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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

Nov
11

Atlanta Braves Shun Downtown, Transit with Stadium Announcement

newbravesstadium Today the Atlanta Braves announced that they will leave the 16-year old Turner Field and build a new stadium out at the Perimeter (I-285) and I-75. The Braves have played in downtown Atlanta since 1966, but this move will take the team 15 miles away, to Suburbia. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Braves executive Derek Schiller said, 

“It’s also important that the access around the stadium … is greatly enhanced (by) having those major road ways — I-75, I-285, Cobb Parkway — and having a whole range of improved access points and ways to get to and from the stadium,” Schiller said. “… We fully believe that the access to the site will be greatly enhanced for our fans. That starts with roadways. Today, most of our fans arrive via car, and getting to this (new) site via car from all sorts of different directions is easier.”

Roads roads roads. Meanwhile in Raleigh city leaders are quietly doing long-range planning for a replacement for the 14-year old PNC Arena. A replacement isn’t coming in the next decade or two, however downtownist leaders, bemoaning the suburban location of the suburban arena, are considering just which downtown site would work best for the city. These same leaders are also pushing forward with plans to install a rail system which, supporters say, will spur rail-oriented development foci around the system’s stations.

What will probably be ignored as “stupid Atlanta”, a phrase mentioned frequently by Raleigh planners, is that the Braves, a private organization, are planning to spend $675 million on a facility that could not be farther away from transit and still match the population footprint. Atlanta has 48 miles of heavy rail that directly accesses its airport, and one of the city’s most important businesses for Tourism is running away as fast as it can.

So, here is the question: will Raleigh continue to seek an Atlanta-level rail system? Will Raleigh continue to believe that it has some different quality that would make its rail attractive to development and the entertainment industry, unlike Atlanta? Does Raleigh really have what it takes to not exactly mimic Atlanta’s failures?

Oct
23

Aloft Set to Elevate Hillsborough Street

aloft_rendering About 10 years ago the City of Raleigh began the process of restoring Hillsborough Street near NCSU. The street, once a revered college strip of business, restaurants and bars, had fallen into economic malaise as Centennial Campus and the residences of students migrated south of campus. About $13 million later, the street finds itself cleaned up, however the economic climate has been slow to follow.

That all changed with the announcement of an Aloft Hotel, set to replace Sadlacks and the strip that includes SchoolKids’ Records, two thriving, organic businesses that survived a tumultuous streetscape project. The two have found new homes (Berkeley Cafe and Mission Valley, respectively). Hopefully the West Raleigh community is set to embrace a much-needed hotel that, frankly, will be an exciting upgrade to Hillsborough Street both functionally and architecturally.

The preliminary plans show the hotel containing 135 rooms in a single 7-story building. There will be about 6,500 square feet (2 parcels) of street-level retail space that are better-suited to the pedestrian experience than the current buildings. Most likely the second level will contain Aloft’s branded WXYZ hotel bar with a balcony. Behind and under the hotel there will be 99 parking spaces and a tiny pool.

The exterior of the building will be a superb addition to the street. The Hillsborough St. side will appear like two separate buildings, likely to stay consistent with the pattern of buildings on the street that are “1-store” wide. According to the Site Plan (pdf) (which gives more detail than the rendering posted by TBC), the left half will be brick and feature columns of windows sets of varying widths. The center stepback section will highlight the building’s entrance with a building-tall sculpture. The right side, though, will be covered with insulated light gray metal panels and feature color cathode lighting at some of the window trims. The design will be the most sleekly modern commercial building in Raleigh, which is appropriate given the hotel’s proximity to the NCSU School of Design.

Raleigh has a Hillsborough Street problem and it has a Starwood Hotels problem. Since the Phase One renovation of Hillsborough Street completed, the street has had trouble gaining the economic footing for which planners hoped. The Aloft project joins the apartment project down at Morgan as well as the coming IHOP project as the first wave of a coming massive overhaul of the street, and it can’t come soon enough.

