Omni Hotel for Site 2 Announced

Video from city council starting with request to approve negotiations with Omni Hotels

It’s all going according to plan.

Straight out of the 2015 Downtown Plan, the southern end of Fayetteville Street, currently being used as surface parking and owned by the city, was to be kept for a major “catalytic” project. In 2015, it was envisioned that a major hotel to serve the convention center and a large corporate relocation would set up on the two sites. Fayetteville Street would then be extended down the middle.

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The City’s Latest Plan for Downtown Raleigh Hopes to Invigorate Fayetteville Street and More

Aerial photo of Fayetteville Street from 2019

[Quick note, most of the photos here were taken on a weekday morning. I was trying to beat the heat plus it’s been a busy summer for me. I mention this because I typically try and get photos with people in it as that is more interesting than the opposite but sometimes you can’t help when inspiration strikes, am I right?]

Announced back in July of this year, the Downtown Raleigh Alliance (DRA) and the city have partnered with a few consultants to create a plan for Downtown as the last few years have seen unanticipated changes. The largest of those being the uptick in remote and hybrid work and how downtown businesses were reliant on a certain number of workers coming to the office and frequenting them for lunch and goods. It is also a great time for a new plan as the previous downtown plan was implemented in 2015 and plenty of policies and recommendations from that one have already been put in place.

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Pic of the Week

Have you seen the First Citizens Bank building recently on the corner of Martin and Fayetteville? The building was undergoing a renovation for the last year and they really opened that building up. Significantly more windows have been added and the ground-floor lobby has a nice contemporary refresh.

Buildings along Fayetteville Street have been getting modern refreshes lately. This is probably a result of landlords attempting to lure higher paying office tenants as rents are much higher compared to decades ago when they were first built. Constructed in the 1980s One City Plaza was given a new facade and lobby in 2015. The lobby in the Wells Fargo tower, from the early 1990s, was given a refresh in 2019 and 333 Fayetteville from the 1960s is being renovated right now.

Back to First Citizens, here is a photo pre-renovation.

Pic of the Week

City Plaza is getting some work done. All the planters have been emptied and currently the fountain is being taken apart. It will be removed entirely with new pavers put in place. The existing planters are undergoing maintenance and new plants will eventually be put in.

There does seem to be a change against fountains over at the city as the fountains in front of the convention center and performing arts center have been drained and filled with plants over the past year or two. I’m not sure if it’s a cost-driven move, green approach, something else or some combination.

Not that any of them were particularly amazing but I’ve always been a fan of water features in a city. Perhaps this will allow for more diverse uses in the future.

Pic of the Week

224 Fayetteville Street

This is a shot of 224 (left) and 222 (right) Fayetteville Street. 224 Fayetteville Street, or the Lewis-Woodard Building, has a fresh new front door. This is a huge contrast to the white marble, colder feeling version it had before. You can see the previous version in this April 2015 Google streetview.

A little background on the building from the Fayetteville Street Historic District registration form.

Lewis-Woodard Building
224 Fayetteville Street, ca. 1883, ca. 1925, 1957, 1985, Contributing Building

The three-story, Italianate style building has a brick exterior and extends the full depth of the block from Fayetteville Street to S. Salisbury Street. The facade has a remodeled storefront with original wall treatment surviving at the upper stories and at the cornice. The ground floor has a deeply recessed entry at the south end and a similarly recessed display window at the north end. Elsewhere, the ground-floor facade is covered with large tiles of white marble. The identical second and third stories are four bays wide with one-over-one, doublehung, segmental-arched wood sash windows. Decorative metal window hoods feature keystones and corbels. The elaborate bracketed pressed metal cornice has dentil molding and scrollwork with the same lionshead elements seen in the keystones on the Briggs Building. The three-bay-wide S. Salisbury Street elevation was also remodeled in 1985, when white marble panels were applied to the brick-clad building at the storefront, rising in vertical bands on either side of the center bay, and across the top of the third-story windows. Six-oversix double-hung wood-sash windows remain at the second and third stories; the first floor windows and centered
door were replaced in 1985.

The building appears as two separate structures on the 1884 Sanborn map: a three-story hardware store and office building fronting Fayetteville Street and a two-story tin shop and warehouse fronting S. Salisbury Street. Partners Julius Lewis and Nicholas West had purchased the parcel in two transactions in 1881. Lewis and West ran a hardware store located a few parcels north and across the street at 219 Fayetteville Street that had been in business since at least 1875, according to Raleigh City directories. The business remained at that location until 1883, when it moved to the 224 address, likely into a new building that Lewis and West had erected since their purchase. Lewis became the sole owner of the property in 1894; in 1906, he sold it to Moses Woodard, a local businessman. The building briefly housed the F. M. Kirby and Company Five and Dime before the F. W. Woolworth Company established a store in the building in 1913. Woolworth’s made alterations to the S. Salisbury Street elevation around 1925 and to the storefront on Fayetteville Street in 1957, merging it with the storefront of the Lumsden-Boone Building next door at 226 Fayetteville Street. Woolworth’s moved out of the building by 1972. In 1985, more changes were made to the building to house new owner Raleigh Federal Savings and Loan and other commercial tenants.

