the coast, it would be cool if we could have an aquarium here, but the coastal communities (and their representatives in the state legislature) would protest. The tourism vote is so strong that they moved the school year back to accommodate the tourists, it wouldn’t be easy to get it done through the state.

    An amusement park is obviously a possibility but I don’t see why that has anything to do with downtown, there isn’t nearly enough acreage downtown to support that type of thing.

    I realize my point of view might not be popular, but I just think some of these items on the “wishlist” are just not very practical. We COULD really benefit from an expansion of any cultural facilities, especially an expansion of museums, but many of them would have to be private.

    Now here’s MY wishlist.

    1. Complete (or at least START) Charter Square and the south end of FS.
    2. Long-term plan for Dix Park.
    3. Further development of the Hillsborough St area, including something similar to the Reynolds Tower, making HS between the capital and Glenwood South an urban canyon.
    4. Further expansion of restaurant scene, especially French, Greek and Spanish (personal favorites that we are lacking).
    5. Expansion of Anthropology, Astronomy and Paleontology, including a branch office of the Morehead Planetarium and the creation of a real “fossil hall” in the NC Mus of Science.
    6. Long term connectivity of Glenwood South to FS and the CV area.

    Say what you want, it’s not real exciting, but I think it’s a lot more practical and would improve the urban experience of downtown.

  9. First of all, Happy New Year to ALL of you. Hopefully, 2012 will be a better year for everyone.

    Steve covered pretty much everything I had in mind and a few more. Let me add one more wish: I hope that CompUSA/TigerDirect and Babies-R-Us consider a move to downtown, as well as A Southern Season considers either a relocation to, or at least open a second location in DT Raleigh.

    Also, I hope that light-rail gets a fair shot and local leaders consider it very seriously – I don’t want to see random efforts, but the involvement of private developers who understand how to build transit-oriented, dense, urban communities.

  10. Thanks for this post! Always fun to see a year’s progress succinctly documented.

    I would LOVE to see a bookstore down here; I always comment about how we’re missing one!

    And rumor has it The Raleigh Forum opened in 2011 ;)

  11. Affordable places to eat is at the top of my 2012 downtown Raleigh wish list. There’s very little in between McDonald’s, and hipster/foodie restaurants. It’s very tough for regular working people to find anywhere to eat downtown. I’m getting really tired of hot dogs.

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