The L Shows Off Updated Renderings

June 2013 rendering of The L.

There’s lots of momentum behind one of downtown Raleigh’s longest stalled projects and The L may finally break ground.

Above is the latest rendering of The L, not the final but pretty close, and it shows how it will wrap the Wake County parking deck at the corner of Davie and Cabarrus Streets. This mixed-use project will consist of 93 studio, 1, and 2 bedroom apartments and 8,000 square feet of office space above 10,000 square feet of ground floor retail.

Ground breaking is planned for this Fall with a project completion around Fall 2014.

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  1. Glad to see this project coming forward, the gaps in downtown are really starting to fill in.

  2. Austin, TX and Raleigh always seem to rank around the top in some sort of best of list. So I wanted to see what Austin’s skyline looked like. In doing so I came across a side by side photo of Austin in 2001 and now. In 2001 Austin looked much like Raleigh, a good size city with a rather pitiful skyline. Since then Austin’s skyline has jumped into the major leagues. What the hell is going on in Raleigh? At the rate Raleigh’s skyline is growing, North Hills will have a more impressive skyline than downtown Raleigh. Not to mention North Hills has already started to steal a lot of downtown’s momentum. Now that there’s more bar options, better restaurants, and the beach music concerts on Thursday’s. Raleigh used to have Alive After 5 and it was packed and a lot of fun. For some reason after opening Fayetteville St they decided to stop having it.(even though the goal of opening the street back up to cars was to bring more people downtown.) In it’s absense N. Hills decided to start a tradition of their on with the beach music series on Thursday nights. About 5-6 years after Fayettevile St had been open the genuises that run Raleigh decide to start having music in Downtown Raleigh again. Oh but let’s not call it Alive After 5,a name that already had a following. Let’s change the name to Oak City 7. A name that no one has evr heard and let’s not market it or adverstise it either. I went to Oak City 7, about 3 times last year and it is a virtual ghost town. Way to strike while iron is hot. Rocks erode faster than things happen in downtown Raleigh and I for one am sick of it! Wake up Raleigh get your $h1t together. That’s all I’ve got.

  3. Population wise Austin is more comparable to Charlotte than Raleigh. Charlotte is about 20 years ahead of Raleigh in terms of population and skyline. I rest my case.

  4. Within the city limits Austin is actually larger than Charlotte. MSA population, Raleigh and Austin are very similar in size.

  5. I would rather have a city that is dense and active than just a tall skyline. Do I want Raleigh to grow “up” yes, but I also want Raleigh to fill in and develop into a great downtown. Example- Pittsburgh had a great skyline, but thats about it, other areas in Pittsburgh are much more active than the downtown.

    Only developers can truly determine the height for projects and at this time, very few projects in the region need a 30 to 50 story building. It would have been nice for Metlife to signon for a tower but that was not the case.

  6. I completely agree with your assessment about Alive After 5. Stupid move.

    Austin’s MSA has just under 1.9 million people and Raleigh’s MSA has just under 1.2 million people. Therefore Austin’s is about 60% bigger. That’s a pretty big difference. Our MSA population is about where Austin’s was in 1998 (and Charlotte’s was in 1994.) So based on MSA population we’re 19 years behind Charlotte and 15 years behind Austin.

    I think you are getting a bit confused by comparing Austin’s MSA population with the Raleigh-Durham CSA population. Austin (and Charlotte for that matter) are the only real cities within their metropolitan areas so all CBD type activity is centered there; Raleigh shares the title with Durham and arguably also Chapel Hill within its CSA.

    I’m really not that familiar with Austin, but just like every city in this country, they have no doubt have their own North Hills equivalent that’s stealing some of downtown’s thunder. After a quick google search it seems to me like maybe “The Domain” is Austin’s equivalent.

    Frankly these “OMG DT RALEIGH IS FALLING BEHIND!!!!!!!1” posts are tiresome.

  7. Charlotte and Raleigh’s MSAs are roughly the same. It all depends on how many counties and municipalities you want to include. Charlotte has to include parts of SC when they want to talk about metro size if it suits their Napoleon complex arguments. Raleigh can do the same and include Fayettville, Gokdsboro, Wilson, and Henderson I suppose.

