Crash of the Resident Wave, The Edison Apartments Itching to Break Ground (6/10)

Future Edison Apartment Building
This is part 6 of a 10 post series, rolled out all week, on residential projects in downtown Raleigh. Go here to see all the posts so far.

Both the Triangle Business Journal and The News & Observer have reported that this week, The Edison Apartments will begin construction.

A part of the The Edison project overall, The Edison Apartments are a complimentary project to Skyhouse Raleigh which sits on the same block. With 239 units and over 18,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space, this project will dramatically change the look and feel of East Davie Street.

Before the apartments can be built, demolition must take place. Some of the older brick buildings along Davie and Wilmington Street, dating to the early part of the 20th century need to come down to make way for the newer construction.

Edison Office Shows Site Plan For 225′ Tower

Corner of Wilmington and Martin Street in April 2013.

Corner of Wilmington and Martin Street in April 2013.

Looking at the latest update at Raleigh’s Current Development Activity page, there’s a new entry for The Edison Office tower. The site plan sheds more light, and hopefully a sign of progress, on The Edison, a multi-tower project planned for downtown Raleigh.

In addition to the Edison Apartments and Skyhouse Apartments, The Edison Office tower site plan shows a 225 foot tower with retail over office across 310,000 square feet. These preliminary plans are just a sketch of what’s to come so hopefully with plans at the city, progress is being made behind the scenes.

At the same time, the website of JDavis Architects has a rendering, on display for The Edison Apartments and not Edison Office, that shows a concept of the entire block built out.

Edison block conceptual drawing by JDavis Architects.

Edison block conceptual drawing by JDavis Architects.

If you’d like to analyze the floor plan, take a look at the image below and make sure to view it large to see the entire northern side of the Edison block.

Preliminary Site Plan for The Edison Office tower.

Pic of the Week

Wilmington Street, December 9, 2012 in Downtown Raleigh

This weekend, crews tore up this building at the corner of Wilmington and Martin Streets. The building was deteriorating and because of safety, the owner took this route. Sad to lose it but what can you do if no one is willing to step up and save these structures that are now unsafe to be in.

The building row here is part of the future Edison project, a cluster of buildings around the parking deck on the same block. Skyhouse Apartments, a 264 foot tower, is planned to be built on the same block but at the corner of Martin and Blount Streets.

Skyhouse Apartments Helping The Edison Project Come To Life

Skyhouse Apartments Raleigh rendering

Here’s some very positive news for fans of The Edison, a multi-building development that was planned for the core downtown area. Skyhouse Apartments was up for review by the Raleigh Planning Commission yesterday, June 26, and was approved unanimously.

The 264 foot tower will sit at the southwest corner of Blount and Martin Streets and will consist of ground-floor retail as well 320 apartments. It’s a great location and turns an empty lot into an active, urban development with plans for one to four bedroom units.

Watch your Raleigh Planning Commission in action in the video below. Included are more renderings and conversation over a few concerns about the building.

As a little side note, I thought it was cool that the presenter mentioned the William Christmas plan.

“The applicants received a variance from additional right of way dedication as most all projects do in the historic Christmas plan for the City of Raleigh and this project is no different. No additional right-of-way was provided and no additional street widening is required.”

If you are unfamiliar with the southwest corner of Blount and Martin, for years it has been a grassy field with numerous whirligigs made by Vollis Simpson. You may have seen a bigger one, titled Wind Machine, at the North Carolina Museum of Art. In the video, there was discussion of incorporating one of Simpson’s pieces into the new building as public art, most likely for the outdoor pedestrian plaza.

Here is a snapshot of the plan for the ground floor, click for a more zoomed out view.

Skyhouse Apartments Raleigh site plan

North is up in this picture so the intersection of Blount and Martin is in the top right corner of the image.

A couple of quick notes about the plan:

  • Along Martin, a small pedestrian plaza will be built along the west side of the building.
  • Between the building and the existing parking deck will be a driveway with a few more parking spaces.
  • Other than the few spaces mentioned, no new parking will be built as the deck that exists today will support the new tower.
  • 14 foot sidewalks and new urban trees will be planted around the building in keeping with the comprehensive plan.
  • Retail space will cover the entire Martin Street side of the building.

A concern about the building and it’s proximity to the historic structures in City Market and along Blount Street was brought up in the commission meeting. We’ve talked about building large towers next to small buildings before and I feel there is no issue as the corner of this block will accommodate all users adequately.