Starwood Hotels, one of the world’s largest, has an inexplicably paltry presence in one of the fastest growing areas in the country. There is an Aloft and Sheraton Chapel Hill and a couple of Four Points and the Sheraton Imperial in RTP. However the only other Starwood property in Raleigh is the Sheraton downtown (former Radisson); BIG problem. Though we continue to wait for a Westin property, we will certainly celebrate the arrival of the Aloft, only the second new hotel inside the beltline in 30 years. We need it, and we need it fast.

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Oct
21

Grubb Bringing More Apartments to Lake Boone Area

GreenwayVillage Due to the overwhelming demand for apartment space (as mentioned last week), Gordon Grubb is developing a remote parcel near Lake Boone Trail and the Beltline with 3 medium-sized apartment buildings. The project, named Greenway Village (pdf), will be tucked into existing woods behind the Palms Apartments. The project will only replace about 28,000 square feet, a small portion, of the Palms Apartments, but will add 5X the space in 143 units.

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Oct
15

Apartment Complex Coming to Glenwood/Oberlin

Screen Shot 2013-10-15 at 11.10.44 AM Good news, Raleigh. Your worst building, the Kip-Dell Homes office at Glenwood and Oberlin is finally coming down, soon! This week the Raleigh Appearance Commission will consider another addition to Raleigh’s booming apartment market.

The 2600 project will contain roughly 150 apartments in a six-story complex that will replace both the Kip-Dell office and the neighboring U-shaped, brick apartment building. That site and height will be ample for some excellent views overlooking the Carolina Country Club golf course from the north-facing upper floor units. The complex is being developed by Gordon Grubb, and the architect is J Davis (as if you can’t tell from that rendering).

The decision to develop the property with apartments was apparently an easy one for Grubb, as I recently learned that the 290-apartment complex replacing Balentine’s received over 6,400 applications. While apartment projects around St. Mary’s, Hillsborough Street, and Oberlin are rocketing upward, we can probably expect more and bigger project announcements in the coming year (especially around Crabtree).

It will be interesting to see if the plans for the 2600 project will cause as much angst in the community as we’ve seen historically with that property. Around 1983 Guest Quarters announced plans to develop the site with a suite hotel of an approximately similar size to the planned 2600. Neighbors and Carolina Country Club members posted yard signs and used all available political clout to eventually cause Guest Quarters to cancel the project.

This is 2013, however, and the political climate in Raleigh and in the club are different. A different generation is in charge at the club, and the top ranking members have strong real estate backgrounds. Grabbing the popcorn…

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Apr
11

Charter Square Enters New Chapter with Announcement

CharterSquare_2013Today city officials and developers joined together to announce the new plan for Charter Square. The 11-story project will contain 225,000 square feet of commercial space in a single glass tower. Currently 35,000 of the space is committed. Some of that space will be another ground floor restaurant by Echelon Hospitality. Construction is set to begin this fall, with a 1-year construction window.

The newest chapter in Charter Square is led by developer Dominion Realty Partners and architect JDavis. The site occupies the east half of the footprint of the former Raleigh Civic Center and was once referred to as “Site One”. The project vision was for a two-tower mixed use development with one tower containing residential and the other commercial. As part of the development of the Convention Center and Marriott hotel, the City of Raleigh moved forward with the underground parking garage construction for the Charter Square plan.

Then 2009 happened, and the economy hit developers in every city hard. The new project will still be built on top of that investment. Thankfully the climate is such that progress on this site can move forward once and for all.

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Jan
28

TBJ Presents New North Hills Renderings

Today TBJ posted a slideshow of upcoming North Hills projects that is worth a look. The photos show renderings for a 19-story building that will go between Sparians and Six Forks Road, the 6-story Midtown Green apartments, an amphitheater, a free-standing Chuey’s, and details of the upcoming Allister apartment complex on Ramblewood Drive.

