Would you pay for parking if it meant you were always on time for lunch at The Village District?

Today, I have a guest post by a fellow Raleigh content creator. Jed Byrne loves Raleigh, especially its people and places. He tries to engage with both on a daily basis. Jed tweets about spaces and places at @Oakcitycre, hosts the Dirt NC podcast, and sends a weekly development newsletter through www.OakCityCRE.com. He always enjoys connecting with new people, so reach out on social or via email at oakcitycre@gmail.com.

For Raleigh to maintain and grow its reputation as a city of innovation, it’s important for us to experiment with dynamic parking pricing. I can think of no better place to pilot experimental parking than The Village District! But first, I think it’s important to share a bit of history.

If you have any questions about this post or have any Village District parking stories to share, hit me up on twitter at @OakCityCRE!

History of Innovation

The Village District has been an innovator since the beginning. Built in 1949, it was one of the first shopping centers in the country designed for the automobile age. In fact, the Village District was inspired by Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, the first center of its kind in the country!

Parking at The Village District

In all of my time here in Raleigh the congested parking situation at The Village District hasn’t kept people away. As Yogi Berra said “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

In order to improve the shopping experience at the Village District and increase sales, there are really only two options that the landlord can control when it comes to parking. They can increase the number of parking spaces, or increase the number of people who use the existing spaces per hour.
It turns out that expanding the number of parking spaces at The Village District has already been tried. According to WRAL a parking deck lived at The Village District for 40 years!

The Original Parking Innovation

Originally built in the 1960s, the deck was demolished in 2005. You can see the original structure below in this satellite images from March 2002.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is R21yYdP1d-wOhyUlZ_JmAHJLlMyakxUVll7Er7OpxxkQht7L6UCQCgBcz3x5yRi9S1U-G7a5WZEGz7JXdYr62N6kBy-XGufcy34IAaebookJ2TMsUwM6hlm-3bF_6Jr02_7dozJ7
Source: Google Earth

There was also a parking structure where the Berkshire Village District Apartments now stand at the corner of Oberlin Road and Clark Avenue. 

I couldn’t find many historical images of the parking deck, but my friend Ian Dunn shared the following photo from 1992 of the parking structure undergoing some demolition work.

NO_94411_Fr15 Cameron Village - From the N&O Negative Collection, State Archives of North Carolina. Photo copyrighted by the News and Observer. Illegal to use without express permission from the N&O.
Source:  NO_94411_Fr15 Cameron Village – From the N&O Negative Collection, State Archives of North Carolina. Photo copyrighted by the News and Observer. Illegal to use without express permission from the N&O.
NO_94411_Fr18 Cameron Village - From the N&O Negative Collection, State Archives of North Carolina. Photo copyrighted by the News and Observer. Illegal to use without express permission from the N&O.
Source: NO_94411_Fr18 Cameron Village – From the N&O Negative Collection, State Archives of North Carolina. Photo copyrighted by the News and Observer. Illegal to use without express permission from the N&O.

The demolition work above must have been for a modification because the second layer of parking stood for another 13 years.

In all my years of studying the built environment, this is the only case where I have heard of structured parking being removed from a project. From a practical standpoint, I am glad they removed the parking deck, though I never got to experience the deck first-hand. I think one of the main attractions to the Village District is the open air feel, which would have been hampered by structured parking. I am sure that the decision to remove parking wasn’t easy. Today a structured parking space costs $25,000-$35,000, roughly 5x the cost of a surface parking space.

Free Parking

Since adding supply didn’t make things better at The Village District, I think the time has finally come to address the congestion caused by “free” parking, once and for all. 

In the book The High Cost of Free Parking by Donald Shoup, you can learn all about how “free to you” parking spaces actually have a lot of costs. For starters, there are the indirect costs of construction and maintenance that are paid by the tenants. Those costs are ultimately passed through to the customers who must cover the cost of the tenants rent. 

