12-Story Hotel Planned for Wilmington Street Moves Forward

The Baptist Church Convention Headquarters on Wilmington Street.

The Baptist Church Convention Headquarters on Wilmington Street.

Back in January, we had several key rezoning requests (301 Hillsborough, Kane’s The Dillon among the others) come through the city and we’ve been watching them work their way through the system.

This week, the Raleigh Planning Commission approved the rezoning for a hotel that will go at the corner of Wilmington and Lenoir Streets. The rezoning is to allow them to build as high as 12 stories or around 146 feet.

Below is the video of the discussion. If you can’t see the embedded video, go here and jump to 59:00.

The controversy here is that the rezoning takes place within the Prince Hall Historic District and is inconsistent with numerous parts of the comprehensive plan. There are some that are also worried that a precedent may be set by approving this rezoning. There is also plenty of available land nearby that is outside of the historic district so why must this take place on this specific site, some argued.

First, a little bit about the site. Here is a snippet of a map of the Prince Hall District that includes the potential hotel site.

Prince Hall Historic District

Click for larger

Going from left to right (west to east) starting at the corner of Lenoir and Wilmington, we have the Baptist Convention Headquarters building, their parking lot and two historic houses. The next property is the driveway exit to the McDonald’s, which is mainly located on the southern half of this block.

The main argument, among others, for the rezoning is that the two houses are kind of “stranded” here around the activity of the McDonald’s and their parking/driveway. There’s little space around the houses and it is very difficult to make a case for renovation or saving these houses.

One of the conditions on the rezoning is that the developer will work with a contractor to move the houses more into the historic district as available land does exist for them. I think this is a good move as the houses could see new life when placed closer to the neighborhood compared to being alone here along Lenoir Street, surrounded by a fast food restaurant and other houses that are owned by Shaw University.

Historic houses along Lenoir Street could be moved.

Historic houses along Lenoir Street could be moved.

The Central CAC, members of the Baptist Convention, and owners of the historic houses were all in favor of this rezoning as well.

The rezoning passed with a 5-3 vote and will now go to city council for a final approval. That should take place in July.

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  1. What’s funny to me is that Charter Square is directly across the northwest corner of this lot. It’s not exactly incongruous with the area.

    Also, the houses featured are not “historic.” They’re just old. And ugly!!

  2. Just looking at the map of the historic district, it’s laughable that this little sliver was included in the first place. Moving these houses further into the actual historic district makes a ton of sense! I mean the site is surrounded by McDonalds parking lot!! Not historic!

    And you can’t make this up; one of the few people speaking in opposition to this rezoning: Gail Wiesner – famous for her controversial opposition to a new Oakwood house.

  3. Jeff, I think it’s also funny to consider what the Historic Commission tacitly supported by not endorsing this project. Their rationale was to protect the integrity of a historic district but, through this logic, they also supported preserving the Baptist HQ building as a historic structure! LOL! Why not just move the boundary to an area that IS historic instead?

    Perhaps they came out against this project because they didn’t want to get egg on their faces? It would have been bad form to acknowledge that this lot (with a McDonalds next door) never should have been included in the Prince Hall district (approved only in 2012) to start with. Better to just let the Planning Commission overrule them.

    No matter the actual reason (I’ll stop speculating now)they did more harm than good to their reputation. All of the major stake-holders (lot owners, Shaw, the CAC, adjoining neighbors, ad infinitum) came out in support of this project. What was the Historic Commission thinking!

  4. Anybody know why the giant vacant/parking lot on the NE corner of Lenoir and Wilmington isn’t being developed? Are they holding out for a grocery store or something? Seems like a much easier site to develop than the proposed SE corner.

  5. SquirrelChat, perhaps the developer contacted the owner of that NE corner lot and couldn’t come to terms? Personally I am happy the hotel isn’t being built there. That lot is much too big for a 12 story hotel!

    Checking iMaps I can see that this area isn’t in the hands of a single owner although a large section of it is. Perhaps all owners can come together some day to allow something great to be built here. It’s interesting that the Lincoln theater isn’t in the historic district.

  6. ^^yes, because the Lincoln actually is Historic! Haha. Seriously, I love the Lincoln and dread the day we will be talking about scrapping it.

    I have a vision that downtown will eventually encompass Shaw a lot more than it does now. And I think this will be a good thing for Shaw. As that happens, there is going to be a lot more conversation on what is historic I’m sure.

    McDonald’s= not historic

  7. Sorry to talk about McDonald’s, but seriously if I were that franchise I would have given that one on south Wilmjngton a renovation a long time ago, make it like the one on Peace or a McCafe.
    Sorry about the rant.

  8. That lot you’re speaking of also doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. They just repaved it :(

  9. As far as the Lincoln block goes, that’s by far the best area in the city for something really big to go. I’m glad it’s being saved. Anything less than 34 floors there would be a waste.

    Aesthetically putting the 12 floor hotel where it’s being proposed makes a lot of sense in my mind and it will do a lot to visually transition downtown to Shaw and the historic neighborhoods to the east, where currently there’s a scar of parking lots and bad architecture.

  10. @Leo: Thank you for summing up this case into a single post. It surely makes it easier for us to follow it.

    Most things I would like to say have already been said, so I apologize for repeating many of them:

    – The whole “historic neighborhood” argument is not laughable. This will be used over and over to prevent even the most decent projects from being proposed. The middle solution will be to “enforce” a more historic architecture, which I would totally support – there are many areas where nice contemporary designs can be delivered.

    – The Planning Dept has gone downhill, IMO, since Mitchell Silver was gone. Time has come for some city leaders to step up and bring forth some changes – yes, you may laugh at this point… While finding another Mitchell Silver is difficult, we need to find planners who not only understand the past, but also have the ability to shape the future for Raleigh, particularly the downtown area. Glad that the majority voted for the rezoning, but I am sure they will “make it up” by putting in place some other idiotic measures.

    – The “Raleigh 2030” effort was a great idea in the beginning, but it started to backfire and it proved that small town thinking people were allowed to take over. Time to consider “Raleigh 2031” and restore some of the lost pride, before 20 floors becomes the new 40 floors for our city.

