The Apartment Mid-rise Boom is Fading in Downtown Raleigh

The Dillon Apartments on Hargett Street

It hit me recently during a conversation in a downtown coffee shop that The Metropolitan apartments would have seen residents moving in this month. If you don’t know the history, the project, while under construction, met an unfortunate fate and went up in flames in March of this year.

The developers plan to rebuild and the site is currently being cleared.

If it wasn’t for the fire delaying the delivery of The Metropolitan, we could easily see the end to the multi-unit, mid-rise apartment product line in downtown Raleigh. At least for the foreseeable future.

Site of The Metropolitan Apartments fire site.

Site of The Metropolitan Apartments fire site

Barring any new project announcements, the apartment pipeline would have ended with The Dillon opening in 2018. Taking a look at the latest list of projects released by the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, we can see that there are no planned projects similar to these.

To be clear, I’m referring to the 5-7 story, wood-construction buildings with a larger footprint. Typically to make these work, developers have had to acquire multiple properties and combine them.

That’s not to say the residential projects aren’t flowing. The product is just changing.

Smokey Hollow plans to bring 445 residential units in a 12-story building on Peace Street. FNB Tower will mix up office and 247 residential units across 22 stories. 400H will also mix office and 220 units in a 20-story building. Details are still light on 301 Hillsborough but with a similar style to the other projects there’s no reason to guess that more residential units could be included.

That’s 900 units across three projects right there.

Rendering of 400H

Most recent rendering of 400H

The other side of the picture is the rise in townhome projects. These are adding infill to the periphery of downtown. Currently under construction, we have:

115 townhomes are in the works and more are in the planning stages.

Perhaps we’re at a point where combining multiple parcels for large footprint developments isn’t economically feasible for mid-rise buildings. There could be other changes in the market that are affecting this. Downtown could also be much more livable than before, enticing buyers to purchase units than rent.

Maybe there is a hold on projects as plans for a downtown soccer stadium and big infrastructure changes to Capital Boulevard need to pan out for developers to pitch new projects.

You could look at it from a lot of angles. It’s certainly a great topic to discuss.

The Expansion of the Upcoming Smokey Hollow Project

Corner of Peace and West, August 2016.

Corner of Peace and West, August 2016.

This is kind of a backlog post so you may have seen this already. The developers behind the Smokey Hollow project are buying up even more land. The area along Peace Street between Capital and West are being combined into much larger properties.

At this time, no plans have been made public but being associated with the mixed-use Smokey Hollow project, we can guess that even more mixed-use development is in the future.

In addition to the land along Peace, Kane Realty has picked up properties formerly owned by Gregg Sandreuter. The former apartment projects here, the West Apartments, never materialized so perhaps Kane will give it a go.

The Glenwood South Neighborhood Collaborative has this map of the area showing the recent owners.

Map new property owners

Over the next few years, this will be quite a transformation as multiple blocks could be developed alongside the Capital Boulevard bridge over Peace Street and the square loop configuration.

We also have the latest renderings of Smokey Hollow, more specifically, the building for the corner of Peace and West Street, to give us an idea of what the area will look like. Big thanks to Cline Design for allowing me to post them here on the blog.

Smokey Hollow. Courtesy of Cline Design.

Smokey Hollow. Courtesy of Cline Design.

Smokey Hollow. Courtesy of Cline Design.

The Smoky Hollow Neighborhood May Be Making a Comeback

Looking West down Peace Street, August 2016

Looking West down Peace Street, August 2016

What would it take for a Raleigh neighborhood of the 1900s that was completely wiped out, literally paved over, to come back? It seems naming a new development in the 2000s after it would be a start.

The Smokey Hollow project will be a 12-story mixed-use project with 400 (400+ actually) apartments and retail according to the press release and recently submitted site plans. The press release doesn’t call out the name Smokey Hollow but the site plans on the city’s website are named just that.

