City Lays Markings for Currituck Obstacle Course

20150204_140922The City of Raleigh is planning for major traffic changes on Currituck Drive. The residential street is slated for curb bumps, surprise medians, and the city’s first residential mini-roundabouts. The street will also gain a sidewalk on the north curb to match the existing one on the south curb. According to plans, the project’s goal is to slow traffic to around 30mph. This will be accomplished by placing an irregular feature every 5th house in order to establish a culture of “speed calming”, but will contain no vertical elements (speed bumps).

Projects such as those on Rainwater Drive and Mourning Dove Road were the first to integrate lateral interruptions to traffic in Raleigh, however the Currituck project will be the first to implement the mini-roundabout. Two such designs will be used at the street’s intersections with Macon Place and Tyrrell Road. The island at Tyrrell, a perpendicular cross intersection will be a pure circle and will not require any additional streetscape to support the feature.

The feature at Macon, however, is oval, biased against Currituck traffic. This crossing, pictured, occurs during a steep hill, and visibility is not very good (looking uphill). Likely this will be the surprise element that will cause the most accidents (on a street with very few accidents in its 50 year history).

The City Council will review the plan and welcome public comment in their December 3 meeting. If the plan is accepted construction will occur during the coming Summer, if Fall of 2014 leaves are picked up.


Meet the Zones of North Hills

NHZonesA little over a decade ago the former North Hills Mall & Plaza began a transformation unlike any the area has seen. One of the first enclosed malls in the Southeast was razed and converted into a mixed use lifestyle center. The resulting project now includes the land that formerly held an apartment complex as well as some office buildings.

In recent years North Hills has improved their wayfinding, labling the three main properties as Districts: Main, Lassiter, and Park. They also color-coded each, and hung street pole banners to identify each for visitors (are you reading, N.C. State Fair?).

Look for the signs in North Hills, and get a better flavor for each of the districts.

2014-03-03 13.42.53 2014-03-03 13.47.23  2014-03-03 13.40.58

Note: Moving forward, businesses in North Hills will now be identified at gogoraleigh by district, rather than by the former names: “North Hills”, “The Lassiter”, and “North Hills East”.


Cowfish Named a NRN “Breakout Brand”

Nation’s Restaurant News last week published a list of restaurants across the nation to watch. The 10-restaurant survey picked Cowfish as one of its next “Breakout Brands”. The Charlotte-based, 2-store chain was founded by Elizabeth City-native, NCSU-grad Marcus Hall. The burger/sushi concept’s Raleigh store is located in North Hills’ Park District.



DCI Tour 2013 Preview Coming to Local Theaters Monday

DCI13On Monday at 6:30, Drum Corps International will stream its 2013 Tour Preview special to select theaters across the nation. The Raleigh sites are North Hills and Brier Creek. Tickets are $15, and are available in advance.


North Hills Beach Music Season Begins Tonight

This summer’s weekly North Hill Beach Music Series begins tonight with The Embers. The events take place in the North Hills commons area, in front of the movie theaters, and last from 6-9pm.

  • 4/18 – The Embers
  • 4/25 – The Craig Woolard Band
  • 5/2 – The Attractions
  • 5/9 – North Tower
  • 5/16 – Liquid Pleasure
  • 5/23 – Ken Knox and Company
  • 5/30 – the Catalinas
  • 6/6 – Sleeping Booty
  • 6/13 – The Holiday Band
  • 6/20 – Jim Quick and Coastline
  • 6/27 – Band of Oz
  • 7/4 – North Tower
  • 7/11 – The Fantastic Shakers
  • 7/18 – The Legends of Beach
  • 7/25 – The Entertainers
  • 8/1 – The Craig Woolard Band
  • 8/8 – Liquid Pleasure
  • 8/15 – the Embers

There are a few rules to follow as well:

  • No outside coolers or beverages permitted
  • Parents on Site Policy – Please remember that anyone under 18 must be with a parent or guardian after 8pm

Parking is always interesting for these events. The decks in North Hills and the surface lots usually fill up and spill across Lassiter Mill into the neighborhood and into the Lassiter. Another option is North Hills East, where there is some surface parking, but also hundreds of deck spaces. Please be patient and careful crossing Six Forks Rd. at the Dartmouth signal.


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.

map it


Varsity Men’s Wear Closing

As predicted, the sloppy, Casual Friday trend continues to take its toll on nice menswear stores. The Varsity, a fixture in the Hillsborough Street, Crabtree, and (most recently) North Hills menswear scenes is “retiring”. The store joins the likes of the Stagg Shop, Wrenn-Pharr (& the Club Shop), Chokey’s, and much of the Nowell’s group as Old Raleigh memories. There is a sale going on until inventory is cleared.