There are also non-financial costs: the stress of congestion, the time and the environmental impacts of circling the lot looking for parking, and the induced demand for driving to shop in the first place.  

The costs of “free parking” are ultimately paid by all shoppers, whether they drive or not, and even whether they spend money at the shopping center or not.

Future Innovation

The Village District has been a place of innovation from the start. Its designers innovated what the shopping center looked like when they designed one of the first automobile-centric centers. Its owners innovated both by installing and ultimately demolishing the structured parking. I think it’s now time to innovate again. 

Using a platform like Passport, which is already used by the City of Raleigh, The Village District could start charging for parking in a way that ensured there would almost always be available spaces in the parking lot. Because parking demand changes over time, the Passport pricing structure could increase and decrease as well. At lunch, nights, weekends, and holidays, pricing would increase. 

These higher prices would encourage shoppers to only stay for the time they need to, and would also ensure that parking was always available. With more efficient use of parking and higher customer turnover the overall sales revenue would increase. Plus, if people knew they always had a place to park at The Village District, more people would come and shop!

So, what do you think? Would you pay – directly – to park at The Village District if it guaranteed you’d be able to find a spot quickly? I would!

Let me know what you think or share any Village District Parking stories by tweeting me at @OakCityCRE

Sources:

WRAL article  https://www.wral.com/news/local/story/114956/

Village District age: https://shopvillagedistrict.com/about/

Yogi Berra quote: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/yogi_berra_100418

A Visual Dive into the Towers at RUS Bus

I was feeling it for awhile now but I think it’s official. The developments planned for the Raleigh Union Station Bus Facility, RUS Bus as the cool kids are calling it, is now my favorite and most anticipated new development for downtown Raleigh. With some new renderings dropped at a recent meeting, I thought I’d post them here for us to go through.

RUS Bus will infuse a lot of new residents into the warehouse district with a residential tower and hotel. On the ground-floor, a bus station with retail just might elevate the area into a shopping district in the future. At least that’s what the optimist in me is hoping for.

While the Raleigh Union Station was very exciting (and still is!) to see build out, the rest of the station attaches a key piece of transit. For me, this just seems like the new center of town, the gateway to downtown Raleigh and for some, the entry-point to our city.

With that large plaza between the current train station and the bus station, there’s a lot of potential for it to a be a central spot, a meeting point, and even cultural center for our city. It’s very photogenic and has a sense of place. What’s missing right now are the sights and sounds of people!

And where are these people going to come from? We have apartments, a hotel, and lots of nearby restaurants and shops. In addition, the hustle of buses cruising in and out, dropping people off and on.

As a reminder, there are plans to also make this a stop on the future bus-rapid transit line. Easy way in and out from North Raleigh? That just might be it. Alternatively, the addition of more parking is fine plus The Dillon across the street has almost nine levels of parking.

It’s such a dramatic change from the warehouses we have on the site today. We may see the ground-breaking this year even. This one will be fun to watch.

After 15 years of Blogging, Let Me Introduce Myself

Wow. I’ve certainly done plenty of blog birthdays but now at year 15, it feels a little special. Sure it’s a typical milestone to celebrate for a lot things. Maybe not as worthy as the ten-year post, I really liked that one by the way, but I wanted to try a little reset and reflection today. For the new followers in the room, and long-time readers, let’s start at the beginning as I (re)introduce myself.

My name is Leo Suarez and I am a downtown Raleigh resident. I started this website in January 2007 and wrote about all kinds of things including development, city council meetings, urban planning, new restaurants, and a few other topics. The focus though was, and has always been, downtown Raleigh.

While my job and hobbies are pretty typical, I am 100% dedicated to an urban lifestyle as much as Raleigh can provide me. The meaning of urban lifestyle certainly has evolved over the 15 years that I have been running this blog as well as the younger brother site, the DTRaleigh Community, but one core principle seems to be the same.

The social component in and around downtown has stood up for these 15 years and I believe it will always be a concrete principle in pretty much all aspects to downtown experiences.

