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RBC To Don Cap At 3 AM

Tower_cap2 The RBC Tower’s cap assembly will begin at 3 am this evening, and will extend into Saturday. The N&O’s Jack Hagel wrote a story this past week about the assembly process. ( Warning: don’t write Hagel any emails that you don’t want published in the paper ).



Crabtree Place Goes Back to Drawing Board

Last week I noticed that the artist’s rendering for the planned Crabtree Place project disappeared from the Weingarten website . A representative stated:

We no longer plan on building the shopping center as depicted on our website so we have removed rendering so we don’t mislead folks. We are reworking our site plan and elevations and will place a new picture when the time is appropriate.

map it

Here are some of the previous renderings for the project.

crabtree_galleria crabtree_place_rendering


Big Ideas With A Smile

Last night the Raleigh Planning Department hosted an open meeting to drum up all kinds of ideas for the future of Raleigh. In a fun night to commemorate the original planning Raleigh planning meeting at Isaac Hunter’s Tavern, ideas at Tir Na Nog flowed and ranged from totally reasonable to utterly absurd to hilarious.

The department furnished many large printed maps of Raleigh and asked participants to jot, draw, cut….whatever they wanted…to convey their ideas about what we want Raleigh to be in the year 2030. At the end of a good hour of small group discussions, participants quickly presented ideas on the small stage.

Of course, I liked my idea to urbanize the area from Lassiter Mill Road down to Atlantic Avenue by redeveloping the triangle bounded by 440, Six Forks, and Wake Forest, and connect it into new development along St. Albans with a new bridge over 440. By bringing a northern crescent rail line from Atlantic to North Hills, Crabtree, Rex Hospital, the RBC Center, and the Fairgrounds, we could have a rail system that includes many places people already want to go. I’ll discuss this idea more here later, but it was met with the flattest, deadest applause of the night (to which I laughed).

Some other good ideas included a circulating bus/trolley system between Centennial Campus, NCSU and downtown to connect with the planned rail line. This “tech tripod”, according to Dan Douglas, would allow firms to place themselves in any of 3 types of connected environments. I liked Mitchell Silver’s idea of elevated development over the railroad wye. This would allow Boylan Heights to continue with unbroken development down into the warehouse district.

The whimsical idea of the night I liked best was Sig Hutchinson’s idea to use the Duraleigh Road Rock Quarry as a giant flood control reservoir, thus allowing Crabtree Creek around the mall to be a true riverwalk. The entire area could then be focused around the walk and surrounding developments could be walkable. I also strongly advocate the razing of most buildings on the block bounded by Jones/Dawson/Lane/McDowell and returning the block to park status. It could be a fantastic place for the quickly growing residential neighborhood to the NW, and could include an outdoor amphitheater. Its proximity to the planned government stop for the rail line makes it an ideal location for some neat ideas.

Some other ideas were raised: A trolley line down Glenwood (people probably prefer the trees in the median), tearing down the N.C. Legislature to create a clean green vista north of the Capitol, a chiller plant for downtown that would turn its chill on Fayetteville St. during summer weekend days, and razing the Governor’s Mansion to reclaim the park land upon which it sits.

My only criticism of the night is probably that designs were a little too focused on specific current downtown issues and ignored the regional development issues. Nobody bothered with the maps of Triangle Town Center, Brier Creek, Southeast Raleigh, or other outlying future development nodes. Before the meeting the challenge of future traffic issues in north Raleigh was raised, but ignored. People cannot possibly expect a single L-shaped rail pathway that drags people through downtown to serve suburbia’s needs.

The Planning Department is only but a few minds, and the more minds and the more crazy ideas there are, the better the chance for some really good ones. We need to keep the ideas flowing, though. This was one discrete event, the but process is a continuum. Thanks to the planning department for being so open to us novices out here!

PS. I liked the phrase that was born out of this event: Making New History.


Z-19-08 Plan Brings Mixed-Use to East Downtown

z1908 The City Council heard discussion last night surrounding a yet-to-be-named project headed by Gordon Smith (of Exploris fame). The property bounded by Hargett, East, Martin, and Bloodworth Streets once contained 15 small houses. Those have been cleared to make way for a 4-story mixed-use building. The complex will feature street level retail on all four facades, 220-230 units of market-rate rental units across 3 floors, and an internal parking structure. map it

Two representatives from the neighboring area spoke in favor of the project, which was originally proposed to by much larger. While complementing the developer’s willingness to engage neighborhood opinion, they outlined two distressing aspects. Neighbors want a small community grocery store to be included in the project. The developer has pledged to his best to address this concern.

