Pic of the Week

Fencing has gone up around the future Raleigh Union Station. Perhaps things will start soon.

Hat tip to Richard. Thanks!

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  1. As a matter of fact, it was pretty cool looking out the Martin St window at CAM imagining Union Station right down the street and a big tower right across the street. The Warehouse District is about to be THE PLACE.

  2. Hopefully once they get going this project will move along quickly. It certainly seems off to a very slow start. The groundbreaking was several months ago and now they got a fence up. Anywhoooo…speaking of fences, hopefully we will see one going up for the next phase of the Edison project between PNC and SkyHouse pretty soon.

  3. A fence is a good representation of two things…

    One is the start of the station…?

    Second is a break being applied by the general assembly’s new cap on monies available for Light Rail…?

    Yes, I know, Raleigh won’t have LR but I bet dollars to donuts that they will apply this new financial rule to all modes of transportation that they don’t already provide for with the current gas tax, (read roads). ?

  4. I saw on the way home from work a fence is up around the Albermarle Building for renovations. News broke about this renovation some time back. Hopefully the renovations approve the street level appeal as well as the inside of the building.

  5. Amazing, isn’t it? I agree with Mr Hatem, although I am not sure he has the backing to deliver taller buildings. Empire Properties will probably do fine with buildings shorter than 12 floors… for now. I am glad to see that a developer steps up and makes a case in favor of promoting taller buildings. I wish other developers did the same.

  6. ^ Lol. Quite the non-story if you really think about it. Empire has reached their stage of irrelevancy. They did well to renovate historic buildings but they are running out of those. Regarding new construction, they struggled to even build the L. Now requesting rezoning for taller buildings = simply trying to raise the land value. Snooze.

  7. Bob, I agree, but the important thing remains: If a developer who contributed money to local campaigns and used to hate high-rises – or at least that was the image he projected – says that we should allow for taller buildings, you can imagine how wrong the city leaders have been in the issue of heights. I do understand that a developer could deliver something taller, but the wording is such that developers get discouraged and look elsewhere.

    Bottom line: Some city council members need to become less dramatic about heights and the impact of taller buildings. Focus on things that matter a lot more, such as street-level experience, population density, safety, attracting major employers and retailers to downtown, encouraging larger hotel developers and take transportation initiatives that make sense. Focusing on height limits and nightlife-related curfews is nothing less than a step to the wrong direction and a waste of time and energy.

    Never thought a day will come when Greg Hatem would react to height limits, and I don’t care about his motivation in this particular case. He is 100% correct and I surely hope that we see some new faces taking over after the next city elections.

  8. Let’s look at it this way: they are a major landowner in DT. They are asking for up to 40 stories at 300 Hillsborough St. That site is perfect for a tower that tall. They may be upping the price of the land, but that just means the investment has to be just as great to justify the purchase. I think he is in the right when he says it’s time to make sure we are taking full advantage of the lots downtown.

    My favorite quote was about the fact that all of downtown’s office space wouldn’t cover the size of downtown if it were all in a smaller building…says a lot about how much potential there is in downtown.

  9. Right you are Sam… With regards to your last paragraph, several years ago, in an urban forum, we did a comparison of office space (in square footage) and it was amazing to see how badly Raleigh did. Yes, I know, RTP has taken away from our downtown, etc., but the fact remains that our downtown is underwhelming in this department. Luckily, we have a decent downtown residential base, but we could do much better – and we are heading in that direction.

    Anyway, Greg Hatem is a person who gets the city council’s attention. Not always for the best, but this time he did well ;)

  10. @Ernest – agreed. I’ve been calling Hatem “Raleigh’s Brad Wesley” but he is right on the money here. The fact that a hotel developer wants to build a 12 story building on the Enterprise lots- one of Raleigh’s #1 PRIME locations for a skyscraper- is nauseating.