Earlier news reports claim that groundbreaking could occur as early as this year.

Skyhouse Apartments Raleigh rendering

Bad Outdoor Seating or Bad Location?

Wilmoore Cafe's outdoor seating.

Now that we’re into the spring season, outdoor seating during the warmer hours is in high demand. Downtown Raleigh actually has a plentiful amount of outdoor seating options with some doing it better than others. That’s for another post but here I wanted to highlight an interesting seating situation.

Take a look at the photo above. (click for larger) It shows the outdoor seating balcony of the Wilmoore Cafe located on Wilmington Street. The seating is slightly overlooking the walkway that connects the Moore Square bus station to Wilmington Street in the middle of the block. From what I hear and the times I’ve been by, very little, if any, people are actually using this outdoor seating.

So I’ll back up and admit that when the Wilmoore Cafe first opened, I thought that this balcony here would be great outdoor seating. I still do and in fact, there is a lot of potential for all that space behind the buildings of Wilmington Street and under the Moore Square parking deck. So when I heard that a lot of people don’t end up sitting out here I started to wonder.

The photo I have posted here is not during work hours so bear with me.

The balcony at first glance seems to have everything that a great outdoor seating space should have. It’s small and cozy. There’s a bit of separation between yourself and the walkway but not too much that you feel detached. The tree cover adds a hint of nature to the setting. The area is also not empty during work hours as people walk through here all the time so there’s plenty of people watching opportunities. People attract more people to any public space.

There’s something about this part of the station that I really enjoy. I walk through it all the time. The more complex nature of steps and walkways that are completely away from the street makes it feel urban. It’s a very different place within our city. So could this be a part of the reason that this great balcony for morning coffee drinkers isn’t working?

Outdoor seating within the core of downtown is dominated by sidewalk seating. The Raleigh Times, Capital Club 16, The Big Easy, Vic’s, Tir Na Nog, and many more restaurants just place the tables and chairs on the sidewalks and people flock. What is it about the sidewalk that works so well?

To me, I think sitting on the sidewalk puts you right in the middle of the traffic, the sidewalk traffic that is. The people watching when sitting on the sidewalk is so much more enjoyable than being inside. I also think that we’re all just in love with what is going on up and down the streets. The vehicle traffic provides that background noise that makes things more comfortable. Ever been to a party with the music turned off?

So back to the Wilmoore Cafe balcony and the photo at the beginning of this post. Could people not be sitting here because it’s simply not the sidewalk? Maybe it’s too far from the street? Or perhaps nobody knows about it?

The area has some flaws however and they are shown in the photo. You can see several cars parked right underneath the parking deck and pedestrians have to weave through them. There used to be a fountain here. Does anyone know what happened to it, why it was removed? The lighting is also that ugly amber that makes you feel like you are under a highway. I think it’s these little things that could make a big difference if re-thought.

Like I said, I think there is a lot of potential for a great public space inside this block that has the Moore Square bus station. However, it needs a people friendly touch so that visitors stop and visit rather than pass through. Some of these things, I hope to see as part of the Moore Square bus station upgrade that is upcoming in the next few years. That may create more cozy balconies and alcoves for us humans to stop and relax in.

The Edison Scales Down, Shows New Renderings

And we’re back with more Downtown Raleigh. Actually I was working on a longer piece but this bit of news is too interesting to sit on. This comes from the great reporting at the Raleigh Public Record.

Edison Plans Scaled Down, But Inching Forward via Raleigh Public Record

At Tuesday October 18th’s Budget and Economic Development meeting, there was talk about The Edison project, a four building complex with about 540,000 square feet of office space for the block bounded by Blount, Wilmington, Martin, and Davie. You can see an old rendering here.[Link now broken] According to the meeting agenda, we now have:

The original plan for the Edison block included taller office buildings, but the recession has reduced the likelihood for taller office building construction for the foreseeable future. Today, Edison is proposing the first phase of its Edison project to be a $30,600,000 239 unit 6 story high end residential community with 18,000 square feet of ground floor retail space. This project would be on the southern side of the block, bounded by Blount, Davie, and Wilmington streets.
The Edison residential project is considered feasible in today’s economic environment.

I don’t think skyscraper fans will be happy about this one. Building this piece of The Edison also means we lose the building with Cooper’s in it on East Davie Street. Six stories of new building at a loss for two stories of history is not a good exchange in my opinion.