Posts by Leo Suarez

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Pic of the Week

Have you seen them yet? The Citrix Cycle bikeshare system is finally up and running albeit in a limited capacity. The system has “soft launched” with more stations coming online throughout this month and next.

The electric-assist bicycles have been very enjoyable to ride. I know I have been eager to see this system up and running and the timing is great as the warmer months approach.

Buses, Bikes, and Sidewalks in the Downtown Transportation Plan

Last week, the most recent version of the Downtown Transportation Plan was released to the public and those behind it are looking for your feedback.

Dive right into it at goraleigh.org/downtownplan

What is BRT? Click for larger.

This downtown plan attempts to lay out the groundwork for how our future transit system will work within the downtown area. The future bus network of Raleigh will consist of bus-rapid transit lanes and higher frequency bus routes that are running longer hours. Combined with an expanded bicycle network, the downtown portion presents some pretty unique challenges.

The streets aren’t getting any wider so reallocating space is a community-driven conversation that is currently starting. When we talk about dedicated bus lanes for faster service that means less space for other things on our downtown streets.

Online survey feedback shows a desire for non-car mobility. Click for larger.

Full build out is planned for 2027 and with portions relying on state and federal funding, applications are being prepared right now!

When you look at the plan, you’ll see near, mid, and long-term plans for the downtown portion of the bus rapid network. The routes aren’t set in stone as different variables and decisions that haven’t been made may impact those routes.

Below are the maps for the three plans, meshed together for easier viewing. Click for a larger view.

Planned to be up and running in 2023, the east Raleigh BRT line is the first of the rapid transit lines to come online. Moving east/west down New Bern Avenue and Edenton Streets, this route has the least amount of impacts from a historical and infrastructure perspective.

I also think it’s sort of the most obvious when you look at serving the eastern portion of the city. Plus, the current bus route along this corridor has the second-highest ridership in the system. (only behind the Capital Boulevard route)

Mid-term, the BRT routes serving the west and south will come online connecting at GoRaleigh Station. The route down Western Boulevard is also most direct while a choice still exists for the routes to the south. Saunders, McDowell/Dawson, and Wilmington Street could all be possible entry/exit points to downtown. There are still two many outside variables that need to be determined so this has been left open.

Last, parts to the north have many variables in play here, leaving several options on the table. Integrating Raleigh Union Station’s bus facility and the west street extension could play a role in how this route helps tie the network together.

Along side all of this is a greatly expanded bicycle network. A mix of protected lanes and non-protected lanes will be added as a way to compliment the bus traffic moving throughout downtown. This is shown through another map below.

Full build out bicycle facilities. Click for larger.

There is a lot to consider here when looking at the plan so far. As unpopular as it may sound, I worry about the fact that downtown is on a path to having two bus stations with GoRaleigh’s recent renovations and RUSbus being planned to integrate into train travel (Amtrak and future commuter rail) at Union Station. Won’t this bifurcate the system as it approaches downtown? I fear this may slow things down canceling out the improvements we’ve provided through dedicated lanes.

This BRT plan is still only one layer, one lens of the entire thing though. I’ll be really interested to see the full build out and future plan with all modes coexisting. That means with local bus, rapid bus, commuter rail, and bicycles lanes, the system just might function more robustly and speedier than I think.

What do you think? We have a huge discussion going on the Community. Come share.

Transfer Company Food Hall Continues to Ramp Up

Have you been to Transfer Company Food Hall yet?

While not officially open (are they?) the new food and drink vendors over at Transfer Company have been slowly opening and the entire place is operating on a week-to-week basis.

What started with empanadas and seafood has now become a weekend draw for tasty eats including bagels, cookies, and beer. Not to mention the space looks great and is enjoyable to be in.

There is still plenty of work to be done inside the space but the best way to stay in touch is through their website or Instagram. It’s been fun to watch them grow slowly but the ball is really starting to roll on the east side of downtown.

Pic of the Week

Origin Hotel construction along Morgan Street. March 2019

The Origin hotel on Morgan Street is close to topping out. Blocking a substantially large parking deck, the hotel creates a nice bookend to Glenwood Avenue.

Once Dram and Draught gets going at the corner of Morgan and Glenwood here and other active retail opens up nearby, this intersection may be a good southern starting point to a Glenwood South nightlife walk.

Plans for News and Observer Property Include Multiple towers starting with Nexus Tower

Rendering of Nexus Tower

Announced in February with site plans submitted shortly after,
Acquisition Group, the developers behind the 3-acre, former N&O property, have released plans that include multiple towers for office, hotel, and residential spaces.

The first phase includes a 15-story, 250-foot office tower called Nexus which will, generally, be replacing the parking deck along Salisbury Street. Plans show a new parking deck below and behind the tower with street-level retail spaces.

Salisbury Street. February 2019.

Future developments after Nexus could be situated along a new internal street for accessing more retail and public spaces. The hotel and residential towers would all have access to these new mixed-use areas.

The future plans are still a work in progress as only the Nexus tower has been submitted. No rezoning is needed and the tower is planned to open in 2021.

With a collection of buildings and new public street, this is a pretty exciting thing to see. The mix of building uses should keep the area lively at different times of the day and week.

Rendering of Nexus Tower

A street that doesn’t really serve as new transportation means the area should be more human-scale. There’s no need to speed through making the area more walkable and bike-friendly. With the right design elements, the developers have an opportunity to make it look special compared to the streets that come straight from the Raleigh Department of Transportation playbook.

Expect to see the area cleared out and demolished sometime this year.

Next Phase for 301 Hillsborough Shows a 20-Story Office Tower

Rendering of the office tower at 301 Hillsborough.

301 Hillsborough should hold a special place in the hearts of longtime readers. Exactly 12 years ago, I had a blog post about plans for a 32-story tower at the site but the impending recession basically wrecked it.

The former buildings on this site were demolished in 2007 and when no development plans took place, the site was made into a surface parking lot years later. It’s remained ever since.

Surface parking at 301 Hillsborough in 2019.

Plans have come and gone and this time, the latest owners have submitted plans for a 20-story tower with 300,000 square feet of office space. The rendering, shown above, is of the first phase of the project as the owners own the majority of the block. (minus the southwest corner where The Flying Saucer runs out of)

Later phases could include a hotel and apartments but this first phase is planned to start later this year. With no rezoning needed, the process should move quicker especially with the developer planning to build on spec. (no tenants lined up)

With the DRA’s 2018 State of Downtown Raleigh report saying that the downtown office occupancy rate is at 94.7% that probably means we have a healthy office market and developers can take some risk here.

Great to see progress here on this block. It’s been a long-time coming.