I have been pro-resident from day one since I moved into my apartment as a fresh, single college-graduate on Fayetteville Street in December 2006. Now, living in a house east of Moore Square, married, with a young daughter, there’s certainly a new dynamic for some things but being social is what differentiates this area compared to the rest of the city.

And that’s what I’m here for. It’s all about people and the interactions we have between these collections of buildings. It’s quite nice to be honest.

Let’s be Social!

Speaking of socializing, a group of us meet up every second Thursday of the month, organized on our Meetup page, and I hope you can come out to the February meetup. Come say hi, there’s no agenda.

All the buildings and roads make up the playground for socializing humans. It’s a visual feast of treats from people watching to the variety of architecture.

Downtown residents are certainly a small group. The Downtown Raleigh Alliance says there are 21,000 residents within a mile-radius. That’s less than 5% of the total population of the city. It’s growing though for sure as it seems every year, hundreds of new apartments, townhomes, or condos are opening up. New residents keep coming. (Welcome by the way!)

But beyond residents, downtown plays host to visitors. For work or play, people spend time here and they are socializing to a certain degree. That’s probably why we get folks from all over Raleigh, and beyond, at our meetups and commenting on the Community. Downtown seems to be for more than just those that live here.

Socializing in downtown is probably assumed to mean eating or drinking in any of the numerous bars or restaurants here. That’s typical for sure but there’s even more. Coffee shops, records stores, grocery stores, hair salons, and office lobbies. The more time you put into it the more social it gets.

For me, people watching and random encounters have been very memorable and it’s almost addictive to be around.

Last, there’s the sidewalk. I’ve walked all over, snapping photos for the blog, for years and the sidewalk is like the nerve center of downtown Raleigh. I read it somewhere so can’t take credit for this but people attract people. Simply put, the idea of walkable mixed-use areas is always attractive, whether it be for business, for recreation, or something else. That’s why it was copied in the shopping malls of the 20th century, like at Crabtree Valley Mall, and it’s being copied right now in North Hills and other developments in our area suburbs.

15 years feels long enough to notice plenty of trends but still young enough that I need to wait and see if these trends stand the test of time. I’ll be betting on people and their desire to socialize being a driving-force for downtown Raleigh for years to come.

Here’s to being social, past, present, and future! Happy 15! See you out there.

A Cranetastic Year for Downtown Raleigh

An easy thing to notice from following developments, not being in the industry by the way, is that a lot of planning goes into all these things. It’s probably an underappreciated aspect of building larger structures but of course it is; there’s a lot going on behind the scenes. When it all starts to come together and construction starts, that’s when it feels real.

In just a few short weeks, new tower cranes have popped up in downtown. We’re still building stuff and that’s great for downtown’s vitality and future. Investments continue and that’s a sign for optimism for downtown Raleigh. Let’s recap the things we can actually see being built right now.

Hilton Garden Inn/Homewood Suites

Shown in the foreground of the above photo, a new hotel is coming to the corner of McDowell and Davie Streets. The building will have two brands which include a Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites. That’s 259 additional rooms within walking distance to Fayetteville Street, the Raleigh Convention Center, and the Warehouse District.

The Hampton Inn on Glenwood is Hilton’s first presence into downtown Raleigh so this would make it their second offering. I imagine a variety of brands is great to see. Plus, another rooftop bar option isn’t bad either.

400 Hillsborough

400H for short, the tower crane at 400 Hillsborough was met with lots of excitement on the Community when it went up around Thanksgiving 2021. 400H is a true, mixed-use project with office, retail, and 242 apartments in a 20-story building.

For new office space to be built, I just can’t emphasize enough the optimism for downtown Raleigh here. Not everyone is working from home all the time and I believe innovation and creativity takes place more easily in-person.

The residential portion makes sense to me as downtown Raleigh is near capacity as far as residents go. We should be seeing the building open up in late 2023.

Platform

A crane is up on East Cabarrus to build Platform, a new residential building for over 430 units. That’s downtown’s largest complex yet!

