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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!

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



Raleigh to Host Farm Aid

farmaidOn Saturday, September 13, Raleigh’s Walnut Creek Amphitheatre will be the host to the 2014 Farm Aid concert and festival. The all-day music and food festival will feature “family farm-identified, local and organic foods with its own HOMEGROWN Concessions®. In Farm Aid’s HOMEGROWN Village, attendees will have the chance to meet farmers, engage in hands-on food and farm activities, and learn about the ways family farmers are enriching our soil, protecting our water and growing our economy, in addition to bringing us good food for good health.”

However the real draw is the music, featuring a lineup of:

  • Willie Nelson & Family
  • Neil Young
  • John Mellencamp
  • Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds
  • Jack White
  • Preservation Hall Jazz Band
  • Jamey Johnson
  • Delta Rae
  • Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real
  • Carlene Carter
  • Pegi Young & The Survivors
  • Insects vs Robots

Tickets go on sale tomorrow (7/25) at Noon. Prices range from $49 to $175.


Download the Wake County Schools’ 2015 Calendars

calendar_iconWake County School System has compiled their official calendars for the 2014-2015 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 Android phones, iPhones, 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.


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.


NCSU Unveils New Basketball Court Design

ncsu_courtThe NCSU Men’s Basketball Program this week unveiled a new paint job for their basketball courts in the PNC Arena as well as the Dail practice facility. The court features a two-toned stain, a large Wolfie head, and various small logos.

The design’s use of the school’s bright red color around the court boundary and a second stain tone inside the 3-point arc do an excellent job of marking the court’s important functional zones for the viewer.

Unfortunately, though, the second stain tone is not used in the free throw semicircle, and is inconsistent with the function of that zone. The zone’s function is actually consistent with the darker stained area, and thus, should be colored the same way. The current appearance may lead an official or viewer to incorrectly thinking a player is inside the 3-second zone when they are not.

Here is how the corrected court would look:

ncsu_court corrected

read more…


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.


Crawford Leaves Herons for New Hospitality Group

stdfoodsMore big news from Raleigh’s culinary scene…. Scott Crawford, the chef at Heron’s (in The Umstead) for the last 5 years, has left the restaurant and has joined with John Holmes of Hobby Properties to form the Nash Square Hospitality Group.

The group has two concepts underway, Standard Foods and The Nash Tavern. Standard Foods will be a grocery store/restaurant located in Person Street Plaza (map it) and will open in the Fall. The store will contain an 80-seat restaurant serving casual Southern cuisine (eg. chilled Strawberry Soup with yuzu and jalapeno, Fresh Bacon with Boiled Peanut Chowder, marble potatoes & leeks, Tomato Popsicles with spicy pickled okra, fried Rabbit with succotash, Pork Cheeks with pickled peppers & apricot mustard, puddings, pies and peach-ginger sorbet). The grocery end of the concept is slated to feature a whole animal butchery, brown butter, duck fat, demi-glace, stocks, and a fresh seafood selection.

Nash Tavern will be a full-service restaurant on Nash Square, and is slated to open in 2015. It will feature Modern American fare and will have private event space.


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.


Curated Stringed Instrument/Wine Event Coming to Downtown


On Saturday, May 24 Pasewicz String Instrument will present Meritage, a unique show featuring fine wine, instruments, and music. Attendees will have the opportunity to see and hear some of the finest stringed instruments in the country, and hear a sampling of of works from artists like Mendelssohn, Schubert, and Brahms. Some anticipated instruments on display are over 200 years old.

The event is presented by Pasewicz String Instrument, a Raleigh-based instrument shop which has earned a reputation for being one of the finest instrument repair and craft shops in the country.

The event takes place from 6 to 11pm in the AIANC Center for Architecture & Design, and advance tickets are $18.


Ashley Christensen Wins Best Chef in Southeast

acA huge congratulations for Raleigh’s Ashley Christensen who tonight was named “Best Chef in the Southeast” at the James Beard Awards! Christensen first made a name for herself in this market with her food at Enoteca Vin, but then moved on to open the Raleigh Times Bar with Greg Hatem. After leaving the Times Bar, she opened her best-known restaurant, Poole’s Diner, which set the tone for her interpretation of classic comfort foods.

Keying on resonating trends at Poole’s, Christensen branched out to open Chuck’s, Beasley’s Chicken + Honey, Fox Liquor Bar, and Joule Coffee. The endlessly energetic Christensen will soon expand her territory with the opening of Death & Taxes and Aux Kitchen.

This marks the first Beard award winner for Raleigh and another for the Triangle region. Raleigh’s proud of Ashley for finally getting this prestigious award and helping to cement this area as one of the best culinary markets in the country!


