Thursday, December 20, 2007

New Seaboard Rendering

It's amazing what a 3D image can do for a project. This angle is the Seaboard Ave and Salisbury Street corner. The big corner windows there are for the 2 bedroom flat, definitely one of the more popular units in the building. The landscaping was minimized for this image so that the building features could be seen. I believe there is a going to be a large tree on the corner there.

Another new element for 111 Seaboard are the views from the second floor. Condo living starts on the second floor and there are a total of 3 levels of residential. The third and fourth floor views will be even better. The view of downtown Raleigh is a favorite, but I think I like the east view with all the trees around Peace College. The power lines immediately on the 111 Seaboard property will be buried as part of the project, but there is one very high line that runs down the middle of the road that will remain.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Setback Text Change a Waste of Time?

The week before Thanksgiving is usually pretty low key. Lots of people take off a few extra days and travel to see family. But this week there was a flurry of activity around a proposed text change in the Raleigh residential zoning language. Read the proposal here (opens a PDF). It basically changes the text to make setbacks more restrictive for the side, front, and back yards of residential lots.

Apparently the text change was proposed as a temporary solution to the complaints from many neighborhoods about all the tear downs and the oversized homes being built. The public meeting to discuss it was last night. I didn't want to miss it. I wanted to witness the debate because I was certain that it could be historic.

To make a long story short - the place was packed. As expected, most of the attendees were builders, developers, and REALTORs. I saw plenty of folks from YSU there as well as agents from other brokerages. However, THERE WAS NO DEBATE. When the time came to discuss the text change, Mayor Meeker asked if there were any speakers in support of the change. No one stepped forward. NO ONE! I was shocked. There are so many groups whose purpose is based around finding a solution to the current infill issues, and there was no one to speak in favor of the text change. Maybe they had already left town? No.

One of the first speakers was from Community Scale. They were against the text change because it was a blanket proposal that would effect everyone in Raleigh, and really didn't address the majority of the issues that they have with current community preservation.

So here is my question - if no one in the community supported this text change – then why was it even being discussed? Who put it together? Was any thought given to it at all? My only guess is that it came from a new council member who thought that they had all the answers. I can't imagine anyone with experience proposing something without anyone to stand up and support it in public. I mean, that's what politics is all about, right? Who goes to a meeting in the corporate world and proposes something new without talking to other staff in advance for feedback?

The only thing stopping me from saying that the whole meeting wasted everyone's time since there was no support for the proposal in the first place is this: developers, the public, and Community Scale were all in agreement on something. And that something was basic property rights. People are not stupid. I was very pleased to see a young man, who I don't think had any involvement professionally in the real estate business, stand up and speak about his property rights. He had over 400 signed petitions faxed to him in 2 days from friends who were against this proposal.

Anyway, I could go on. You should watch the meeting on RTN if you're interested. The news will likely focus on the developer/real estate turnout angle, but you really should watch the whole meeting. There were many citizens there who opposed the proposal.

Some comments that I liked were:
- one gentleman brought language from Alexandria, VA that showed how they dealt with infill issues. Certainly we aren't the only city to deal with this, so I thought that was smart.
- Gordon Grubb, a developer, suggested that council provide incentives to builders who *do* consider the neighborhood when building a new home. Most people's complaints with new construction where an old house stood have to do with the fact that the home looks nothing like any others in the neighborhood. That's architecture, setbacks, and general quality.

Tear downs have not hit my neighborhood yet. I don't want to live next door to a high rise McMansion either. There has to be a better way.

Dewey's in Raleigh!

There's nothing better in the morning than a big slice of Moravian sugar cake. Mmmm.. Anyone from Winston Salem needs no further explanation. It's the best bakery ever. Growing up there, every birthday cake came from Dewey's and now Dewey's is in Raleigh! Well, at least for the holidays. They have actually been here seasonally for 4 years in Cary, but this year have a seasonal store in Cameron Village from Nov 15-Dec 24.

It's a tradition in my family to have Dewey's cake squares or brownies at any family celebration: birthdays, holidays, dinner. You name it. There's always a good reason for Dewey's. Between that and Krispy Kreme, I'm surprised I don't weigh 300 pounds. You just can't say no to a hot doughnut or cake square. Please visit the store if you have never experienced Dewey's. They are in the old Belk spot in Cameron Village next to Nelson's and across the parking lot from Moe's.

If you fall in love and would like to join my efforts in bringing Dewey's here permanently, you can call the customer service number in Winston at 800-537-5374.

Friday, November 9, 2007

No More Nana's?

