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May
18

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.

Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 10.58.14 AM

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.

Nov
07

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.

Apr
18

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

Oct
05

Public Meeting on Fairview Fire Station Coming Monday

On Wednesday, October 7 at 7pm, the City of Raleigh Fire Department will hold a public meeting on the rebuild of Fire Station Six (Fairview and Oberlin Roads). The meeting will take place at the fire station.

Oct
02

Parade of Homes Begins Tomorrow

For the next three weekends the Triangle Homebuilders Association will be celebrating the Parade of Homes. The county-wide series of nearly 400 new open houses runs through the next three weekends (October 3-4, 9-11, 16-18). The houses will be open from Noon to 5pm each day.

There are 3 good sources of information about the tour:

  • In Print – stop by the homebuilder’s association’s office (near Crossroads) at:
    5580 Centerview Drive, Suite 115
    Raleigh, NC 27606
    map
  • OnlineThe association website, a searchable directory, and an online map are all available on the web.
  • Apps – probably not the best-designed app ever, but the best way to go is to use the Android app and the iOS app . The house listing is scrollable, there is a filter search, a map with pins, and the ability to star your favorites.

The most interesting house on the tour is the one at Yadkin and Alleghany, a 5,961 square foot Modern English house by Dixon-Kirby. Their work is always top notch, but there is always, too, some element of bizarre in their houses.

The largest house on the tour is The Cove, a 7,600 square food house on Brinleys Cove Court (out Six Forks past Durant Rd).

Restrooms are not available in the houses, so please plan accordingly. Also be sure to wear socks and shoes you can easily remove before entering each house. Finally, each house’s parking is curbside in existing neighborhoods, so please be courteous to keep driveways, hydrants, and intersections clear, and be on the lookout for children.

Apr
28

Traffic Circles Removed from Currituck Design

neighborhoodRoundaboutThe Raleigh City Council recently approved a traffic calming project slated for Currituck Drive in the North Hills subdivision. The project design, intended to engineer cars into keeping speeds in the 20s, includes curb extensions and medians. The intent is to convey a sense of traffic calming by including an element every 5th house along the street.

Original plans called for two neighborhood traffic circles (one oblong and one circular) as well as bumped out corners of an existing 4-way stop intersection. The approved design, however removes all of those options. The oblong circle has been replaced with a median on both sides of the intersection and the true circle will likely be replaced with a 4-way stop.

The project is expected to begin this summer in the summer of 2016.

Sep
03

Appearance Commission to Review Residence Inn

residence1The Raleigh Appearance Commission meets tomorrow, and among the items on their agenda is the planned Residence Inn for downtown Raleigh. The 9-story hotel is rumored to feature a “rooftop” bar, but will primary serve as a secondary hotel for those attending events in the adjacent convention center.

The building will use four materials on the surface: EFIS and three tones of brick. The street level tone of brick will be beige while the upper floors will feature brick of red and hulking grey tones. The building only gets EFIS treatments on its crown.

Overall the look is modern, urban, boxy with surfaces broken up by varying textures and materials. There are no vast expanses of a single material. Instead, the architects have presented a very busy looking building that is neither an eyesore nor a beauty nor bland.

I really like that the design continues the dedicated 2-story façade for the first two floors, as we have seen in so many projects in the last decade. The effect is that the streetspace feels wider than it would if the building were the same material from sidewalk to roof. (The rule is that the façade needs to change before it gets to the height that matches the width of the street, btw).

residence3While I appreciate that this building is not a stark, unimaginative box, I do think the designers have gone a bit overboard with the heterogeneity of materials. I am not a fan of brick red and gray together, so obviously I don’t like the material choices. Also, I like the signage at street level, especially the vertically-oriented signs. However whoever designed the “Residence Inn” sign for the building’s crown must have happy-clicked on the kerning settings because it looks like a giant mistake.

We all wanted Greg Hatem’s dream of a skyline-impacting, boutique hotel with a signature rooftop restaurant to get built on this plot of land. However this hotel will be a nice addition to downtown and will help the sorely underserved hotel market for downtown. There are plenty of other sites where we can eventually get that boutique hotel, so until then, lets keep going up!

