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IKEA Confirms Cary Town Center Plan

Today IKEA confirmed plans to bring a store to the Cary Town Center property. Back on November 7, gogoraleigh posted thoughts on how the building could sit after demolishing parts of the failing mall. Today’s announcement shows a conservative mallotomy, placing the building on the axis of Cary Town Boulevard.

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The entrance will be in the upper left bleb of the long face, just above the “I” in the IKEA label. The building’s proximity to the mall is fairly interesting, though. While it will be adjacent to the ball, most certainly there won’t be an access point from the mall into the store. Some reports also are mentioning a 2-level parking garage in front of IKEA.

The store is slated to open in the Summer of 2020. The only interesting question remaining is whether or not Cary Towne Boulevard will be renamed IKEA Boulevard since the store would have no interstate frontage.


IKEA Coming to Cary?


Cary Towne Center is slated for a “game-changing redevelopment” with a “very recognizable and in-demand retailer.” http://bizj.us/1owfpa

Last Thursday TBJ’s Amanda Hoyle reported that Cary Towne Center is working on some exciting changes. Apparently the plan is a “game-changing redevelopment” with a “very recognizable and in-demand retailer.” Naturally this set my wheels in motion considering the possibilities.

The mall is in desperate need for a game-changer. After reinventing itself with a large expansion in 1990, it has hit hard times since the opening of Southpoint. Cary Towne Center has a prime location, just off of Interstate 40 and one exit away from the Belt Buckle. However the mall is too close to Southpoint and Crabtree to compete as a high-end interior mall, and has deteriorated mightily, seeing anchors like Dillards Macy’s and Sears close their doors. The mall has signed only one interesting retailer in the last decade, Dave & Busters, but the rest has been nail salons and low level retail.

Which retailers in other markets are recognizable and have that game-changing presence? The first that comes to mind is Nordstrom. The Seattle-based retailer opened their first Triangle store 14 years ago as the lead anchor for the brand new Streets at Southpoint mall in Durham. While the store has been successful, a different retailer in the mall told me that their Southpoint store has not attracted Raleigh people as anticipated.

Certainly Nordstrom is leaving money on the table by not having a Wake County store. The obvious choice for years has been Crabtree, and rumblings of “Nordstrom to Crabtree” and “Nordstrom to North Hills” have surfaced from time to time. However the anchors of these malls haven’t budged and the two centers have only been able to fill in with stores that need less than 10,000 square feet for the most part.

The real questions surrounding Nordstrom begin with the state of the mall. Would Nordstrom agree to be the lead anchor of a revitalization project? Would they want a new store just 19 miles down the road from another location? Nordstrom would probably only go for CTC if they were given the store for free, as the mall hangs its future on roughly 50 retailers that would follow Nordstrom. Would Nordstrom even want to be in a mall that has such a painfully 1980s design? It seems a totally new mall would have to be built on the site for Nordstrom to even consider the Cary mall site.

The second retailer out there that comes to mind is Neiman Marcus. The 47-store company has a store in Charlotte’s Southpark, however the same questions surround their possibility as those with Nordstrom. Neiman Marcus aims for a higher level clientele than Nordstrom and has less of a coattail effect, so their effect as the lead of a mall revival is not remarkably strong.

The other retailer that comes to mind is IKEA. The Swedish home furnishings company operates 43 stores in the US, opening about 2-3 per year. IKEA’s stores are roughly the size of 2.5 Home Depots, and the land on which the mall sits would be perfect for one of the large stores and some outparcels, perhaps even the pre-1990s portion of the mall. The location is excellent, near I-40, however the site does not offer highway visibility. As IKEA’s brand has become more prevalent, though, the need for frontage isn’t as great as it used to be.

In the aerial view rendering, I’ve placed the Charlotte IKEA store in the back of the Cary Towne Center parking lot, and replaced the mall’s 1990 expansion with more parking. An IKEA design like the ones in Woodbridge and Atlanta (the same size store sitting atop a two-story parking garage) minimizes the land needed and allows for further development of the property.

Since IKEA announced its Charlotte roughly 9 years ago, I’ve always guessed that its long term strategy for NC is two stores (otherwise they would have opened around High Point to serve all 3 large NC metros). My favorite site for the Triangle has been the outlet mall near RDU. Four years ago the site was rumored to be reimagined as a Chinatown, with shops, markets, and restaurants to serve the large Chinese population in the Triangle. The site has ample land and first-rate visibility from I-40. However if that site is not available, the Cary Towne Center land makes perfect sense.

The Charlotte IKEA store and parking at the RDU outlet mall

Whatever happens at Cary Towne Center will be a welcome addition. The mall’s site has an outstanding location with strong demographics nearby, so a higher-end development should be a sure fit. With so many college students and apartment dwellers in the Triangle, Greenville, and Wilmington, an IKEA store in the Raleigh area would do quite well.


Hurricanes Return Tonight, Add​ ​‘Homegrown’​ Nights

This article is written by guest writer and my friend Matt from CanesandCoffee.com.

After​ ​a​ ​quiet​ ​TV​ ​start​ ​the​ ​the​ ​Carolina​ ​Hurricanes​ ​season​ ​with​ ​6​ ​straight​ ​games​ ​on​ ​the​ ​road during​ ​the​ ​North​ ​Carolina​ ​State​ ​Fair,​ ​the​ ​Carolina​ ​Hurricanes​ ​will​ ​kick​ ​off​ ​their​ ​home​ ​season​ ​at PNC​ ​Arena​ ​on​ ​Friday​ ​night​ ​(October​ ​28)​ ​against​ ​the​ ​New​ ​York​ ​Rangers.

