Flurry of Activity on East Peace Street

Corner of Peace and Person Streets

Corner of Peace and Person Streets

I recently took a walk around East Peace Street and there is just so much happening here these days. On this particular weekday morning, the sounds of construction dominate. The hum of machinery, the beeping of vehicles, the hammering of nails are just some of the things you hear if you wander around Peace, Person or Wilmington Street.

These two blocks are just mushrooming with new developments. It’s not surprising that the new construction is predominantly residential as that is the current trend.

Townhomes at Blount Street Commons

Townhomes at Blount Street Commons

Built up now are some new townhomes and carriage homes at Blount Street Commons. A lot of land has been cleared along Person Street for even more of these.

Holy Trinity Church on Peace Street

Holy Trinity Church on Peace Street

Holy Trinity Church on Peace Street

You can now get a sense of the space that the Holy Trinity Church on Peace Street will take as the building shell is pretty much wrapped up.

Peace Street Townes

Peace Street Townes

Peace Street Townes

More townhomes at Peace Street Townes are moving along nicely with the entire site out of the ground now. A lot of brickwork has taken place and the first units are close to being ready.

Elan City Center apartments

Elan City Center apartments

Elan City Center apartments

Elan City Center apartments

The largest presence here is the Elan City Center project, a five-story apartment building with about 213 units. There isn’t any ground-floor retail here but with Seaboard Station just across the street and the non-active government district nearby there may not be a big reason for it.

I’ll be interested to see more about Elan City Center as the project kind of just popped up and I’m not sure what kind of local presence there is here. There are no plans for this on the city’s website and their website showcases it as a ‘North Carolina project’ rather than a ‘Raleigh project,’ mistakenly using Charlotte’s skyline on their website.

In a hot rental market, complacency in management is common, as I’ve heard is the case in some of the newer buildings in or near downtown. Hopefully that’s just a few isolated incidents.

Square Loop is Approved at Capital Boulevard and Peace Street

Peace Street at Capital Boulevard

Capital Boulevard bridge over Peace Street

Just a quick one today. At yesterday’s Raleigh City Council meeting, approval was given for the NCDOT recommended P5 alternative, also known as “the square loop.” We’ve gone over this plan for that area before so I’ll recommend you jump to a November 2013 post.

I feel the P5 alternative slows traffic down and starts to transition the area towards one with better urban form. I’m a huge fan of a grid-like street network and this alternative creates that in the new connection at Johnson Street and the Harrington Street extension. If we can add in on-street parking along these areas, interest in new development could increase. It can’t get any lower as the area only consists of sprawl-like, one-story buildings with surface parking.

*New Capital Boulevard Designs Out, Status Quo versus New Connections

Up next is the environmental study which is planned to be complete by this Fall. Construction is planned to start in the Summer of 2015.

You can dive into the official project page at the NCDOT: Peace St./Wade Ave. Bridge Replacements on Capital Blvd. page.

Decision Time Nears, Final Public Meeting on Capital Boulevard Bridge Design April 22

Peace Street interchange with Capital Boulevard

Peace Street interchange with Capital Boulevard.

On April 22, NCDOT is hosting a public meeting to show off the final designs for the new Capital Boulevard bridge at Peace Street. According to their timeline, after the public comment deadline of May 23, the decision on which alternative to go forward with will be made.

We’ve discussed the details up to this point but if you need a refresher, jump to this November 2013 post:

*New Capital Boulevard Designs Out, Status Quo versus New Connections

In combination with plans for a new Wade Avenue interchange bridge, not being discussed on this blog, the public hearing on April 22 should show off the most up-to-date plans for the two Peace Street alternatives, those being:

  • The base alternative
  • The P5, or enhanced, alternative.

The base alternative is a one-to-one replacement of what we have today. A new bridge will be built and the same on/off ramps will exist, just like today. It’s possible that this alternative may get a two-lane on-ramp with northbound Capital Boulevard from Peace Street, the right lane being a right-turn lane for the Cotton Mill parking lot, but that is essentially the biggest change here.