Did anyone else happen to catch that small fact in Greg Cox's article yesterday? The Pit is opening in the Warehouse district. Nana's Chophouse will close for a week and basically re-open as The Pit.

I've been talking about this with my friends and I guess Nana's wasn't doing so well? There do seem to be a lot of high end restaurants downtown. The choices in establishments seem to be fancy or super casual. It will be nice to have a new casual restaurant, but at the expense of a really good one?

I'm not a bar-hopper anymore, but it seems like that part of town is becoming much more of a club area, so perhaps an upscale restaurant doesn't fit anymore? I'm curious to hear your thoughts on this one.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Fabulous First Friday

Another First Friday and another start to a great weekend. This time we spent the whole evening in the Seaboard Station area. We really didn't plan it that way, but that's how it turned out. The plan was to check out J Betski's restaurant. It's a German place and it's new and I'm always up for going somewhere new.

We kicked off the evening at Seaboard Wine at their wine tasting. I love wine, but I really don't know much about it. The folks at Seaboard Wine really know their stuff. The tasting included Austrian wines, which I never had tasted before. I've had a few German wines here or there on a trip, but nothing memorable. After a flight of reds, we were buzzed enough to buy a case. What a great strategy! Get people drinking so they'll buy more. So as part of the case we wanted to try something new. Seth gave us quite a history on French wines, which neither Scott nor I knew anything about. I can't wait to have a little tasting of my own!

After talking with the wine folks, they recommended getting reservations at J Betski's. Good thing we called, because their only opening was at 9am. The problem was, the tasting ended at 8pm. What to do for an hour?

No problem. Because it was First Friday - everyone had something going on. Capital City Grocery had a band on the front porch playing good ol'fashioned porch music. So we grabbed a rocking chair and hung out for a while.

Finally it was time to eat! The best part. After starting with some Bratwurst, I enjoyed every second of the Schnitzel. Mmmm. Say it with me. Schnitzel. It's just fun to order. Quite tasty. Scott had the duck with a side of kanoodle (it's potatoes, but in Germany we've actually had it fixed for us and they called it kanoodle - a potato dumpling with a sort of stuffing inside).

Overall it was a bit of an extravagant night for us, but we had so much fun. Everything we needed and wanted to do was right there in one place. I love First Friday!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Mordecai Manor - Restored Condos

I hosted an open house this weekend at Mordecai Manor, the apartments that are being coverted to condos. The neighbors are ecstatic. Apparently the space was becoming a bit unsightly, so the renovation construction was welcomed.

You can't ask for a better location. The convenience of a condo in a nice, quiet, established neighborhood like Mordecai. You can walk over to Seaboard for just about anything you need and you're a mile and a half from the center of town. Plus, you're surrounded by historic homes. What more can you ask for?

Ah, you say. They must be expensive. But that's the kicker. They are all under $300,000. All 6 units are roughly 1100 sq ft each and have a HUGE front porch. I mean huge. Very deep. You could put an outdoor sofa and chairs out there and not get wet when it rains.

It's renovated, but not new, so you do have smaller closets. It is an historic building, after all. The kitchens are new and very big by condo standards. And there is no elevator. Other than that, it is a great buy. They should get the certificate of occupancy in November.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Downtown Sushi

The News & Observer reported this weekend that Waraji is coming to downtown Raleigh. They are taking over the Est Est Est location on Hargett St.

After learning that the Chinese restaurant on Salisbury and Martin was closing as well as the BBQ place on St. Mary's, it's nice to see more restaurants coming downtown.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Raymond Street - Raleigh's Secret

Thank goodness for Broker open houses. There are so many new projects going on, it's hard to keep up. Today I discovered a new little neighborhood right off Hillsborough Street (well, it's off Daisy to be specific). It's fabulous. Single family homes with 2 car garages on the alley. Great front porches to sit and sip a beverage. And spectacular details on the interior. Gorgeous floors, big rooms. What else is there to say? Well done.

There are multiple layouts to choose from - some have master down, some have a third floor finished bonus. But you are so close to everything. Walk to Hillsborough Street and downtown. Or walk to Whole Foods. You're a hop, skip and a jump from the greenway entrance at Meredith College.

Want to see them? Call your agent or if you don't have an agent, call me. We'll go tour.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Hue Breaks Ground

I've been waiting to post this because I wanted to link to the floorplans, but they still aren't online and I'm impatient. In any case, the Hue broke ground last week and the buzz has begun. The big excitement about the Hue is that half the project will be priced under $290,000. For those who have the desire to live downtown but just can't afford the price tags, the Hue is the place for you. They'll have:
- 54 studios
- 71 one bedrooms
- 29 one bedroom + den
- 54 two bedroom, 2 baths
As with many new construction projects, information will come out in spurts, so stay tuned for that floorplan link.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Is Downtown Raleigh Walkable?