* * *

The Appearance Commission will discuss this project during their meeting tomorrow, September 4, at 4:30 in the City Council Chambers.

residence2

Jul
15

Edison Office Tower Heads to Appearance Commission

edisonofficeOn Thursday at 4:30pm the Raleigh Appearance Commission will review plans detailing the latest design for the Edison Office building. The building, according to the site plan (pdf) will sit in the northwest quadrant of the block bounded by Wilmington, Martin, Blount, and Davie Streets, across from the side of Beasley’s, replacing the building containing Reliable Loan,

The current plan calls for a 17-story tower that is 301-feet high, about 9% taller than the Progress Energy Tower (former City Plaza building). Plans call for the project to contain 417,000 feet of office space, parking garage space for 328 spaces, and 3 ground-level retail spaces, and an elevator lobby fronting Martin Street. There will be 6 combination parking/office floors sitting atop the street-level retail, capped by 11 full office floors.

The Appearance Commission’s duties will be light with this project, as they will likely deal mostly with streetscape elements of the plan. One such that needs to be addressed is the standard U-shaped bike racks. A more creative design would give this project and downtown much more character. Perhaps a light bulb shape as a nod to Edison’s most popular invention?

The site plan offers much detail about the ground floor and a typical parking floor, but isn’t clear about parking access. On the floors with parking, this project will neatly abut the existing parking garage originally built for the block’s four corner projects. Perhaps access will simply be from critical access points in the existing structure.

This will be a nice, early century addition to Raleigh, offering some much needed, class A office space to a market that is at capacity. How does the project fall short? Though I really like the Red Hat Tower, this project is a slightly taller duplicate, and will sit one block north of Red Hat. Yes, this project fits the needs of today’s market, however this land is one of the few places where an impact tower could be added to fill out Raleigh’s “money shot”. Given the appearance of this building’s crown, this project will add nothing interesting to that view. So in that sense, it is a lost opportunity.

Jun
03

4-Story Mixed Use Planned For Hillsborough St.

hillsboro_2811Another piece of the residential component for Stanhope Village will be reviewed by the Appearance Commission on Thursday. According to the Preliminary Site Plan (pdf), developers plan to replace the former Red Barn/Swenson’s/SakuraXpress building at 2811 Hillsborough Street and replace it with a 4-story mixed use project.

The building would contain 30 apartments on three floors sitting atop a street-level retail floor, a development style in accordance to the Stanhope Village area plan. Plans also call for 21 vehicle spaces.

The Raleigh Appearance Commission will be discussing this project (more renderings will likely be shown) on Thursday, June 5, at 4:30 pm in the City Council Chambers. The meeting will also be televised and streamed by RTN.

May
14

Maybe the Foxes Are Sending “Triangle” a Message

RTP_DogFor five decades now the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area has been termed “The Triangle”, and for good reason. As three cities/towns hosted the most important academic, medical and business centers, it was only natural to focus on the three entities. While we expected infill in The Triangle, we perhaps didn’t see our grown concentrations morph the area into a different shape; a red fox.

The area’s satellite imagery reveals much growth from Chapel Hill and Carrboro toward Raleigh, but Raleigh’s growth has been along outward spokes to the northeast, southeast, and southwest. According to the figure, Umstead park appears like a saddle on the little fox, and Jordan Lake looks like a long line of droll from Carrboro/Chapel Hill, the mouth of the dog.

While I’m not assigning any character traits to communities based on this morphology, the shape does spur some interesting questions such as:

  • Why hasn’t Creedmoor Road/hwy 50 seen any retail development?
  • Why has the Apex/Garner axis been kept so rural?
  • Why has the Durham/Wake Forest axis been kept so rural?

Maybe these little red foxes that are invading our cities are simply a calling; the new mascots for the area. Instead of “The Triangle”, we could be called “The Fox”. The airport code could be changed to “FOX”. The 10 o’clock news could be the Fox News Hour….oh wait.

Apr
10

Hunt Library To Be Featured on “Cool Spaces!”

PBS’ new show, Cool Spaces!, delves deep into some of America’s most outstanding new buildings. Episode 2 features 3 great libraries, including the Snøhetta-designed Hunt Library at N.C. State. The episode airs tonight (4/10) on UNC-Explorer (TWC 1277, UVerse 36) at 9pm.

Remember, too, that the library still gives free, guided tours which are fantastic. The tours begin at the BookBot viewing entrance and are given at:

  • Wednesdays at 9:30 am 
  • Fridays at 3:30 pm
  • Second Saturday of each month at 10:30 am

Note: No tours will be given during Reading Days or Finals, April 24 – May 6.

