The Next Reader Meetup is on October 3, 2018!

It’s meetup time! Come join us for our fourth reader/listener meetup!

This is a casual, social event where you can chitchat about downtown Raleigh, transit, development and more. Each time we’ll choose a slightly different mix of area bloggers/podcasters related to Raleigh. We have a lot of fun conversation with amazing people doing cool things in Raleigh!

In addition to yours truly, come meet the people behind:

And maybe more?

Reader Meetup

Date/Time: Wed., Oct. 3 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
London Bridge Pub

Downtown Raleigh’s Event-Driven Days Are Now Over

Raleighites sit all over City Plaza waiting to watch a movie on a large inflatable screen. July 2016.

Raleighites sit all over City Plaza waiting to watch a movie on a large inflatable screen. July 2016.

I’m sure you, like me, have heard it all the time from those that worked in downtown Raleigh in the 1980s or even the 1990s.

“Downtown was dead.”

I get this all the time from those who tell me stories about how huge the ongoing revitalization of our city center really is. Through the eyes of downtown workers who’ve been here for decades or just Raleighites that have been around for awhile, the supposed “death” of downtown was official.

When that happened exactly is up for debate but today, our downtown isn’t dead. It’s actually been reborn. (or maybe resurrected?)

For me, the opening of Fayetteville Street on July 29, 2006, was the day downtown woke up again. The Raleigh Wide Open event that day had tens of thousands of people on Fayetteville Street. Downtown supporters were hopeful that things would improve.

Now you could argue that downtown wasn’t ever truly dead. There were still some bars and Artsplosure has been hosting large festivals since 1980. I wasn’t in town to experience this first hand so I’d love to hear more about downtown Raleigh in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s in the Community.

However, when you look at investments in development, new retail and restaurants, and the rise of a residential population, things like these seemed to have happened in the mid-2000s. The Fayetteville Street reopening, along with a new convention center, marks the inflection point where downtown growth started to really rise.

To keep things hot, events seemed like the tool to drive the crowds through the downtown real-estate “butterfly net”. Fayetteville Street was and still is, built for events with easy to use power hookups, nearby parking for thousands, the widest sidewalks, and a killer street view.

It may still be the center stage of outdoor events in Raleigh.

Since 2006, I’ve watched events come and go with more and more piling on to the downtown streets. It seemed like a good thing as more restaurants opened, more retail opened, and the resident population continued to increase. We were doing something right, no?

Somewhere between then and now, it seems like we got good at this downtown event thing. Almost too good and rumblings of too many events started to creep into the downtown dynamic.

Streets were closed too often they said. The events were too noisy they said. Downtown was overrun. So they said.

The city was the first one to back off a bit with the growing Raleigh Wide Open event, the one that kicked everything off, being discontinued. We didn’t need it anymore and the event sort of ran its course was the logic behind it if I recall correctly.

It seemed fine because locally everyone was talking about how many events there were in the warmer months. (a lot) May and September are power event months, still, in downtown Raleigh and numerous food truck rodeos, beer festivals, and marathons would kind of fill in the rest.

We also once had a huge water slide in Glenwood South.

Slide the City event in Glenwood South. May 2015.

Slide the City event in Glenwood South. May 2015.

Now let’s be clear. My headline isn’t meant to say that events are no longer welcome or needed in downtown these days but rather, events aren’t what’s making downtown anymore.

We’ve done it. This downtown thing has stuck and a foundation of people-centric, downtown activities has infused itself into the city’s culture.

There’s less need for closing downtown streets, blocking sidewalks, or continuing to pour effort into events. Now that the foundation has been laid it’s time to build on top of that momentum.

This year, the city moved its July 4 fireworks party from downtown back to the fairgrounds. The Downtown Raleigh Alliance (DRA) has moved its Wednesday Farmer’s Market to Market and Exchange Plazas, activating a pedestrian space while keeping City Plaza free for natural interactions. I’m not a runner but I wonder if the number of marathons in Raleigh has leveled out with the Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon series and the Ironman triathlon ending their run this year.

More so, the evolving DRA is easing off the gas pedal on their push for events. Their latest strategic plan explains:

Over the past two decades, a special events strategy and focus has helped fuel the revitalization of Downtown Raleigh. However, as the community has grown, the impact of special events to those stakeholders generates a mix of opinions and positions. Public input regarding events is varied – however, there is a strong indication that Downtown’s success in attracting and hosting events could use a more empathetic, collaborative approach that acknowledges that events can cause disruption and inconvenience to some area residents, business owners, and people visiting Downtown to worship. Additionally, there is an appetite for intermittent, smaller scale activations – particularly in neighborhoods such as Glenwood South – as opposed to an expansion of major events that involve road closures.

With only so many key event weekends, now all filled up, the downtown event “marathon” has matured. We have a sizeable downtown population that’s taken root and downtown workers keep coming. What might be the next layer on top of this?

Could transit be the next rise over the next ten years? As the Wake Transit Plan comes along through 2027, downtown Raleigh plays a critical role. I believe that to be serious about transit, bus routes will need to have priority and with higher frequencies, you can’t have streets constantly being closed. The opening of Raleigh Union Station may start the wave of rail transit into downtown and it’s complimentary bus station may push that even further.