Yard House Bought By Darden

yardhouseOn Thursday, Orlando-based Darden Restaurants announced that it is acquiring Yard House USA, Inc. Darden is the parent company to such chain restaurants as Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, and Eddie V’s. Yard House, a 39-unit chain out of Irvine, CA, is set to open late Summer in the base of the CapTrust tower at North Hills East.


Harris Teeter Ends 10-Off-40 Promotion

Two years ago Harris Teeter opened a new store in the parking garage of North Hills East to the chagrin of many area residents. The store was awkward to access, had no internet access, and featured a two-story layout that burdened shoppers in their quest for basic items. Shortly after the crowd roared, Harris Teeter responded by rearranging the store, banishing less popular items to the upstairs.

The store also started a direct mail campaign that offered its neighbors a $10 off any purchase of $40 or more. It was such a powerful incentive, many customers returned and became familiar with the store’s layout.

Recently we noticed that the direc mail flyers were more cleverly disguised among our junk mail. However we haven’t received a flyers in a few weeks. According to readers and a store representative the promotion has ended. Apparently the company feels the numbers for the store are close enough to projections.

So what now? Will this change affect your store selection?


Lululemon Coming to North Hills

lululemonRecently Total Wine completed their move into the left half of the former Harris Teeter store in The Lassiter. The right half is about to become the next location for Lululemon. The Vancouver-based chain offers athletic apparel for yoga, running, and dancing, as well as in-store events for yoga, self-defense, and more. No opening date is set yet, but the store is currently training employees, so it won’t be long.


WCPSS Student Assignment Meeting Tonight at BHS

wcpssTonight begins a series of important meetings by the Wake County Public School Board. The meeting is at Broughton High School from 6:30pm to 8pm (presumably in the auditorium, which is in the building’s corner closest to the intersection of St. Mary’s and Peace Streets). Most likely the hot topic will be the assignment of students from the JY Joyner Elementary School (map it) district. The zone which currently predominantly feeds into Daniels Middle School and Broughton High School, is slated to inclusively feed East Millbrook Middle School (map it) and Millbrook High School (map it).

The controversial proposed school reassignment plan (.pdf) is intended to keep students closer to home and minimize long-distance student commutes. The plan looks logical for nearly every school in the system, however it certainly breaks down for Joyner. Under the proposed plan Daniels would be fed by Root, Stough, York, and Jeffrey’s Grove. Martin would be fed by Lacy and Olds. I don’t have access to the number of seats in those eight schools, but it seems strange that Daniels would be fed by four schools and Martin would be fed by only two. Perhaps Martin is smaller than Daniels, but from what I have heard they are roughly equivalent in size.

If the plan aims to keep students in the same part of the county as their residents, then sending people in the Five Points area to the shadows of Triangle Town Center, just inside of I-540, seems completely counterproductive. If the plan moves forward, the property values of houses along Anderson Drive will plummet while houses along Ridge Road in Raleigh will skyrocket. This is why there ought to be a very strong showing at this meeting tonight. There is much on the line for people who live in the Northeast quadrant inside of I-440.

There will also be meetings at Sanderson (Wed, 9/14), East Wake (Thu, 9/15), and Millbrook (Mon, 9/19). For more information see the WCPSS website.


Renaissance North Hills Gets Four Diamonds, Best Marriott Award

RenaissanceIn a press release (.pdf) from earlier this week, Concord Hospitality Enterprises announced that their flagship hotel, The Renaissance Hotel at North Hills, was offered the Four Diamond award by AAA. The hotel was also named a Marriott International, Inc. 2010 Hotel of the Year.

Each year AAA awards Four and Five Diamond ratings to the finest hotels in the nation. The Resnaissance joins this list of Four Diamond hotels in North Carolina:

  • ASHEVILLE:  1900 Inn on Montford (2009), Albemarle Inn (2003), Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville (2009), Hilton Asheville Biltmore Park (2010), Inn on Biltmore Estate (2001), The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa (2001),
  • BOONE – Lovill House Inn (1997), 
  • CASHIERS – Innisfree Inn By-The-Lake (1994)
  • CHAPEL HILL – Carolina Inn (1997), The Siena Hotel (1996)
  • CHARLOTTE – Hilton Charlotte Center City (2007), Marriott Charlotte SouthPark (1989), Omni Charlotte Hotel (2001), The Ballantyne, A Luxury Collection Hotel, Charlotte (2003), The Duke Mansion Historic Inn & Meeting Place (2005), The Westin Charlotte (2004)
  • DURHAM – Arrowhead Inn Bed and Breakfast (2003), Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club (2000)
  • GREENSBORO – Grandover Resort & Conference Center Golf & Spa (1999), O. Henry Hotel – (1999), Proximity Hotel (2008)
  • HIGHLANDS – Old Edwards Inn and Spa (2005)
  • LAKE TOXAWAY – Greystone Inn (1986)
  • PINEHURST – Holly Inn (2002), The Carolina Hotel (1982)
  • WILMINGTON – Graystone Inn (1999), The Verandas (2002)