    – Leo said in his post: “There is also plenty of available land nearby that is outside of the historic district so why must this take place on this specific site, some argued.” This is exactly the kind of mentality that will destroy our city’s best chances. Let me paraphrase: “There are plenty of other cities outside the Triangle, so why must a developer bring anything above 6 stories to Raleigh?” These people are out of control :(

    – Too bad that instead of focusing on the pedestrian experience and architectural details, the naysayers try to save “historic” parking lots and tiny buildings of no historic value. I am glad to hear that there was plenty of support for this project, though.

    @Vatnos: The Lincoln Block will never see anything above 20 floors, and I am willing to bet. So many blocks and parcels were ideal for buildings above 30 floors and look what happened to them. Marriott Hotel, Charter Square, The Edison, The L Building and 301 Hillsborough, just to name a few. Even Site 4 could get a 30-story hotel/residential. You will see one block after the other falling in the next few years, and this comes from an optimist (by nature).

  11. @Ernest, anyone that knows Mitch Silver was never there at the City which is why he left. Too busy traveling while he got the credit for his staff’s work. I am not a fan of the historic districts myself as was in a meeting about south park and the long range planner went on and on that this was to protect the heritage of the area. What an area bounded by soybean plant, slum and crack houses.

    The McD on Wilmington is planning to be razed and rebuilt. Way over due. Red Hat will be needing more office space but the hotel rooms are needed ASAP for larger conventions. The City is moving in the right direction just slowly…. Kane will do a great job in warehouse district but North Hills is on fire and to think they have only just begun. Kane will put more towers at NHE than will be downtown over the next 5-10 years.

  12. @BC: I am more interested in the direction that Mitchell Silver was taking the department, at least in the eyes of the public. Never felt that he was taking credit for other people’s work, so I won’t make any comments on that. However, I do see a problem today and that is what needs to be addressed, ASAP. When Silver had to speak and offer an opinion, he offered the best ideas at the time, which is not happening today, IMO.

    As for North Hills, it is definitely on fire. I went there during lunch time and it surely felt busy and vibrant. Like you said: “they have only just begun”. If all the components are in place, North Hills will become only second to downtown, although there may be things that NH will do better. I count on Kane delivering an excellent project (The Dillon) and I look forward to seeing him become more interested in the CBD. If anything, he can deliver, as he has demonstrated clearly. Many people have yet to realize how HUGE was the risk he took with North Hills.

  13. By the way, I wanted to share this with y’all:


    Whether it is a pie in the sky or a project that will materialize – I surely hope the latter, for Greensboro’s sake – it demonstrates how some people dare to think big, while we are celebrating over 10-12 story buildings.

    I am not trying to make this a Raleigh vs. Greensboro conversation. I know that there are strengths and weaknesses for both cities. Myself, I think highly of DT GSO and only wish them the best; they deserve it. I would love to see this project materialize and hopefully make a few developers here re-think their future developments in DT Raleigh. Or maybe build a 600ft tall building in Brier Creek since downtown doesn’t seem to be inviting, as of late.

  14. I know that there has been a lot of talk as of late about height in DT. I know that the Hillsborought sight was zoned for 20 stories. Also, I know that DT has set a stipulation that 20 stories or less doesn’t need approval but taller building will(that’s probably not the exact wording, but close) Which sets the standard that so many of us complain about. But.. Has Raleigh actually turned down a tall project at this point? Has any developer actually been told no regarding a 20+ story proposal that we are aware of?

  15. Ctrl-C/Ctrl-V from a Facebook status I posted the other day: Take a look at what we’re working with – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_tallest_buildings_in_Raleigh,_North_Carolina – isn’t it strange that we have ZERO buildings in Raleigh in the 300-400 range? It jumps from One Progress Plaza at 277 ft, to the Wells Fargo blding at 400ft. As our city grows, I hope to see this change. I would absolutely LOVE to see a 600-700 ft tall MONSTER (PNC Plaza sits at 538 ft, making it the tallest – I like the PNC tower but I don’t think it deserves to be our tallest, design-wise). However, if we only got one taller building, and a sh*tload of 300-400 footers, I’d [still] be incredibly happy. A recent trip to Richmond, VA proved to me that a city doesn’t have to be SUPER tall to really feel like a city. We have taller buildings than Richmond, but they have wayyyy more buildings in general. — Thoughts on that?

  16. Charter Square North Tower has submitted for site plan approval and provided street perspective rendering..

  17. @Brian: I have no problem with the decision to make it easier for a developer to propose a building up to 20 floors. It is the “limit” part that concerns me. Scaling down a parcel that was zoned for up to 40 floors was completely unnecessary. The city can put in place measures that make it faster for smaller high-rises to be built without rezoning.

    To answer your question: Limiting a parcel to 20 floors doesn’t necessarily mean that taller buildings will be turned down, but that will depend on the location; nothing has been rejected, that I know of, but it is too early to know. However, and this is merely a speculation, it will discourage developers from going tall outside the few blocks where 40-story buildings are “allowed”. The important thing to remember is that the general zoning, as envisioned in Raleigh 2030, will not allow buildings above 20 floors in most areas of downtown. Please correct me if I am wrong because I would hate to spread false rumors. I will try to find out more on this and post an update when I get an answer, although I feel that you will probably provide one quicker than me.

    BTW, can you give us any information on the rendering, assuming you have seen it? As you know, most of us are suckers for renderings. Charter Square North is, IMO, the most anticipated project for downtown, at this point.

    @Jake: Your observation is a great one. I always thought that Richmond’s skyline was better than Raleigh’s, due to its density and number of buildings. Raleigh needs a few buildings between 300ft and 400ft, but I think we are about to get a couple. Edison Office and Charter Square North should be in the 300-350ft range. Of the two, the latter will definitely make an impact, mainly because of its location. It would be nice to see a crown and/or a spire pushing the total height, but I would settle for a decent architecture. Let’s cross our fingers that we will not be disappointed.

  18. Brian, any idea when the site plan will be uploaded to the City’s Current Development Activity page?

  19. I am pretty confident the renderings on the JDavis website blog are the Charter square north and south towers. Click on the Design and Drinks link where they show a staff meeting discussing their two high rise projects. The back wall has large print outs of the South and North CS towers. Assuming it is the NT, it appears just over 1/3 taller. The design seems similar to the original concept presented years ago. Tall and slander (quote boxy).

  20. idk mike…… I see what Marco is talking about but can’t tell if it is the Charter Square towers….