The favored alternative, by the city, the state, and informally from readers of this blog, to the best of my knowledge, is the P5 alternative, also known as “The Square Loop.” This plan brings back the grid and creates an area that’s more attractive to development, more pedestrian friendly, and transitions Peace Street to better urban form.

Alternative P5, or Square Loop, for the new Capital Boulevard bridge over Peace Street. Click for larger.

The problem here is that The Square Loop plan is costlier due to the need for more property acquisition and street reconfiguration. The $11 million dollar difference between the two plans does not make the favored plan guaranteed. This is where the city has to step up and make this happen as it will most likely be more expensive to implement in the future if not done alongside this bridge replacement project.

More to come after the public meeting.

Capital Boulevard Bridge Replacement Projects Public Hearing

Date/Time: Tues. April 22, 2014 4-7pm (open house format, drop in any time)
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, Memorial Lobby
2 East South Street
Raleigh, NC 27601

New Capital Boulevard Designs Out, Status Quo versus New Connections

Peace Street at Capital Boulevard

Cyclists ride under the Capital Boulevard bridge at Peace Street

Last night, NCDOT were showing off proposed design alternatives of the upcoming bridge replacements for Capital Boulevard at Peace Street and Wade Avenue. This is an upcoming project that comes out of the need to replace these approximately 50-year-old bridges before they become functionally unsafe. There are plans for two different alternatives for each bridge and I wanted to go over the bridge designs at the Capital and Peace intersection.

The two alternatives are being referred to as Alternative P-Base and Alternative P5. In my opinion, you have the status quo in the P-Base alternative and a new design in P5. However, as is to be expected the P-Base plan is the cheaper of the two. Let’s get in to each before comparing the two against each other.

Alternative P-Base

Alternative P-Base for the new Capital Boulevard bridge over Peace Street. Click for larger.

Like I stated earlier, the P-Base plan seems to have the least impact to the area and delivers a new bridge with the same street design around it. Entering and exiting Capital Boulevard from Peace Street is almost the same as today.

There are a few enhancements here that will help vehicles turn. The northbound entrance ramp to Capital from Peace would be two lanes wide, the right-most lane being a turn lane for the Cotton Mill parking lot. Also, when exiting downtown on Capital heading north, a right-most fourth lane will pop-out and feed the exit onto Peace Street. The same principals are there for exits and entrances on southbound Capital, where a fourth lane exists for merging compared to the abrupt turn lane that’s there now.

It also looks like the entrance to the small row of shops (Jersey Mike’s, Dry Clean City, etc.) will not have that little driveway onto the northbound Capital ramp.

Alternative P5

Alternative P5 for the new Capital Boulevard bridge over Peace Street. Click for larger.

P5 has a lot more going on around the same new bridge that will be built. Capital Boulevard entrances and exits have been moved and will result in a new traffic pattern. Before we go over these, it’s important to show the new street connections that are proposed.

Harrington Street would play a much bigger role in the P5 plan. Here, Harrington would kind of “punch” through and connect to Peace Street, accomplished through the use of property acquisition. This would create a brand new, signalized intersection.

Nearby along southbound Capital, the parallel service street, intersecting Johnson Street to the north, would be redone as well. Rather than an awkward turn off Capital, you could now make a right turn, with a dedicated turn lane, onto a connecting Johnson Street. This then drops you off at Johnson and Harrington and off into Glenwood South.

Along northbound Capital, new to any proposed design yet, is a longer off-ramp with driveways to Johnson Street to the south of Peace and a turn lane to the Cotton Mill on the north. This off-ramp will create another signalized intersection at Peace Street.

So with these additions, there are some things that are removed. Gone are the “cloverleaf” style on/off ramps at Capital on to Peace. With the addition of the Johnson Street connection and Harrington Street extension, traffic should flow through here in its place.

Matching Them Up

The two plans don’t share much but walkers and cyclists get a win with both. Peace Street will get 5-foot bike lanes and what looks like wider sidewalks, which are desperately needed as nature is reclaiming the current pedestrian paths on the south side.