A quick aside, I’m hung up on the spelling for some reason but to the best of my knowledge, the name of the neighborhood that was in this area of downtown Raleigh was Smoky Hollow (smells like smoke) and not Smokey Hollow. (the proper name of Smokey) As of this writing, Smokey Hollow will be the new development that is planned and Smoky Hollow will be the neighborhood that once existed in this area of Raleigh. (I’ve also tweaked previous posts to try and be consistent)

Now that I’ve got that out of my system, I’d like to dive back into the history of the area and how Smoky Hollow was cleared out by the State of North Carolina and their drive for what was called “urban renewal” in the 1950s and 1960s.

As part of a former project (Link Peace Street) that I was a part of, active in 2012, I have polished off this Google Map for reuse. Below is the map containing the old Smoky Hollow boundaries as well as former streets. There are also historic and present day photos.

As for the history of the neighborhood, Anna at her blog Reinvent Your Wheel has a great take on the area’s change in her blog post, “Capital Blvd: Raleigh’s Great Divide.” I’m posting a piece of the post with permission.

Smoky Hollow (which I’ve also seen spelled as “Smokey” Hollow) was a blue-collar neighborhood in downtown Raleigh prior to the construction of Capital Blvd in the 1950s. Everything I’ve found hints the it was a racially mixed area with both black and white residents which would have been somewhat unique to that time period. Its boundaries were roughly Peace St to the north, West St to the west, North St to the south and Wilmington St to the east. The residents of Smoky Hollow worked primarily for the railroad, mill, or other industrial businesses in the vicinity.

Children growing up in Smoky Hollow entertained themselves by playing on the train trestles and in the Pigeon House Branch creek, which has now been mostly buried. It was a solid community although it seems like it was considered to have been a little rough around the edges. The construction of Capital Blvd, with the addition of other projects, brought about the end this unique piece of downtown by the early 1960s when almost all the residents were forces to relocate. Only a few pieces of the Smoky Hollow neighborhood remain, including Finch’s Diner on Peace St and the store fronts found to the west of it.

*Capital Blvd: Raleigh’s Great Divide

Old storefronts along Peace Street, August 2016

Old storefronts along Peace Street, August 2016

Anna’s post also has a pair of maps, showing the before and after effects of Capital Boulevard punching through the Smoky Hollow neighborhood. In short, a grid of streets was removed resulting in two anti-urban hits to downtown Raleigh; a fast moving highway and the state government complex.

A neighborhood faded away as well as a baseball park. The Devereux Meadow ballpark, which has been mentioned on this blog before, predates capital boulevard, as shown in this 1952 aerial photo taken by the News & Observer.

1952 Aerial photo of Capital Boulevard construction. Reprinted with permission from The News & Observer.

Reprinted with permission from The News & Observer. Click for larger.

This photo shows Capital Boulevard (then known as Downtown Boulevard) under construction in 1952 or so. The project was finished in 1953. The view is looking south. This photo shows the intersection of Peace Street and Capital Boulevard. The ramps for the bridge have been graded. Devereux Meadow ballpark is in the foreground and across the left field fence is the Raleigh Cotton Mill. Across the railroad tracks from the mill is the Seaboard Passenger station. In the center is the Seaboard half-roundhouse adjacent to the rail yards. To the right of the roundhouse is Finch’s with cars parked in front. To the right of Finch’s is a collection of storefronts including the dry cleaning building. These are among only a handful of buildings still standing in the former Smoky Hollow neighborhood. At the right, you can see the Norfolk Southern tracks and trestles including the one that passes over Peace Street. The boundaries of Smoky Hollow were basically that area between the Seaboard railroad yards and the Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks, and between North and Peace streets.

*Historical research by Karl Larson, History Editor, Goodnight Raleigh.

Let me add that you can still see some of the Smoky Hollow houses along West and Harrington Street.

The finished product can be seen below in this November 1964 photo, again from the News & Observer. The neighborhood is gone at this point.

November 1964 Aerial photo of Capital Boulevard. Reprinted with permission from The News & Observer.

Reprinted with permission from The News & Observer. Click for larger.

Over time, the area has filled in, mostly with state and county-owned properties. Economic development? I’m not convinced that was a successful result of the Capital Boulevard project of the 1960s.