  21. OT: If someone wanted to build the original plan for the Edison, is there a place in downtown where that could be done?

  22. @Phil: You are making me dig my own hole with your question :LOL: No answer would be accurate enough, and I am sure several posters here will jump into this oportunity, but here is my take:

    (1) Assuming the answer is “Yes”.

    (i) The Enterprise Rentals parcel plus the block adjacent to the East (assuming we demolish two parking decks and a low-rise). For those who like maps, I am talking about the area bounded by McDowell, Davie, Salisbury and Cabrrus streets; divided by Gale Str. This is feasible if the Enterprise Rentals lot is developed first, with enough parking spaces in a couple of integrated parking decks.
    (ii) Sites 2 and 3 can probably provide 50%-60% of the original Edison space, but with a little imagination we can probably squeeze a couple of nice size towers that will have 30 stories along Lenoir Str and 10 stories along South Str.
    (iii) The N&O block. I can see 4 towers being squeezed here. Of course, I assume that the North side of the block will be respected, as it contains several nice buildings worth saving – one has already been renovated. Still, I can see a project as large as Edison fitting in here. Probably the best candidate.
    (iv) The entire Avery Upchurch municipal complex (bounded by Morgan, McDowell, Hargett and Dawson streets). This is another great opportunity and a feasible one, too. The city could gain a lot from this sale, but the whole re-zoning effort (up to 20 stories) would discourage anyone from bringing a project of this magnitude.
    (v) The block bounded by Jones, Blount, Edenton and Wilmington streets. This parcel is owned by the state government, but the governor’s Phoenix project could allow this block to be redeveloped into something substantial. Very unlikely, but theoretically possible.

    (2) Assuming the answer is “No”.

    (i) The whole re-zoning plan will work counter-productively. Not many developers would consider begging the city to allow buildings taller than 20 floors.
    (ii) The market conditions do not allow. Downtown Raleigh has not been promoted as a perfect home for major corporations and will remain so for the years to come. The heart is in the right place, but somehow I don’t see Raleigh becoming aggressive about corporate relocations. Without the latter, I don’t see projects similar to the Edison materialize.
    (iii) The level of cooperation that could bring major tenants is missing. I want to see skyscrapers, too, but I also want to make sure that bold visions are rewarded. Having a 50-story tower operating at 40% capacity is not exactly great news for the developers. Unfortunately, our downtown has become a battlefield for pseudo-urbanites and NIMBYs. Far from an environment that could encourage corporate relocations and skyscrapers.
    (iv) Very few local developers have the deep pockets to invest big on downtown. Highwoods, Kane Realty and Dominion – not really a local developer – are slowly entering the downtown proper.

    We can think of a lot more items to discuss. Surely there are more parcels that could host an Edison-like project, but the locations would not be zoned for tall buildings. Personally, I do not see another Edison being proposed. I would be satisfied if we get 4 towers in separate locations and I would LOVE to see more [tall] development along Salisbury and McDowell streets. There is massive potential there!!!

  23. Ernest, You hit the nail on the head with the “NIMBY’s and pseudo-urbanites” I don’t agree with the city regulating heights in the downtown district. Raleigh has more red tape and restrictions than most cities simiar in size. If or when this does pass I believe that it will push development out and North Hills will be competing with the size of our downtown. I find it a little amusing that all projects with-in or around downtown get scrutinized but no one blinks an eye at anything happening elsewhere. As far as the design of the North tower the architects did a great job with what they had to work with. Again this is a existing site with existing footing and foundation locations. It appears to be much taller than the original proposed north tower. I don’t want to say much more without giving it away. I think J-Davis did a good job with this one.

  24. Agreed, I believe the enterprise rental lot, Lincoln Theater area, and N&O site are the three most feasible places to build a legitimate skyscraper in Raleigh at this point with new UDO zoning.

    I think the intent of this 20-story limit on certain areas is to encourage a cluster of tall buildings to form around Fayetteville St area, thus solidifying/condensing the skyline mass.

  25. @Brian: Obviously, you have seen the rendering(s) and I find your last post encouraging. Personally, I will be happy with anything above 20 floors, since the foundation is already there and wasn’t built to hold a skyscraper. The schematics shown in the Design and Drinks blog entry – many thanks to Marco for his contribution – show something much taller than the South Tower, so it is safe to assume that a 20+ story building will appear. Time to get our first building in the 300-400ft range :)

    Also, I agree with your comment about what is happening outside downtown. This is where I hope that Raleigh 2030 brings some positive changes. North Hills is, as you nicely put it, on fire, but I don’t mind that. It will compete with the suburban market a lot more than with downtown. At worst, it will bring more businesses closer to downtown. Imagine a North Hills based company running our of space, with no more land to develop. Downtown could now compete, and if Kane gets serious about downtown, he could easily make his contribution to the CBD. Dare to dream, but I can see many benefits from North Hills being on fire (not literally, I hope).

    @Squirrelchat: You might have seen this already, but I strongly recommend that you visit the Clear Sky Images website. They have a lot of cool aerials that help us see the potential Raleigh’s skyline has, IF we allow taller buildings to be built west of the CBD. I think that the sky is the limit for any parcel along Salisbury, McDowell and Dawson streets. If we add Wilmington and Fayetteville streets we can get the depth we need – I am not a big fan of very linear skylines. Imagine a 6×7 block area filled with buildings that reach as high as 50 floors – a randomly selected number that I consider possible. It would be like a dream for Raleigh. It wouldn’t happen even in 20 years, but if we ruin our chances now through bad re-zoning, it will be over in less than 10 years, I can assure you.

  26. I hope this hotel project moves forward, and that the houses get moved. The revamp of the McDonald’s will be nice too, but only if it takes on a more urban form. A one story drive-thru isn’t going to cut it.

    This project and the Residence Inn shouldn’t overshadow that a much larger hotel is needed for DTR. It all plays into the growing pains the city is experiencing. We need more retail, greater population density, better mass transit, and all at the same time. Maybe an incentive package is needed.

    Also, good for Greensboro! ‘Project 561’ would be a big addition. (But, we’ll see.)

  27. I just want to thank everyone who post the great links and updates of progress. I love it. I check this site every day:D

  28. CX, Don’t count on a more urban form McDonald’s. The Peace Street Streetscape plan had “promised” all future development on that stretch of Peace to be “urban form” and all we got was standard suburban drive-thru McDonald’s with an extended awning arc.