A minor detail that I thought was important is that both plans call for 11-foot lanes on Capital Boulevard. This actually contradicts the Capital Boulevard Corridor Study’s “Happy Motoring” section stating that 12-foot lanes were something to work towards. I believe that increasing those lane widths would have created faster speeds, more vehicles, and more traffic along Peace Street. I commented in support of the 11-foot lanes for either plan as it compliments an urban area better.

Cost of the two plans is drastically different. According to last night’s handout:

  • P-Base – $26.4 Million
  • P5 – $37.4 Million

That’s an $11 million dollar difference. The bulk of the reason comes from the property acquisition involved in each alternative, 5 versus 12 properties in the area.

Overall, I left comments in support of the P5 alternative. Simply put, this area is pretty much a place to get through and not stop in. We already know that delivering the same thing will most likely produce little new results so we almost owe it ourselves to find that $11 million and try something new.

I feel the P5 alternative slows traffic down and starts to transition the area towards one with better urban form. I’m a huge fan of a grid-like street network and this alternative creates that in the new connection at Johnson Street and the Harrington Street extension. If we can add in on-street parking along these areas, interest in new development could increase. It can’t get any lower as the area only consists of sprawl-like, one-story buildings with surface parking.

NCDOT is taking input on the alternatives over the next few weeks. Here’s the project page on the NCDOT website with contact information so you can submit your thoughts.

The handout also gave us a project timeline.

  • Winter 2013 – Environmental Assessment
  • Spring 2014 – Public Hearing
  • Fall 2014 – Final Environmental Document
  • Fiscal Year 2015* – Begin Right of Way Acquisition
  • Fiscal Year 2016* – Begin Construction

[UPDATE: 11-21-13]
I’ve added the cross section of Peace Street which shows the 5-foot bike lanes on each side of the street. The cross section is pretty much the same between the two alternatives. Click for a larger view.

Upcoming NCDOT Public Meeting To Show Off Latest Peace Street, Capital Boulevard Bridge Designs

Peace Street at Capital Boulevard

Capital Boulevard bridge over Peace Street

It’s been almost a year and a half since there’s been any major news on the re-design for the area around the Capital Boulevard bridge that goes over Peace Street. On November 19, the NCDOT wants to show off the latest designs for that area.

Public Meeting for the proposed replacement of the Capital Boulevard bridges

Date/Time: Tues., Nov. 19 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. (Open House)
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, Meymandi Hall Lobby
2 East South Street, Raleigh

This project comes up because the current bridge is nearing the end of its useful life and needs to be replaced before safety is put at risk. The city is working with the state to find a working solution and this project falls inline with the Capital Boulevard Corridor Study, a much greater strategy to re-invigorate the entire corridor from downtown Raleigh up to I-440.

Project website: Peace St. /Wade Ave. Bridge Replacements on Capital Blvd.

We’ll see what is shown at the meeting and the public can certainly comment on the new designs as we’re still in the planning phases.

On a related note, a friend of mine shared an interesting article with me where a similar bridge replacement was done up in New York state on I-84. Watch the video (shown below or in the linked article) and read about the technique called accelerated bridge construction. Makes you curious as to why this couldn’t be done here at Capital and Peace to save a little money. (and upsetting nearby businesses)

This Ingenious Way to Build Bridges Will Fix Our Crumbling Infrastructure via Wired.com

Breaking Apart The Wishbone Intersection At Peace Street

Email readers: This blog post has image galleries. Read the post on the blog to see all the images.

The intersection of Peace, Wilmington, Halifax, and Salisbury.

Talks, visions, and plans for lots of places in downtown Raleigh exist if you know where to look. Solving problems like traffic congestion or providing new amenities for pedestrians and bicyclists are driving factors for new plans. The intersection on Peace Street with Wilmington, Salisbury, and Halifax Streets is being looked at and I thought it might be fun to go over some points that I see in the Peace Street Visioning Study, a sub-topic in the Capital Boulevard Corridor Study.

