At last week’s city council meeting, Greg Hatem, owner of Empire Properties and Empire Eats, stood up and shared some thoughts. He had a few things to say about our city’s vibrancy and the ongoing discussions with the outdoor amplified sound permitting. Here’s the video of Mr. Hatem’s comments and the following council discussion.
If the embedded video doesn’t work for you, click here.
First, the downtown vibrancy piece. According to a yet unpublished study by the University of North Carolina Planning School, “Raleigh is in the bottom 20% of vibrant communities” in the nation. That statement is definitely something to follow up on.
The most obvious question to see in the study is whether this is only referring to the downtown or the city as a whole. Clearly, if the entire city was included then I don’t feel there’s too much of a shock here. More information is needed as to the study’s metrics.
Next, the ongoing debate over outdoor amplified sound permits. There are currently six restaurants and bars in the Fayetteville Street district that have applied for these permits. Hatem’s comments suggest a larger “issue” that the Fayetteville Street area is basically becoming a party district, where trash, bodily fluids, and signs of partying linger. His discussion of downtown vibrancy suggest that what’s needed are less bars but more retail and a downtown grocery store.
The complaints about more outdoor sound permits may be premature as the city is currently running a pilot program for addressing the very same issue over in Glenwood South. Rather than more restrictions, the Glenwood South Neighborhood Collaborative has helped launch the Glenwood South Hospitality District. This pilot runs through November 30, 2015 and attempts to create more synergy between residents and business owners when complaints come up. We should wait and see the results of this program before we start restricting things in other districts.
I think Hatem’s points are fair though. I’ve walked downtown Raleigh on Sunday mornings and some of the sidewalks really do look hungover. There are lots of opinions here but for me, it’s just a cleanliness issue, and only on the weekends.
Again, this may seem a moot point because there were discussions between the council and the Downtown Raleigh Alliance (DRA) in 2014 about increasing the resources put toward safety and cleanliness in downtown. I point you to a budget note from the DRA asking the city manager for more funding for the issue.
At the June 2, 2014 Budget work session, Council members discussed the safety and appearance of downtown Raleigh. Council Member Crowder asked that the Downtown Raleigh Alliance (DRA) review its budget to determine if funding could be reallocated to provide additional cleaning and safety efforts in downtown. Council Member Baldwin commented on the lack of cleanliness in city parking decks.
It’s all growing pains for sure as businesses and residents haven’t lived this close together in this city for decades because of our now growing, attractive, and revitalizing downtown. The currently in-progress Downtown Experience Plan may help to address these concerns by providing a more mix of uses in downtown.