The​ ​Hurricanes​ ​are​ ​coming​ ​off​ ​an​ ​improved​ ​2015-16​ ​season​ ​and​ ​enter​ ​the​ ​2016-17​ ​season​ ​with a​ ​team​ ​filled​ ​with​ ​youth.​ ​The​ ​team​ ​features​ ​2​ ​players​ ​under​ ​20​ ​years​ ​old​ ​and​ ​6​ ​more​ ​players​ ​who are​ ​24​ ​or​ ​younger.​ ​The​ ​combination​ ​of​ ​youth​ ​and​ ​and​ ​improved​ ​play​ ​during​ ​the​ ​2015-16​ ​season bodes​ ​well​ ​for​ ​a​ ​return​ ​to​ ​the​ ​NHL​ ​playoffs​ ​in​ ​the​ ​near​ ​future.

You​ ​can​ ​find​ ​a​ ​​preview​ ​for​ ​the​ ​2016-17​ ​season​ ​​at​ ​Canes​ ​and​ ​Coffee​​ ​that​ ​identifies​ ​5​ ​keys for​ ​the​ ​Hurricanes​ ​to​ ​push​ ​back​ ​into​ ​the​ ​NHL​ ​playoffs.

For​ ​those​ ​looking​ ​to​ ​plan​ ​a​ ​trip​ ​or​ ​two​ ​to​ ​PNC​ ​Arena​ ​to​ ​cheer​ ​on​ ​the​ ​Carolina​ ​Hurricanes,​ ​here​ ​is a​ ​quick​ ​list​ ​of​ ​great​ ​games​ ​to​ ​target​ ​through​ ​the​ ​end​ ​of​ ​2016:

  • Friday,​ ​October​ ​28​ ​vs.​ ​New​ ​York​ ​Rangers:​ ​​The​ ​home​ ​opener​ ​will​ ​include​ ​a​ ​South​ ​Plaza​ ​Party with​ ​live​ ​music​ ​and​ ​games,​ ​and​ ​everyone​ ​who​ ​attends​ ​the​ ​home​ ​opener​ ​will​ ​receive​ ​a​ ​pretty sweet​ ​Canes​ ​hat.​ ​​Details​ ​for​ ​the​ ​home​ ​opener,​ ​festivities​ ​and​ ​giveaway​ ​are​ ​HERE.
  • Saturday,​ ​November​ ​12​ ​vs.​ ​Washington​ ​Capitals​:​ ​This​ ​early-season​ ​will​ ​include​ ​Veterans Day​ ​Appreciation​ ​and​ ​is​ ​also​ ​the​ ​first​ ​visit​ ​of​ ​the​ ​season​ ​by​ ​Alexander​ ​Ovechkin​ ​and​ ​the long-time​ ​division​ ​rival​ ​Capitals.
  • Friday,​ ​November​ ​18​ ​vs.​ ​Montreal​ ​Canadiens​:​ ​This​ ​game​ ​is​ ​the​ ​first​ ​in​ ​a​ ​brand​ ​new “Hurricanes​ ​Homegrown​ ​Series”​ ​that​ ​will​ ​feature​ ​local​ ​beer,​ ​art,​ ​food​ ​and​ ​live​ ​music​ ​during​ ​the​ ​2 intermissions.​ ​​You​ ​can​ ​learn​ ​more​ ​about​ ​the​ ​“Homegrown”​ ​series​ ​at​ ​the​ ​Hurricanes​ ​web​ ​site.
  • Friday,​ ​December​ ​23​ ​vs.​ ​Boston​ ​Bruins​:​ ​This​ ​match​ ​up​ ​at​ ​the​ ​front​ ​end​ ​of​ ​the​ ​winter​ ​holiday season​ ​is​ ​a​ ​great​ ​way​ ​to​ ​catch​ ​holiday​ ​Hurricanes​ ​hockey​ ​either​ ​with​ ​relatives​ ​or​ ​just​ ​before​ ​they arrive​ ​to​ ​visit.
  • Friday,​ ​December​ ​30​ ​vs.​ ​Chicago​ ​Blackhawks​:​ ​This​ ​holiday​ ​season​ ​game​ ​features​ ​the high-powered​ ​Blackhawks​ ​and​ ​also​ ​the​ ​second​ ​installment​ ​of​ ​the​ ​“Hurricanes​ ​Homegrown
    Series.”​ ​(see​ ​above)

To​ ​track​ ​the​ ​Carolina​ ​Hurricanes​ ​during​ ​the​ ​2016-17,​ ​​please​ ​check​ ​out​ ​Canes​ ​and​ ​Coffee​ ​​which is​ ​a​ ​local,​ ​independent​ ​website​ ​that​ ​provides​ ​daily​ ​coverage​ ​of​ ​Carolina​ ​Hurricanes​ ​hockey.



Parade Of Homes Ends This Weekend

The 2016 Parade of Homes runs through the end of this weekend. Houses are open 12-5 each day, and a map with house details can be found at the Parade of Homes site

This year’s largest house is the 7,840 square foot “Classic Madison” at 8320 Society Place in Raleigh. The house is available at $1.7 million.


Over 50 Concerts Remain For the Summer

IMG_2006It’s early August and Summer is winding down. You’d never know it by looking at the concert listing, though. As of this posting, there are still 54 remaining from a summer concert calendar that has included at least 163 relevant artists. It is, by far, the most active live entertainment summer in the city’s history.