I don't know if this site just launched, but the viral campaign has definitely hit. Last week my friend sent the link to me. Then a colleague at work sent it around a few days later. And now I have seen it posted as part of the next lecture series by the city. What is it?

It's a pretty cool site. If you're not from Raleigh and want to know if a neighborhood is within walking distance to stuff, you just plug in an address and voila! It gives you a score and lists the businesses within walking distance. Our office, which is in the heart of downtown on Fayetteville St, scored a 91 out of 100. And we're in the middle of it all. But several restaurants were missing from the list, so take it with a grain of salt. Within 2 blocks of our office is Cafe Carolina, American Pita Grill, la Crema, Chick-fil-A, just to name a few (they weren't on the list).

So, business owners, list yourself here (it's based on the Google Maps API). They say that Joe Resident can't make changes, the business owner has to do it.

On the subject of walkability - the City of Raleigh's next lecture is on how to make a pedestrian-friendly city. Mark your calendar for Sept 20. It's open to the public but you need to register.

Monday, August 13, 2007

111 Seaboard Approved

As I mentioned in a previous post, Seaboard is already a great community. Last week council approved the mixed use condo project, 111 Seaboard. If you aren't already on the list, you can add yourself here. There are only 53 condos available, so many expect them to be reserved quickly. Reservations will start September 22, but only for those on the list. Whatever else is left will be opened to the public.

Friday, August 10, 2007

National Food Chain in the Heart of Downtown?

As you may have heard, the city of Raleigh is planning four pavilions to be in the center of the city Plaza, located between the Bank of America and BB&T. These 4 pavilions are proposed to be made of all glass. I was just watching the city council meeting from August 7 where they approved the design, and in the meeting they discussed possible tenants of those pavilions.

Apparently there is a lot of interest from national food and beverage companies. I’m not sure how I feel about this, and it obviously depends on who it is. But I will just die if there is a McDonalds or Burger King in the heart of the new Plaza. I don’t get excited about a Starbucks, either, which seems to fit with the whole “glass box” retail look that they are going for. I love the idea of an active plaza as a centerpiece of downtown, but as the center of downtown, the chosen tenants will certainly influence how Raleigh is perceived.

Many articles have been written about Raleigh’s lack of personality, and this plaza was to help define the city. Please, please don’t let national fast food chains be the center of our city! Write to your city council member and ask them to support locally owned, independent shops. Or at least something more creative than fast food. A coffee shop makes sense, but Port City Java is just down the street as is the Morning Times. There is opportunity for other types of retail. It should be noted that the pavilions are privately funded, so any notes on tenant concerns will likely be forwarded to the private company, but I still think it is worth sending a note. Or - send a note to your favorite retailer or food shop and ask them to inquire about the space. I searched for a website for The Simpson Company and couldn't find anything, so leave a comment if you find their site.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Parking in the City

I was reading this morning about LNR's plan to redevelop Blount Street. I've heard about this project for a while and I'm so glad that it's actually going to happen. There are so many beautiful houses downtown that could use some work. Not only that, but along that street there are pockets of nice houses, then parking lots. Nice house, parking lot. With the way they are planning to build out the block, it will make for a beautiful street and will provide a unified look as you enter downtown.

Then I read all of the comments about how terrible parking already is in that area and how this project is going to make things worse by building in some of the lots. I hate to state the obvious, but with the $2billion being spent to revitalize downtown, things are going to get more dense. I love it because I dream of a day when there are tons of things to walk to and I won't need to get into my car for a week. Mixed use. It's the thing of the future. But others aren't so excited.

I understand that people work downtown, but this is a city, and parking in cities is not easy. It's all about attitude. I park in a parking deck, 4th floor, and walk a block and a half to get to my office. I was just in San Francisco and parking there isn't easy, but who expects it to be? If you were going to travel to Manhattan, would you expect to find a parking spot in front of your destination? No! So why expect to park in front of your office building in downtown Raleigh? Please help the city of Raleigh by pushing back when you hear people talk about "terrible parking downtown." There are parking decks (opens PDF) and more decks are being built. With a positive attitude toward change, you can help Raleigh become a vibrant destination.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Seaboard Community Comes Alive

I still feel like Seaboard is downtown Raleigh's best kept secret. I kind of like that it is a little bit hidden but I wanted to post something so that the businesses will do well.

