Should City Market Be Pedestrian Only?

Plans for any of this are not in the works to my knowledge so this discussion is purely speculative but what if cars were not allowed on the stone streets of City Market? I thought about this recently while I was walking down the skinny sidewalk on Blake St. (some of you know what I’m talking about) and was maneuvering through parked cars in order to get around. Granted, I could have just walked in the road since traffic is always light but it is still a road and cars have 24 hour access here. Would the shops in City Market benefit if cars were taken out of the picture?

City Market only occupies about a half block of space so we are not talking about a huge area. The parking lot to the east provides plenty of space for cars any time. What hasn’t been available before that is now is the parking deck across Blount St. There are over 1,000 spaces here and even on this month’s busy First Friday, there was a ton of room available here. (I know because we went up to the ninth floor to take pictures, great view)

So if the cars are gone, we would need to make the area more pedestrian friendly. One idea would be to make the sidewalks flush with the street. That way, pedestrians have plenty of room to walk and are not confined to a four or five foot sidewalk. Next, more trees would be needed for shade during the summer months. There are already some so a few more would make the area cozier, especially if more outdoor seating was offered. And as for the larger lot on Wolfe St., a public plaza could go here. Events are already held in Moore Square, and in the future City Plaza, so I think a larger gathering space would be appropriate. (maybe some public art?)

I really do not see taking the cars off the streets to have a negative impact on the businesses in City Market. In most cases, people do not come to a shop in City Market because they noticed it while driving by. This is because those short streets do not really take you anywhere so it is not a route many drive through. If City Market was marketed more as a place to stroll around with cool shops, places to eat and hang out then I think it would get a nice boost. Right now, the R-Line stop helps pour more pedestrians into this area so getting rid of the cars can make things easier and more inviting. And if anything, this might help land a solid tenant in the empty historic City Market building.

The State of City Market

The recent news of Cobblestone Hall coming to City Market has created lots of discussion. Currently, the empty historic building really brings down the energy of the area. The only exception is during events and festivals that drive massive crowds here on select weekends but for most of the year, a few established businesses keep it somewhat alive. There is not a healthy amount of foot traffic considering how many retail spaces there are in this small area.

I’ve always thought that City Market is so random. The businesses here, while being in close proximity, do not mesh well with each other. At any given point on any day, almost half are closed because of the radically different hours between them. It is not their fault though it is just the nature of that business; I’m not sure I would ever want to look at segways at midnight after having a couple drinks at Woody’s or listen to piano cover songs at Rum Runners after having breakfast at Big Ed’s.

Now I’m not saying that this atmosphere and mix of retail is a bad thing; it’s just an observation. The real question is do we want City Market to stay the course of having destination places or should it be made into a district where people come for restaurants or bars or shopping or whatever?

Big Ed’s is great but the hours are horrible, adding to the emptiness.

Lots of retail spaces.

If turned into a district, sidewalks could be flush with the street; all pedestrians and no cars allowed. This is possible now with the new parking deck across Blount St.

Is the parking lot still needed? This could be a site for future development, perhaps a City Market “expansion”.

Top 10 Empty Spaces To Fill Around Downtown

The discussion of retail space along sidewalks in downtown is not new. When designing a building, you could argue for or against including this in our current state of things. When the Wachovia and BB&T towers were built, only a single retail space was included. RBC Plaza is now open with three spaces on the ground floor. This increasing trend is great for downtown but rather then continuing to build new we should also focus on the empty spaces out there already that need a solid tenant. Here is a list of empty spaces around downtown that I think are critical spots for a shop or restaurant to set up in with #1 being the most important.

NOTE: These are places that are currently empty with no news of a potential tenant to the best of my knowledge.

#10 Progress Energy II

Iatria Spa closed down in the space on Davie St. and it does not look like anyone is jumping at the opportunity. Close proximity to Fayetteville St. and Moore Square are key selling points at this location.

#9 Wilmington and Martin St.

Honestly, I have no idea what has ever been in this building. RBC Plaza’s opening could help generate more foot traffic and make it more appealing.

#8 Music Hall

The music hall above Martin St. Pizza is empty. This is a large space and could have the potential for something unique like a bar/restaurant with live music.

#7 The Atrium

This space was under renovation all throughout 2007 but has now been sitting empty. The 100 block of Fayetteville St. may be the quietest one so something new here will help the overall street activity. The parking deck across the street is a big plus.

#6 The Raleigh Sandwich Shop

As the Hargett St. momentum continues to grow, led by Empire Properties, Wilmington St. will start getting some love. The Raleigh Sandwich shop just looks like a place that needs a smart developer to come in and renovate. Lots of potential here.

#5 Odd Fellows

The Waraji deal seemed to die out and now the large space sits empty. A successful restaurant here would extend the Hargett St. activity even more.

#4 Commerce Place

Moving out of the core downtown and into the warehouse district, we move to Commerce Place. The building is only partially filled but there is a key spot on Martin St. that could use some love. The warehouse district has so much potential and spaces like this can really hold something very original.

#3 Boylan Pearce Building

That white wall has been there for years and offers nothing to anyone that walks by. The 200 block of Fayetteville has a lot of activity compared to the rest of the street and this is a solid location that no one has jumped on yet.

#2 The Depot

While Jibarra is currently set to open up here, the rest of the building sits empty. This historic building has the luxury of having surface parking right in front. If traffic could flow through the warehouses a little better I think this place would be full in two seconds.

#1 City Market

The granddaddy of them all, City Market is one of downtown’s more significant, historical buildings. This huge space has been empty for years and really creates a hole in the middle of the city market block, making it feel desolate and slow. I think the building needs a huge landmark Raleigh restaurant or used as a seller’s venue, kind of like Market St. in Charleston.

What is interesting to note about this list is that nothing is mentioned in Glenwood South. Hats off Glenwood.

BeerCon: Woody’s City Market

Woody’s is a sports bar and restaurant with a neighborhood feel to it. Located in City Market, it is off the main strip and is a fun place to bring a group of friends. You can definitely see the local touch that Woody’s has with all the ACC and Canes gear filling the shelves and covering the walls. There are plenty of TV’s for you to watch the event of your choice and a stage for music and karaoke. If you have not been, I recommend getting down there on a Monday and sign up for the cornhole tournament.

Plenty of TV’s
Stage for live music select nights


205 Wolfe St
Raleigh, NC 27601
(go to map)
(919) 833-3000

Metro Beats Its Way Into City Market

Metro Café and Lounge had their opening party Friday night and will be adding a new beat to City Market. I went over on Saturday and became an instant fan when I walked in. The owner, Mauro, has set up a hip and comfortable lounge that is perfect for a glass of wine or a casual cocktail. You can take a seat at the bar, grab a table or relax on some of the couches. Metro will play house music during its parties and on some weekends host fashion shows, wine tastings, and other local events. If you are craving something outside of the beer realm, make sure to give Metro a try for a coffee or a good wine. For all you First Friday-ers, make a stop at Metro this week and check it out.

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