Market and Exchange Plaza Schematics, We Dive Into The Specs

Exchange Plaza

Exchange Plaza

Last month, the city had a public meeting at the Raleigh City Museum and showed off more firm plans for the remake of Exchange and Market Plaza. This is a project that coincides with the renovation of 227 Fayetteville Street, announced almost a year ago. First, background reading if you need it:

*Innovate Raleigh Opens Up 227 Fayetteville Street, Renovations Underway – January 25, 2013.

In addition to the work being done at 227, the plazas to the north, Exchange Plaza, and south, Market Plaza, of the building are getting a refresh. Here are the plazas in Google Maps.

Market and Exchange Plazas - Google Maps

Market and Exchange Plazas – Google Maps

Market and Exchange plazas still have the look of when Fayetteville Street was closed to traffic and was a walkable mall from the 1970s to the early 2000s. Any new readers should know that the current design of Fayetteville Street was implemented in the mid-2000s and ended the era of the Fayetteville Street Mall. However, the same planters, benches, and pavers still exist on these two plazas from that mall time period.

Market Plaza

Market Plaza

This year, we expect construction to start on the remake of the two plazas. There’s more information about the entire project on the city’s website.

Here’s my attempt to break down the latest information.

Like I’ve mentioned before, the two plazas are around the currently under renovation 227 Fayetteville building and the new designs attempt to both compliment the adjacent buildings and bring unique public space to downtown Raleigh. There are plans for outdoor seating for nearby restaurants as well as public seating similar to what City Plaza currently has.

Overview map of Market and Exchange Plaza

Overview map of Market and Exchange Plaza. Click for larger.

Visibility was a key focus here. The plaza designs attempt to trim back some of the greenery in order to give pedestrians a deep line of sight through the spaces. Adding extensive but tasteful lighting will hopefully make the spaces feel comfortable and friendly during nighttime use.

Programming was also considered. There are plans for how to fit different sized tents on the plazas for small events. The next Beerfest won’t be setting up here but smaller arts, maybe First Friday gatherings, would be more appropriate.

Sketch of Market and Exchange Plazas with 227 Fayetteville Street

Click for larger.

One important obstacle that I thought was interesting was the need to protect the 227 basement. If you look at the sketch above, you can see how the basement protrudes a few feet underneath both Exchange and Market Plazas. A heavy car or truck can’t set up on top of that so the design has to prevent that.

Exchange Plaza
The new Exchange Plaza will be more about walking and seating rather than events. The space is somewhat divided with a low wall for impromptu sitting as well as comfortable separation between the retail seating, that of current restaurant Bolt, and public space near 227 Fayetteville.

Here are some renderings for the possible future of Exchange Plaza.

Rendering of Exchange Plaza

Rendering of Exchange Plaza

Rendering of Exchange Plaza

Rendering of Exchange Plaza

Only two trees are planned for the plaza. This is to help with that visibility factor, to allow pedestrians to see all the way through the plaza and feel welcomed to walk through it. The area around the tree roots would be appropriately landscaped.

The planters you see, on the right of the first two images, would not be permanent and can be moved if this space fits the need for some small event. Outside of events, the planters will accompany seats and tables, the same ones on City Plaza, for downtowners to enjoy.

Lighting would consist of overhead bulbs in a grid-like pattern. There was indication that special care would be taken into the lighting to make sure it wasn’t overpowering but at the same time bright enough to make the area feel safe.

Market Plaza
Market Plaza, true to its name, offers more of an opportunity for events. In my opinion, there’s a bit less desire here to stop and hang out but walking through looks like it’ll be a nice experience.

The renderings.

Rendering of Market Plaza

Rendering of Market Plaza

Rendering of Market Plaza

Rendering of Market Plaza

Rendering of Market Plaza

The new plaza is more uniformly shaped with a more defined public space compared to Exchange Plaza. This allows for more flexibility and physical space for event setups. It’s almost as if the new plaza is built for walking down a market with vendors set up on your left and right.

The plaza is planned to have a few shelters, a bad comparison would be something similar to a bus shelter, offering pedestrians something comfortable to gravitate too. The same public seats and tables would be scattered around the 227 side of Market Plaza as well.

One compromise here is with the electrical boxes that are placed closer to the Fayetteville Street side of Market Plaza. It was deemed too costly to move or bury them so this piece of infrastructure stays and will be hidden in a creative way. You can see how one rendering proposes projecting some video onto the wall of First Citizens Bank from that piece of utility.

The lighting would be similar to what was proposed at Exchange Plaza.

Wrapping Up
I’ll admit my first reaction to the plans are of enthusiasm as any decent plan to activate the plazas is better than what we have there currently. I’m a little skeptical on how the plazas will function during events. Market Plaza seems like it has a better chance and I don’t see much happening at Exchange Plaza when it comes to proper programming.