The state has three Five Diamond Award winners:

  • CARY – The Umstead Hotel and Spa (2007)
  • CHARLOTTE – The Ritz-Carlton (2010)
  • FEARRINGTON VILLAGE – The Fearrington House Inn (1994)

Sparians Brings Party to Bowling

Sparians (3)Bowling is a fun past time that, like golf, can present a challenge to even the most experienced bowlers. The “sport” seemed to fade as a casual means of entertainment for the masses through the 80’s and 90’s however, as the facilities offered little improvement to the experience. That all changed when Sparians opened in North Hills East late last year.

Offering a full bar, full service restaurant, private suites, projection TVs, and a midnight bowling experience at all hours, Sparians takes a bowling up a level. We began our evening with a meal in the restaurant. The menu offers sandwiches, a few entrees, burgers, and a large selection of appetizers. We ordered a burger, ribs, veggie wrap sandwich, homemade potato chips, and french fries. While nothing was noteworthy, all were adequate and despite Sparians’ reputation for being expensive, all were presented with reasonable value (~$13.60pp w/o alcohol).

Sparians (2)We sat in a C-shaped booth that featured an embedded touchscreen entertainment system. There were some fun games (Mouse Trap was particularly addictive), music videos on-demand, select YouTube videos and more. All of the content we experienced was edited to a PG level. (still can’t figure out why Katy Perry is naked in a candy land, but that’s beside the point). The speakers for the entertainment system are embedded in the headrests of the booth, so one’s selections don’t contribute to the overall cacophony in the dining area. While Sparians’ restaurant is not on par with North Hills’ best restaurants, it isn’t a bad offering at all – much better than the Fox & Hound. In addition to the touch-table offerings, Sparians’ diners get priority integration on the bowling ally’s waitlist. So Sparians benefits its diners similar to the way Goodnights Comedy Club does.

After a few text messages with the bowling ally’s waitlist manager, we smoothly transitioned into our gaming experience. Of course, all of the equipment is new, so the shoes were extremely comfortable and the lanes were well-treated. The lanes incorporate some new game management technology offering a different experience per bowler if desired (rails-up for specific bowlers, etc).  The lighting is dark, with spinning, flashing lights all over the place. At first it is an inviting experience, but ultimately becomes an over-stimulating distraction. I implore those with a seizure disorder to avoid this experience at all costs!

Sparians (1)Mounted on the walls above the pins are several projection TVs showing various sports channels. This ultimately becomes another flashing light novelty, though, as the constant rotation of bowlers provides interruption from focusing on the televised game. Therefore I do not recommend trying to bowl while watching an important game on TV.

With all of the flashing lights, TVs, loud music, and high bowling fees, I don’t foresee Sparians becoming a destination for serious bowlers. The lane was so dark that it was difficult to see markers. Back in the 70’s we had two facilities for serious roller skaters. When Sportsworld opened it offered a different experience than we had ever seen to the roller skating world, and Sparians reprises that role exactly. Sparians is strongest as a facility for parties. There were several office groups, condo associations, and birthday parties enjoying their time at Sparians. During our visit the suites were being used by a local speed-dating group.

While we had an excellent overall experience, my only complaint that really needs to be dressed is the unsanitary situation in the bowling ally. There was a group of 12 adjacent to us having a fun evening. They ordered nachos, wings, and pizzas, which serve a small party perfectly. As I watched these people eat wings, throw their bowling balls, and return to the food without interruption, it made me shudder to think about what is inside those finger holes, and how easy it is to get sick eating with dirty bowling ball hands. There were no sanitary wipes or hand sanitizer anywhere around. So, unfortunately, the fungi that are being controlled in the rental shoes are not getting attention in the balls. As with any bowling ally, one should avoid eating and wiping their eyes and nose, and wash their hands after bowling. This is simple CDC stuff that unfortunately does not jibe with the model at Sparians. When you think about Herpes virus living 4 hours or enteric and sore throat bacteria (i.e. S. Pyogenes) lasting 3 days on a dry surface, it casts a new light on eating with your hands while bowling.

This was my first time bowling in a couple of decades. Bowling was a tired experience, and the facilities were largely outdated and difficult to access until Sparians opened in North Hills. Its opening is a risky venture, but fills an entertainment need in North Hills extremely well. As the economy improves, I look forward to several years of success and even better days ahead for Sparians.

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