Dec
03

Beer Garden Coming to Glenwood South

The Hibernian group has submitted plans to the city for a beer garden-type bar. The plan calls for the non-descript 2-story building at 614 Glenwood, next to Harry’s Guitar shop, to be converted into a small bar with a large outdoor patio in the side and back yards. The site will likely offer a neat getaway with good views of downtown.

Nov
20

A Plan for UNC’s Dean Smith Center

From the Vault:

deandome_sinkOn Monday the News & Observer’s Andrew Carter published an article about UNC doing a feasibility study about Smith Center renovations. While the university claims the facility is still "first rate", fans and recruits know better. Access to the building is among the worst in the country, seating is cramped, bathrooms are dirty and in disrepair, there are no luxury boxes for revenue generation, and student seating is too far from the court to offer a home court advantage like other teams enjoy. The photo shows the men’s room situation, where those who choose to wash their hands are rewarded with only a frigid trickle of water and empty soap dispensers.

None of this is new, however. In 2000 Tar Heel fans had these same complaints about the then 15-year old Smith Center. I submitted four options (featuring 4 to-scale cutaway diagrams) to then Athletic Director Dick Baddour with only a polite form letter in reply. Unfortunately the only renovations since that time have focused on player and coach areas and lower level chair replacement. Problems with the building remain, and it is good that the university is reviewing options.

Attached is the 2008 gogoraleigh post that reposted the original 2000 plans for renovating the Smith Center. The success of the student section behind the home goal shows that Project 1a is quite feasible, and likely the rest still are. 


There once was a snowy night back in the year 2000. As two feet of snow fell on the Triangle, the UNC Tar Heels were to face the Maryland Terrapins in the Dean Smith Center. Weather prevented most ticket holders from attending, so all seating was opened to general admission. The the court was surrounded by screaming students and those at the game said it was "magic" as the Heels upset the Terps. On my twelve-year-old UNC blog, Tar Heel HOOPla, I posted some ideas for renovating the Smith Center shortly after the game. The plans would allow the court to be permanently surrounded by students while appeasing the building’s donors. (I also sent these to Athletic Director Richard Baddour, but only received a polite form letter in return.) As the Dean Dome completes its 23rd season, not much has changed. The building doesn’t allow the team to get the most support possible. It isn’t a lost cause, though. These same ideas could still be applied to give UNC a better home court advantage. Here is that 2000 article:

Dana’s Smith Center Renovation Plans

As UNC plays its 15th season in the Smith Center, the debate over student seating rages on. Both of the times in the 15 years that seating has been changed to “general admission”, the court has been surrounded by students, and the players have responded with a resounding performance. This could become the norm for the Smith Center with some easy improvements. Clearly N.C. State has shown with their new arena that placing students, the most active and audible fans, around the court creates an intimate, loud setting in a large venue. Simply reassigning student tickets to the first several rows will not suffice as students usually stand for the entire game. Because the lower level descends to the court surface smoothly, the only way to accommodate standing students without obstructing other lower level patrons is to sink the front rows.

Project #1

Dean_dome_proj1a Project #1 focuses on placing students around the basketball court. To date there are two popular solutions floating around. One plan, Project 1a, involves replacing the current collapsible seating in the first 11 rows with lower-rise collapsible seating. Given that the 12th row (the first row of permanent seating) patrons should not have their view obstructed by standing students, there should be a drop-off of 43″ from the 12th to 11th rows. This will allow patrons to see over rowdy students that are up to 6′2″ tall. The first row of permanent seats, unobstructed, would become a premium seat location. This new seating would seat students exclusively, so the quality of the chair is not important. Seat width can be as narrow as the seats upstairs, too, since students won’t be using these seats as much as paying patrons.

While Project 1a is a fairly inexpensive solution, it substantially compromises the students’ view. If the current collapsible seating were removed, there would be a wall about 96″ high just in front of the 12th row. After accounting for a 43″ drop, the new collapsible seating could only be 53″ tall. Given those dimensions,11 rows of collapsible seating would only provide an 8.8 degree rise from the floor. While this is almost 50% steeper grade than the current configuration at N.C. State, 8.8 degrees is still too shallow to enjoy the game to the fullest. Also, these seats would be decidedly inferior to those currently in place for non-basketball events. Dean_dome_proj1b

Project 1b replaces the collapsible seating with the best overall aesthetic and functional solution. In this plan the collapsible seating and Smith Center playing surface would be removed and the floor would be excavated 82″ down. A new floor and collapsible seating would be installed.