The second issue regards the “market-rate rental” space that will occupy the residential areas of the complex. Lonnette Williams (Central CAC Chair) cited an 85% renter-occupancy rate in the immediate area, but seemed comforted by the long-term plan to convert the project to condominiums.

At this point the project, publicly known as Z-19-08, has minimal information online . WRAL covered this story the day of the CAC meeting. According to reports, the history of the neighbors’ opinions has been an enigma. The CAC meeting was apparently full of much dissent, yet the final vote was and emphatically FOR the rezoning that will allow the project’s construction. Keep checking here as more info comes about.


Big Ideas Conference Coming Monday


I received this from numerous sources, and it looks like a fantastic event:

July of 2008 marks the 220 th anniversary of the first ‘planning’ meeting held for Raleigh. That meeting, held at Sir Isaac Hunter’s Tavern, established Raleigh as the new state capital of North Carolina. In honor of this occasion, the Department of City Planning will be hosting a spirited, non-traditional planning charrette to discuss the Big Ideas you have for downtown and the City of Raleigh. This email, and the attached PDF, is a call for our community’s dreamers, thinkers, and critics, imagineers, and designers to come together to share your ideas, no matter how crazy or far-fetched, for what our community can be.

You want a river downtown? Tell us.

An arena surrounded by walkable retail? Tell us.

A zip line between the Two Hannover Tower and Wachovia Capital Center? Tell us.

You get the point.

Please feel free to post the attached PDF on your respective websites, as the success of the event will be influenced by the number of dreamers we have in attendance.

The details:

Where? Tir na nOg Irish Pub (218 S. Blount St., Downtown Raleigh)

When? April 21 st , 2008 from 6:00 – 9:00 PM

What else do I need to do? RSVP thru the planning department website .


Hyatt Hotel Planned for Arena Area

Site plans for a four-story Hyatt Hotel at the corner of Trinity and Nowell Roads in Raleigh were submitted to the Raleigh planning department this week. The site plan (.PDF) shows the footprint for the 123-room hotel and its 123 parking spaces. Because of the hotel’s small size, it will most likely will be a Hyatt variant such as Hyatt Place .

map it


Tatton Hall Makes Way for Wal-Mart

tatton.jpg Developers Smith and Smith announced today that Raleigh’s Tatton Hall will be razed and replaced by a new Wal-Mart. Representatives for Wal-Mart say they are excited to introduce this opportunity to central Raleigh. ( map it )

Members of a local group are ecstatic to replace the aging structure. “It lacked grounded outlets, had mold, and needed huge upgrades to the plumbing and HVAC systems,” said Herbert Schmitt. “I’m glad to see something new in this part of town.”

The group’s opponents are even more excited to replace one of Raleigh’s houses least-complying with its neighborhood. “The setback, height, and materials didn’t even come close to blending with its neighbors,” said Josh Welbourne. Josh is president of of Raleigh’s chapter of Youths Against Wealthy Neighborhoods (Y.A.W.N.). “I’m glad to finally see something around here that serves the other America.” He also noted that houses like Tatton, with their large yards, contribute to sprawl, and added,”This Wal-Mart will prevent the construction of a new one in one of Raleigh’s perimeter areas.”

Residents in the area are particularly excited about the new retail opportunities offered by Wal-Mart. The site was once eyeballed for a much-needed Harris-Teeter, but Wal-Mart entered the picture with a higher bid for the property. Local politician Philip Meek is particularly excited. “I finally have a place inside the Beltline to buy underwear!” Raleigh’s ITB area has had a well-known scarcity of underwear outlets since the closing of Cameron Village’s Thalheimer’s location. The problem is so great that many have affectionately called the area of Raleigh “Commando Village”.

Construction will begin once readers understand that I wish everyone a Happy April Fool’s Day.


Planning Department’s "Call To Action" Begins Tuesday

image The second round of the city’s public planning workshops on the Comprehensive Plan will begin on Tuesday. At these meetings citizens will be able to hear an overview of the revised draft, participate in small group discussions, and consider new options for addressing Raleigh’s growth and development challenges and opportunities.

The workshops last form 6:30 to 9:00 and will be held:

  • Tuesday, March 25 – Southeast Raleigh High School – 2600 Rock Quarry Road ( map it )
  • Wednesday, March 26 – Moore Square Museum Middle School – 301 S. Person St. ( map it )
  • Thursday, March 27 – Tabernacle Baptist Church – 8304 Leesville Road ( map it )

Charter Square To Arise At Site One

Later this year we’ll see the next addition to Raleigh’s skyline, Charter Square. The mixed-use complex will consist of two towers offering office space, condos, and retail space on a yet-to-be-opened block of Fayetteville Street. The North tower, standing at 358 feet with 20-stories will contain office and condo space. The 15-story South Tower will stand at 182 feet. ( map it )

Charter Square is a key portion to Fayetteville Street’s renewal. Formerly known as “Site One”, the land used for the development was once the site of the eastern half of the Raleigh Civic Center. The location stands between Raleigh’s planned City Plaza and the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, so bridging the pedestrian experience between the two zones is a high priority for the project’s developers. Offering a large amount of easily accessible retail space is a key to the planned experience.

