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Traffic Circles Removed from Currituck Design

neighborhoodRoundabout The Raleigh City Council recently approved a traffic calming project slated for Currituck Drive in the North Hills subdivision. The project design, intended to engineer cars into keeping speeds in the 20s, includes curb extensions and medians. The intent is to convey a sense of traffic calming by including an element every 5th house along the street.

Original plans called for two neighborhood traffic circles (one oblong and one circular) as well as bumped out corners of an existing 4-way stop intersection. The approved design, however removes all of those options. The oblong circle has been replaced with a median on both sides of the intersection and the true circle will likely be replaced with a 4-way stop.

The project is expected to begin this summer in the summer of 2016.


Beer Garden Coming to Glenwood South

The Hibernian group has submitted plans to the city for a beer garden-type bar. The plan calls for the non-descript 2-story building at 614 Glenwood, next to Harry’s Guitar shop, to be converted into a small bar with a large outdoor patio in the side and back yards. The site will likely offer a neat getaway with good views of downtown.


A Plan for UNC’s Dean Smith Center

From the Vault:

deandome_sink On Monday the News & Observer’s Andrew Carter published an article about UNC doing a feasibility study about Smith Center renovations. While the university claims the facility is still "first rate", fans and recruits know better. Access to the building is among the worst in the country, seating is cramped, bathrooms are dirty and in disrepair, there are no luxury boxes for revenue generation, and student seating is too far from the court to offer a home court advantage like other teams enjoy. The photo shows the men’s room situation, where those who choose to wash their hands are rewarded with only a frigid trickle of water and empty soap dispensers.

None of this is new, however. In 2000 Tar Heel fans had these same complaints about the then 15-year old Smith Center. I submitted four options (featuring 4 to-scale cutaway diagrams) to then Athletic Director Dick Baddour with only a polite form letter in reply. Unfortunately the only renovations since that time have focused on player and coach areas and lower level chair replacement. Problems with the building remain, and it is good that the university is reviewing options.

Attached is the 2008 gogoraleigh post that reposted the original 2000 plans for renovating the Smith Center. The success of the student section behind the home goal shows that Project 1a is quite feasible, and likely the rest still are.

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 were 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.


Red Hat’s Latest is a Bad Sign

Red Hat has removed the scaffolding to reveal its bold, red sign atop its new headquarters in downtown Raleigh, and, eh….oh dear. First of all, I’ll admit to being biased by saying that I liked the big grey schmoo that topped the building in the Progress Energy era. It not only gave the building some much needed asymmetry, but it also complemented the outlines of the taller buildings on Fayetteville Street, especially when viewed from the south.

The new, rectangular bright red facade atop the building is eye-catching, but only in its garish amount of bright red which stands in stark contrast to every physical structure in downtown Raleigh. It’s as if Red Hat got a waiver on the city’s unusually harsh sign ordinance. I’m sure the CityGate Real Estate owners who are being assaulted not by both the joe schmoes of the Twitterverse and by city councilors for CityGate’s street level video signage, are taking due notice. BB&T and PNC Bank, with their little bitty tower-top signs, are probably also noticing.

Not only is the sign “not in keeping with the neighborhood”, the logo’s vertical alignment is too low in the red billboard to be fully seen from the south (see photos). Whether exiting Memorial Auditorium or entering the city from South Saunders Street, there is no good place to view the sign due to its layout.

Hopefully Red Hat will notice the problems with their sign and correct it. I’m all for tasteful signage, and don’t want a bad sign to cause a knee-jerk response from lawmakers that would would restrict the good signs.


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.

Publix Eyeing Triangle Sites

Publix It 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!


