Municipography, Outdoor Seating, Wilmington Street Hotel, Moore Square, and Stone’s Warehouse

Municipography is a summary of current issues going through the Raleigh City Council and other municipal departments in the city. The point is to try to deliver any video, photos, and text associated with the discussions happening at City Hall or elsewhere. Since this is a downtown Raleigh blog, the focus is on the center of the city.

I recommend email readers click through to the website to see the embedded video.

I need to think of better titles for these posts.

Lots of downtown Raleigh related items were on this week’s council agenda. I don’t see the video for the daytime session on the city’s website so no video will accompany some of the sections today. They said they were experiencing some technical difficulties that day so perhaps that is why.

Either way, let’s recap.

Outdoor Seating
The hottest topic of the week was the discussion around PUPS, Private Use of Public Space. I’ve covered this before, even sent a letter to city council, but this week the council has changed the hours of operations of our outdoor seating. This is a city-wide ordinance change by the way.

Outdoor seating now has to be closed at midnight Sunday-Thursday, 1am Friday and Saturday nights. To be clear, this only affects outdoor seating that takes place on public property, basically sidewalks. Private outdoor seating is unaffected.

Affected downtown businesses fought this as some of them depend on the sidewalk space for a higher quantity of customers. Reducing their capacity earlier means less dollars. Others against the change claim that we’re biting into our economic success.

Those for the changes claim that downtown is not vibrant and the rowdy bar scene is a burden. It boils down to nearby residents who’ve complained about noise and the inability to get adequate sleep.

My thoughts, in short, are that the reduction in hours are unlikely to do anything while hurting businesses. No one wins, only people lose. The market for bars is thriving. That’s not the problem. The problem is the lack of diversity in downtown business. Opening a bar, clearly, is the most profitable, least risky business right now in downtown Raleigh. How can we make other services and retail more attractive? We don’t have any leadership on this issue currently and I’m disappointed that the Downtown Raleigh Alliance was not an active leader in this debate.

Wilmington Street Hotel

The rezoning request for the proposed 12-story hotel at the corner of Wilmington and Lenoir Streets was approved. From the agenda:

A hearing to receive a request of the Trustees of the General Baptist Convention of North Carolina and Derrick L. and Heather Z. Scales to rezone approximately 0.51 acres from Neighborhood Business with Downtown Overlay and Historic Overlay District-General (NB w/DOD & HOD-G) to Downtown Mixed Use – 12 stories – Urban General – Conditional Use (DX-12-UG-CU). The property is located on the southeast quadrant of the intersection of S. Wilmington and E. Lenoir Street and extends eastward on the south side of E. Lenoir Street.

To catch up on this project, read 12-Story Hotel Planned for Wilmington Street Moves Forward.

Moore Square
The Moore Square redesign plan is moving forward. From the agenda:

Staff seeks authorization to proceed with the second phase of the Moore Square improvement project which generally includes master plan adjustment and development of a preliminary schematic design process for the period of August through December, 2015. This phase will also include regulatory meetings with the Department of Administration, the Raleigh Historic Development Commission and the State Historic Preservation Office. Schematic design will be presented to the public through an open
house; to the Parks, Recreation, and Greenways Advisory Board; and to the City Council for final approval in December.

This item was approved and that means that the redesign moves into Phase 2, schematic design. As a note, I’m on the Moore Square Public Leadership Group for this project so will report here after the next meeting when some work on design is released.

Stone’s Warehouse

If the embedded video doesn’t show for you, click here.

The sale of Stone’s Warehouse was approved. Transfer Company will be buying the site for $2.02 million. Plans for the space include a food entrepreneur incubator as well as a general store and community hall. Market-rate townhomes will be built as well as another building for additional food business space.

Catch up on Stone’s Warehouse here.

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  1. The sidewalk rule will do practically nothing for the noise in Glenwood South as most of the outdoor areas are on private property. Off the top of my head, I can think of only a few businesses that will be affected. 1.) cornerstone will lose use of their outdoor swings on the sidewalk after the curfew but retain their huge outdoor spaces that surround their building. 2. Hibernian will lose their downstairs outdoor seating but retain their upstairs outdoor area. 3. Tobacco Road may lose their fenced-in outdoor seating after curfew but I’m not sure that it’s part of the public right of way or not. All other businesses that I can think of off the top of my head have private outdoor space or are in primarily the food business that will clearly fold up shop before the curfew. For my DT neighborhood, I really don’t see how this law hurts businesses or helps the noise situation. It seems like a rather useless law overall and it’s probably targeting some very specific business owners that bother Greg Hatem (just my guess). Interestingly, it’s one of his businesses that will probably be affected the most: Raleigh Times. I can’t think of a place that uses the public right of way for seating as much as that place does.