*Fayetteville Street Historic District registration form

Bigger, Bolder Signs In Downtown

I finally made it through the Downtown Raleigh Alliance’s analysis and strategy report on retail, read the whole thing here, and there are lots of topics to go over. I thought their recommendations on signage was something I hadn’t thought of since I can’t view downtown through a first-time visitors’ eyes. The report suggests:

If the Downtown core is to become a truly alluring and exciting visitor destination, one that, for example, beckons conventioneers to head northward on Fayetteville Street, the City Council will need to be willing to accept bolder, more dynamic signage appropriate to this goal, as recommend in the Comprehensive Plan. Indeed, this will be critical to the fate of Fayetteville Street as a retail location, which rests partly on its ability to lure conference attendees and daytime workers from its southern end.

The report mentions that the 100 block of Fayetteville Streeet is not as active as the higher ones and that signs could attract visitors from the convention center and hotels down towards it. I always thought the grand capitol building standing right at the end in plain sight was reason enough for people to walk all the way down but maybe not. On a walk yesterday I made a point to look out for the signage along Fayetteville Street to see what our current situation is like.

From a pedestrian view, Fayetteville Street does lack some signage. As you walk down the street, it is a mystery as to what the next shop may be. I think some may still like this approach, it would be like exploring the street to see what it can offer you. However, with signs coming out over the sidewalks, a pedestrian could view many options and possibly make a better decision on where to go.

A pedestrian looking down the street here can’t see much.

It’s kind of like the difference between ordering the buffet or ordering off the menu. At a buffet, most new people look around to see what is available then decide what to eat. A menu shows you everything available easily, then you decide what you want. Signs that can be easily seen by pedestrians can be the “menu” along Fayetteville Street.

But presenting this “menu” is probably the real touchy part of this conversation. They definitely don’t make signs like they used to (see the Mecca picture) and in my opinion, you’ll hear a big outcry against anything that’s too bright and bold. If left unchecked, a busy street would be overwhelmed with large, bright signs competing with each other to get your attention. So we need to reach a balance here. At the bottom of the Downtown Raleigh section of the comprehensive plan are some suggested guidelines for signage: (page 49)

Signage should be compatible in scale, style, and composition with the building or storefront design as a whole.

Diverse graphic solutions are encouraged to help create the sense of uniqueness and discovery found in an urban, mixed-use environment.

All mechanical and electrical mechanisms should be concealed.

Signs should not obscure a building’s important architectural features, particularly in the case of historic buildings.

Signs should be constructed with durable materials and quality manufacturing.

Sign bands above transom and on awnings are preferred signage locations.

Only the business name, street address, building name, and logo should be on an awning or canopy. The lettering should not exceed 40 percent of the awning area.

Illuminated signs should avoid the colors red, yellow, and green when adjacent to a signal controlled vehicular intersection.

Allowed sign types: channel letter signs, silhouette signs (reverse channel), individualized letter signs, projecting signs, canopy/marquee signs, logo signs, awning signs, and interior window signs.

Discouraged sign types: signs constructed of paper, cardboard, styrofoam-typematerials, formed plastic, injected molded plastic, or other such materials that do not provide a sense of permanence or quality; signs attached with suction cups or tape; signs constructed of luminous vacuum-formed plastic letters; signs with smoke-emitting components. Changeable copy signs are prohibited.

I’m sure these guidelines can be interpreted in many ways. Too restrictive? You be the judge.

I believe that word of mouth is still more powerful then an attractive sign that lures someone in but thinking about new visitors to downtown, proper signage is important for Fayetteville Street. New visitors may feel more comfortable knowing about all the options in downtown and it only helps to land repeat visits in the future.

Fayetteville Street’s Road Diet

This video by Streetfilms talks about the results of New York City’s closing of parts of Broadway to vehicular traffic. Pedestrians have taken over and created a space for themselves. There is also no increase in traffic problems after two months of the streets being limited to cars.

Fayetteville Street was once a pedestrian mall from 1977 to 2006. Five blocks from the capitol to the old civic center were pedestrian only. Streetfilms brings up the term, Road Diet described as:

A road diet is a technique in transportation planning whereby a road is reduced in number of travel lanes and/or effective width in order to achieve systemic improvements.

Was the Fayetteville Street pedestrian mall too much of a diet or did it come at too early of a time for Raleigh?

If you look at a picture of Fayetteville Street before the 1977 makeover, you can see that it was much wider then it is today. Actually, the original width of all four roads leading from the capitol, those being Hillsborough, Halifax, New Bern, and Fayetteville, were at one point 99 feet wide, according to the original plan by William Christmas. I’m pretty sure Hillsborough Street still retains the original planned width so you can use it as a reference.

There are lots of factors to consider here but I’ll try and keep it simple. Currently, Fayetteville Street’s road is thinner, compared to its original layout, resulting in wider sidewalks and a more pedestrian friendly environment. The balance between cars and pedestrians seems appropriate for the way Raleigh has developed over the last 30 years. The pedestrian mall never stood a chance with the way Raleigh sprawled out and forced people to buy cars and love highways. However, with green being so hot right now, people driving less, and mass transit being pushed, a long walkable area may slowly start to seem like a good idea.