  11. I for one fall on the very much laissez faire side of the argument for downtown development.

    I don’t think we should be artificially restricting heights really anywhere downtown. On the areas bordering neighborhoods, sure – like Bloodworth, Boylan, anywhere on the Boylan Heights side of the railroad tracks. Even Glenwood or peace. I can also see restrictions in the streets immediately facing the capital building. But in downtown proper, the overbearing efforts to sculpt heights will probably serve to restrict development and gain nothing in terms of better projects.

    At the same time, I think we should shut up and not complain when a developer proposes something short in a so-called prime lot. If you let developers do what they do best – develop – they will build what the market will support. If a “prime” part of downtown gets “wasted” on “short crap”, if there are no height restrictions, then there would be oodles of free land elsewhere downtown for big projects to get built.

    We should focus all energy away from complaining about heights and density, whether we think it’s too short OR too tall, too dense or not dense enough. Instead let’s concentrate on stuff that matters. Street level uses. Quality materials. Quality, permanent construction.

  12. I tend to agree with you. However, the market will bear many things. Unchecked developers could theoretically build lots of crappy 6 story “luxury” apartments across many parts of downtown because it makes them the easiest profit, the most bang for their buck. I like the residential density finally coming to downtown, so part of me is happy for that. However, they will sell those places and make their money, and we are left with many good spots wasted for a generation.

    If the city had some balls, they would press developers to go taller, more mixed use, and with better design. Suppose they can make crap with a 30% profit or great stuff with a 20% profit. If there’s money to be made, someone will do it. I don’t want to slow down the growth, I just think a bit of confidence in our city, allowing us to say “you can do better” may get us something better. It’s worth trying at least.

  13. I agree in principle with the idea of demanding better, with one exception: you are equating quality with height, which I do not. Some think that short buildings mean high quality; others think tall buildings mean high quality.

    I really don’t object to what Crowder did with Kane at Dillon, every provision that she got increased the quality of the project, with the minor exception to a tiny concession on height, which I believe is irrelevant to the quality of the building.

    My comment is this: why should this have to go before council. Make every requirement that Crowder stipulated regarding quality materials, quality construction, and ground level retail on all sides, part of the zoning code.

    Mostly what scares off development is having to be subject to the whim of capricious elected officials like this. IMO your system is failing if most developments are not as-of-right. Come up with something that really works, that really satisfies all the requirements for quality, and codify it consistently, and rarely stray from it. Set the bar high; if the developers have some peculiar constraint that makes meeting the requirements difficult, then let them request an exception and make them justify it.

    I could see a provision in the zoning code for downtown requiring new construction to have a minimum of two or three stories, depending on location, but beyond that I don’t think that the city should ever deny a development because it’s too short. At the same time, without some FAA requirement for maximum heights, I see no reason to limit it most everywhere downtown. The exceptions would be immediately adjacent to historic SFH neighborhoods like Oakwood, Mordecai, and Boylan Heights. We also don’t want a 40 story building on the block faces immediately south of Moore, Nash, or Union Square; the parks do need light. On the north side, sure, the sky’s the limit.

  14. @orulz – THIS is what I’ve been saying for years. I absolutely think that all new development in downtown even all the way over the St. Marys/NC State area should be required to have ground floor retail/restaurant space, even the crappy cookie cutter apt buildings. We also need stipulations on appearance so that the same 3 monolithic structures do not keep getting built.

  15. @William. Good Find! They seem to have some interesting designs on their web site. As far as getting a quality project on this lot, these guys seem like they would deliver. Something tells me they would want to go taller than 20 stories..

  16. Bob, I have to agree. In fact, just thinking, if they are looking to have the tallest in Austin, they could be looking at having the tallest in Raleigh. That lot is prime, and something 35-40 stories isn’t hard too imagine there. Of course, some of the neighbors might not like it!

  17. Im certainly a proponent of height where it makes since. It makes since at 301 Hillsborough. I think the city would be setting a bad precedent if they don’t ALLOW a builder to go as tall as they would like at this location. ** with the exception of it being a hideous design.