Will the downtown resident population become more organized and vocal over the next ten years? The coveted downtown grocery store will finally land, twice, with Weaver Street Market coming to The Dillon and Publix coming to Peace. (Smokey Hollow) Housing is becoming a hot topic so maybe we’ll see denser development around downtown as a way to support the transit that’s coming.

The point is that events aren’t seen as the revitalization tool it once was throughout the late 2000s, in my opinion. Downtown Raleigh is looking for its next big boom to build on top of that and continue growing.

Come discuss downtown events on the DTRaleigh Community.

Spring Meetup is on May 30

Another season, another great time for a reader meetup. I hope some of you are in town the week of Memorial Day because if you are, come join us at the London Bridge Pub on May 30 from 5-7pm. The format is casual and the folks that come out are always a classy bunch.

Our hosts for the evening include:

Spring Reader Meetup

Date/Time: Wed., May 30, 2018 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
London Bridge Pub
Right next to the GoRaleigh station. (easy bus access)

I think this one will be a good one. See you there.

Re-imagining Central Prison and The Governor Morehead School’s 81.2 Acres, Events on May 18-20

From my inbox to yours. Here’s a pretty good looking series of events being held by the AIA Triangle. We’ve speculated some about what the land consisting of the state’s Central Prison and Morehead school could be. Here’s an opportunity to get into that with the design community.

For more information, go to connections.design

Connections 81.2 event on May 18-20.

Click for larger

City of Raleigh Museum’s Time Warp is on April 21

Time Warp 2018 banner

For those of you that don’t know, I currently sit on the Friends of the City of Raleigh Museum board. New to this term year, I have stepped up to the plate and am helping plan the friend’s annual, flagship fundraising party, Time Warp. I want to invite all readers to check it out on Saturday, April 21.

Time Warp has been going on for a little while but this year is a good year to finally attend. (or come back!) The folks at the museum are working on a big, new exhibit that I know blog readers will enjoy. Our fundraising efforts will have a direct impact on this new venture.

Time Warp 2018

Date/Time: Sat., April. 21 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
City of Raleigh Museum
220 Fayetteville Street
919.996.2220

With a $1 million price tag, the City of Raleigh has challenged us to raise $500,000 towards the new exhibit. They will then match each dollar to get us to our goal. Time Warp is the best way to take a chunk out of that target!

The new exhibit will be about Raleigh’s past and how some big decisions shaped its path towards today. It will try to show how planning, infrastructure, and services play a role in our everyday lives whether we interact with them or not. It will truly show where we came from, where we are today, and how it might affect the future of Raleigh.

It’s a big project and I’m excited to be a part of helping to get the museum this new exhibit that will really showcase it.

As far as Time Warp goes, this year, we’re doing the 1970s. Make sure to dress up cause everyone gets automatically entered into a costume contest. If dancing is your thing, we’re doing a dance contest also. There will be plenty of food and drink to make the ticket price worth it too.

Let me know how I can get you there on April 21 or if you are with a Raleigh-area business that wants to join our growing list of sponsors. Find out more here.

Help The Downtown Raleigh Alliance Form Their Latest Strategic Plan

DRA Strategic Plan

From my inbox to yours. Keep these community events on your calendar if you’re interested in helping the Downtown Raleigh Alliance form their 2018-2020 plan. They are looking for citizen input and this is a great way to meet the team and weigh in on downtown topics.

More information here.

Community Meeting #1: Assessing the DRA – Review of programs, services, and other opportunities

Tuesday, March 27, 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
William Peace University (15 E. Peace Street, Main Building)

Community Meeting #2: Assessing the Downtown – What other ways can DRA serve the community?

Wednesday, April 11, 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
Sir Walter Apartments, Virginia Dare Ballroom (400 Fayetteville Street)

Community Meeting #3: Assessing the Draft Strategic Direction – Where should the DRA go from here?

Wednesday, May 16, 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
Christ the King Church (117 S. West Street)

Reader Meetup on Tuesday 2/20!

Fantastic turnout to our meet up!

A post shared by Inbound Raleigh (@inboundraleigh) on

Get this one on your calendars. We’re organizing the next reader meetup for the season. We had so much fun at the Fall 2017 meetup, we just had to do another.

Reader Meetup

Date/Time: Tues., Feb. 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Tobacco Road Sports Cafe

As an effort to help cross promote and bring new people together, I’m partnering with those behind the Raleigh-transit focused podcast, Inbound Raleigh, as well as the food and retail blog Welcome to Raleighwood. They are all good people that deserve your attention.

We should be back in Tobacco Road’s game room and will be keeping it casual. Come out and say hi!

Reader Meetup on Wednesday 10/4!

What started as an idea over coffee will now take place over a beer. (or whatever beverage you prefer)

The good folks behind The Acorn, a weekly email newsletter, Inbound Raleigh, a podcast about transit and transportation in Raleigh, and myself invite readers and listeners to a meetup on Wednesday, October 4. We thought that trying to make connections in real life was a worthy cause for Raleigh so here’s the first opportunity.

We’ll be at Little City Brewing from 5:30-7:30 pm, with hopes to help out some local businesses hurt by the downtown fire back in March of this year. The street has been closed and revenues are slumping as a result. If you’re hungry, a group will then be heading to Clouds Brewing afterward.

See you then.

Reader Meetup @ Little City Brewing

Date/Time: Wed., Oct. 4 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
400 W North Street
Raleigh, NC 27603