Posts by Leo Suarez

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Pic of the Week

More demolition is taking place in downtown Raleigh. This time, it’s along Dawson Street on the Caswell Square block.

The century-old, state-owned buildings, the biggest being a former heating plant for the state government complex, had interest from a developer but the Council of State did not approve selling to a private entity.

At this time, there are no plans for the land and there have been no released master plans for the Caswell Square block. I feel it’s a shame to see more Raleigh-history demolished, especially when there was interest for renovation. At the same time though, I’m not sure about selling the land for private use.

The state government is probably the worst landlord in Raleigh so behavior like this is not surprising.

You can revisit Caswell Square on this December 2016 blog post.

Checking out the Recent Demolition work Near Nash Square

The block to the south of Nash Square, think Whiskey Kitchen, The Berkeley Cafe, and the former Firestone Auto, is looking a bit more airy these days. Bloc 122 (for the history buffs out there) has had plans for a pair of hotels in the works for awhile and demolition of the existing buildings look nearly complete.

Shown above is the southeast corner of Martin and Dawson Streets. The former buildings have been leveled and are now being shoveled away.

Past submitted plans suggest a nine-story hotel with outdoor terrace on the fourth floor. There haven’t been any announcements as to which hotel brand the building may be.

On the opposite corner of the block, the northwest corner of Davie and McDowell Streets has also been cleared out. Here, we’ve seen multiple renderings for a hotel and maybe that project will finally start in the near future.

You can jump back here to review the latest on this but the latest plans were for a 14-story hotel. This project has been around for over five years so maybe, just maybe it’ll start soon. The brands for this hotel were to be a Hilton Garden Inn & Homewood Suites.

And while not quite demolition related, I wanted to throw up more photos of this block. As the former Firestone Auto has closed up, it’s left a little bit of a hole here especially with the removal of that classic sign.

We’re tracking these developments on the Community so follow along if you want to join in on the discussion.

A Walk Around Chavis Park

In case you’ve missed it, a big piece of Chavis Park is getting a complete overhaul and there’s plenty to spy over the construction fencing these days. While you can’t exactly walk around the construction due to the creek, you can easily get a sense of how much is being worked on.

Some quick history, Chavis Park is being renovated with money from a previous parks bond. The scope includes:

  • Building a new gym
  • Building a new community center
  • Building a new central plaza with splash pad
  • Rebuilding the playground area
  • Renovating the original carousel house

During this phase (more construction phases to come in the future) the former splash pad and outdoor pool have been removed but a future aquatics center is planned.

Below is the front of the new community center as seen standing right next to the existing carousel house. The rendering and aerial shot come from the city’s website on the project.

Progress as of February 2020

The old playground is gone and the area seems to be used to hold equipment for now. Same goes for the parking lot.

The former carousel house has also been emptied out. Renovation work was much needed on this structure.

It’s been pretty obvious if you follow the news the Dix Park gets a lot of attention and people want to find ways to connect downtown Raleigh to Dix Park. They often overlook the immediate availability and access that Chavis has offered for years.

With a new community center, gym, plaza, and playground for kids, Chavis delivers that community space in the near future as Dix goes on its decades-long journey to become a destination park. It’s a perfect compliment to having spaces for all in and around downtown Raleigh.

Phase 1 construction is planned to complete in Spring 2021. Phase 2 funding is actually tentatively planned for a park bond this year.

Pic of the Week

City Plaza is getting some work done. All the planters have been emptied and currently the fountain is being taken apart. It will be removed entirely with new pavers put in place. The existing planters are undergoing maintenance and new plants will eventually be put in.

There does seem to be a change against fountains over at the city as the fountains in front of the convention center and performing arts center have been drained and filled with plants over the past year or two. I’m not sure if it’s a cost-driven move, green approach, something else or some combination.

Not that any of them were particularly amazing but I’ve always been a fan of water features in a city. Perhaps this will allow for more diverse uses in the future.

New, Custom-Designed Bus Shelters on the Way

This month, the Raleigh City Council has moved forward with adding much nicer bus shelters to our existing system. This was a result of a design competition that was held a few years ago. The design has changed since the competition but the result is still a stark difference from our current design.

You may have already seen the concept shelters as some are installed outside of the NC Museum of Art. Now, we’ll be seeing more around the city.

The video above from the March 3 council meeting has the history and latest discussion on this topic.

From the beginning, finding a way to elevate the GoRaleigh brand was important. Bus shelters can be seen as the “front door” to transit so the difference between the current shelter and this new one helps show a greater commitment to transit by our city.

Last year, the council lowered the requirement (based on daily riders) for a bus stop to get a shelter installed. That change made about 200 stops now eligible for a bus shelter. The city hopes to have this built out by 2023. That would mean that 85% of riders would have access to a shelter.

The use of the new shelter would result in a 14.6% increase in the cost to install a bus shelter. ($28,300 vs. $24.700, based on averages)

I think they look great and the branding behind them is worth the extra cost.

Pic of the Week

Photo by @oakcitydylan

Downtown is getting a new surface parking lot.

Starting at the southeast corner of Hargett and Harrington Streets, a string of properties including some buildings that housed the former Goodwill are now being demolished. The lots will be a parking lot until future development plans are put in place.

For clarity, the building where the wine bar Vita Vite is located is unaffected.

Surface parking is a common tactic for property owners to hold on to property and still generate some revenue. This puts it in a position that’s shovel-ready (no buildings to clear) and no labor is needed. (a kiosk does all the work)

Highwoods Realty currently owns it and is using the same tactic on the southeast corner of Martin and Wilmington. Let’s hope it’s not parking for too long.

You can see more photos of the site demolition as we follow it closely on the Community.

Checking in with New Developments on West Cabarrus Street

Working its way through the design process are some new developments for the 500 block of West Cabarrus Street. Brand new residential, office, retail, and dining options may come to an area that’s mostly empty. save for a few small offices.

First, across the street from the former train station, now a gravel parking lot, between West Street and Dupont Circle are plans for some much needed density and mixed of uses. Dive into the Appearance Commission’s agenda, AAD-6-20, to see the latest.

For clarity on the location, let’s look at a modified aerial from Google Maps. Click for a larger view.

The intersection of Cabarrus and West is going to get a lot livelier. The office tower pair shown in the renderings above are for the northwest corner which currently looks like this:

Northwest corner of West and Cabarrus Street. February 2020.

In addition to the office towers, residential and parking is planned for the western half. Named The Platform in the renderings, over 300 apartments and 1,000 parking spaces would be built to support the mixed-use development.

The second half of the area includes plans for a warehouse renovation across the street that could possibly bring a mix of retail and restaurants. The warehouse on the southwest corner will be renovated and the area between them could be a courtyard with lots of outdoor seating.

Southwest corner of West and Cabarrus Street. February 2020.
Rendering from Kane Realty.

Kane Realty with architects Duda Paine (the office towers) and Raleigh Architecture Co. (warehouse rehab), who have worked on other projects together in downtown Raleigh, are behind the plans here. No rezoning is needed for these plans.

This is a great density boost for the area as putting hundreds of residential units and hundreds of thousands of square feet of office space near transit in Union Station and the future RUSBUS just makes sense.