  29. Funny how the Central CAC and Shaw is in favor of this, yet they’re completely against the conversion of a church to a restaurant 2 blocks away because it would serve alcohol, and it would “gentrify the neighborhood and fill it with drunks so close to a university and historical land.” There must be some kickbacks somewhere. How much is Shaw and the Central CAC getting to OK this and give their blessing? Somebody’s pockets are filling. They keep talking about how this is a historical area, but have no problem moving historical homes far and away from the hallowed ground they’re selling off. That hotel would serve alcohol as well. What hypocritical sellouts.

  30. TBJ has rendering of Charter North Tower. 22 stories. Twice as tall as Charter South Tower. It looks decent IMO.

  31. You can check out TBJ for the rendition of CHarter Sq North. It was released about half an hour ago. Wooooolf. I don’t usually make a lot of comments about how I think things look, but I hope this is an image error. Those “dividers” being separated every couple of floors going up the building just hurts the eyes. 22 floors.

  32. I kind of dig it although, I’d like official height numbers. Looks to be about 325-350 feet tall. I do like the stepped in look along the sides. This will do wonders for the skyline in the money shot. Suffice it to say, this is the most impactful building in some time.

  33. Folks will always disagree somewhat on aesthetics, but I think it looks pretty cool. It’s nice to see something different.

  34. It looks OK. Leave it to JDavis to design a “sister” building to the South Tower that essentially just looks like a bigger, more cluttered version of the South tower. Nothing that really sets it apart and makes it stand out, which is a shame given that this will be much taller and definitely visible in the skyline. In fact, if it weren’t for the weird alternating “dividers” that Bob pointed out, it would pretty much look exactly the same. Which makes me feel like the criss-cross divider things were added to try to make it look different. Meh. However, given their track record (especially with the south tower) there’s a good chance that the final product will look absolutely nothing like what rendering they release anyway. In the end, I’m just happy it’s tall. They say “twice as tall” in the article, but I have a hard time believing that the North tower will be 420 feet tall. Still, anything in the 300-400ft range is more than welcome.

  35. Just before I checked out TBJ and JDavis’ website in hope of updates, I visited this blog and saw that our prayers have been answered :) I look forward to reading everyone’s reactions, but I will go ahead and share mine.

    First and foremost, the wait is over. This is one of the things that kills me the most. My overall reaction is positive. It is indeed something different, even if the exterior color is similar to the South Tower. At least it’s not beige :LOL:

    The architectural details aren’t too bad. Sure, it is a boxy building, but this may also change in the future. It seems that the foundation restrictions that limited the South Tower to 210ft do not exist for the North Tower, so we may hope that the final height may increase (in feet, at least) and the shape could get improved as the building gets reviewed. Naturally, if demand exceeds the expectations, this building could grow taller, although I won’t hold my breath. I didn’t read anything about LEED certification, but I surely hope that the developer will go for it. I anticipate the overall height to be around 350ft, giving us the first building in that range.

    My biggest question is this: Why don’t hotel developers go after such projects? If height is not restricted, even a small hotel could add another 7-10 floors in the overall height. We are about to get 3 small hotels, yet nobody seems to be interested in building on the top of Edison Office of Charter Square North.

    Anyway, this is a moment to celebrate, as we finally get more information on one of the most anticipated projects in Downtown Raleigh’s recent history. Along with the Edison Office and The Dillon, Charter Square North will keep us busy for a while. Hopefully, Dominion Realty will receive lots of interest in order to get his new building moving forward.

  36. Looks pretty good to me! I like the fact that it’s not just a flat glass box. It complements the other building well. My only hope is that it actually gets going. All this waiting kills me! LOL

  37. One thing that puzzles me a little in the TBJ’s article is the following:

    “The 1.95-acre site for Charter Square North tower, on the other hand, doesn’t have such restrictions. Site plans filed with the city’s planning department show that it could have a maximum 760,956 square feet of commercial space. That would include 194 apartment units and a sky view pool deck on the upper levels and about 250,000-square-feet of office space on the lower levels.”

    The maximum square footage is could be over 760k sf, which would include 194 apartments and 250k sf of office space. I wonder how much space the 194 apartments would take up. I doubt very seriously that the final project will be anywhere near 760k sf, unless they talk about the possibility of increasing the size in the future. This won’t bother me at all :LOL:

  38. Almost the exact same amount of office space as the South tower (~250k sf). Plus the 11 floors of apartments on top. I wonder if the apartments will help with the financing to actually get the construction started. With the south tower only 1/2 leased, seems like it could be a long time before a good portion of the north tower is pre-leased.

  39. It will probably grow on me. When i first saw it, it made me think about the guy at the office with the striped tie, striped shirt, and striped pants. A blur of stuff going on. But size wise I think we are getting what we were sold. They didn’t come in with a portrait of a 15 story building. It’s a multi use building, it will add to the sky line.

  40. The surface of Charter Square North looks fine, it’s the shape I’m not so big on. What happened to golden ratios? It’s yet another building with a crown on top that completely doesn’t follow any pleasing ratio with the rest of the tower.

  41. Well… it is exciting to see this moving forward and know that it is going to be 22 stories, but I’d be lying if I said that I was excited about the design. Sure hope that this is the initial rendering and it will be more polished by the time it is approved and built. Obviously this is will be a major addition to our skyline, and the better the design, the greater the impact. Here’s hoping for a nice lighted crown, too. I know, wishful thinking. When I save up $50+ million, my building is going to have a lighted crown. It just could be a while…

  42. I hope that the 2 leases that are questionable for Charter South will happen ! I would love to see Charter North happen before The Edison! Looking forward to seeing the height in feet for the North Tower !

  43. The North Tower. Finally a rendering! Somewhere around 400 feet, what’s not to like. Pretty much what I expected, a taller version of the South building. I do like the color and it’s going to give the skyline a huge boost, that fourth taller building.

  44. I think that this building, plus the other three 19+ floor buildings proposed, and the four hotels proposed, will bring Raleigh’s skyline more in the league of cities its size. The view from DH Hill will look like a major city. People visiting for conventions will feel like they’re in an actual city.

