New Office Developments Planned as part of Latest NC Budget

Adopted this July, the North Carolina Legislature’s 2022-2023 budget has a few items worth noting for the downtown government office complex. Probably the quietest part of downtown Raleigh, the government complex is a collection of office buildings housing many departments that work and support the state-level government.

In addition to a few museums and the legislature building itself, the complex still operates on a 9-5 kind of mentality compared to the mixed-use nature of Fayetteville Street for example. There’s zero ground-floor retail and very few adjacent housing units. Buildings are spread apart with generous front plazas and setbacks from the sidewalks.

Re-visiting the government complex is probably for another day. With the new NC budget, which you can view in great detail as part of House Bill 103 here, we may be seeing new buildings as well as the demolition of existing ones.

Downtown Education Campus

Talks of moving the UNC School System’s headquarters have been going on for a few years now. The move would put the offices into downtown Raleigh and out of Chapel Hill in a sort of Downtown Education Campus.

As the budget states, a new building would be built to house offices for the UNC system, Community Colleges System, Department of Public Instruction, and the Department of Commerce. On the surface, the rationale is to bring these departments closer together for operational efficiencies.

The targeted location for this building would be the Administration Building at 116 West Jones Street, shown above. Not only that, the existing building would be demolished with a new one built for the future education campus.

With the adoption of this budget, I take it plans are already underway to vacate this building with a deadline of July 1, 2023 and a demolition date before Oct 31, 2023.

The Administration Building was built in 1967 and is the only building on this block. It has surface parking on the northern end and is predominantly office space across its five floors. I don’t have a sense of how much space the new education campus needs but with an entire block zoned for 12 stories, there should be plenty of space for a mix of uses, even a green, outdoor space.

Executive Headquarters

Requiring no demolition, a new building for the governor’s staff is also mentioned in the budget. The building for “the governor’s staff, state agency personnel and operations and chamber for Council of State meetings” should land somewhere in the parking lot across from the History Museum along Wilmington Street.

Planning and design will start soon because the budget also has a construction start date of July 1, 2023. The surface parking lots are zoned for up to 12 stories of development.

I also want to add that these initiatives executed by the state seem to follow a different development path than what I’m used to. Will we actually see demolition and construction on these dates? I have no idea.

On one hand, it’s a big budget machine that probably just executes without thinking so it’ll likely get done no matter the economic, political, or financial status of the day. On the other, I feel there’s always some way to delay or cancel things. We’ll just wait and see.

In addition to these bigger developments, instead of renovations, the Bath Building on Wilmington Street (shown in the top photo) is set to be demolished. Now I’m no architect but I’m told that the Bath building may be Raleigh’s best example of brutalist architecture. Worth saving? I’ll let you decide but the state doesn’t have a good track record here I feel.

There’s also about $5 million for renovations for the Old Revenue Building on Salisbury Street. I bet that’s for interior work as the outside is still looking pretty classic.

Pic of the Week

For those who want more green buildings around downtown Raleigh, sadly the condos at 615 West Peace Street will not be working out for you. The building is getting closer to completion and bricks should be going up as you are reading this post.

Condo buildings like this are a rare specimen these days. It might be worth checking back in and seeing how it did in the end once it opens up later this year or next.

320 West South Breaks Ground, Sets up Fancy Fences

Ground has been broken at 320 West South Street for 320 West South. The completely unique and originally named apartment tower will bring almost 300 apartments in a stand-alone tower. In addition, ground-floor retail space is planned and the parking deck will be built next door.

If you see in the photo above, the tower will bookend the 300 block of West South Street with the parking deck massaged between the apartment tower and the storage building currently up on South Street. It’s not a bad location especially when you look at a rendering such as this one.

I’m not sure there is a bad view here. I’m really hoping that this is a green or “green” roof there on that parking deck. We’ll get to watch this project rise up throughout the year and next as the tower is planned to open sometime in 2024.

Mapping Raleigh: Buildings by Year Built

Lately, I’ve been less active on the front-side of the Raleigh House of Connoisseur but have been heads down working with creating a new map. I don’t think I’m finished and honestly, haven’t even started any type of analysis, but I wanted to put an update out there and share something with readers.

TLDR? Just go here to the map.

The Background

I was inspired when I stumbled on this map of Paris, introduced by the tweet shown below. Technically, it was something I wanted to see if I could build for Raleigh but also, it would be interesting to see how the buildings of today have held up. Are we seeing “mass teardowns” as some people think? What other questions might we begin to answer?

I then found the “ingredients” on the city’s open data websites around Raleigh parcel data and using the “year built” field, I starting analyzing over 130,000 pieces of data.