    1. 8/7 – Frankie Valli (KB)
    2. 8/9 – Joe Walsh (RHA)
    3. 8/12 – Dixie Chicks (WCA)
    4. 8/12 – Nick Offerman w/ Megan Mullally (DPAC)
    5. 8/12 – Piebald (HRB)
    6. 8/13 – Def Leppard, REO Speedwagon, Tesla (WCA)
    7. 8/13 – Kidz Bop Live (RHA)
    8. 8/13 – Lyle Lovett (DPAC)
    9. 8/13 – Iron and Wine (NCMA)
    10. 8/13 – Jim Gaffigan (WOA-gboro)
    11. 8/16 – Newsies opening night (DPAC)
    12. 8/17 – Needtobreathe, Mat Kearney (RHA)
    13. 8/19 – Brian Wilson (DPAC)
    14. 8/19 – Keith Urban, Brett Eldredge, Maren Morris (WCA)
    15. 8/19 – Fifth Harmony (RHA)
    16. 8/19 – D.L. Hughley opens (GC)
    17. 8/20 – Jonathan Byrd (HRB)
    18. 8/20 – Gillian Welch (NCMA)
    19. 8/21 – O.A.R. (RHA)
    20. 8/23 – Butch Walker (LT)
    21. 8/24 – Glass Animals (RT)
    22. 8/24 – Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ (506)
    23. 8/25 – Rick Springfield, Night Ranger, The Romantics (RHA)
    24. 8/25 – Local H (CC)
    25. 8/27 – Goo Goo Dolls, Collective Soul, Tribe Society (RHA)
    26. 9/2, 9/3 – Luke Bryan, Little Big Town, Dustin Lynch (WCA)
    27. 9/1 – The Melvins (CC)
    28. 9/4 – Of Montreal (CC)
    29. 9/6 – Crystal Castles (CC)
    30. 9/8 – Wolf Parade, Wye Oak (CP)
    31. 9/9 – Beach House (RHA)
    32. 9/9 – Erykah Badu (RHA)
    33. 9/9 – Gary Clark, Jr. (RT)
    34. 9/9 – Weird Al Yankovic (DPAC)
    35. 9/10 – Darius Rucker, Dan + Shay, Michael Ray (WCA)
    36. 9/10 – Chatham County Line (KB)
    37. 9/11 – Bull Durham Blues Festival begins
    38. 9/13 – Kinky Boots begins (DPAC)
    39. 9/13 – Ben Folds (RMA)
    40. 9/13 – Titus Andronicus (PIN)
    41. 9/14 – Heart, Joan Jett, Cheap Trick (WCA)
    42. 9/14 – ZZ Top, Gov’t Mule KB
    43. 9/15 – The Lumineers, Borns, Rayland Baxter (KB)
    44. 9/16 – Damien Escobar (RHA)
    45. 9/17 – The Connells (RLT)
    46. 9/18 – Brad Paisley, Tyler Farr, Maddie & Tae (WCA)
    47. 9/20 – The Cult (RT)
    48. 9/20 – Sevendust (LT)
    49. 9/21 – Amos Lee (DPAC)
    50. 9/23 – Grace Potter (LT)
    51. 9/23 – Hannibal Buress (RMA)
    52. 9/23 – Squirrel Nut Zippers (CTD)
    53. 9/25 – Il Divo (DPAC)
    54. 9/26 – The Sword (LT)
    55. 9/28 – Violent Femmes (NCMA)
    56. 9/30 – IBMA Wide Open Bluegrass
    57. 9/30 – Jason Aldean, Thomas Rhett & A Thousand Horses (WCA)

    Venue Key:

    506 – Local 506 (Chapel Hill)
    CC – Cat’s Cradle (Carrboro)
    CD-gboro – Cone Denim Entertainment Center (Greensboro, NC)
    CFS – Carter-Finley Stadium
    CP – City Plaza (Fayetteville, St)
    CTD – Carolina Theater (Durham)
    DPAC – Durham Performing Arts Center (Durham)
    GC – Goodnights Comedy Club
    GC-gboro – Greensboro Coliseum (Greensboro, NC)
    HRB – Haw River Ballroom (Haw River, NC)
    KB – Koka Booth Amphitheater (Cary)
    LT – Lincoln Theatre
    MMH – Motorco Music Hall (Durham)
    NCMA – NC Museum of Art)
    NH – North Hills East Amphitheater
    PIN – Pinhook (Durham)
    PNC – PNC Arena
    RHA – Red Hat Amphitheater
    RLT – Raleigh Little Theatre
    RMA – Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
    RPG – RallyPoint Sports Grill (Cary)
    RT – Ritz Theater
    WCA – Walnut Creek Amphitheater
    WOA-gboro – White Oak Amphitheater (Greensboro, NC)


Where to Watch the Olympics on TV

olympics_logoToday marks the beginning of the 2016 Summer Olympic games. Of course many events will be available streaming from the internet, however if you want to watch the Olympics on TV, here is a guide for Raleigh viewers with TWC Channels in Red, UVerse Channels in Blue, DirecTV in Purple

  • NBC – Swimming, Volleyball, Gymnastics 3, 1005, 5
  • Bravo – Tennis72, 167, 1181, 237
  • USA Network – Fencing, Equestrian, Field Hockey25, 101, 1124, 240
  • NBC Universo – Soccer, Basketball, Beach Volleyball898, 3009, 410
  • MSNBC – Volleyball, Basketball, Archery45, 203, 1215, 356
  • CNBC – Rugby, Wrestling, Field Hockey37, 205, 1216, 355
  • NBC Sports Network – Soccer, Basketball, Judo314, 1640, 220
  • Golf Channel – Soccer, Basketball, Judo51, 405, 1641, 218
  • Telemundo – Soccer, Basketball, Swimming803, 3007, 406
  • Olympic Soccer – Soccer426, 1638, 205-1
  • Olympic Basketball – Basketball425, 1639, 205-2

UVerse customers can create an Olympics-only channel guide by hitting the “Menu” button on the remote control, then navigating to Options tab | Channel Options | Edit/Add Favorite Channels | “Add a new Favorites List…”. Type in a blue numbers from above and hit OK to add it to the list. Once you are done, you can rename the favorites list by hitting the “Enter” button (next to “0”).