Tucked away, however, in the slide show are images of some other unannounced projects, too:

  • The high-rise condos planned for the space next to the Brothers Cleaners drive-thru are still present.
  • The two high-rise buildings that were once denied by the Raleigh City Council still appear in the plan. The buildings would sit in the vast surface parking lot between Six Forks Road and Coquette, and Lassiter Mill. The plan shows the removal of the Exxon station at the corner.
  • First Citizens’ low-rise crescent shaped office building adjacent to their odd circular building at Lassiter Mill and Six Forks is also present.
  • At North Hills East, a low-rise building is present between Sparians and the Camelot/Dartmouth intersection.
  • A very tall cluster of buildings is depicted between Piola and I-440, where Aldert Root School temporarily sat a few years ago. Originally this area was to hold a retirement development, but with an amphitheater going in at that end of the development, I certainly hope the plans have changed.
  • Most interesting, though, is the pair of high-rises, taller than the Renaissance Hotel, that would replace the JCPenney parking deck. The current deck has seen better days, for sure. Currituck Road is not depicted in the view, however this pair would best logically fit between the Currituck extension and the existing JCP.
  • The Ramblewood developments appear, as backward as they are, to be in place as being constructed now. (Why in the world are the single-family homes up at Ramblewood at the main traffic outlet while the high-density condo buildings are stuck in the back adjacent to Drewry Hills houses? )
  • The (recently razed) BB&T and former Bank of America buildings across Six Forks from the fire station are still present, indicating some error in this master plan.

The plan looks good from the birds eye view, though the complex is going to have to have a lot more parking than it currently has. When that parking is built, hopefully it will make more sense than the CapTrust tower’s parking; the creepiest parking garage in Raleigh.

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Jan
01

30 Predictions for 2013

Happy New Year, everyone! 2012 was an fascinating year, with the Olympics, the Election, and a little bit of economic traction, the year turned out to be more interesting than expected. With the close of the year, it’s time to pull out the old crystal acorn and make a few quick predictions (30 to be exact) for the upcoming year. (Don’t take these to the bank, though! If this thing were any good, I’d be in Vegas with it.)

  • Publix will begin construction on their first Triangle store…in Cary in the Davis/54 area.
  • Publix will pick Creedmoor/Millbrook for their first Raleigh store location. The new owners of Falls Village will make a strong play for Publix, offering to raze half of their center to accommodate a large grocery store.
  • Raleigh will begin discussions to tear down Memorial Auditorium – with the dominant bookings of the DPAC, Raleigh people are increasingly irked by having to go to Durham for so many good events. Leaders in Raleigh will talk about removing the center section of the performing arts complex and replacing it with a stacked, 3-tier facility to compete with the DPAC.
  • Violence will be an increasing problem in Glenwood South, and patrons will start seeking another focus for nightlife, most likely in…the Hillsborough Street area, which will be the next wave of downtown revitalization.
  • Orvis will close in Triangle Town Center and seek space in a part of the Triangle where their patrons actually live. Perhaps Kidd’s Hill behind Crabtree?
  • Development of both Kidd’s Kill properties will finally begin, but the Soleil Center/Westin land will remain an empty lot.
  • A new mall will be announced for the I-40/42/70/540 area between Clayton and Fuquay. It will focus on serving the Johnston County market.
  • Best Buy will close at least one Triangle location. My bet is the newest store, Brier Creek.
  • Between Liles, The Varsity, and Nowells, Raleigh will only support two, and one will close.
  • As brick & mortar retail continues to struggle, Crabtree will add another restaurant in its mall proper
  • While Washington policy will grow much more liberal than we’ve seen in the previous 4 years (increasingly hostile fiscal policies toward the wealthy, increased spending on social programs, and a stark increase in liberal social policies and transit expenditures), North Carolina policy will become more conservative, but not by much. In the next four years issues like Gay Marriage, Legalization of Pot, and Gun Control will stay put in this state, unless there is federal mandate…
  • …The Supreme Court will rule that Gay Marriage must be recognized by all states, and Federal Legislation implementing more stringent gun control will override North Carolina’s stance.
  • North Carolina will get an increased amount of funding for transit (regional “high” speed and local light rail), but the State of North Carolina will decrease expenditures in these areas, and no real progress will occur in the next four years, especially with light rail.
  • Raleigh will continue its oppressive assault on drivers in neighborhoods by reducing the speed limit on Glen Eden to 25 mph. They will also erect more of those contrived islands meant to annoy and slow drivers.
  • UNC and NCSU will field bubble teams in football, once again, that will get absolutely no national attention.
  • If the NHL season is cancelled, Backyard Bistro will close.
  • T-Mobile will be bought by one of the other carriers, most likely AT&T, reducing the number of carrier networks to three in the Triangle.
  • Free Wifi will be everywhere by the end of the year. In the malls, the restaurants, and in grocery stores. Most importantly, I predict that free wifi for every fan in the building will be implemented in the PNC Arena. (yay!)
  • The number of restaurants with tablet menus will grow quickly. In fact, only cheap or snobby restaurants will be without a tablet presence by the end of 2013.
  • Buca di Beppo will announce their first Raleigh/Cary location
  • PDQ will announce two more locations. One in the Southpoint area and one in Cary.
  • One of downtown Raleigh’s Indian restaurants will close. Will it be Blue Mango or Mantra that survives?
  • BJ’s Brewhouse will announce their first North Carolina locations – on in Charlotte, one in Cary.
  • The next big culinary ethnicity, after Mexican starts to fade, will be South American. Restaurants like Machupicchu and Guasaca will have excellent years, but will see more competition, too, especially in the casual dining space.
  • Guacamole variations will be the next trend within the Mexican food space
  • The IHOP on Hillsborough Street will close, but will be replaced in 2014 by a mixed use apartment building that will have street level retail, including a new IHOP. (This is a planned project. The prediction is that execution will begin this year)
  • The Triangle will be selected as the site for filming a nationally prominent movie.
  • No significant changes to Raleigh’s skyline will be introduced in 2013.
  • A MakerBot-like 3D printing business will open in Raleigh, allowing people to create functional and artistic plastic items just-in-time.
  • Here’s the big one: 2013 will be the Year of Durham, and the crowning moment will be an announcement by Google that their second Google Fiber city will be…Durham.
Dec
06