    It’ll leapfrog Orlando and close much of the distance with Richmond and Nashville.

    This is a pretty significant milestone for Raleigh, and the timing is good because the city will reach 500,000 in the near future. That tends to be a big inflection point in the growth of cities. It was for Charlotte, Austin, Nashville.

  45. ^^yeah, and that’s if you choose to leave Cary’s
    Population out. I would probably choose to count all population inside of 540 when coming up with a realistic population. So more like 600,000 people+. Just saying this to emphasize how much Raleigh could catch up. Of course, a lot of those towns don’t have the twin city downtown(Durham) and this area’s major source of jobs is RTP and not downtown.

  46. As mentioned many times before, by many people, RTP is a blessing and a curse for Raleigh and Durham. I wish that the companies which operate out of RTP were strictly research – along with some manufacturing – and not service companies, “pushing” the latter closer to our downtown areas. I am glad to see RTP planners looking more into urban options, but they steal a lot of businesses from Raleigh and Durham.

    As for the skyline, I am not sure I could agree that after the 4-5 upcoming projects are built Raleigh will have caught up with other similar metros and/or cities. I will agree, however, that after we cross the 500,000 residents mark (strictly in Raleigh), we shall see a tremendous boom in many aspects, including the skyline. Since there is no formula to determine how our skyline should look like, I would say that Raleigh’s skyline should look more like Tampa’s or Pittsburgh’s – I know some of you will shoot me for saying that :LOL:

    Something that I said before, but I think it would fit into this conversation. Raleigh’s skyline will become something like Portland’s. Not in the number of high-rises, or the urban fabric of DT Portland, but the overall feel. Buildings around 20 floors will provide some kind of density, but I surely hope they become the fillers in our skyline, not the signature buildings.

  47. Comparing to Pittsburgh and Tampa is preposterous. Those are 2.6 and 2.8 million CSAs. Richmond, Jacksonville, Birmingham, Memphis are the closest comparisons. Their MSAs and CSAs (if they have one) are nearly the same size as Raleigh’s MSA and CSA. We won’t *quite* catch up with the next batch of projects but we’ll be close enough that you could hold postcards up of Raleigh with these other cities without cringing finally. I like the architecture in Raleigh more than these other cities, and that will help compensate somewhat for the still-lower density.

    We will pass Orlando and Providence for sure. That’s a big deal because those are textbook cities people point to for having ‘bad skylines for their size’, and being above that group will be good.

  48. [img]http://i.imgur.com/xK7urdL.jpg[/img]

    This is what’s currently proposed… makes a big difference.

  49. @Vatnos: I don’t care about the MSA/CSA numbers. I am talking strictly about city size and it is about time we begin treating Raleigh as a separate entity. However, I only offered my opinion of what our skyline should look like and did NOT compare Raleigh with Tampa and Pittsburgh. What is preposterous, on the other hand, is to bring JAX and Memphis into the mix. Really? The two cities have population of 853,382 and 656,861 respectively (2014 estimates) and you think you can put them in the same level with Raleigh? The only area where we beat these two cities is population density, but I am sure this can be explained.

    Here is a good example of a city about a third of Raleigh that has a nicer skyline: Bellevue, WA. Yes, it is part of Seattle MSA, but I don’t care. It is still a city of its own that competes with a much larger municipality and kicks our butt. Much like Little Rock, AR. Yes, there is also Colorado Springs to make us feel better, but if we want Raleigh to be taken seriously, time has come to drop the MSA/CSA arguments and stand among other cities on our own, with pride. To stand against other cities of similar size, I believe that Raleigh’s skyline should feature at least as many skyscrapers as Tampa’s and Pittsburgh’s.

    One last thing: To me, MSA/CSA population matters more if we discuss Miami and Atlanta, not when we talk about Raleigh. Maybe in the future Raleigh will join that category but for now we can agree to disagree…

  50. @Vatnos: I think that you are too generous and optimistic, but I appreciate you share that image with us – and the work you put. My guess is that The Dillon will not be much taller than the round Marriott Hotel, since the 20-story component will be residential. Whatever goes to 301 Hillsborough will probably be a bit shorter – God forbid it is less than 20 floors – and not as massive.

    As for the rest, I think you have done a good job with the heights. Unfortunately, we are missing 2-3 towers that could make the difference, but I want to believe that in 5 years we may be lucky to get at least one tower above 400ft.

  51. @Vatnos – VERY cool image, thank you for creating/sharing that! That’s exactly what I’ve been wanting to see! I’m still crossing my fingers that this comes to fruition someday soon as well: http://www.hobgoodarchitects.com/emartin/ – something that would pop up in front of the Edison office building (and be visible from the angle Vatnos used). I agree with Ernest that this may be too optimistic, at least the 301 Hillsbro and Dillon heights, but we can dream! Who knows, if we’re lucky maybe Vatnos is UNDERestimating! Wouldn’t that be sweet. Looking at this “rendering” of what the future skyline could/should look like now, it’s hard for me not to imagine a HUGE skyscraper right behind the Justice Center (in the enterprise lot) – that REALLY needs to be the centerpiece of our city, Fayetteville St be damned. It’s also easy to picture some nice beefy buildings in the surface lots all along Harrington St (and down West), ESPECIALLY in the old Greyhound lot.

  52. OH! Also, something tall coming up from Killo Pest control, across Moore Sq Park would be nice, too. So that SkyHouse isn’t the “end” of the skyline to the East. Honestly, alllllll those govt owned lots East of the museums/SECU Building need to be home to a few towers.

  53. I have just saw the plans for Charter North on The City’s website. It shows 316 feet tall. If you go to Raleighnc.gov , click on Current
    Developement . click on site plans , click on
    SP 44-15 , it shows the app. for the permits!

  54. @Jake: Amen to everything you said :LOL:

    Vatnos’ rendering certainly gives us an opportunity to see what the nearest future holds for Raleigh’s skyline. I do need to clarify something about my reactions, in general. While I complain about the heights, I am not unaware about the fact that the market will eventually decide. Since we can’t get the city leaders to understand that they should not be limiting heights in prime locations, I hope that other decision makers will be able to attract large enough companies to justify tall buildings.