Once the channels are set up, Hit the “A” button from Live TV or from the Guide to show your setup of Olympic channels.

Thanks for the DirecTV info, @DougInNC!


Download the Wake County Schools’ 2017 Calendars

calendar_iconWake County School System has compiled their official calendars for the 2016-2017 school year in PDF format. In fine fashion gogoraleigh has converted all of these calendars into numerous downloadable formats.

Now readers can easily import their favorite school calendars into iPhones, Android phones, Outlook, and more. The set includes calendars for the Traditional, Track 1, Track 2, Track 3, Track 4, and Modified schools. Even better, if you already subscribe to any of these calendars, then all of the new dates have been automatically added for you.

For more information and downloads, see the Calendars tab at gogoraleigh.


Hurricanes Tracking To Another City?

caniacsOutside of the Stanley Cup Finals, the big topic in the world of Hockey in the last 24 hours is the future of the Carolina Hurricanes. Recent reports show some very strange business activity with owner Peter Karmanos coinciding with the league’s potential expansion to Las Vegas and Quebec City, Canada.

What we know is that the Carolina Hurricanes are a troubled franchise. The Canes are only worth $225 million, third-lowest in the NHL and less than half of the league-average $505 million. Forbes reports that the team is losing $12 million per year. We also know that Karmanos has been trying to find a buyer for the team for a few years. He would take $400 million for the team, and feels the team is worth $420 million.

We also know that Karmanos fired one of his three sons, Jason, from his job as Assistant General Manager just before the 2013-2014 season. “This is a family matter”, was the company line. At the end of that season General Manager Jim Rutherford was fired, and headed to take the same job with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Soon after he hired Jason Karmanos as Pittsburgh’s V.P. of Hockey Operations. The Pittsburgh Penguins are currently one game away from winning the 2016 Stanley Cup.

The team has missed the playoffs for seven straight seasons. As a result, average attendance this season was a league-worst 12,203; the worst by over 1,000 per game. I conveyed my concern for the talent level on this team on Twitter during the season, but was assured by die-hards that a great foundation is in place. The Hurricanes have 4 draft picks in the first two rounds of the June 24 draft. While the team may get some great seed talent, it is still likely a few seasons away from being a solid playoff team that can rebuild attendance.

It was certainly concerning, with the franchise in poor health, to see last week that Karmanos is being sued by his three sons for failing to meet repayment terms on a loan from their trust accounts. Apparently the elder Karmanos created the fund in 1996 and borrowed $353 million “to support the Hurricanes”. He now owes the sons’ trust accounts $105.7 million.

To further complicate matters, The Sporting News’ Gary Lawless claimed yesterday that Karmanos borrowed $300 million from the NHL’s emergency fund, and it will result in the sale of the team and relocation because “the NHL wants its money back”.

What we also know is that the team is in an extremely tight long term agreement with the Centennial Authority. According to one of the guests on the Hockeybuzz podcast today, the purchase of the Carolina Hurricanes would have to come at a price of about twice its market value to release the team from the building contract. So, the local powers-that-be did their homework when they committed to building the PNC Arena in the 1990s.

Finally, the big matter at the NHL’s table is league expansion. Currently there are 16 teams in the Eastern Conference and 14 teams in the Western Conference. Prevailing thought is that the league will expand by 2 for balance. The top two markets with financing and ownership organizations in place are Las Vegas and Quebec City.

Following the report of the $300 million emergency loan rumors swirled that the Canes would move to Las Vegas and end expansion talks. However late last night one reporter posted on Twitter that his source said this may not happen; it may be more appropriate to move the Hurricanes to Quebec City and offer Las Vegas, the stronger financial package and owner, the expansion team.

Update 6/7: Hockeybuzz’s Ecklund reports that sources say the team will not move for now. Says “a very solid local person who owns a prominent local business who would buy the team and keep them in Raleigh.”

* * *

What’s going on here? Where there is smoke, there is fire…and there is a lot of smoke. I don’t trust what anyone close to the organization is saying on this matter because they don’t want to lose fans should the deal fall through, and/or they simply have no idea what Peter Karmanos’ actual plans are. The best way to destroy the sale price of a business is have employees jumping ship.

(note: unlike Star Jones, I am not a lawyer). While the law suit by the Karmanos brothers could be based on family-centered acrimony, there is too much going on here to believe it is just a simple squabble. Assuming everything I posted in the first section is, indeed, true, I can imagine a couple of scenarios:

  • The Karmanos lawsuit was created to entangle the NHL’s proceedings in forcing an ownership change. The NHL will meet in 3 weeks to decide about expansion, and such complications might destroy the NHL’s timing and the red tape could push the league to find a new plan for including the two previously mentioned cities, or
  • The Karmanos lawsuit was created to place a lien on the the team sale so that distribution of the proceeds would repay the Karmanos trust funds before satisfying the terms of the Centennial Authority’s lease or paying any debt to the NHL’s fund.

One twist that the Hurricanes’ building lease introduces is the enormously high cost to buy the team and move it. I don’t know the details of the contracts involved, but one scenario being pushed around is for the NHL to buy the team and dissolve it or for the team to declare bankruptcy in order to get out of the Centennial Authority’s lease. To break the lease it appears the team would have to be totally dissolved, and this could end up being cheaper than paying 2X for the team. It also may be the more attractive route for buyers because a team contrived through lottery is likely to not be worse than what the Canes have put on the ice the last 5 years. The role of the Karmanos lawsuit in this scenario isn’t so clear, unless it would put the trust accounts ahead of the NHL in a liquidation setting.

* * *

If any of these scenarios that remove the team from Raleigh occur, the important thing to understand is that it is just business and doesn’t reflect on the quality of life for families and normal businesses in Raleigh and North Carolina. We were warned in the ‘90s that Felix Sabates and Peter Karmanos were fairly ruthless businessmen. We went with Karmanos and while I’m sure he would like to be regarded highly in this market, he is likely not emotionally connected.