TWC Offering Streaming Set-top Box

fanTVLast week word leaked out that Time Warner Cable will begin offering the Fan TV set-top box to work with its services this summer. The hockey-puck-sized box will only connect to your home computer network, and will allow streaming of live TV, TWC’s On-Demand services, and internet streaming services. The selection of live TV will likely be that offered in the current iPad app, which does not include local channels. At launch later this quarter, the supported services will be Redbox Instant by Verizon, Crackle, Target Ticket, and Rhapsody.

Unlike Time Warner’s current offerings of set-top boxes, the Fan TV box is fully purchased up front, and carries no monthly charges for basic services. The box will retail at $149, but can be pre-ordered at $99 now.

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Fan TV is an interesting offering, given the secret insertion of the Integration Ban legislative proposal last week (which would allow cable companies to design equipment that doesn’t use an internal CableCARD, the next step in their abandonment of the technology – pay attention, TiVO users!). Perhaps this is TWC’s set-top box of the future. If TWC can offer all of its channels to the FanTV,  it can be a fantastic improvement over their awful current selection. This box will not be a DVR, however if the OnDemand services can offer the most recent episodes, that should be enough for non-sports fans. TV behavioral statistics show that people don’t really use their DVRs, so that technology is headed for extinction, anyway.

At first blush the setup seems as simple as the Chromecast, Roku, and AppleTVs, but the remote is simply a touch pad. Interesting (though I much prefer a smartphone/tablet interface that slings to a TV over these 10-foot interfaces on the current devices.) With a $99 introductory price the FanTV might be a great experiment for the summer. Likely the selling prices for these on eBay will be greater than $99, so what’s to lose?


Need Help Discovering Great Cookbooks?

If you have ever found yourself overwhelmed in the cooking section of a bookstore or at Amazon.com, you aren’t alone. There are hundreds and hundreds of cookbooks out there and it is difficult to discern the good from the bad.

One of the best ways to improve your cookbook collection is to look at what cookbooks the great chefs are using. One of the most exposed and interesting selections in the area is at Rise, the biscuit/donut shop in the Southpoint mall complex. It’s a fun look; rewarding to see some of your favorites, but also a great chance to add to your own list or your gift lists.

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City Barbeque Brings Delicious Range of Styles to Cary

2014-04-09 12.58.29While it isn’t the home of Eastern North Carolina barbecue, Raleigh is definitely in the territory. The chopped, vinegar-based pork style of barbecue is how we were raised around here and anything else is dog food, right? Well….

Other styles of American “barbecue” have come and gone, with mild to moderate success. Houston-based Luther’s brought a heavily smoky Texas brisket to Raleigh in the mid-80s, however the flavors were just too strong to shake for the rest of the day. Red, Hot, & Blue has only had moderate success, as has Dickeys. City Barbeque, a Columbus, OH based operation is the latest contender on the block, and it just might be good enough to make the impact others are seeking.

Instead of sticking to one style of preparation, City has decided to go with a sampling of styles from across America’s mid-section: Texas-styled brisket and sausage, Alabama-style pulled Chicken, St. Louis Ribs, and Carolinas-Styled pulled pork. With three sauces for the meats, I was able to turn any of these meats into a style I wanted.

2014-04-09 12.58.37The sausage was good, but not quite as good as what I had in my recent trip to Austin. However the brisket is actually more enjoyable. The ribs and pork were both delicious, as well. What made my meal stand out, however, was the feeling I had after eating it. Most of the time barbecue doesn’t agree with me. Either the food is overtly greasy and/or has an intense smoke flavor that I can’t shake for the rest of the day. Not so with City Barbeque. Not only did the food agree with me, but I didn’t even have a greasy sensation on my tongue that afternoon. That’s truly remarkable!

The huge list of sides at City Barbeque are as good as the meats. I was able to sample corn pudding, slaw, potato salad, french fries, Texas-style baked beans, and green beans. They ranged from good to some of the best I’ve ever had. The potato salad was excellent, however the french fries, with the perfect amount of kosher salt, are among the best I’ve ever had (including my meal last week at Flip Burger, Food & Wine’s pick for Best Fries in the U.S.).

The string beans are worth a discussion by themselves. They are cooked in homemade chicken stock along with “bacon” – not the fatty stuff from the grocery store but rather a thin, ham-like version. The result: the best stringed beans I’ve ever had. The texture is perfect, the salt level is perfect, and there is no resulting grease slick!

The restaurant is located in a replacement building in the parking lot of the Trader Joe’s shopping center in Cary. This is an ideal location, as their patrons are likely not going to be people whose palate for BBQ is limited to only Eastern NC style. That shouldn’t deter Raleigh people from making the 20 minute drive, however. It’s worth the drive, for sure. (and when you are done you can swing by the Meat House in the shopping center next door and take something home to cook another night).

City Barbeque will stage their grand opening tomorrow (4/12) with a “rib cutting” ceremony at Noon.

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