This new, lowered section of collapsible seating would ascend not at the current 15 degree angle, but at the 20 degree angle seen in the permanent rows of the lower level. Keeping this 20 degree angle is essential to preserving the views of the students and the ticket-holders in those seats for non-basketball events.

In either plan the permanent aisles would not be confluent with the new fold-back seating, so the aisles would have to be reconfigured in at least 4 places so that students in lower rows could access the concourse. While the removal of the existing fold-back risers and the reconfiguration of a few aisles would remove several seats, the new seating arrangement would put nearly 2800 students in the first 11 rows lining the court providing the rowdiest, most intimidating home-court atmosphere in the nation.

Projects 2, 3, and 4 outline several ideas concerning the addition of luxury suites to the Smith Center. While luxury suites can ease UNC’s budget, they also can offer some incentives for lower level patrons to give up the seats affected by Project #1.

Project #2

Dean_dome_proj2 Project #2 involves replacing the current suites and seats under the second level overhang with luxury suites. These suites would be replete with 8 leather seats overlooking the playing surface, a countertop for bar and food service, a television, and a private bathroom.

Fifty-two such luxury suites could be placed with ease in the Smith Center. (seating map) There would be two non-adjoining suites at the top of sections 127, 126, 125, 124, 121, 118, 117, 116, 113, 110, 109, 108, 107, 104, 101, 100, 133, and 130. Single suites would top sections 123, 122, 120, 119, 115, 114, 112, 111, 106, 105, 103, 102, 132, 131, 129, and 128. Each suite would need to be about 15 feet deep (from the back of the second row of leather seats to the concourse door). In order to accommodate the addition of the suite, approximately five rows (Z, AA, BB, CC, DD) of current seating would need to be removed (shown in grey).

Project #3

Dean_dome_proj3 Project #3 involves the construction of a “halo” ring of luxury suites. Due to the design of the Smith Center, the only way to achieve this is to essentially build a structure resembling a ring of Kenan Stadium press boxes. These suites could actually be as large as desired, but are portrayed in the illustration as being 15′ deep. These suites would contain all the amenities mentioned in the lower level suites, but also would have a private concourse and elevator service to the Bowles Room. As shown in the diagram, about 3 rows of current seating (rows W, X, and Y) would be sacrificed to the 2 rows of leather luxury seats.

Clearly the view from a halo box is inferior to all others in the arena, so some incentives would need to be offered. First class wait service and food of the quality level of the Carolina Club would be offered. Halftime and final game statistics would also be delivered to each suite. Pampering the patrons in the halo boxes is an absolute must, though, in order to fill such suites.

Project #4

Dean_dome_proj4 Project #4, the most aggressive plan, focuses on placing luxury suites in the bottom of the upper level. Certainly the edge of the upper level is a cherished view, and these such suites would be even more cherished. In order to accommodate a suite in this prime location, a massive overhaul of the Smith Center would have to occur. Because rows E, F, and G and the vomitories would be removed, a separate, third level concourse for rows H through Y would have to be built over the current concourse. Stairways, restrooms, and concession stands would be placed in exterior additions to the existing Smith Center structure.

The second level suites would get their own concourse which would overlook the first floor (existing) concourse. These suites would have four rows of luxury seating, accommodating 32 patrons. Because the upper level ascends at an unbroken 34 degree rise, there would be an uncovered portion approximately 14′ 7″ deep. Some privacy could be offered by mounting an awning (shown as a heavy read line) at the end of the suite’s ceiling. Two private restrooms may be needed in these suites.

Certainly the Smith Center is one of the finest college venues in America, however some improvements could make the Heels more formidable at home. Clearly what is best for the team is placing the students around the court. As we saw in UNC’s game against Maryland and in all of N.C. State’s home games, students give a major boost to the team. While surrounding the court with students will make games more lively, those holding seats on the first 11 rows will have to be displaced. Surely there will be resistance to reassignment from some Smith Center donors. However plenty would minimally sacrifice their seat location in the name of improving the arena’s atmosphere. It is time for everyone involved to do what is best for the University.

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