The move of the team to the Triangle has absolutely been a fun addition to the area, and I hope to see them stay. However it is important to remember that the success of major sports franchises has much more to do with the expense accounts of corporations than it has to do with the regular community. Raleigh residents be fine in the long run either way.


RDU Unveils Master Plan Paths

20110122-45Today the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority unveiled nine possibilities in the formulation of a 2040 master plan. The group wants the facility to be ready for changes in consumer demand, technology, and major facility maintenance over the next two decades. Readers are invited to join the conversation at vision2040.rdu.com and on Twitter using the hashtag #RDU2040.

The alternatives introduce a myriad of changes, from replacing each, aging runway to adding gates, to offering easier rental car service access. Personally my favorite is Plan 8. It allows Southwest to keep their own terminal (which could never be altered to be a showcase) while greatly expanding the showcase Terminal 2. Additionally, it uses an elevated people moved to connect passengers with the rental car hub, like Tampa has arranged. some other plans put a parking garage with rentals on the land in front of old Terminal B, but this is precious land and has no place for expansion.

One of these plans struck me as a totally new way of looking at the airport; Plan 5. This plan adds a 3rd independent terminal north of Terminal 2, where the runway observation park is. However if one backs away, it seems the entire complex could eventually handle a Terminal 4 where General Aviation currently is. Of course, there are models which show the most efficient mix of gates, runways, and curb length, but the real key here is that the plans do not absolutely have to be constrained to just the south side of the north taxiway connecting the runways.

The flaw with all 9 plans is that they assume that people will behave the same way they do today. We are on the cusp of a major transportation revolution, mainly centered around the driverless car. This will bring drastic changes in the demand for prime real estate parking, queues of public cars awaiting service, and traffic flow. Perhaps building expensive parking structures is not the best plan given what we know in 2016.

To view photos individually, select Show As List and click on each.


Take an Amtrak Getaway to…Durham

20150925-448Looking for an adventurous weekend getaway? One option many haven’t considered is right under our noses: taking Amtrak to Durham. My wife and I did this urban excursion back in the Fall and had a fantastic experience. Not only were we able to take an unfamiliar mode of transportation and avoid heavy traffic, but we were able to explore a culinary playground for what felt like the first time. Our one-night excursion included a night at the incredible 21c Hotel, drinks in the 21c’s bar, dinner at Mateo, and late-night drinks on the roof of The Durham Hotel.

So packing your rolling suitcase! Here’s how to do make it fun and easy:


Taking the train to Durham made the trip really feel like we were getting away from it all. Had we driven, it would have felt like just another trip to Durham. Amtrak is scheduled to leave Raleigh each day at 4:50pm and the fare is $9 per person.

Parking is less than ideal at the Raleigh train depot. Though it is free, the lot is very small, and overflow means parking on the street. The alternative is departing from Cary where the terminal is spotless, parking is outstanding. The train leaves at 5:03pm each day from Cary, and fare is $6.50 per person.

The problem with departing from Cary, though, is that you skip the great experience of leaving from downtown Raleigh. You definitely want to sit on the right side of the train, because the views as you depart downtown Raleigh, passing by the new train depot construction site, through NCSU, by the backs of Hillsborough street businesses, and by the NC State Fairgrounds, is superior to that on the left side of the train.

It should be noted that Amtrak runs late the majority of the time. Thankfully they have an outstanding phone app which accurately reports the train’s status. It is a must when traveling on Amtrak.

Usually this train doesn’t sell out, so you can buy a ticket at the depot upon arriving. Seating on the train is general admission, though, so it does help to be first in line at the designated steps when the train is loading. All seat rows have a standard pair of electrical outlets under the window, and the seating dimensions are similar to those in First Class on a large airplane. Baggage is loosely stored overhead, not checked.

if the train is running late, you can walk across the tracks to visit Videri Chocolate Factory or Boxcar Bar + Arcade. CAM is also an option on some days, as they are open until 6:30pm on Wed-Fri. If you are in Cary and the train is late, consider visiting the shops in the Ashworth Drugs block.


20150925-464Durham has three outstanding hotels: The Aloft, The Durham, and the incredible 21c Hotel. The latter two hotels are just two blocks from the Amtrak station, while the aloft is adjacent to the DPAC, essentially 4 blocks away. The scheduled arrival is 5:24pm, so you should have plenty of time to check in and prepare for dinner.

The Aloft– As with most Aloft hotels, the rooms are modern, certainly adequate, but not high end. This location just opened 6 months ago, and I’ve heard a good first hand report about the couple’s stay. Rooms are usually $160 per night.

The Durham Hotel – Set in an old office building that looks like it came out of 1960s Miami, The Durham delivers a high end experience in incredibly minimalist rooms. Nightly rates begin at $290.

20150925-454The 21C Museum Hotel – Named as one of the best new hotels in the nation in 2015, the 21c is set in the 1930s era Hill Building, Durham’s tallest. The public areas of the building have been converted to a restaurant, a bar, and several rooms of museum space. The front desk area is tucked away on the second floor, but that only ads to the intrigue of the place. The rooms are large, and terrazzo floors and rugs, modern furniture, and neat lighting. The bathrooms look like something from a Stanley Kubrick movie, glowing fuchsia backlighting around the edges of the mirror. Very sexy. Rooms at the 21C begin at $240. Note: the hotel has a construction site across the street, so request a room on the west side of the building if you can.

Make no mistake, these are three high fashion hotels. The 21C has a spa and workout room. The Aloft is the only one with a pool, but it is very small. The Durham has no similar amenities. This is the area where these three hotels are sorely lacking, honestly.