Still, events are not the only thing that happen in a downtown and I think these spaces only enrich urban Raleigh. They help set the stage for random encounters, those serendipitous moments between pedestrians, that can’t happen anywhere else in the city. It’s fitting to create these spaces around 227 Fayetteville, a building that will host entrepreneurs and people that believe in that kind of urban business ecosystem.

This project’s timeline has construction planned for late Summer 2014 and completion in Spring 2015.

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  1. It looks from the sketches that overhead lighting is to be suspended from the buildings rather than put on poles. Sort of different and could be cool. Is this correct?

  2. If I remember correctly, they did say the lights would be tied to adjacent buildings rather than held up by poles. A nicer implementation if that’s what ends up happening.

  3. A daily farmer’s market would be amazing in one of the plazas. I can’t wait for construction to start. With the completion of 227 that space will have huge potential.

  4. Perhaps the best thing that could happen to that area would be the demolition of the First Citizens Bank building, which may be one of the worst looking structures in Downtown Raleigh.

  5. Also good would be if they would stop letting sketchy people hang out in there. You can put all the lights you want in there, but until they move the bus station out of the center of DT, it’s still gonna be an issue.

  6. I agree, Jeff. I really can’t wait until all of these projects are completed downtown (including moving the bus station to a more inconvenient area) so I don’t have to look at poor and working class people in my city anymore. I mean, why have a bus station in the center of downtown when I have to /see/ who rides the system? Who cares about their convenience. Move it to Capital Boulevard already!

  7. yes, exactly! oh you were being sarcastic. doesn’t change what i said. the reason this area is needing to be made more safe-feeling is because it is currently filled with the homeless and others that have no qualms about being drunk/high in public and accosting strangers. i’m not afraid of them or not used to this, i’ve lived in cities where this is way more of a problem. i’m just saying it needs to be addressed as part of the concerns people have if they are going to work on redoing this space with safety and appearance in mind.

  8. Hahahahaha Aaron had me rolling with that comment, and though I do agree with Jeff that there’s a vast amount of super creepy dudes roaming around that part of the city, I believe that with the amount of people that are moving here every year, over time the cracks will fill in and we’ll get a better mix of people that walk around these areas. Also, I strongly disagree with Dan; while the First Citizens Bank building might be short and in a prime location for a nice, tall tower; I love the look of the building! Very unique, reminds me of Sakks 5th Ave in NY for some reason.

  9. Are you high, Anthony?

    First Citizens bank looks like a giant paper weight. There are no windows on the Fayetteville St.! Strip the cladding off and start over.

  10. So everyone is scared of 1/17th of a block in Raleigh and including Jeff who has actually lived in bigger cities. God get over it. Maybe you guys get accosted because they can tell you’re scared lmao. The only problem I ever had with anyone in that area was when I was 15 or 16 and some creepy white* man who I am almost certain was not homeless asking me if I wanted to have sex with him. Obviously I declined and it was left at that. So trust me, I do get it, but I don’t think it is that big of a friggin’ deal. It’s part of living in a city.

  11. People need to stop taking it so personally when this kind of thing is mentioned. It’s a crowd pleaser to be the bleeding heart, I get it. Whether there is any reason to fear people who loiter around the bus station or not, the large bulk of people who come downtown and the large bulk of people we want to move downtown do not find that area welcoming. I work right next to the bus station and I have personally watched people jaywalk across Hargett St. before getting to the entrance and crossing back over once they’re past. This is an issue that affects the desirability of our city whether we want to acknowledge it or not. There is nothing attractive about a dozen people standing out on the sidewalks in clusters filling the air with cigarette smoke, nor is there anything attractive about trash being thrown all over the street and Moore Square. It is also incredibly ignorant to claim no one gets accosted when they walk through that area. Is it a big deal when a woman is sexually harassed and touched as she’s trying to walk down the sidewalk? Something tells me it is.

    My point is don’t attack someone when they have a negative opinion about a situation just because you think it’s immoral. This has come up many times on many forums; clearly there is a problem here.

  12. Aaron, no one said they were scared. I distinctly said the opposite. It’s also not 1/17 of a block of Raleigh that has an issue. It’s the entire block around the bus station, as well as Moore Square, and both plazas being discussed in this article for specifically this reason. I don’t hate the homeless, and I support funding programs/places to assist the mentally ill, addicts, and those fallen on hard times. It’s not an issue of “unwanted” people standing/sitting around areas I want to be in, minding their own business. For instance, Monday night I watched a toothless, drunk/high man screaming at people waiting for the bus. He then proceeded to get in people’s faces and touch them. He came over to me and told me to buy him something to eat. I told him I didn’t have any money for him, and he tried to keep touching me and speaking jibberish at me and my wife and female friend. When he realized he wasn’t getting anywhere he moved on to harass others. I feel bad for him, but that’s not what I want to experience when I am downtown. And you can say that’s part of being in a city, but I disagree. No more than prostitutes and drug dealers and being groped on public transit are “part of living in a city.” We can work to change some of this, and sometimes improving certain areas are a step in that direction (but not the only step).

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