Publix Eyeing Triangle Sites

PublixIt appears that some may have missed TBJ’s announcement last week concerning Publix. It appears the excellent supermarket chain is eying sites in the Triangle.

The Lakeland, FL-based chain has nearly 1,100 stores spread throughout Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina. The expansion would mean direct competition for Charlotte-based Harris Teeter, which has stores Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, DC, Maryland, and Delaware.

If Publix wants a slam-dunk site in Raleigh, they should go into the former Hannaford and Lowes grocery store spot between Costco and Trader Joe’s. (map it) The complexion of that retail neighborhood has considerably improved since the failure of those stores, and the addition of Costco and Trader Joe’s draws people from across the entire eastern half of the Triangle already. The site has convenient I-440 access, and is a location where both Inside The Beltline and Outside The Beltline shoppers feel comfortable. The site is currently leased by a workout gym, but who are we kidding? Right?

An alternative might be the newly razed lot between the old grocery store site and Trader Joe’s. My limited understanding of this former ITT industrial property is that it has had brownfield contamination issues. Depending on the progress of the cleanup, this site could be, and should be developed into a multi-use retail/residential development that ties in to Holly Park to the north, the future light rail corridor to the east, and the Costco area to the south. It is an excellent opportunity looking 10 years forward.

As far as other areas of older north and west Raleigh go, unless an existing grocery store’s current lease is not renewed, it is hard to imagine another site for Publix that could be gracefully executed, to be honest. Perhaps Kids Hill behind Crabtree? Perhaps a corner on Blue Ridge Road? These don’t have nearly the visibility and ease of access. Old Raleigh has very few non-industrial commercial corridors. Therefore the Wake Forest/Six Forks area is absolutely the best option for capturing old Raleigh. There are other lots in that area, such as the Southern States Nissan property, but considerable terraforming will need to be accomplished to deal with the flooding that property periodically experiences.

To be honest, though, Publix could go into any safe area and do well in Raleigh. The sooner the better!

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