AIA NC Hosting “Old Buildings, New Designs” Author

from the press release:

Join Author, Charles Bloszies to discuss his book, Old Buildings, New Designs . Increasingly, architects are asked to design new work for existing structures. Whether for reasons of preservation, sustainability, or cost-effectiveness, the movement to reuse buildings presents design constraints and possibilities that differ from those encountered during the design of new buildings. Old Buildings, New Designs | Architectural Transformations reveals and explores the issues of working within a given architectural fabric—from the technical matters that arise from aging construction to the controversy generated by the various project stakeholders to the unique aesthetic possibilities created through the juxtaposition of old and new. Old Buildings, New Designs | Architectural Transformations features nineteen innovative case studies of built work by an international list of renowned architects including Daniel Libeskind, Renzo Piano, Foster + Partners, and Herzog & de Meuron, as well as an insightful foreword by noted architect and preservationist Hugh Hardy.

Date: Monday, April 30, 2012

Time: 6 PM – 7:30 PM

Location: AIANC Center for Architecture and Design 14 East Peace Street, Raleigh NC 27604

Free and open to the public



Outlet Mall Becoming China Town

In the most bizarre announcement in area real estate history, WRAL is reporting that plans are on the board to transform the failing outlet mall near the airport into a China town. The mall will include a cultural center, a hotel, restaurants, and businesses that are Chinese with out being “Americanized”. Learn more from the link.

Washed-up Morrisville outlet mall to get Chinese makeover (via WRAL)


RBC Center Turning Red

RBCSeats1 This summer the RBC Center’s 100 Level is getting a long-awaited makeover. New seats are currently being installed and the good news for State fans is that they are, indeed, RED. RBC Center General Manager Dave Olsen said that the upholstery of the building’s original, 12-year-old seating is still in excellent shape, however the fading and failing red plastic seat frames were past their lifetimes. As seen in the accompanying photo, the seats had turned an awful mauve color that not even the ‘80s would have wanted back. Installation of the new seating has begun and will continue throughout the summer, dodging long-scheduled events.

I was able to visit Section 120 recently and saw that not only are the seats a solid, fairly bright red (though not as bright as Memorial Auditorium’s, thank goodness), the new frames for the seats are black, insuring against color slump from exposure to the arena’s bright playing surface lighting. The chairs are the same size as before, however the armrests feel slightly shorter and are bowed slightly.

Sections containing only the large chairs are being replaced first, so I still have not determined what style chair will be used in the upper rows in the end sections which previously contained smaller, less confortable chairs.

RBCSeats2 While the chairs themselves are a nice replacement, the aisle lighting is emphatically not . The RBC Center has followed the technology bandwagon and installed white LED lighting under the last armrest of the row. Unfortunately the lighting is distractingly bright during a concert and has a yucky, almost blue hue that probably reaches the upper 5000K range of temperature . The lighting from the original seats was an extra-warm amber that was a perfect balance during dark events.

The seating replacement is expected to be completed before the first exhibition game for the Carolina Hurricanes in mid-September.


Gallery C Moves Downtown

galleryc I recently received a press release referring to an interesting retail move. Gallery C has moved from Ridgewood Shopping Center to the Blount Street Commons area in downtown. Here is more from the pre-move press release:

read more…


Chipotle Opening August 30

The 2316 Hillsborough Street location of Chipotle will open August 30, 13 days after classes begin. Currently the chain is working on opening their first Fayetteville store, which opens on July 12.


RDU Terminal 1 Renderings Updated

term1 TBJ reported yesterday that some updated renderings for RDU are available.

Can you say “lipstick on a pig”? First of all, I don’t understand architects’ fascination with pulling rainwater back into buildings. This is a design that has failed time and time again. Secondly, what in the world are we doing dropping a dime into this facility for anything other than tearing it down? The terminal was originally supposed to be a hangar, and got a last minute upfit for short-term terminal space. Renovating this terminal is another step in the airport authority’s history of blowing money hundreds of millions of dollars at a time. There is a reason that people love airports like TPA, they are designed well and handle future growth well.

[ Renderings at TBJ ]


Moore Square Model on Display

The Urban Design Center is now showing the model for the Moore Square redesign. The $184K plan will be on display 9-5p, M-F, thru November 17. The Urban Design Center is at the NE corner of Fayetteville and Hargett Streets in downtown Raleigh. More information is available at the City of Raleigh’s website.

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