No plans are final and the report mainly discusses topics for future exploring. One highlight mentions:

The Wilmington/Halifax/Peace Street intersection represents a second opportunity to improve traffic flow and reduce congestion. A two-lane roundabout is recommended for feasibility analysis by the City transportation engineers. This intersection continues to be a bottleneck which may be improved with more conventional traffic engineering solutions. However, there is some prospect that a two lane extended roundabout might provide free-flowing traffic while establishing a signature open space at this important gateway into the state government center and downtown. The roundabout would extend south in to the Wilmington Salisbury loop, with the roadway geometry offset to the south.

Here’s a screenshot of a map of that section and what it might look like from a conceptual level.

Peace Street Visioning Study, intersection of Halifax, Wilmington, and Peace Streets.

Seems like Raleighites either love or hate these larger roundabouts. It will be interesting to see the analysis and if the plan has merit.

The civic space within the center of the roundabout has potential but I question whether pedestrians will use it. Could an active public space exist within a busy roundabout of this small size?

I’d like to see another plan for this area, one Raleigh has already had, and that is to return the streets to their original configuration. The wishbone piece of the intersection could be removed and Wilmington and Salisbury Streets can be straightened out up to Peace. A map of Raleigh in 1914 shows this configuration including Halifax Street making it’s way up to Union Square as it has always been before the state government complex was built. (yay, urban renewal?)

It’s possible that this idea takes a busy intersection and splits it into two smaller ones. Here’s a mock up in Google Maps of what it could look like.

View Peace/Salisbury/Wilmington Intersection Idea in a larger map

Current properties in the map, shown in blue, are the AIA NC building and a Department of Administration building. In orange, you can see the returned street extensions and the green covers the wishbone piece of the current intersection. I also highlighted two service entrances in purple that are needed for the government complex.

The new green space is wide open in terms of future uses. Possibilities for it are new mixed-use developments, completely open green space, or a balance of the two. If a civic plaza is desired, the complete road removals would allow for more space.

In terms of traffic flow, I’m also curious what would happen if Salisbury Street were changed to a two-way street. With it connecting directly into Seaboard Station Avenue, bicycles and vehicles would have a direct connection from the core downtown to Seaboard Station.

There is also a really great view looking north at Seaboard Station that anyone driving, pedaling, or walking on Salisbury would feel more welcomed to a different downtown district. If you notice on a map, Vaughn Court is the current “extension” of Salisbury Street. Here’s a view looking north from that street. Click for a larger view.

Seaboard Station entrance from Vaughn Court

I feel that this should become a “main entrance” to Seaboard Station in more of a way that it is today. With a two-way Salisbury Street, there could be better connections from Seaboard Station to downtown. You also get the visual bonus in that drivers and pedestrians can see their destination a few blocks away. Currently, you have trees and parts of the government center parking deck in front of you.

Looking North on Salisbury Street.

Wilmington Street already has a great view with the William Peace University main building front and center to traffic. An extension to the road could make the new intersection of Wilmington and Peace a more interesting place, brought about with any future developments that come from the Blount Street Commons project.

View of William Peace University down Wilmington Street.

With more development coming, an improved road network may make for more successful redevelopment in this area and who knows, maybe the government district could begin to grow some life during the off hours.

Click on the image below for a gallery of more images of the area.

View of the AIA NC building and William Peace University main building from Wilmington Street.

Introducing Link Peace Street, A Resident Backed Alternative For Capital Boulevard and Peace Street

Peace Street with Capital Boulevard bridge

There’s a new project that’s growing some legs in downtown Raleigh. Link Peace Street is a vision from Raleigh residents for a more walkable environment on Peace Street. It coincides with the Capital Boulevard Corridor Study and hopes to put another alternative onto the table that is currently not being considered. I’m helping out with the effort and the core focus of it revolves around creating a plan for an at-grade intersection at Capital Boulevard and Peace Street.