    Still, I cannot comprehend how large companies, like MetLife, choose suburban office parks instead of seeking the kind of visibility that downtown offers. True, office parks are cheaper than downtown locations, but at the end of the day, wasting so many acres of land cannot be as profitable for developers in the long run. MetLife is not stranger to high-rises and even though Raleigh isn’t NYC, they could have increased their visibility in the area significantly. Raleigh’s skyline has been shown in so many publications during the last 24 months alone, that it should be a no brainer. Sorry, but this lack of vision is so frustrating. It’s not just the developers and the city leaders, but those who are supposed to recruit new companies are not as effective.

    Anyway, I wanted to share with you something I did about 5 years ago, when The Edison was still a possibility:


    That is what a couple of Red Hat towers could look like if Red Hat didn’t get too cheap – yes, they did – but developed a true vision instead. For as long as they are where they are now, Red Hat will never have the visibility they deserve. It’s over now, unless a miracle happens and the developer gets enough interest to salvage the last component.

  55. @Dwight: Thank you for the update information. 316ft is quite a let down, but we have accepted the fact that this project is something above 300ft and that it is the most we can expect. Obviously, the developer is not going for LEED certification, otherwise this building would be over 350ft, easily. I may be wrong, so please correct me.

    So, the building will be about 490,000 square feet. The number of floors shown is 23, but without the 13th floor it becomes 22. The question that I have about the height is the following: Is the building going to be 316ft on the Fayetteville Str side or the Wilmington Str side? I would assume the former, since the address will be 501 Fayetteville Str. In that case, it will appear a little taller when viewed from Wilmington Str :)

  56. So 311 feet in Ch Sq North. That will be a let
    Down to some I’m sure considering some were screaming 400ft earlier in the week. That’s about 60+ feet taller than Skyhouse.

  57. 316 for Charter Square North is a huge letdown. I based my images off of 350 ft, for the record. Halfway between Progress 1 and Hannover II in height. If it’s 316 it’ll be closer to Progress 1.

    The other buildings were a bit tricky to estimate. I think 301 and Dillon will be taller than the Clarion, because permanent residential floor heights are typically taller than hotel floor heights, and both buildings will likely include some parking deck floors. But they may be about the same.

  58. Vatnos, that isn’t bad! Looks like you nailed it. I’m a bit disappointed in the North height, but it will still be fourth tallest and will stand out.

    Now if we can get a nice, tall, signature building around Nash Square (the old PD?).

  59. @William: I second that^^^^!!!!!! Something there, and a massive skyscraper (or two!) in the Enterprise lot would REALLY have an impact on our skyline, in the sense that it will help take away all the concentration from Fayetteville st area where most of the skyline makeup is now – would help fill in the gaps when the 301 Hillsbro towers and Dillon project are up!

  60. Realistically, we are pretty far from a signature skyscraper. All of the cities mentioned have much more 300-500 high rises than us. We have more work to do in the 200-400 foot range before our skyline even really competes with Portland’s (5-6 500 footers). These 300 foot towers are a step in the right direction. Density, can be more impactful than just height alone. Tampa being a prime example, there are some noticeable gaps between their towers.

  61. @Vatnos: Your estimate is not so inaccurate. It is the depth that you have to consider in the photo… The Dillon will most likely be a little taller than the round Marriott Hotel, but because it will appear a little further in the photo it will probably feel about the same, or maybe a tiny bit shorter, unless the final design ends up with a taller structure (in height, not number of floors).

    As for Charter Square North, since we now know that it will be shorter than we hoped, I assume it will appear just a little above One Progress Plaza. Maybe they can change the design and create a taller residential component, but with the same number of apartment units.

  62. @Greg D: Well said. This is the part I don’t like much about Tampa’s skyline. If they get about 10 fillers (300-400 footers) their skyline will be perfect, in my book. Of course, it is easier to get the fillers than the skyscrapers, but without tenants neither one is possible.

    Having said that, I think that for every 5-6 buildings between 150ft and 300ft we get, we deserve at least one tower above 500ft. Am I asking for too much? :LOL:

  63. Thanks for the input, Dwight. The difference with Charter Square North will not be as big as I was hoping. Still happy about the progress, but also feeling a bit let down by the final height :( Hopefully, more interest will encourage the developer to go a little higher.

  64. It is interesting to note that we got 2x 400-footers in the 90s, and only 1 in the 00s, and with the 10s halfway over no sign of anything else on the horizon. Not much of a ‘revitalization’ as far as the city’s actual skyline unfortunately. What’s our city government been doing? Thinking way too small.

    …Of course in 08 it looked like we were gonna get at least 3 more. What happened to that interest? The economy’s mostly recovered. The demand should still be there. What do you guys think Raleigh should be doing?

  65. A little trip down memory lane, although it is a bit unhealthy to remind ourselves of our failures. Here is a list of projects that we will never see:

    Edison 1 (38 floors/574ft)
    Edison 2 (38 floors/574ft)

    The Hillsborough (original version; 32 floors)

    The Edison 3 (29 floors)

    Here is a list of towers that we may still get, unless some city clowns start re-zoning for no more than 20 floors before these projects are even proposed. Unfortunately, no reliable updates exist to give us an idea of the real status of these projects:

    One Glenwood (39 floors)

    414 Fayetteville Street (25+ floors)
    Winston Tower (25+ floors)

    To be fair to the city leaders, they focused their energy on revitalizing downtown at the street level, a task in which they succeeded. I wonder, though, if they should have focused on corporate relocations first, before the economy tanked. Anyway, some things they did right.

  66. @vatnos. I think it’s fair to say that through out the 70’s through 90’s Raleigh/Durham mostly sprawled and grew closer to RTP. During that time period Cary grew from a cross-road dot on the map to one of the top 10 populations of NC. As stated earlier Raleigh/Durham has had positives and negatives from RTP. Job growth has been a huge positive. Lack of growth in DT’s has been a negative. One can speculate a 100 reasons why those taller buildings were put up in the early 90’s(WFCC 1990), and we have not seen much of that construction since. But I think if anyone is saying Raleigh is not being rejuvenated based on skyline, they are way off. DTR is a hell of a lot better than it was 10 years ago. I would rather have five 15 story building vs one tall one. It makes the pedestrian feel so much better and gives us more retail. It’s frustrating waiting on that one “land mark” project to come, but we have great growth happening right now.

