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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