Over the next few days, more information will be put onto the vision website of Link Peace Street so I encourage readers to check out the site we’ve built and sign up for updates.

Link Peace Street revolves around three main goals,

  1. Economic development in a form that fits into downtown Raleigh.
  2. Strengthen the connections between neighborhoods.
  3. Deliver on the 2030 Comprehensive Plan.

The Capital Boulevard Corridor Study, taking public comments at this time, targets private investment in the area using several projects. Some of those include an expanded greenway, a park at the old Devereux Meadow site, and multiple tweaks to Capital Boulevard itself. We’ve mentioned here before that the state of North Carolina is going to replace the bridge over Peace Street within a few years. The study wants to piggyback on that project and is considering some alternative routes to getting on and off of Peace Street. You can read about those alternatives on the Peace Street Vision document in the sidebar on the city’s website. These ideas are what planners think will help spur private investment in the area.

All plans being considered so far include the new NCDOT designed bridge and Link Peace Street wants them to consider the ‘no bridge’ option. We feel that the upgrades to Capital Boulevard, outlined in the study document, only promote more speed and will continue keeping vehicles moving through the area rather than stopping at a destination. Peace Street is the northern border of downtown Raleigh but most people don’t see it that way as the built landscape is not meant for a downtown at all. It’s possible that an environment that balances pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles can promote development that is appropriate for downtown Raleigh and is a much better use of land.

With vehicles speeds kept the same and not increased, a walkable Peace Street will connect the neighborhoods rather than be an obstacle between them. In March, the Blount Street Commons project was asking the Raleigh City Council for a zoning change to allow for more density. At the same time, there is an apartment boom near Glenwood South. Both neighborhoods are so close yet feel much farther because of the uneasy walk down Peace Street in its current state.

It is a half mile walk from the Mellow Mushroom to Tyler’s Taproom yet so few people make that walk. In comparison, Fayetteville Street from one end to the other is a half mile. Peace Street may never have the towers and historic structures of Fayetteville Street but we think that we can atleast set up Peace Street for the same walkable experience. To have it, it starts with people and not vehicles.

The 2030 comprehensive plan specifies that this area is in the Core Business District category. It states:

This category applies to the Raleigh Central Business District, and is intended to enhance Downtown Raleigh as a vibrant mixed use urban center. The category recognizes the area’s role as the heart of the city, supporting a mix of high-intensity office, retail, housing, government, institutional, visitor-serving, cultural, and entertainment uses. Multiple zoning districts apply within the CBD, corresponding to the different character and vision for its various neighborhoods. The maximum residential density in this area would be 320 units per acre with densities tapering off towards edge areas adjacent to established residential neighborhoods, but not falling below 40 units per acre.

The Capital Boulevard study wants to widen lanes and help the flow of traffic. This does not fit with the description above and Link Peace Street feels that goes against the plan adopted just a few years ago.

How can we continue to do what we’ve been doing here in the corridor and expect different results?

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

-Albert Einstein

We’re hoping to build support for the idea before the study is brought to the city council before the May 1st meeting.

Bridge Replacement Projects On Capital Blvd

Capital Blvd is getting a little planning love from NCDOT. The bridge over Peace Street and the Wade Avenue flyover are in pretty bad shape. Both are on the books for an upgrade. From the NCDOT’s project page:

The bridge on Capital Boulevard over Peace Street (Bridge No. 227) was built in 1948 and has a sufficiency rating of 42.9 out of a possible 100. The bridge on Capital Boulevard at Wade Avenue was built in 1954, has a sufficiency rating of 34.1, and is posted with a weight limit. Both bridges are structurally deficient and functionally obsolete. While the existing bridges are still adequate to support traffic, they are nearing the end of their design lives and need to be replaced in a timely manner.

I’d like to thank the NCDOT for wanting to upgrade our “structurally deficient and functionally obsolete” infrastructure.

The project is in collaboration with the city’s Capital Blvd Corridor study which is still ongoing. This fall, expect a public workshop on the bridge replacement.

Capital Blvd Corridor Study via RaleighNC.gov