Posts by Leo Suarez

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Taking June Off. See you this Summer.

Just a quick personal update. June is a packed month here at Casa Suarez. All good things so no need to worry. With so many plans on the calendar, I’m just not getting to creating content right now and it’s been awhile since I stepped away for a long time so why not enjoy June before it starts to get real hot out there.

As always, the Community is 100% open so if you want to dive into downtown Raleigh conversations, check it out. See you in July.

Three Plans On The Table For New Park at Devereux Meadow

The city held a virtual open house in May, 2021 about a future urban park at the Devereux Meadow site. The site sits just north of Peace Street directly west of Capital Boulevard. It’s currently being used to store city vehicles but that will all be moved soon. Jump into the video above for the full 2-hour details, or 1 hour and 20 min if you watch it at 1.5x speed, the preferred watching speed here at DTRaleigh HQ.

You can also check out the project page on the city’s website for the slides and contact information: Devereux Meadow Project

There’s even a survey for you to fill out.

Devereux Meadow has popped in and out of the blog over the years as the site has been mentioned for future plans going back all the way to a 2011 Capital Boulevard Corridor study. That street is well documented on this site and I even have a post up about the baseball field that was built in 1938 right next to Capital. Finally, the Devereux Meadow site has been planned to become a park as part of the 2015 Downtown Plan which I covered here.

The session and presentation is quite nice and in addition contains some history. Even more history can be watched in an additional video.

Getting back to the present, the plans for the urban park are starting to materialize as the city is in the process of finalizing the schematic design. The construction of the park itself is still unfunded but could be on a future, this year even, parks bond.

The team is presenting three concepts for your review and I’d like to share each one below. The main points of each plan address the Pigeon House Branch creek in different ways and I think everything else kind of reacts around it.

Line Drive

The Line Drive concept is the first one in the list and does the least, relatively, to the creek compared to the other two plans. The creek “is stabilized in place, with stream shelf and instream structures to promote floodplain connectivity and bedform diversity.” A portion of the creek that is currently covered in concrete would remain.

This plans comes in as the cheapest and the report sums up how it stacks up against the rest with:

“Stabilization in place of the current stream. Aqueduct, site access road and Dortch Street culverts remain, leaving no room for stream alignment or grade manipulation. Incorporation of a stream shelf promotes floodplain connectivity, and instream structures develop bedform diversity. Lowest cost, lowest ecological uplift.”

Sculpt

The Sculpt concept is the “middle” option, for lack of a better word, as this one has some work being done to the stream and the cost is in-between the other two. This plan opens up the creek a bit as that concrete cap on the southern end is removed. The creek “is restored in place, with increased stream bench and instream structures for greater habitat and flood capacity and bedform diversity.”

The high-level states:

“Removal of the concrete cap over the aqueduct and limited manipulation of the stream alignment and profile. Increased extent of stream bench for greater habitat and flood capacity. Instream structures develop bedform diversity. Moderate cost, moderate ecological uplift.”

Meander

Meander would offer the most significant transformation. As you can see, the stream is practically reconfigured on the site and would offer flowing walking paths alongside. In this plan, “Pigeon House Branch is realigned, with stream and floodplain designed to maximize floodplain connection, habitat health and visitor interaction.”

There’s also the most opportunities for programming and public uses of the space. As the report states:

“Total relocation of the stream alignment and profile. Stream and floodplain design are based on bankfull hydrology and maximize floodplain connection and function. Greatest potential for visitor interaction, diverse habitat communities, and incorporation of stormwater treatment. Highest cost, highest ecological uplift.”

Which one do you like? Make sure and take the survey and give the city your thoughts.

For me, I go back and forth between Sculpt and Meander but I think Sculpt gets my vote. There’s a line of oak trees, referred to as the Oak Allée, on the western side where new oaks would be planted as part of Sculpt. The other two plans don’t have that. In addition to opening up the stream on both plans, this just seems like a nice element to have in the future, once the new oaks mature.

Finally, I have to share some old photos I took when I lurked around the area in 2012. You can see the concrete cap over the creek and some of the oak trees. These are around the southwestern side of the site.

What positives or negatives do you see? Come over to the Community and discuss it with us.

Pic of the Week

construction at 615 west peace street

Land has been cleared at 615 West Peace Street, not to be confused with 615 East Peace Street, for a building named 615 Peace. The mixed-use building will bring residential units over retail space. You can see a rendering of the building in this September 2020 post.

Peace Street has been through a lot over the last few years. The Capital Boulevard bridge is structurally finished and now we’re waiting for the decorative elements to be completed. As part of that project, the street was widened a bit and reconfigured. I think it took almost 3 years of construction to complete it. In the future, Smoky Hollow will add a lot and a new park at Devereux Meadow, more on that in the coming weeks, will bring accessible greenspace to the street.

I believe it’s been shelved but a streetscape plan for the western side of Peace Street would really add some nice elements here. The thought of even more construction though might irritate some neighbors but that’s the way it goes I feel. Bring it on.

Get to know 615 Peace at their website: 615peace.com

Video of the Week

I’m watching my way through this presentation from Bill King, President and CEO of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, on the state of downtown, challenges his organization has seen over the past year, and how downtown is coming back as Raleigh gets vaccinated against COVID. My main takeaway is that we are definitely ramping back to pre-pandemic levels as far as food and beverage sales go and pedestrian traffic is ticking up. This is great to see!