20150925-470There are some outstanding dining options within a four block walk of these hotels. We walked 2 blocks to Mateo, the creation of James Beard award-nominated chef Matt Kelly. The dinner was impressive, which comes as no surprise given the reputation of the restaurant. Last week Alton Brown gave high praise on Facebook, calling Mateo America’s best tapas restaurant. As of now, you can still have a decent choice of times on Open Table one week in advance.

20150925-467Over at The Durham, James Beard award-winning chef Andrea Reusing’s new lobby-filling The Restaurant has received high praise from the highest of area food snobs.

The 21c’s Counting House restaurant, Pizzeria Toro, Rue Cler, Piedmont, Dashi, Bull City Burger and Brewery, and Dos Perros are all excellent dining choices as well.


Our “pregame” events included cocktails at the excellent bar in the 21c. We were able to peruse the art gallery; a wonderful experience. After the meal at Mateo we made our way two blocks to The Durham’s rooftop bar. Views here are very good, and it gave us a chance to experience the neat, quirky aspects of this hotel project. The atmosphere at the top was certainly the most Glenwood South-like experience of the evening, however.

20150925-478Some other good bar options inside the Durham Loop are Alley Twenty Six, Bar Virgile, and Arcana Bar and Lounge.


Admittedly, our trip was a food-based one, however there are some great entertainment options in downtown Durham including a DPAC or Carolina Theater event, a Durham Bulls game, or even a public event at the American Tobacco complex. While these are great options, the Amtrak factor must not be forgotten. Many of these events begin before 8pm and given Amtrak’s history, it could put a squeeze on dinner plans or even jeopardize seeing a ticketed event. If you anticipate dinner and one of these events, prepare to compromise by abandoning the Amtrak option in the afternoon and just drive it.


One of the reasons this getaway is an adventure is that Durham is not the safest place on the planet. In fact Durham County is one of North Carolina’s three counties with a higher violent crime rate than any county in New Jersey. Its rate is 2.5X higher than Wake County’s.

I have had no problems, however my sister and her date did have a scary incident. On a warm night this winter, between the 21c and Mateo, they approached an oncoming group of about 20 young black males who, from across the street, yelled at them, mocking them as racists and making lewd suggestions. There were no other people around to help had the group decided to cross the street and be violent.

The streets are dark in downtown Durham, and sometimes are quiet. In 4 nights of going out inside the Durham Loop, I have never seen a police officer. While the crime rate inside the Loop is probably not nearly as high as the county’s rate, the people creating that rate are not far away. This needs to change, now. Downtown Durham is poised to be the next Big Thing in the nation, as long as people feel safe. The population on the street is changing this spring, however, as the general population walking around patronizing businesses on a given weekend night is steadily increasing during warm weather nights.

Return Trip

There are two options for your return trip on Amtrak; 9:42am and 2:42pm. The early train is good for those who need to get on back to Raleigh, but the afternoon train is the way to go. Regardless, check the Amtrak app upon waking and see how the trains are running. (we made the mistake of hurrying to the station only to learn that the early train was delayed 2 hours).


There are some great lunch spots in downtown Durham. The most popular is Dame’s Chicken & Waffles, reported to be “the real deal”. Another great option, however, is Parker & Otis, which is 2 blocks west of the Amtrak station. P&O is a great café and gift shop like none in Raleigh.

Some other excellent lunch options include Toast, Old Havana Sandwich Shop, Luna Rotisserie and Empanadas, Pizzeria Toro, Dashi, Bull City Burger and Brewery, and Dos Perros .

* * *

Sometimes we all need a getaway. Unfortunately we find ourselves turning to the same old options, many of which involve multiple-night stays and a considerable amount of difficult driving. However random adventures can be just as exhilarating. Consider a great option that is right in our backyard; the Amtrak Getaway to Durham.



Summer ‘16 Promises Huge Concert Season

Despite what some might portray, this summer’s concert calendar for the Raleigh area is jam packed with a plethora of incredible concerts, comedy shows, and stage productions. Over 120 concerts by original artists await, with more announcements to come!

