The Rooftop Park That Never Came To Be

Vicissitudes of the Oak City is a series taking a look at past development plans in downtown Raleigh that left behind details we can still see today. The things we plan don’t always turn out the way we thought they would and each story results from some external factor that changed things for the better or worse.

The Blount Street Parking Deck

Blount Street Parking deck, Blount Street side

This is the first in a new series I’m creating called Vicissitudes of the Oak City. Rather than a traditional history lesson, I want to write about past plans for downtown Raleigh that faced a sudden change, for the positive or negative. What I enjoy about these is that we can see evidence of the changes all around us yet we may never even notice them.

For the inaugural post, I want to highlight a detail that we can see on The Edison block, something I’ve been staring at for years.

The development of what has been called The Edison has been going back for almost ten years now. This block, currently consisting of the Skyhouse Apartments and Edison Lofts, had plans for much larger and grander buildings but the great recession of 2008 changed everything.

With permission, I’m posting a rendering of The Edison as it was seen through the eyes of 2007.

2007 Rendering of The Edison, Raleigh NC. JDavis Architects.

2007 Rendering of The Edison, Raleigh NC. JDavis Architects. Click for larger.

With a pair of 40+ story towers and two 20+ story towers, downtown Raleigh in 2007 was certainly exciting for development fans. The towers never came but the parking deck was completed. (shown in between the towers of the rendering above)

While talks of The Edison were taking place, a nearby tower was close to opening. The RBC Plaza, now PNC Plaza, opened in 2008 and the Blount Street parking deck, located on The Edison block, was used as additional parking for the office space in PNC.

If you stare up at the parking deck, the stairwells along Wilmington and Blount Street contain an extra floor.

A floor to nowhere.

You can see it on the Blount Street side, photo above, and the Wilmington Street side, photo below.

The Blount Street Parking Deck

Blount Street Parking deck, Wilmington Street side

The stairwells were built that way for a rooftop park that was never built. As part of the original Edison plans, an “amenity level” was planned for the top of the parking deck allowing patrons from the towers as well as the public to use the open space.

You can see it in this zoomed in, annotated portion of the original Edison rendering.

2007 Rendering of The Edison, Raleigh NC. JDavis Architects.

As mentioned earlier, the great recession changed everything and housing as it is today is not the same as it was before then. This lead the team behind it, as well as all other downtown Raleigh projects, to rethink development.

Could a rooftop park ever be built on top of that parking deck one day? I don’t see why not but there are no plans for that at this time.

I can’t help but think that the deck has potential, sitting there in some unfinished state. Economics may never get us there and with a nearby Dix park planned, green space is probably not hurting for downtown.

I still can’t help but get lost in thinking about something so unique for downtown Raleigh like a rooftop park with skyscraper glass views in almost all directions.

While the Blount Street Parking deck is still accessible to the public today* (7am-7pm) I encourage anyone to take the elevator to the top floor and imagine stepping out to trees, gardens, and people rather than sleeping vehicles baking in the sun.

*According to current plans, once The Edison office tower is open (no outlook at this time), planned for the corner of Wilmington and Martin Streets, the public parking spaces will be allocated to support that tower and the deck will be for private use 24/7.

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  1. I believe Alexander Square parking deck is also designed for more levels or a future building on top. Would love something similar to a Ponce Skyline Park in Atlanta there!

  2. Mike I have ‘heard’ that about Moore Sq deck as well. I’d love to know for sure which ones were designed that way. The Moore Sq columns certainly look like the size of building columns….unlike the tinker toy parking decks that do not appear to be situated to accommodate much more than just vehicles (or in the case of Edison, just an additional green space floor). Never looked closely at Alexander though…

  3. Would have been one of the most impressive projects in the whole country let alone Raleigh! Such a shame. The block didnt turn out too bad though minus the Edison apartments. Of course thats assuming the Edison office tower still gets going in its current rendered state.

  4. Cool article and premise for the new content Leo. To others, I can’t say it enough…this is not a project that did’t happen because of a recession…it simply never was. Sure some land was bought and some marketing and a drawing tried to create a project and drum up interest when there was none. But that’s just it…there never was demand for this project, and the developer in this case, does not have the income streams or leverage (like Kane does)to build it on spec. The buildings you see today reflect the actual demand at the time…all residential and some sorely needed concentrated retail space…both of which make this a highly successful development in my mind. Not getting the fairly tale 43 story buildings takes nothing away from this. If anything, Highwoods now owning the last lot improves the odds of a 40 story something later on…after Dillion, One Glenwood, and Charter North fill up…HIghwoods is likely sitting out this round of development(they have the resources to play the long game) and I feel like in 3-5 years we’ll hear something from this site again…barring recession and all that….

  5. I agree with Mark. There never was enough demand for a single 40+ story tower, much less two of them. The recession played a part, but even more so was the purchase of Progress Energy by Duke Power. As a result, Progress Energy vacated their downtown tower and gave Red Hat an opportunity to lease that building to house their growing headcount rather than occupy a new office tower that likely would have been built for that purpose.

  6. It looks like the 301 Hillsborough will have a park above their parking deck between the two towers.

  7. All that water is not very good for roofs and the extra support would be very expensive

  8. As a slight aside I walked the Highline in NYC this past week. @Frank you mentioned this as something to check out back in May. Thanks to your post I gave it a try. THANKS! We had a great time, what a wonderful resource for the city. The Highline has revitalized a blighted area into something quite special.

    Now I realize Raleigh doesn’t have any abandoned RR bridges cutting through downtown to repurpose but anything that can be done to create elevated and landscaped walkways would be great.

  9. Stew, I have heard some folks at UrbanPlanet bandy the idea of the bridge from Boylan Heights being used as exactly that…it’s not abandoned, but the discussion involved how to re lay some track to accommodate that rail traffic elsewhere.

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