  18. Bob, *sense. And yes, if the builder wants to go taller, the project would go through the typical review process. Exciting stuff from that Austin developer!

  19. Let’s say the bidding ended today, when do think we would actually see a building start? My guess is 3-4 yrs.

  20. I assume that it depends on what plans are already in place. Kane was approved a few weeks ago and said he needs six months of planning time and will start in the spring. So hopefully who ever buys the land is serious about moving quickly. I’m sure they don’t want to sit on a 5 million dollar loan too long.

  21. It will be very interesting to see Raleigh and the surrounding metropolitan area in 2025 or so. Looking back, all these plans we had been talking about for years may have come to full fruition by then, like Raleigh Union Station, Moore Square Improvements and Durham and Chapel Hill’s light rail active. Then again, some may not make it all the way. Oh well. It will be interesting to see the changes when they are all over with.

  22. Sounds great, Now I would like to see Public transportation Buses run late night until at least 2:00 am that maybe a hard pill to swallow, but one can only dream I guess.

  23. Development regulations and developers effect each other in irregular ways. Developers with more experience will not be discouraged from doing a project they see as being adequately worthwhile and many will appreciate the nuance that allows them to work with the city. For the city, its important to have discretion because the substance of some projects sometimes outweighs the package. The UDO will continue to be find tuned as developers and the market changes.

  24. Hey William : I have left a message with a friend that may know the update on these projects ! If I hear anything , I’ll let everyone know . Lately, I have been helping
    concerning The Atlantic League/Raleigh baseball
    possibility with one of the investors.

  25. You’re the man Dwight! Any idea where they are looking at for a possible stadium site? Always liked the idea of the plot directly to the west of the performing arts center but looking at the map, I don’t think its possible with the train tracks.

  26. Daniel , A few of the sites @ this point are confidential & I do not know where they are . The site that the city likes , the investor does not like . At this point , there is need
    for more investors . The main contact person is
    a super guy that is a former pitcher for St. Paul , Minn. in The Atlantic League . He played
    with Darrell Strawberry @ St. Paul & every home
    game was a sellout . I wish that I was able to invest , but I am not in this kind of financial situation . I have talked to three city councilors @ this point & two of them are
    very positive about bringing baseball back to Raleigh . The 3rd was for this project , but later on , has decided not to run again for council , Wayne Maiorano . Really hoping for this project ! If I hear any good news on this &if it is alright to post , per this investor , I will ! He has been working on this project for three years & has two sets of plans , depending on how many investors are interested . At this point , the former player does need more investors to do either plan .

  27. Wny not bring baseball back to its former location at Devereux Meadows (where the city is currently parking its garbage trucks at Peace and Capital)? It would seem to me that with Glenwood South immediately adjacent and the planned rail station at Peace and the existing railroad tracks, it could again be a terrific place for a stadium. Any parking provided for the stadium could double as Glenwood South parking for when the ballpark isn’t in use. A cool, urban baseball park would also activate the upper section of West St. and help push the DT core northward toward Wade Ave.
    I’m not sure if there’s enough room there for a modern stadium but the location worked in the past and it’s at least exploring having it work in Raleigh’s future.
    I know that the park lovers will not like my idea but I still have a hard time wrapping my head around how well a park would function in that location anyway: bounded by heavy traffic on Capital and the busy Peace Street corridor. As a resident of DT, I’d rather see the city pursue a greater quantity of smaller parks scattered throughout the various neighborhoods as respites and places to walk ones dogs instead of large destination type parks that would require many to have cars to access them. With the Dix property moving in the destination park direction and both Pullen and Chavis established as western and eastern DT destination parks, I think it’s time to focus on smaller community parks of ~ an acre in size.

