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.

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.

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.

11 Years Later From the Boylan Avenue Bridge

View of the Raleigh Skyline in September 2007 and September 2018.

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It’s starting to get fun when you build a catalog of photos over a long time.

The two photos above are from the Boylan Avenue Bridge with one photo taken in September 2007 and another September 2018. Over 11 years, things have filled in just a bit.

In the foreground, Raleigh Union Station has really made the Boylan Wye look cleaner with a lot of that overgrowth being pulled out. With such an odd space to develop, I’m hoping for the day that new streets and buildings can just be built on top of all these railroads tracks to create new downtown spaces.

The Dillon is front and center no doubt when seen from the Boylan Avenue bridge. Around it, Citrix really presents a new view of the warehouse district from the bridge.

In the distance, the southern end of Fayetteville Street is mostly the same as the Marriott Hotel, while still under construction, was topped off in 2007. One exception might be the Residence Inn and the Justice Center is there but can be easily missed.

It’s fun to look but a well-formed skyline isn’t at the top of my list, sidewalk experiences are my numero uno, but it’s fun to take a look at how our downtown core is changing in its built form. Enjoy the photos and come chat about it on our community.

Baseball in Downtown Sketch

[UPDATE #5: Another submit by Will]

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[UPDATE #4: Will has submitted another round of sketches.]

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  • Railroad tracks remain unmoved, serve as backdrop for center field and soccer goal. (“Railhawks” takes on a new meaning)!
  • Single stadium provides for both baseball and MLS while fitting nicely into the footprint.
    -Dual-purpose stadium provides building funds from two teams instead of one.
  • I’ve measured, and both fields are regulation size. The soccer field is exactly the same dimensions as WMSP.
  • Multi-modal transit station–train and bus–serving stadium, Red Hat Amp, Convention Center, DECPA, and plaza.
  • Baseball stadium is inspired by an amalgamation of other parks: “Boxy” shape (Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia), sweeping outfield upper decks (Polo Grounds, NYC), home plate rotunda (Ebbets Field, Brooklyn), rooftop stands beyond tracks (Wrigley Field, Chicago).
  • Above CF/goal wall will be the tracks. Above and behind the tracks will be restaurants/bars with porch seating. On top of those restaurants/bars is stadium seating a la Wrigley Field.
  • Field itself could be artificial turf, as well as the dirt areas. Artificial infields are becoming popular in newer baseball parks (WFU, Duke, Holly Springs), and would make for easy transitioning between sports.
  • Backstop netting would also protect spectators from kicked soccer balls.
    -Outfield plaza features office and apartment high-rises, restaurants/bars, grocery, retail, and yes, the displaced rink!!

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A big thanks to reader Will who submitted this sketch of how to convert the southern gateway site, called Gateway Center in the downtown plan, into a possible baseball stadium. Will adds the following bullets:

  • New transit station @ South and McDowell to serve the ballpark, the convention center, RHA, DECPA, new hotels.
  • Parking at Union Station or Dillon with some kind of “tram” shuttle service from Union Station to new transit station.
  • Utilization of other existing nearby decks a la DBAP in Durham.
  • Railroad tracks would be wrapped around ballpark but integrated into the structure itself…imagine the tracks abutting the right field wall just above the fence…”hit train, win steak!”
  • Ballpark (capacity 6,000 – 7,000?) is drawn to same scale as other minor league parks, so it would fit here. It would, however, be “cozy” to fit in existing footprint and maximize fan proximity to field and players.
  • Grandstands wrap the infield, large patio area down 3rd base line, upper deck luxury boxes would wrap 1st base line for best skyline views.
  • Grass berm behind left field bullpens enhance fan access (HR balls, close to warming relief pitchers).
  • Outfield plaza would be zoned for restaurant/bar, retail, office (for those offices that would be displaced), and would include other family attractions: ground-based fountains, carousel, and the wintertime skating rink that will be displaced by Charter Square North.
  • City’s desired extension of Salisbury St. could still be achieved.

What do you think?