    Raleigh’s TV market is actually larger for example than charlotte

  8. Geez, who cares about metro size??? I agree with Orulz, all this city size/height comparison is very tiresome. You want to have a discussion regarding more towers downtown – then look at Met Life. Obviously no one told McCroy that we as a region would prefer responsible development rather than throwing millions at a company that will tear down forest off of one of the most congested roads in the region. I believe that if we offer incentives then we should be able to stipulate that the development aligns with our planning goals.

    Oh, L Building rendering… looks fine. Nothing groundbreaking or flashy – but no reason for it to be out of the ordinary anyway.

  9. Why not have the best of both worlds? What is seemingly tiresome is the height versus density argument. The fact is successful cities have integrated both density and height into their downtown fabric with a strong mix of office, retail and living spaces.

    My biggest concern is the seemingly split personality of Raleigh. We are becoming segregated in our growth patterns. I agree with Chad that we have an underlying turf war. Currently we have certain city council member and their pet North Hills project competing with Downtown which is competing with Glenwood. Although I love systemic growth, we run the risk of DT becoming an internal office park only supported by good restaurants and food trucks. Meanwhile, Glenwood becomes the living and weekend party space while North Hills is where you shop. IMO we really should strive to mix it up a little more (Skyhouse should help).

    Now, do I like the L rendering? Let me celebrate the fact it is moving forward. However, it seems sterile and academic and I could only hope the Appearance Commission has some influence to soften the edges of the building. Agree or disagreeā€¦ I still love Raleigh!!

  10. I know I have said this many times over the years, but skylines have close to zero impact on the life of a city. They are just great from the interstate. Seattle has a great skyline, but downtown is mostly office buildings and therefore is pretty dead. The life of the city happens in medium/high density neighborhoods. I support districts sprouting up with different identities. It would make the city much more entertaining.

    Building towers usually creates a dead zone, like in Seattle, Atlanta, and yes even New York. Who else has a weak skyline? Portland. No one ever hears about how lame it is, becasue it doesn’t have a skyline (although the river makes it more photogenic).

    Another city with a great skyline? Houston. I really hope Raleigh is never like Houston.

  11. I agree with you, Ken. I really don’t care what the Raleigh skyline looks like from a distance. What matters is what’s happening at street level. A famous urban designer, Jeff Speck, calls locations like the L site “missing teeth”, and believes that filling them is much more important to a city’s quality of life than tall buildings. The L rendition is a bit of a snoozer, but it gets that important job done.

    BTW: this North Hills stuff is also a real snoozer. North Hills is a small, attractive suburban mall, done in the motif of a neo-urban city street. It’s nice, and I have heard many friends over here on the southwest side express hope for a similar development on their side of Raleigh.

    But PLEASE don’t compare it to downtown, and say it is “stealing downtown’s momentum” just because it has beach music on Thursday nights. Downtown is REAL. It is a complex mix of multi-use buildings, added with many different architectural styles over a timespan of more than 100 years, and spread over 50 to 100 square blocks (depending on where you want to draw the boundaries). It is performing arts centers, museums, amphitheaters, convention centers, hotels, churches, public plazas, colleges, restaurants, business incubators, non-profits, and so on (and offers all of the varied events that go along with those things). It is a complex mix of people: rich, poor, young, old, teachers, students, IT geeks, government workers (local, state, and federal), entrepreneurs, musicians, service workers, and so on.

    If you allow me to include Cameron Village with downtown (I walk between them all the time), then downtown even beats North Hills on its own turf – best retail mall experience.

  12. Well, Charlotte is basically on the border with SC so it would make sense that it’s part of the CSA and MSA.

    Also, I think the whole “North Hills is stealing DT’s thunder’ is a little misplaced. As long as Downtown continues to improve, and it is, I don’t see the point in worrying about North Hills. This is the same as the argument that Downtown Durham is going to steal Raleigh’s thunder, it just comes off as insecure. If we just focus on improving our downtown, everything will fall into place. We don’t have to improve at the expense of other ‘downtowns’. Our downtown is tiny for a city of our size and therefore there’s going to be a lot of room for growth and improvement for many years to come.

    As far as the L, it’s not earth-shattering but it’s a dramatic improvement over what’s there now and will help connect the warehouse district with FS.