Glenwood South is leading the way with weekends being pretty busy. Fayetteville Street is lagging behind as the office crowd has still not quite returned, with around only a quarter of employees being in their offices compared to reports before the pandemic. Surveys and discussions with office managers suggest that office workers will be coming back slowly throughout the Summer and into the Fall. That should help the weekday hours kind of fill in.

It seems very positive and I encourage everyone to listen in.

Bloc 83 Has Never Looked so Good

Have you been to Bloc 83 yet?

By Bloc 83, I mean the collection of new buildings along Hillsborough and Morgan Streets on the southern end of Glenwood Avenue. The Origin Hotel, One Glenwood, and Two Hillsborough form a node of office space and hospitality that is sure to see some activity as companies move in and programming starts in their new plaza space.

The name actually has a nod to the block numbers on the old insurance maps of downtown Raleigh. I guess at the time, it was just “Raleigh” as Block 83 was near the edge of the city limits back then. You can see all the downtown blocks numbered here from 1896 or see it in person thanks to this slick mural along the plaza showing a portion of the map.

The plaza between the two office buildings is now the Gold Standard for public spaces in Raleigh. There’s room to stroll and various nooks to sit at with a variety of views towards the small stage. Two kiosks are inside the plaza which I hope have some new local businesses. I can imagine small scale performances, popup markets, and art shows taking place here. Even late night parties and corporate events could use the space as it looks wired up with speakers and a large screen.

The exterior construction seems completed and if you walk the block, there’s plenty of retail space to keep things interesting. We already have spots filled in One Glenwood as they opened over a year ago. Two Hillsborough and even the parking deck across Boylan have retail spaces on the ground floor. Don’t forget about the restaurant, Good Day Good Night, in the hotel also.

Looking to the future, there may be more coming to this immediate spot as a plot of land at 615 West Morgan has been rezoned up to a maximum height of 20 stories. This is at the southeast corner of Morgan and Boylan and initial plans suggest even more office space with ground-floor retail. The Bloc 83 formula seems to be a hit so far.

We’re tracking Bloc 83 progress on the Community to great depths and some of our contributors have already toured the new building and shared photos. Jump on over to follow in the conversation. Perhaps a future DTRaleigh Meetup will take place at Bloc 83 one day.

Pic of the Week

There’s a nice view coming together while heading into downtown Raleigh along Morgan Street. A good amount of glass is being placed up on Raleigh Crossing, downtown’s biggest office project under construction at the moment. The building should be done before the end of the year.

If you haven’t been following, Raleigh Crossing is actually a multi-phased project with other buildings planned on the block. Recently, the TBJ reported that plans have changed and the hotel component has been dropped. A 20-story building for apartments is planned for phase 2.

This makes sense as the future of the hotel market is hard to read. There may be a huge surge in travel demand but how long can that really be sustained? Only time will tell.

Pic of the Week

The sky’s the limit over at the Marbles parking lot along Morgan Street. As long as the sky can be reached with only 30 floors.

The city council recently approved a rezoning request for 40 stories at the triangle shaped lot shown above. However, the request had a condition to max out the floor count to only 30. This goes to show you that a new zoning request floor count of 30, in between the current 20 and 40, may be needed in the future.

No definitive plans have been announced but I’d love to see an expansion to Marbles, an already big-time attraction to downtown. With that kind of height, mixed-use would also be great to see. As downtown adds density, I think it allows Marbles to expand without moving or demolishing parts of their existing buildings. These structures are in, what looks like, decent shape so it’s great to see an addition to downtown buildings rather than a replacement.

History Lives in Raleigh’s Downtown Buildings

Today, I have a guest post from Tom Packer, President-Elect Rotary Club of Raleigh – Downtown. Tom reached out to me, we chatted a bit, and I wanted to get this post up about the club that has been meeting regularly in downtown for years. Enjoy and do check them out! – Leo

It’s easy to miss while walking past the ABC studios and SONO on Fayetteville Street, but on the brick wall of their building is an historical plaque commemorating North Carolina’s oldest charitable civic organization, the Rotary Club of Raleigh, which was founded at the site in 1914.

This site originally was the Yarborough House Hotel, which was destroyed by fire in 1928. Hudson Belk subsequently built a department store at the site which was converted to condominiums and the ground floor retail space in 2005.

Throughout this time, Raleigh’s Rotary Club has held its weekly meetings without fail at the Sir Walter Raleigh Hotel, then the Convention Center and in more recent years at the City Club atop the Wells Fargo Building. While this blog tends to highlight the buildings and structures, new and old, of downtown, sometimes it is nice to stop and reflect on what goes on inside these buildings, such as Rotary’s 117-year focus on serving our community.

Rotary’s first club president was Manly W. Tyree, pictured here in a 1915 photo and sporting a fashionable suit of the day.

Fast forward more than a century and Rotary’s 120+ members continue to live their motto of “Service Above Self” which includes the founding in 2014 of the Rotary Club of Raleigh Dental Clinic, which operates as Wake Smiles inside the Salvation Army Center of Hope on Capital Blvd.

The Rotary Club of Raleigh – Downtown has continued to work to support our community through the COVID pandemic, raising money to support such causes as StepUP Ministries, Solar Panels for Ugandan Schools, Southeast Raleigh YMCA, NC State Forestry Department Scholarship Fund, Salvation Army, Wake Smiles, MLK Food Distribution Day and the LeVelle Moton Park. Here are pictures of Rotarians recently out and working at LeVelle Moton Park and ringing bells for the Salvation Army’s red bucket.

If you are interested in making a difference by joining Downtown Raleigh’s Rotary Club or would like more information, contact them at raleighrotary@gmail.com or visit https://www.raleighrotary.org/ .