[UPDATE #1: Will has submitted another sketch with the view from South Saunders]

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[UDPDATE #2: Will has submitted a revised sketch based on your comments]

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-Stadium was moved toward the SW, allowing for the tracks to remain unmoved.
-Stadium was expanded to show what a MLB park might look like in this space.
-I removed the MLK-McDowell on-ramp to make room. Traffic would be re-routed in the following way: westbound MLK traffic wishing to go north on McDowell would instead turn left at the existing light onto the existing ramp, wrapping under the MLK overpass. You see the same configuration in Cary where westbound Walnut St. traffic turns left onto a ramp to enter US-1 north.
-The “home plate” corner would be snug against the MLK/McDowell intersection, a la the new Busch Stadium configuration in St. Louis (picture below).
-Plaza enlarged, more retail, restaurants, new parking deck, and a grocery store.

[UPDATE #3: Reader Stew has submitted an overlay of Carter-Finley stadium over the Cargill site, called “Cargill-Finley Stadium. This is similar to an overlay I did awhile back with the PNC Arena over the state jail site. Thanks Stew!]

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Holiday 2014 Open Thread

There has been plenty of conversation about a variety of topics lately and I try and group them together to relevant posts on the blog. For this week, I’m throwing up an anything goes post as we wind down to the end of the year.

Recent interesting downtown Raleigh news:

You know the year is almost over in Raleigh when…..

A photo posted by Leo Suarez (@dtraleigh) on

My Interview on This is Raleigh

Link – Click here to listen on SoundCloud – This is Raleigh: Leo Suarez

Embedded and linked above, you can listen to my interview on “This is Raleigh”, a show hosted by Ben McNeely that plays on Little Raleigh Radio. I enjoyed talking to Ben about transit, parking, and this blog. Make sure to follow the show going forward.

Speaking of radio, Little Raleigh Radio has started streaming their feed online while they wait for a chance to create a low-power FM signal. Make sure to give them a try and see if there’s something that interests you.

If you have a smartphone, the feed can be added using some helpful apps. For iOS devices, give FStream a try. I’m using ServeStream on my Android phone and the feed comes in just fine.

Here are two links to get their stream, whether it’s in a phone app or your browser.

Happy listening!

Turkey Day Musings

Blogging has been slow but work continues behind the scenes on a new project for the website. This I hope to share within a few weeks and hopefully gets the ball rolling. In the mean time, here’s a topic for everyone to discuss over the weekend.

If you didn’t know already, the acorn in Moore Square was damaged during the tornadoes in April 2011. A few weeks ago, the council approved some money to repair it so that it could be used at First Night, downtown’s New Year’s Eve party. Could it actually have been a good idea to leave the damage in the acorn as a way to remember the tornadoes of 2011? After the trees in the cemeteries are finally cleaned up, the acorn would have been the last thing to remember this event by.

One city councilor was thinking about this back then.

– bonnergaylord

RalCon Grows Legs, Celebrates Four Years of Blogging

The Raleigh skyline from the Boylan Bridge in February 2007.

RBC Plaza may be the tallest structure in Raleigh but RalCon has it beat with age and wisdom. Today four years ago, this blog started and has been steady ever since. Downtown Raleigh has plenty of stuff going on and those paying attention should know that there is always something to talk about.

My biggest disappointment is not having enough time to really take this blog further and carry out my ideas. Slowly, it will all happen.

The support of the blog has been great and I want to thank every reader for following. The blog generates no money and there are no plans for ever monetizing it through advertising. For those interested, I’d like to share some visitor statistics.

  • Estimated RSS subscribers: 900
  • Estimated E-mail subscribers: 150
  • Average Monthly unique visitors: 3000

I seldom get e-mails with questions or comments for me and “my authors”. It is funny to me that some think there is a crew behind the website but let me assure you that this is a one man show. If you are interested in contributing however, get in contact with me and we can work something out. As long as your writing is relevant to downtown Raleigh, there is room for it on RalCon.

In 2011, my goal is to push the RSS subscribers up past the 1000 mark, even with my modest personality and no desire to market this thing.

Thanks again for following.