Moving to the present, the original area of Smoky Hollow hasn’t seen any real movement lately except for the West at North tower. Located at, you guessed it, West and North Street the 17-story residential building opened in 2008 and is probably the anchor to any West Street activity near Glenwood South.

With a lot coming to West Street, the announcement of the Smokey Hollow project, artist’s sketch below, shows that we may be putting the pieces in place to bring back residential to Smoky Hollow once again.

Artist rendering

Smokey Hollow, planned for the corner of Peace and West Street. Click for larger

It may not look the same as 75 years ago but the Smoky Hollow of the future may exist in mid-rise apartments with ground floor retail.

In a future post, let’s take a look at some of the factors supporting this residential drive in Smoky Hollow. The pieces are all there including a creek, a new park, and calmer, better connected streets.

Upcoming: Smokey Hollow, Peace Street, and Seaboard Station

This is what it is like to take a walk downtown with @dtraleigh

A photo posted by Jennifer Suarez (@jenniferraleigh) on

Readers of the blog should not be surprised that there is a lot of momentum coming soon to Peace Street. The Smoky Hollow project near Peace and West, Devereux Meadow park, the new Capital Boulevard bridge, and new developments in Seaboard Station, including a Harris Teeter, are all going to dramatically change the look of Peace Street.

I went out there to take photos and I’m putting some lengthier stuff together, which I hope to finish soon.

Speaking of the bridge over Peace, put August 18 on your calendar as a public meeting about the Capital Boulevard bridge replacement project is planned.

Stay tuned.

Site Plans for Smokey Hollow Show Johnson Street Connection

Click for larger

A quick one today before folks peel away for the holiday weekend.

The submitted plans for Smoky Hollow, a mixed-use project mainly along North West Street near Peace Street, shows a connection between a currently disconnected Johnson Street. The screenshot above says it all. Check out case S-040-16 on the city’s development activity page for more.

No other plans about the building are shown. I imagine you need to get the street right before moving on to that part. Jump to this google map to see what the area currently looks like.

Aerial Visualization of New Capital Boulevard Bridges

Thanks to a few readers who found this aerial visualization of the Peace Street and Wade Avenue Bridge replacement project. NCDOT should start this project this summer.

For more on it, especially the Peace Street part, go here.

[UPDATE:5-26-16]
A raise of the glass goes out to Jim who made this overlay of projects on top of a screen grab from the video. Click for a larger view.

The Capital Boulevard aerial doesn’t consider the new Williams and Kane joint projects but with the announcement posted earlier this week and the Smokey Hollow LLC purchase nearby you can see some of the possible development outcomes of the new square loop.

A Johnson Street connection from Glenwood to Capital would make for a great grid of streets around the planned developments and hopefully ones in the future. Johnson at Capital could be a major entrance to Glenwood South for those coming from North Raleigh.

With the Devereux Meadow Park on one-side of Peace, the opposite side has to come at a premium due to how much traffic is funneled down Peace Street. With Peace being practically the only east-west artery in this area, I imagine the vehicle, bike, and ped counts will continue to be higher than other streets.

Mixed-Use Development Announced for West Street

Artist rendering

Click for larger

In a press release sent out last week, Kane Realty Corporation and Williams Realty & Building Company are announcing a new development for their property along North West Street. We recently highlighted a couple of things in planning for this street here on the blog so I encourage readers to jump back if they haven’t seen it.

From the press release:

The project is expected to provide 400+ Class-A residential units and retail above covered parking.

Residents of downtown, Glenwood South and adjoining neighborhoods will enjoy pedestrian and vehicular access to retail, and the Project’s own residents will enjoy separate parking, two clubrooms, an interior courtyard, and an elevated terrace overlooking Downtown Raleigh, in addition to many more Class-A amenities.

This is most likely the talked about Smokey Hollow project mentioned elsewhere on the internets, a nod to the former neighborhood that was wiped out by the urban renewal projects of the mid-1900s that brought us the elegant Capital Boulevard. In the Google map below, the project is on the site of the Southland Ballroom and Themeworks buildings.

[UPDATE: After confirming with Kane Realty, this project is meant for the corner of Peace and West street, as some of the commenters had pointed out.]