  67. Ernest, I have to say that, you really misunderstand the rezoning. There is no 20-story cap. Seems like you are not quite an optimist as you claim.

  68. @mike: Why don’t you take a little time to explain to me the rezoning, then? Give me something more solid, because what I have seen and heard is solid enough for me, and if I misunderstood something – I hope I did – somebody has to explain it to me. Putting a cap is a very real threat to downtown and the 301 Hillsborough is a clear demonstration of how the UDO is interpreted and implemented. Not by me, but by city officials. Without a developer actually owning that parcel, city officials went as far as saying that a potential developer asked for rezoning. Really? A parcel zoned for 40 stories is now [unnecessarily] rezoned for 20, based on the new UDO guidelines and a “request” by a developer who has yet to purchase this parcel. Am I missing something?

    Being an optimist is what keeps me coming back here and sharing my frustration – or enthusiasm, sometimes – with other people who care about downtown, even if we have different views. The pessimist in me says that city leaders will continue along this path of idiotic rezoning, and tells me to quit posting because there is no hope for positive changes any time soon. The optimist in me says that this battle is worth fighting for and if we all work together maybe we can reverse this path. So, am I a pessimist or an optimist? Maybe neither… Maybe I am a realist.

  69. Y’all might have seen the signs about the city-wide rezoning. Call me an optimist, a pessimist, a realist, a lunatic, or pretty much anything that refers to my mental stability and clarity (or lack thereof). Before you do that, please visit the following link and draw your own conclusions:


    If you can’t see the two maps next to each other, then look for “Z-27-14: UDO Zoning Remapping” and you should be able to see what the wizards in our city want to pass. Nothing west of Salisbury Str is over 20 floors. In fact, you will want to scream after you see the height limits.

    Now, whether this zoning remapping shows set in stone height limits, or it is simply a way of telling the developers that their projects will cruise through the approval process if they fall within those limits, is yet to be seen and explained. However, I have a problem with anything just cruising through the approval process. All projects should be equally scrutinized and adhere to the same standards, such as architectural details, urban form, appropriate uses, etc.

    Am I crazy? Why do I see non-sense all over? Why in the Earth does a 40-story/500ft building gets quick approval along Fayetteville Str and not between Salisbury and McDowell Streets? What difference does one block make in this case? It’s so pathetic that they made an exception and let the Edison block be zoned for 40 stories. Well, check out the rezoning map and draw your own conclusions. Personally, I am sick to my stomach with this kind of short sighted view of our downtown.

  70. Keep in mind that Raleigh’s money shot is from South Saunders st and anything over 20 stories west of Salisbury may block the view of what we already have. A taller building would be better suited in the east near Lincoln theater or Moore Square.

  71. Ernest , I have written Wayne Maiorano on city council about many of the things that you have mention. I asked him to consider a 40 story , 650 feet area for our downtown core running East
    & West , Person St. / McDowell St. & North & South , Hillsborough St. / South St. I asked for the 20 story max to be 450 feet . I gave the example of Charter South being 210 feet @ just 11 stories . Will this letter do any good ,
    probably not , but I do believe that if Wayne could change things , he would !

  72. Ernest , On my last post , I meant to write on the East/West Boundary , Person St./ Dawson St. for 40 story projects . Thanks !

  73. Dwight, Wayne is probably the best chance we have. He is a smart person and he seems to get it. Don’t want to become a cheerleader, though. Unfortunately, there are still several city leaders who don’t seem to be ecstatic with vertical growth or simply go with the flow and don’t care which way we go.

    Anyway, I will write to the council members and urge them to reconsider the boundaries where taller buildings can go.

  74. Ernest, I am completely with you on this. I have long given up on downtown Raleigh after city leaders decided they want to make Dorthea Dix into a nature park.

    Blocks available for vertical growth are finite, and yet buildings like charter square and the mariott next door are going up that clearly underwhelm.

    Great, a 12-story hotel on Wilmington….

  75. First of all, Happy 4th of July to EVERYONE!!!

    @Hill: I am with you. Unfortunately, we have been reduced to celebrating for every little project in downtown. Don’t give up, however. Some day we’ll get rid of all the obstacles that prevent our city from realizing its full potential. Most council members – mayor included – haven’t realized which city they were chosen – by the majority of the minority that voted – to lead.

    Those who are interested, send an email to the city council and encourage them to reject the height limits that the new UDO guidelines are going to force down our throat. It will happen this coming Tuesday, so please rush your email. It is important that the city council members know that small projects should not be encouraged in the heart of the city. IMO, the 40-story/500ft “limit” should be extended all the way to Dawson Street.

  76. Ernest , Last week I only wrote Wayne Maiorano ! Tonight , I wrote the entire council on the new UDO Plan !

  77. There are no height limits. The rezoning will have very little effect on what height of building is built. The market will decide that, not some arbitrary colors/letters/numbers on a map. Also, anger directed toward city council for lack of skyscrapers is misplaced. Cheer up.

    (Again, for maybe the 4th or 5th time, the rezoning does NOT set height limits.)

  78. mike, I don’t doubt that someone could potentially propose a taller building in areas where we see zoning allow “up to 20 floors”. I also don’t doubt that the city would approve that building. However, it concerns me that the city planners – and most likely other leaders – feel that promoting this kind of transition is a good way to attract major developments – by “major” I mean buildings above 400ft.

    Look, let’s put aside all the arguments about skyscrapers. Personally, I don’t feel that the city council is responsible for the lack of “true” skyscrapers in Raleigh, but there is one area where the city could do much better: recruiting large companies and make downtown more attractive. At the end, and I totally agree with you, the market will decide. It did with Red Hat and Citrix. Can’t say I am happy with their choice, but the market decided and downtown gained a couple of nice-size tenants.

    My problem is the general attitude and the lack of vision. Would it hurt the city leaders to extend the 40-story/500ft limit to Dawson Str? Why making it easier for smaller projects to cruise through the approval process and a taller building has to be scrutinized more? Sure, there are infrastructure limitations, but this is where we can ask the developers to help.

    BTW, if you have seen somewhere that the height numbers are not limits – although conditional – let us know. In the past, I have read documents where it sounded more like limits and less like guidelines. For the life of me, I cannot find them, but the rezoning map was created for a reason and there is a lot of non-sense in there, IMO.