  1. 4/19 – Puscifer (RMA)
  2. 4/20 – Caberet begins (DPAC)
  3. 4/21 – Jimmy Buffett, Huey Lewis and The News (WCA)
  4. 4/21 – Ciara (RT)
  5. 4/21 – Robyn Hitchcock (CC)
  6. 4/21 – Jim Breuer opening night (GC)
  7. 4/22 – Martin Lawrence (PNC)
  8. 4/25 – Joy Formidable, Helio Sequence (CC)
  9. 4/26 – Lauryn Hill, Gary Clark Jr. (WOA-gboro)
  10. 4/27 – Dave Ramsey (DPAC)
  11. 4/28 – Polica (CC)
  12. 4/29 – M. Ward (HRB)
  13. 4/30 – Cravin’ Melon, Jack the Radio, Noah Guthrie, Katelyn Read (NH)
  14. 4/30 – Widespread Panic (WCA)
  15. 5/2 – Citizen Cope (CC)
  16. 5/3 – Beyonce, DJ Khaled (CFS)
  17. 5/3 – Chris Isaak (CTD)
  18. 5/3 – Wild Belle (MMH)
  19. 5/3 – 42nd Street opening night (DPAC)
  20. 5/5 – Parachute (CC)
  21. 5/5 – Jamie Kennedy (GC)
  22. 5/6 – Kiefer Sutherland (LT)
  23. 5/6 – Frankie Beverly, Charlie Wilson, Lalah Hathaway (PNC)
  24. 5/7 – Old Crow Medicine Show, Brandi Carlile (WOA-gboro)
  25. 5/8 – Cowboy Mouth (MMH)
  26. 5/8 – Old 97’s, Heartless Bastards, J Barham (of American Aquarium) (CC)
  27. 5/11 – Martin Short (CTD)
  28. 5/11 – Pentatonix, Us The Duo (RHA)
  29. 5/12 – Craig Robinson (GC)
  30. 5/13 – Parquet Courts (CC)
  31. 5/14 – The Front Bottoms (CC)
  32. 5/14 – Trampled By Turtles, The Devil Makes Three (RHA)
  33. 5/14 – WWE Live (PNC)
  34. 5/15 – Bloc Party, The Vaccines (CC)
  35. 5/17 – Silversun Pickups, Foals, Joywave (CD-gboro)
  36. 5/18 – Styx, Kansas, Don Felder (KB)
  37. 5/18 – Rogue Wave, Hey Marseilles (CC)
  38. 5/19 – Aretha Franklin (DPAC)
  39. 5/19 – Moogfest (Durham) – Miike Snow, Blood Orange, Gary Numan, et al
  40. 5/20 – Chris Stapleton, Sam Lewis (KB)
  41. 5/21 – Kenny Chesney, Old Dominion (WCA)
  42. 5/21 – Tab Benoit (LT)
  43. 5/21 – Nantucket, Band of Brothers, Kyle Scobie and Kaylin Roberson (RPG)
  44. 5/22 – Willie Nelson (KB)
  45. 5/22 – RuPaul’s Drag Race (DPAC)
  46. 5/26 – Bill Bellamy (GC)
  47. 5/27 – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (NCMA)
  48. 5/29 – Minus The Bear, Restorations (CD-gboro)
  49. 6/3 – Dave Coulier (GC)
  50. 6/3 – Dolly Parton (GC-gboro)
  51. 6/4 – Cyndi Lauper (DPAC)
  52. 6/4 – Scotty McCreery (TFS)
  53. 6/5 – Journey, Doobie Bros, Dave Mason (WCA)
  54. 6/7 – Riverdance (DPAC)
  55. 6/8 – Dirty Dozen Brass Band (MMH)
  56. 6/9 – Chris Botti (CTD)
  57. 6/9 – Lord Huron, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats (RHA)
  58. 6/9 – Two Door Cinema Club (CC)
  59. 6/10 – Ellie Goulding, Matt and Kim (RHA)
  60. 6/10 – Kris Allen (CC)
  61. 6/10 – Lake Street Dive (NCMA)
  62. 6/10 – Miranda Lambert, Kip Moore, Brothers Osborne (WCA)
  63. 6/11 – M83 (RHA)
  64. 6/14 – Pete Davidson (GC)
  65. 6/15 – Of Monsters and Men (RHA)
  66. 6/15 – Fitz & The Tantrums (CD-Gboro)
  67. 6/16 – Rebelution (The Green, J Boog, Stick Figure, Through the Roots, DJ Mackle – RHA)
  68. 6/16 – Bobby Lee opens (GC)
  69. 6/17 – The 1975 (RHA)
  70. 6/18 – Greg Humphreys (PH)
  71. 6/18 – Rascal Flatts, Kelsea Ballerini, Chris Lane (WCA)
  72. 6/19 – Josh Groban (WOA-gboro)
  73. 6/21 – Weezer, Panic! At The Disco, Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness (WCA)
  74. 6/21 – The Jayhawks (CC)
  75. 6/23 – Brantley Gilbert, Justin Moore, Colt Ford (WCA)
  76. 6/23 – Pere Ubu (CC)
  77. 6/23 – Rich Vos (GC)
  78. 6/24 – Silversun Pickups (RT)
  79. 6/24 – Jay Farrar (HRB)
  80. 6/24 – Rob Schneider opens (GC)
  81. 6/29 – Twenty One Pilots (RHA)
  82. 7/3 – Barenaked Ladies, OMD, Howard Jones – (RHA)
  83. 7/4 – Yarn (RHA)
  84. 7/6 – Modest Mouse, Brand New (KB)
  85. 7/10 – Toby Keith, Eric Paslay (WCA)
  86. 7/14 – Florida Georgia Line, Cole Swindell, Cadillac Three, Kane Brown (WCA)
  87. 7/15 – Ray LaMontagne (RHA)
  88. 7/16 – Steve Miller Band (RHA)
  89. 7/17 – Maks & Val (DPAC)
  90. 7/18 – Flight of the Conchords (KB)
  91. 7/18 – Lindsey Stirling (DPAC)
  92. 7/20 – Pat Benatar, Melissa Etheridge (RHA)
  93. 7/22 – Dierks Bentley (WCA)
  94. 7/22 – Peter Frampton, Gregg Allman (RHA)
  95. 7/22 – Tedeschi Trucks Band, Los Lobos, North Mississippi Allstars (KB)
  96. 7/24 – Digable Planets (CC)
  97. 7/23 – Kool & The Gang (WCA)
  98. 7/24 – Gwen Stefani, Eve (WCA)
  99. 7/24 – 311 w/ Matisyahu (RHA)
  100. 7/24 – Digable Planets (CC)
  101. 7/26 – Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa (WCA)
  102. 7/26 – Swans (CC)
  103. 7/28 – Counting Crows, Rob Thomas (RHA)
  104. 7/29 – Maxwell (RHA)
  105. 7/30 – Slightly Stoopid (RHA)
  106. 7/30 – K. Michelle (RT)
  107. 7/31 – Phillip Phillips, Matt Nathanson, A Great Big World (RHA)
  108. 8/5 – The Smithereens (KB)
  109. 8/7 – Frankie Valli (KB)
  110. 8/9 – Joe Walsh (RHA)
  111. 8/12 – Dixie Chicks (WCA)
  112. 8/12 – Nick Offerman w/ Megan Mullally (DPAC)
  113. 8/12 – Piebald (HRB)
  114. 8/13 – Def Leppard, REO Speedwagon, Tesla (WCA)
  115. 8/13 – Kidz Bop Live (RHA)
  116. 8/13 – Lyle Lovett (DPAC)
  117. 8/13 – Iron and Wine (NCMA)
  118. 8/13 – Jim Gaffigan (WOA-gboro)
  119. 8/16 – Newsies opening night (DPAC)
  120. 8/17 – Needtobreathe, Mat Kearney (RHA)
  121. 8/19 – Brian Wilson (DPAC)
  122. 8/19 – Keith Urban, Brett Eldredge, Maren Morris (WCA)
  123. 8/19 – Fifth Harmony (RHA)
  124. 8/19 – D.L. Hughley opens (GC)
  125. 8/20 – Jonathan Byrd (HRB)
  126. 8/20 – Gillian Welch (NCMA)
  127. 8/21 – O.A.R. (RHA)
  128. 8/23 – Butch Walker (LT)
  129. 8/24 – Glass Animals (RT)
  130. 8/24 – Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ (506)
  131. 8/25 – Rick Springfield, Night Ranger, The Romantics (RHA)
  132. 8/25 – Local H (CC)
  133. 8/27 – Goo Goo Dolls, Collective Soul, Tribe Society (RHA)
  134. 9/2, 9/3 – Luke Bryan, Little Big Town, Dustin Lynch (WCA)
  135. 9/1 – The Melvins (CC)
  136. 9/4 – Of Montreal (CC)
  137. 9/6 – Crystal Castles (CC)
  138. 9/8 – Wolf Parade, Wye Oak (CP)
  139. 9/9 – Beach House (RHA)
  140. 9/9 – Erykah Badu (RHA)
  141. 9/9 – Gary Clark, Jr. (RT)
  142. 9/9 – Weird Al Yankovic (DPAC)
  143. 9/10 – Darius Rucker, Dan + Shay, Michael Ray (WCA)
  144. 9/10 – Chatham County Line (KB)
  145. 9/11 – Bull Durham Blues Festival begins
  146. 9/13 – Kinky Boots begins (DPAC)
  147. 9/13 – Ben Folds (RMA)
  148. 9/13 – Titus Andronicus (PIN)
  149. 9/14 – Heart, Joan Jett, Cheap Trick (WCA)
  150. 9/14 – ZZ Top, Gov’t Mule KB
  151. 9/15 – The Lumineers, Borns, Rayland Baxter (KB)
  152. 9/16 – Damien Escobar (RHA)
  153. 9/17 – The Connells (RLT)
  154. 9/18 – Brad Paisley, Tyler Farr, Maddie & Tae (WCA)
  155. 9/20 – The Cult (RT)
  156. 9/20 – Sevendust (LT)
  157. 9/21 – Amos Lee (DPAC)
  158. 9/23 – Grace Potter (LT)
  159. 9/23 – Hannibal Buress (RMA)
  160. 9/23 – Squirrel Nut Zippers (CTD)
  161. 9/25 – Il Divo (DPAC)
  162. 9/26 – The Sword (LT)
  163. 9/28 – Violent Femmes (NCMA)
  164. 9/30 – IBMA Wide Open Bluegrass
  165. 9/30 – Jason Aldean, Thomas Rhett & A Thousand Horses (WCA)