  2. Raleigh Times has always been the biggest sidewalk problem of ANY establishment downtown. They consistently block the sidewalk throughout the day. Hatem, MAKE SURE you fold up at 1:00, we will be watching you and taking photos :-).
    I ate at Raleigh Times once, was not impressed at all, small portions and very overpriced. Have not been back there in years (what an awful first impression – just walking through the tables on the sidewalk was a inconvenience). I give my business to F Street businesses, very good food and service

  3. The effort that it will take to enforce this is going to be extremely comical. Someone should set up a webcam overlooking Raleigh Times, start a time lapse and set it to circus music. Hundreds of drunks throughout downtown will be forced to go inside into bars that are already over capacity? Or they will leave, but where will they go then? Now you’ll just have loud confused drunk people wandering the streets.

  4. mike, you really made me laugh :LOL: Yes, someone needs to hide a webcam and see what happens at Raleigh Times after the “curfew”.

    On a serious note, people sitting outdoors always gives me a better sense of safety. Of course, it depends on the nature of the establishments, too, but the overall feel is different when I see people out there. I hope that the city reconsiders because Raleigh is not the same city it was 20-30 years ago. Times have changed. It’s not as if we are a city ruled by thugs that love to hang out in the center and scare people.

    By the way, imagine what others will say about Raleigh: It’s Bible Belt, backwards, little town, etc. We’ll make small cities look bigger. It doesn’t matter how many businesses are affected. It’s about the message we send.

  5. I think there’s one issue with outdoor seating that I haven’t seen on here yet and seems to me to be even worse for businesses than the restricted hours. They are limiting them to serving only 1 person per 15 square feet of sidewalk space. So in reality they seem to be trying to do away entirely with the right of way and are very glad most people have only caught on to the hours limits. Maybe I’m wrong but it seems we’re focused on the wrong thing here, just like they are.

  6. I want to say that rule change is an attempt to curb standing patrons. If you’ve seen the sidewalks late at night, it’s wall-to-wall with standing drinkers who pack it in there to out most edges.

    Personally, I feel that outdoors should be limited to seating only and would easily satisfy the 15 square feet rule when you include tables and chairs. Tough to enforce though.

    If you want to maximize your customer base with an area for people to stand and cram together, then invest in a private outdoor patio, IMO.

  7. @Leo – Now that I think about it I was looking at that all wrong, the 15 square feet part that is. I was under the impression it was much more space than actual, and in reality is more than adequate for table seating. Thank you for pointing that out to me. And yea it’s going to be very interesting to see how enforcement goes with all this.

  8. The 15 square feet per person is quite generous for table seating actually. It could probably be much less and people will still be comfortable. That 15 square feet must apply to the entire outdoor sidewalk space utilized to calculate the number of seats that the city will allow and giving some breathing room. Making it a bit less crowded will assure that servers and pedestrians can successfully navigate the environment. My guess is that places like RaleighTimes will lose some tables overall with the hopes of reigning in the noise. Of course, easier said than done with folks stop by and chat with friends already seated. There’s no real way to totally enforce this short of the code enforcement being total assholes.

  9. When Downtown Raleigh was a ghost town, I wonder what was the maximum allowed density on the sidewalks. How many ghost could we fit in a 15sf area? I understand that there are challenges to overcome, but this is a very risky direction that we are taking. Unless there is crime, in which case more law enforcement could solve the problem, I see no benefits from dictating too much. Hopefully I am wrong, but I fear the worst.

  10. The issue everyone is missing is they are setting up in the City’s right of way and the city is allowing it and therefore is LIABLE!!!!!! The sidewalk is the City’s not the bar/restaurant. Until agreements can be made and providing a clear passage without walking in the road then this issue won’t go away. The issue is seating for dinner or standing & drinking. Yes, we want a vibrant downtown but Hillsborough Street was the place in the 80’s while downtown was dead. I enjoy everyones great comments and I feel Raleigh is just 30% of where it will be in 5-10 years. There will be 5 towers starting in the next few months but I am sorry they won’t be 40 floors but that day will come. 3 will be downtown. Edison, Charter North and Kane’s in the warehouse district. Once we get 2-3 more hotels we can get more big conventions! Thanks Leo for the forum.

  11. BC, I am not sure we are really missing the issue. It is the city’s “solution” that misses the issue. How will curfews fix the public space abuse? I perfectly understand that patrons may go beyond the actual “boundaries” of an establishment and the city may have to find a way to enforce those boundaries, but how in the Earth a curfew will help that?

    Let’s also remember that downtown establishments pay their fair share in order for the city & county to operate the convention center and provide some additional services in the CBD. While patrons taking over public space that doesn’t belong to the businesses they support isn’t right, I am not convinced that it is a huge problem, or at least one that can be solved by curfews, even though the latter will be used to curb “noise”.

  12. Not exclusively related to outdoor seating and the discussion we have, but there is some connection. Last Saturday I decided to do one of my downtown nightlife tours and get a general feel about Raleigh’s street level activity at night. Downtown was surely full of activity and even Glenwood South feels as if it is coming back little by little.

    Personally, I am [still] not convinced that the city’s curfew and sidewalk policies are necessary, but then again I wasn’t in all places, at the same time, nor did I stay there until 2am to see the impact that the curfew will have, but I surely hope that city leaders and the “offending” businesses find a middle solution. I don’t want to see all this momentum disappear, even for a handful of establishments.

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