  79. As I understand the new process a developer may gain approval for a project by running on one of two tracks. The first track has few obstacles and is relatively easy to navigate. The second track, on the other hand, has a lot of hurdles to jump and is much more exhaustive to complete.

    Before the city set these new height standards (I’ll call them “standards” instead of “limits”) a developer’s only option, I believe, was to run on track 2. Now they can choose to take the easier course which should, in theory, spur development.

    The scale of any project proposed is ultimately up to the market to decide but it seems to me that lowering approval costs for shorter buildings shifts a developer’s calculus in that direction. Perhaps this isn’t such a bad thing though? By incentivising development, albeit at lower scale, the city is helping our downtown reach a critical mass sooner. Is there any reason to believe this current height “standard” will always remain the favorable course for developers to take? Once land costs rise and the downtown market strengthens developers will be more than willing to jump onto track 2.

  80. Stew, thanks for explaining this. I still have a lot to understand about the new standards and guidelines and your interpretation surely gives me a place to begin in order to form a more objective view.

    Naturally, there are two factors that will determine the size of a project, more so than the standards that the new UDO recommends: Market conditions and land value. The former is what I would like our city leaders to focus on. If they want to reach a critical mass soon, they will need to focus on attracting major employers to downtown. Sorry to say this, but we’ll need to become ruthless. Not take from the smaller municipalities, but certainly go up against RTP and other NC cities, if we have to. As for land value in downtown, I hope it remains high and grows higher, but nothing crazy to stall development.

    By the way, I recommend that you all read a recent article in the N&O about Kane’s proposal. He seems to have a lot of momentum and support and some see The Dillon as a turning point and a catalyst. This is good news because Kane can bring a lot of quality development in downtown.

  81. @Mike – You are right that these are not height limits. The problem is that by loosening the paperwork for buildings below a certain height, it seems like it would incentivize 20-floor buildings in spots that really should go higher.

    I sent an email to the council regarding this, as I believe height should not be a factor. In my opinion, bad architecture is bad architecture regardless of height.

  82. I don’t understand what the point is for having zoning be “40 floors or 500 feet” because those two are not always congruent. A 40 floor residential building might be only 380 ft. while a 40 floor commercial building could easily be 550 ft. The floor to floor distance between the two uses can easily vary by 5 ft. or more if the ceiling height on residential is kept to 8 feet and the commercial space is 10 ft. plus the plenum above the ceiling for services.
    As for the city, I don’t trust that anything said tomorrow will matter. Many residents in my building on Boylan made specific comments about proposed zoning of adjacent parcels of land during the public comment phase where residents were able to notate on the maps. Well, long story short, we all received canned answers to our very specific concerns that appeared to be pre-written and then selected as the closest answer to our question. I give up.

  83. john, I guess that they mean 40 floors or 500ft, whichever is reached first. I would also assume they took mixed-use buildings and integrated parking decks in consideration, which is favored and encouraged by the city leaders. Still, some numbers just don’t add up, or simply don’t make much sense. Anyway, I have given up trying to figure some things out, too, but I won’t give up my city to people who think they have the right to limit its image and success.

  84. Well I’m guessing the rendering of The Dillon we’ve seen isn’t what Mr. Kane is proposing. An 18-story office building on the southern end will really seem pretty tall in that location, maybe 270 ft? Captrust is 260 and is 17 stories. Perhaps this will lead to some new proposals around Nash Square.

  85. @ William

    The 18 story office building sounds good, but what I read is a possible six story parking deck. And then a 5 to 7 story apt building? Why not combine the parking & apt? Add a small hotel??? If John Kane is all that everyone claims or hopes he is, then surly we should get a good mix? I will hold my breath…lol

  86. William, as far as we know, the 20-story component will be apartments and the 9-story component will be offices. There is a 5-7 story apartment building planned for the empty lot across, but the other two buildings will be in the same block – a parking deck will be included. Unless something changed overnight, there will not be any 18-story office building.

  87. Most likely what Kane is requesting and describing is a 6 story parking garage on the southern end with a 10-11 story office above with a 40 foot min setback from the face of the existing facade. Then a 6 story apartment building on the northern end of the site with another 6 story apartment building across the street.

  88. I may be late to the conversation, but I’ve got two pennies in my pocket.

    I think this paper published by researchers at NC State is interesting: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0102261

    The Southeast US has been growing (mostly sub-urban) faster than the rest of the country, and is expected to see a between 100-200% increase in land development (mostly suburban) by 2060. Raleigh’s population is predicted to grow between 50-70% in the next 15 years. RTP has really been the keystone to the growth that this area has experienced, which is well beyond even the growth that the rest of the Southeast US has been experiencing. Unfortunately, I think, unless a concerted effort is made to change policy across at least the “Triangle-Charlotte-Atlanta” urban corridor, and maybe across the country, we will continue to see the suburbanization that has been endemic of the Triangle’s growth. Companies will continue to build or lease offices in business parks because they are cheaper, and nearby companies (many of them growing quickly or shedding employees frequently) want to be able to lease another building nearby if they need to (it has happened to the last three biotech companies that I worked for in as many years). People will work and live where the companies build, because it’s closer and cheaper. To the median North Carolina household (income $45K/yr) who would love to live downtown and contribute to the demand for these exciting residential/retail/pedestrian-friendly developments; why spend twice as much or more on rent to live 15 minutes closer to downtown, and likely further from work? Maybe the demand from the high-paying tech sector jobs will be enough, for a while.

    I think unless we see significant policy changes that incentivize population density (affordable living space in denser formation [not just luxury high-rises], better and more ubiquitous public transit, etc.) in our urban centers, the market will continue not to choose for it. In that end, we’ll settle for living close to our jobs and sometimes driving into the city on the weekend. More on topic, I hope Raleigh, and the Triangle cities all, recognize this and at least selfishly try to draw people (and a bigger tax-base) in to live, work and play in the urban centers.

  89. Mitch, your 2 cents are worth a lot more than you think. Indeed, this is the kind of reports that everyone must read. I will share the link with others and let them figure out for themselves which way they want their city to go.

    On the other hand, if developers would build suburban areas in an urban fashion (i.e. sidewalks, mixed-use, well connected neighborhoods) I would not mind as much, but they can’t even get that right. There are a few exceptions that point to the right direction, but these are islands in the middle of the ocean at this point.

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