Venue Key:

506 – Local 506 (Chapel Hill)
CC – Cat’s Cradle (Carrboro)
CD-gboro – Cone Denim Entertainment Center (Greensboro, NC)
CFS – Carter-Finley Stadium
CP – City Plaza (Fayetteville, St)
CTD – Carolina Theater (Durham)
DPAC – Durham Performing Arts Center (Durham)
GC – Goodnights Comedy Club
GC-gboro – Greensboro Coliseum (Greensboro, NC)
HRB – Haw River Ballroom (Haw River, NC)
KB – Koka Booth Amphitheater (Cary)
LT – Lincoln Theatre
MMH – Motorco Music Hall (Durham)
NCMA – NC Museum of Art)
NH – North Hills East Amphitheater
PIN – Pinhook (Durham)
PNC – PNC Arena
RHA – Red Hat Amphitheater
RLT – Raleigh Little Theatre
RMA – Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
RPG – RallyPoint Sports Grill (Cary)
RT – Ritz Theater
WCA – Walnut Creek Amphitheater
WOA-gboro – White Oak Amphitheater (Greensboro, NC)


Publix Coming to Downtown Raleigh

According to trusted sources it appears that Publix will be the major tenant to the Kane Realty project coming to N. West St. in downtown Raleigh. The site, currently occupied by the ThemeWorks and Southland Ballroom, is zoned for 12 stories. So, perhaps, a mixed use project with a ground or second-level grocery is planned.

The site is in an area of NW downtown set to see some major changes. With the NCDOT bridge project set to offload Capital Blvd to eastbound Peace Street traffic via Johnson Street (pdf plan), we are set to see a major amount of redevelopment happen between Capital Blvd and the railroad tracks. Publix will be a perfect fit for this project.

Map picture


Daniels Middle School to Build Skyboxes

Today the Wake County School System announced that Daniels Middle School will undergo a renovation project that will make it the first school in North Carolina to feature skyboxes in its football and basketball facilities. The project not only offers a luxury suite for fans, but also replaces the outdated, original dressing rooms on the ground floor.

The skybox will feature an innovative design, offering prime views of the football field on the east side of the box, as well as a prime view of the basketball gym on the west side, a flexible design to suit all seasons. Food services will be offered on gamedays and for select Blue Jacket events throughout the year by the Angus Barn.

“We are excited for this opportunity to modernize our facilities,” school principal Elizabeth Battle said. “The students and coaches will get long-awaited locker room upgrades, while the suites will give parents a chance to bond during events.

The project will be financed in a joint partnership of the WCPSS as well as the Blue Jacket Club. Construction is scheduled to begin in June of this year.


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