  28. I think an ideal location for a “parklet” would be the triangular piece of land between Hillsborough, Edenton, and West Streets. It’s shape reminds me of some of the triangular parks in the Fan District of Richmond, VA. Also it would be an urban oasis with a small fountain and benches. A much better use of a cool property than a parking lot. :(

  29. @Nick, I totally agree and that’s a good example of a location that could become a park. I think that it would be an interesting guerilla activity to map locations across the city where land could be acquired by the city (if it isn’t already city owned) to develop community parks. The advantage of doing so would be to make the adjacent parcels more valuable (think increased property tax revenues) and quicker development/redevelopment of adjacent property. From the top of my head, I can think of a few other places around downtown that are particularly interesting and collocated with large infill housing projects where they would be widely used and neighborhood focused.

  30. William : My friend said that the permits should be ready for The Residence Inn in Nov. or Dec. Permits for The Edison should be ready
    in Dec. or Jan. John , Devereux Meadow was the
    investor’s first choice & had plans drawn up for this location , but the city does not want
    to go this location . I would love to see this @ The Meadow , myself !

  31. Unless I’m mistaken the Peace St. bridge replacement project will realign Capital Blvd to the west further restricting what is already a limited space for a ballpark.

  32. When is that Capital Blvd project supposed to happen? I feel like it’s been many years since it was announced with no more updates.

  33. Stew : I think you are right ! I hate that this has happen ! The investor’s plan showed the outfield wall being on the Peace St. side . A local strong developer did say that if these plans were approved for Devereux , he would support this project 100%. Hopefully another site will attract investors .

  34. One good look at Blue Heron Real Estate’s portfolio and it is enough to get depressed. Let’s hope that whoever wins the bidding process delivers something of great magnitude and quality.

  35. Dwight, I think another complication with Devereux is that the Pigeon House Branch creek runs through the area. For water quality purposes the city is looking to daylight as much of that stream as possible.

    Just south of downtown is the only area with enough remaining open space for a ballpark but such a location is not in close proximity to restaurants, bars, etc. which is a big problem. Some folks on this blog have recommended Heritage Park but is it politically feasible to sacrifice affordable housing for this cause? Other folks have suggested the area just West of Memorial Auditorium but train tracks traverse that parcel. This site is also already built-out with the land in the hands of several different stake-holders.

    It’s too bad Devereux can’t work. Just for curiosity’s sake I scaled Durham athletic park onto the Devereux site and it fits albeit just barely. With investor proposing what I assume is the right field fence along Peace street this means stands would take advantage of natural grade that exists going up to West St. Not a bad idea.

  36. Stew , I do know that our local investor has gone to St. Paul recently for a meeting with the owner of their team & to look @ their new stadium . The two set of plans are for a 12 to 15 acre site or a 30+ acre site , ( development/stadium ) !

  37. Here’s a picture of St. Paul’s CHS field at scale placed into the Devereux Meadows location.


    This exercise is nothing scientific, of course, but it does show that an urban ball park might actually be feasible at this location. Think what a boon this would be for Peace and West streets and area beyond! Wouldn’t hurt Seaboard Station either if the pedestrian situation along Peace St. was improved.

    I’ve heard it said that this can’t be done because Capital Blvd is being realigned to the west but why isn’t that whole idea be questioned? Unless I’m mistaken the Peace St. bridge hasn’t been rebuilt yet, right?

    I’ve also read that the city wants to use land at Devereux to improve water quality in Pigeon House Branch creek but couldn’t such water filtration projects be done just to the north of the ball park? There’s a lot of land there actually and if done right would make a really nice water feature to compliment the park. Also, I’m not totally sure on the alignment of the creek but it looks possible to leave it open under the stands instead of piping it. I’m thinking of a water feature something along the lines of Durham’s American Tobacco campus. At one point in the past I know there was talk about building a “River Walk” like San Antonio has but on a much smaller scale. So why not incorporate the stream into the design for the park?

    I suppose we as citizens could just say, “Oh, okay, I’ve heard the city doesn’t support a ball field here … I’ll just assume that decision was made for legitimate and well thought out reasons” or we could start asking “why in the heck not!!” I would really be interested in hearing details on why the city is so adamantly opposed to supporting an urban ball park here.

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