The Map

The map I put together shows Raleigh’s existing stock of buildings as of May 2022. It’s important to note that this is a snapshot in time, not buildings constructed over time. For example, if a home built in the 1950s was torn down for a new construction home in 2015, the parcel would show in the 2010s decade, not the 1950s.

https://develop.dtraleigh.com/buildings/

Please note that the property shapes have been optimized so that the map is somewhat usable. Don’t take them literally.

I grouped properties by decades with an additional “Pre-1920s” category. This was driven mostly by number of buildings as the counts before 1920 is pretty low. Here’s a bar chart.

That it?

Probably not. I’m releasing it into the wild and see how it sits for awhile. We are discussing it on the Community on this thread so if you have any questions or thoughts, please join us.

I’m hoping to continue tinkering with this map and see what we can extract from it. Questions I have could be:

  • Are there neighborhoods that have been completely turned over?
  • Are certain neighborhoods less susceptible to teardowns than others?
  • Where do you see a mix of buildings being produced at a constant rate?
  • Why is the building count in the 2010s so much lower?
  • How might annexations and border expansions played a role over time?
  • How might protectionist overlays, like NCODs and historic overlays, played a role?

Expect follow up posts in the future.

Diving Into A Future With Social Districts

In late 2021, the North Carolina Legislature passed a new bill (HB890) to allow social districts in counties and towns. Loosely defined, social districts allow people to buy an alcoholic beverage in one business and take it with them. You may have seen these in other cities where people can get a drink in a plastic cup and walk around an entertainment area or downtown.

I’ve done the same behavior in the past in places like Savannah and Key West and had my own first impressions about bringing that to Raleigh. I decided to look more into it and I’ll have to admit, my first impressions were a bit off.

Today, plans for social districts in Raleigh are being discussed in committee. The committee members and city staff want to get the rules in place in a thoughtful manner in order to minimize any unintended gotchas that may happen. Downtown Raleigh is a great place for the concept but places like Hillsborough Street or North Hills may have them in the future.

The topic right now is in Raleigh’s Economic Development and Innovation committee. The May 24, 2022 meeting, video above or here on YouTube, is a great one to watch and get a feel for the conversation around social districts for Raleigh.

Let me share some quick points that I took watching this video as well as an intro to the topic that took place back in February.

Overview

  • Allowing social districts was seen as a response from COVID’s hit on small businesses.
  • Social districts are seen as an economic development tool.
  • The feedback is positive that it does in fact bring more business to areas that implement them.
  • Kannapolis was the first to implement one, put in place one week after allowed.
  • Greensboro is the largest NC city with a social district today.
  • The Downtown Raleigh Alliance held a community survey that showed a majority (over 70%) in support of social districts in downtown Raleigh.
  • Major concerns are enforcement, bad behavior, and cleanliness.
  • An additional concern is the waste around single-use cups.

What I wanted to know is how this works and how I might use it during a weekend out. The topic is still being worked in the committee meetings but generally speaking, if you were inside some area that was a social district and went to a bar, you could have your drink put in a specially branded cup. That cup would also have a sticker with the bar’s name on it. You then have the freedom to take the drink with you.

But then what? The details are of course important:

  • You can walk around the social district with your beverage without issue but you cannot take it outside the boundaries.
  • Businesses inside the social district can either opt-in or opt-out of the social district. Therefore, if you’d like to do some shopping with a drink, that shop needs to say whether they allow the drink or not.
  • You cannot bring your drink to another bar.
  • You most likely can’t bring that drink to a special event that is also selling alcohol.

Some of these details are being finalized but any impression that this is a party-centric move is completely false.

I like to loosely compare it to buying a soda at a convenience store or food shop. You certainly can take it with you, drink it on the sidewalks, even bring it inside some shops. But it’s generally frowned upon to bring it into other food places. (at least I think it is)

Another use case I thought of is when there is a big event on Fayetteville Street that doesn’t sell drinks I like. If I want a tasty beer, I can now bring it with me, rather than having to sit at the bar to enjoy that tasty beer.

The general thinking is to allow social districts on Thursdays to Sundays from about 11am to 10pm. Sunday will probably end earlier. Times are still open and being worked in committee.

The next steps are to finalize the rules and how to roll out a pilot around Fayetteville Street and City Market. Then, the general council can vote on implementing it for the Fall. Keep an eye on the next meeting scheduled for June 28, 2022.

Pic of the Week

It’s all concrete over at 400 Hillsborough. The mixed-use tower is starting to show it’s presence as it rises out of the ground. We’re still 12-18 months out from opening but maybe it’ll top out before the end of the year? Happy new year indeed.

In walking around the area, it reminded me of a 2018 post about South West Street and a 2016 post about North West Street. I have to say that West Street may be a critical street for downtown Raleigh in a few years as new projects have been announced. I’ve added a follow-up post on my to-do list so stay tuned for another walk of West Street.