One of the challenges with this property is its long north/south exposure on Fayetteville St. Instead of creating a long, unbroken row of retail, designers separated the development into two buildings. The division creates more retail surface exposure and space for a pedestrian plaza between the two buildings. The plaza not only acts as a center of pedestrian activity, it is the focal point for one of the business lobby entrances and is a connector to Wilmington street via an outdoor stairway.

An additional plaza is planned between the North Tower and the Two Hannover (Bank of America) building. This plaza features entrances to both residential and business lobbies, but does not connect to Wilmington Street (there will be a staircases down to Wilmington Street in both plazas). The planned City Plaza is just next door, and developers hope to create a district somewhat reminiscent of Rockefeller Center .

Charter_Square_North As mentioned before on gogoraleigh, Wilmington St has been the unfortunate recipient of many projects’ service entrances. Charter Square is designed with Wilmington Street retail space which wraps around to Lenoir Street, preventing a large row of service entrances.

Above the North Tower’s street-level retail space is 280,000 square feet of office space, distributed among 14 floors. The first two office floors have large windows which allow people to relate to the events on the street below. The other office floors feature a unique experience in Raleigh: balconies which allow employees to still stay in touch with life in the plaza. Floors 15 thru 20 contain upscale condominiums. Because these floors are higher than Two Hannover Square and the South Tower, views are bound to be impressive.

The accompanying rendering shows the North Tower to the left. The developers anticipate some type of exterior interactive display, portrayed in the rendering as video at the near left corner above the second floor.

YouTube is currently hosting two videos from a while back showing possible residential and office lobbies, respectively. The design has changed since their creation, but the flythrus are still interesting.

Charter_Square_South Charter Square’s South Tower provides a unique offering above it’s retail and lobby areas. The first four floors contain 2-story townhouses on the east (Fayetteville Street) side. The west (Wilmington Street) side of these floors creatively contains a high-rise parking garage. Not only will these townhouses have a great relationship with Fayetteville Street events, they will have adjacent parking within the building.

Floors 6 thru 14 are all complete with condominiums. Unlike the North tower’s units, these are aimed at a more price-sensitive market, and feature access to the tower’s rooftop community areas and pool.

The option to not build as tall as possible at Site One has been questioned by some. By dividing the Charter Square project into two portions, pedestrians will be able to have a superior street level experience and have several different choices for living within the project. The building heights will create a graceful cascade from the nearby taller buildings down to the Progress Energy Center. Presumably the future developments one block south (at Sites 2 and 3) will continue this downward slope of the skyline..

As shown a couple of weeks ago, Site One is currently a large hole . Since the demolition of the Civic Center, the property has been used as a staging area for the construction of the Marriott hotel and its portion of the eventual two-site subterranean parking garage. Recently “the hole” was turned over to Charter Square’s development team, and construction has begun on the Square’s continuation of the subterranean parking garage. Footings are being poured this month, and the site is anticipated to grow above ground by next winter.

Charter Square is loosely anticipated to be completed in early 2011. When that day comes the south end of Fayetteville Street will contain several blocks to explore. The final building blocks to the Fayetteville Street Renaissance won’t be in place for several more years, but piece by piece, a great destination is coming together.


Dean Dome Renovation Ideas

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 was 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.


Western Boulevard McDonald’s To Be Replaced

Plans have been submitted (.pdf file) to to the city’s planning offices for a new McDonald’s on Western Blvd. The new restaurant plans include a 4,026 square foot building with seating for 74, and 42 parking spaces. The current building is around 3,300 square feet. There will be a 2-feed, Y-shaped drive-thru line separate from pedestrians.


Site One Hole


Site One, the former eastern half of the Raleigh Civic Center, is currently a hole in the ground. The hole will be filled with subterranean parking garage underneath the Site One complex. For the past two years the hole has been a staging area for the parking garage underneath the Convention Center Marriott, shown in the left side of the 3-photo panoramic picture. The hotel is scheduled to open in July.

The ledge in front of the Marriott is the future extension of Fayetteville Street. One block in the distance, and the space between the tall gray building and the brick building on the right is where the City Square will be located.

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