Playing off the proximity to Raleigh Union Station, the building will have an excellent view of the rail lines going through the Boylan Wye including the station itself. Train-themed designs will probably be used to give it that modern warehouse feel.

Raleigh Magazine has an excellent writeup on what’s to come here so I’ll bounce you over to them.

Seaboard Station Block B

Already well into construction, Seaboard Station‘s first new building in a long time will be Block B, a 298-unit apartment building. In addition to ground-floor retail, this building starts a multi-project overhaul of Seaboard Station itself. There are plans for more residents and hotel units for Seaboard in the future so what once was a district of shopping may grow into a much more active district on downtown’s northern end.

You can check out what’s planned at Seaboard Station here.

Coming Soon

Not quite crane-worthy, or at least not yet, but dirt, concrete, and wood is being moved at a few other spots in downtown. We’re keeping our eyes on a few other spots as well.

  1. Dukes at Cityview – townhomes are being built on South West Street
  2. 615 Peace – Condos are almost sold out along West Peace Street
  3. Person Street Apartments – A construction site is being prepped for about 100 apartments on Person Street

Seems like the name of the game is all about residents. In this post, I’ve mentioned projects that will deliver over 1,000 homes that are currently being built in downtown Raleigh. My long-time hope is that retail truly follows rooftops and downtowners can then support a thriving shopping scene.

Cheers to 2022!

Pic of the Week

It doesn’t look exciting but I AM excited for the renovation work taking place at the corner of Edenton and Person Street. The former Oakwood Café space at 300 East Edenton will become home to Longleaf Swine. The food can be had today, and it’s delicious, but the upcoming space will be a treat for sure.

Their socials state a Spring opening which will be perfect for the kind of outdoor seating they have planned. Just take a look at the rendering below.

Pic of the Week

The building and playground at 554 East Hargett Street has been demolished. Most recently the home of Treasuring Christ church but before that, it was a YWCA. The Y closed in 2012 due to financial troubles and efforts to reopen it didn’t come through.

Before the sale, rezoning plans were tossed around and neighborhood meetings were held in 2019 to explore options for more residential units than the current R-10 zoning allows. No requests have been submitted since then however.

The site is pretty large, coming in at around two acres, so it’ll be interesting to see what is next.

Dukes at Cityview Coming to South West Street

The land at 600 South West Street, formerly a grassy lot with a few trees, has been cleared away. Work will start soon on a set of eight luxury townhomes, the Dukes at Cityview, that come with a laundry list of amenities. The estimated starting price will be in the $900,000s.

The townhomes are located on the southwest corner of West and Lenoir Street, within smelling distance of Sam Jones BBQ. Dukes Properties & Construction LLC are building the homes and Cline Design are the architects. The eight units will be split between two buildings with a driveway along West Street.

Zooming out a bit, the area has seen a lot of change over the past few years, primarily on the residential side. The Fairweather condos anchor the area, joined by several new single-family and townhome builds lining Lenoir and West Street. As mentioned, Sam Jones BBQ and Hartwell opened in 2021 and Vault Craft Beer should be opening soon. That gives one of my few loves, Boulted Bread, some new neighbors.

There’s still a nice-sized hole at 600 West South Street, formerly The Lynde, a property that has gone through a few rezonings and can’t quite seem to get any construction going. A neighborhood meeting for yet another rezoning took place in December 2021 so another request may hit the city soon for that property. Maybe 2022 will be the year for that one.

Pic of the Week

Have you been under the Capital Boulevard bridge at night lately? It seems like it was delayed (what isn’t delayed these days?) but the art installation for the bridge over Peace Street looks finished and is lit up very nicely now.

I’d like to think this project is finally done now that the lights are on. The Capital Boulevard project is a pretty long-lasting one as far as this blog goes, with posts about it going back to 2010. The area will probably see even more public investment as Devereux Meadow park, right next door to this bridge, goes through its planning phases.