  13. I really don’t even understand the basis for the “North Hills is stealing Downtown’s thunder” comments. First, I think it’s great that multiple areas of Raleigh are thriving. Having more options doesn’t detract from downtown or any other part of the city, and makes us more attractive to people who are visiting or thinking about moving to areas further away from the city’s core.

    That said, I don’t see how anyone can rationally argue that North Hills is close to overtaking Downtown as an entertainment or food/drink center. I too miss Alive After 5, but think of all the activities (some new, some traditions) that have either happened over the past year or are scheduled to happend over the next few months: Hopscotch, concerts at the amphitheater, the beer festival at Moore Square, First Fridays, Artsplosure, the July 4th festival (notice I said the festival, not the fireworks), the opening of retail shops, and the huge success of the Museum of Natural Sciences. Downtown still has a lot of room to grow and should learn lessons from previous mistakes, but it’s hard to look at that list and the daily happenings and say that Downtown isn’t something that everyone in the city should celebrate and be proud of.

    The big issue to me, not to beat a dead horse, is that we need to better connect the areas where we shop, eat, and go to be entertained with each other. It’s a shame that someone can’t go downtown or to North Hills for a few drinks and then jump on some kind of public transportation to go see a show at the DPAC.

  14. Regarding the L Building rendering, I’m just glad they are filling it in, I don’t really care what it is, as long as the building exceeds 5 stories and has ground level retail, it serves its purpose.

    To the developers out there, if you have a seemingly weak project for the downtown area, go ahead and pursue it. Infill is so important, you would understand better if you walk the streets downtown. Infill gives you that big city feel, where everywhere you look, there is another big (larger than your average suburban developed) building. If more and more vacant lots in downtown get developed with 5-8 story buildings, it wouldn’t change the skyline but it would increase density. Give it some time and vacant spaces will decrease and the demand to build higher will go up. If there are less spaces available, a developer will build taller to get the most out of his land.

    I think Raleigh is moving in the right direction, I love seeing the new apartment complexes going up all over downtown, large and small; apartments equate to a growth curve that demands more units per lot and I believe this trend will lead to apartment towers.

  15. @Ken – many cities that have good skylines suffered in the downtown atmosphere department because they got their tall buildings before mixed-use development became a thing. Are you going to plausibly argue that Austin has been made worse by its building explosion downtown? Far from it; it’s improved both the look and feel of the place.

    Denver is another example that flies completely contrary to your point. Tall, dense infill has only improved its downtown and it mops the floor with other cities its size in terms of living and recreation options in its core.

    By the same token many cities that have bad skylines also have dead downtowns. Colorado Springs, Greensboro, El Paso, all places that sprawled and left their downtowns to languish.

  16. I think Raleigh is due for atleast one more 30 story tower…but the night life is getting better downtown also, Skyscrapers do look better but I will take a coo nightlife any day

  17. While I agree that a skyline is not a prerequisite for downtown success, I also think that Raleigh needs a few more tall buildings to fill in the areas between Wells Fargo, PNC, and BB&T towers. In this case, we have several “missing teeth” of the taller variety. Look forward to seeing the next few buildings break ground.

  18. I will agree with Alliebonk. The “need” for skyscrapers is not only due to better and more efficient land use, but also to make a statement about our city’s progress. If you follow Raleigh’s grow for 10 years or more, you will not be impressed with the lack of progress in the image department. Unless we discuss Savannah, or Charleston, image evolution is necessary, in some ways.

    Red Hat and Citrix failed to make some positive statement and I consider them missed opportunities for Downtown Raleigh. Instead of occupying a couple of new high-rises, both companies opted for locations that offer little visibility, at best. It’s my personal opinion and I know some will disagree, but I would challenge anyone at Red Hat who would claim that the company’s logo will be seen in the usual skyline shots. Unless you know it is there, Red Hat’s logo will make no statement, whatsoever. How can we promote downtown as a great place for technology companies when we can’t show the red fedora in one of our popular skyline shots?

    Of course, what makes downtown a great place to be isn’t just about making statements through an impressive skyline. Good residential options and entertainment destinations are necessary, but we have been making progress in that department since the mid-90’s, as far as I can remember.

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