Seaboard is at the site of an old train station, so the area already has a community feel to it. You have everything that you need right there. You've got the grocery, shopping, casual and nice restaurants, a hardware store, and a fitness center. I am so excited that Seaboard Fitness is now open! I am a member and absolutely love it. It's a nice, clean facility with great equipment. I worked out last night and then went over to the grocery to grab some dinner. They just re-opened and have a nice selection of prepared foods. I chose the Indian dinner with Korma curry chicken and rice. Mmmmm..

Pretty soon you'll be able to live at Seaboard and walk to these great shops. Pretty exciting stuff. So if you haven't been out there, you should check it out.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Transit Oriented Development

I have to give Raleigh's planning dept credit - they have put on a great lecture series on topics related to growth. I attended the most recent one on Transit Oriented Development last week. The speakers were top notch and definitely had thought more about TOD than any of us ever could have. The first two speakers were excellent and got everyone excited about the possibilities. Imagine jumping on a train and going to town, having dinner, and taking the train home. No designated driver. Or take the train to work and instead of sitting behind the wheel and you could actually get something done.

By the time the third speaker was ready, everything had been said. There was nothing else to present. So he took the other side. Why wouldn't transit oriented development work in Raleigh? The key to understanding this is to actually understand the full concept of TOD. Park and ride is not TOD. Basically the concept is around mixed use - having offices, shopping and residential in clusters so that there isn't one main commute pattern. Ideally people are always going both ways instead of everyone going one way in the morning and the opposite way in the afternoon. That's my over-simplified explanation.

My calculus teacher in high school always used to complain about how they put in sidewalks. Around our campus the sidewalks were on the perimeter, but the people actually walked across the grass or in other cut-through areas. He would always say "watch where people walk and then pour the concrete." The same could be said of transit. Look at where people are going and try to make it more efficient with transit.

Now, RTP could actually be the best place to build up this type of transit since it is already a big destination and they are starting to develop more residential areas near the commercial stuff. Everything else is just so spread out. There are too many starting points and there really isn't one central destination. As soon as you put the word "transfer" in there, people aren't going to use the system.

I love to daydream about taking the train or even a bus if it were direct. But the cynical side of me says that people are too independent and married to their cars. Take Brier Creek, for example. That was built to be a walkable area. Do people walk? I doubt it. I was at Pier One the other day and a father and son were outside. The son wanted to walk down to another store about 100 yards away. The father said "I'm not walking all the way down there!"

So, after the third speaker had finished telling us why TOD wouldn't work in Raleigh, the reality of Raleigh's sprawl had hit me. There was a chance for redemption, however. During the Q&A they brought up the head honcho of TTA (Triangle Transit Authority). HE could tell us what was really going to happen for Raleigh in the future. I waited for him to speak up. When Director Silver finally asked him directly to comment, he rambled on about something. I don't even know what. But it wasn't anything about what the TTA actually does. I left very disappointed. I do hope that the actual people who do the work in the TTA know a lot more than their leader.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Live well. Be smart.

I was inspired this week by a presentation on downtown Raleigh's renaissance. It's a presentation that I've seen a few times, but one that you can't really see enough as far as I'm concerned. Things just move too fast to remember it all, but it talks about the goals for downtown and the concept of higher density living.

It got me thinking about smart growth. I mean, I agree with the concept as I define it, but what is it really? I'm not a planner and I've had zero instruction on managing growth. So I looked it up and found the Smart Growth Leadership Institute. Their 10 principles seem to cover just about everything I had in my definition and more.

I think I have been drawn to areas that manage growth well but wasn't concious of it at the time. I bought my first house in Chapel Hill. At the time I was 25 or somewhere near that age, and wanted an acre of land and big house. The reason I picked Chapel Hill was because you could get all of that and still be within 10 minutes of Franklin Street. Now, Chapel Hill is nowhere near the size of Raleigh, but to live in the country in Wake County you have to go far, far away to get the kind of privacy I had in Chapel Hill. Over the years I learned that I did not want a lot of land or a big house that I had to clean. And I didn't want to live near people who were my parent's age - something I didn't consider back then. Land! I wanted land! And it's so funny because I see young folks now who want the same thing I wanted then. It's all a process, I guess.

I'm on my 3rd house now and it's much smaller and in-town because I value time and don't want to drive everywhere. And that is why I love downtown Raleigh. I love the lifestyle it provides and will provide in the future as it continues to grow. And that is also why as an agent I am going to work my hardest to focus only in the downtown and surrounding areas. I can't force my beliefs on others, but I can choose to work in an area that is attractive to people who share those similar values.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

First, First Friday

I finally did it. I wrote the date for First Friday in my day-timer so that I would remember to go. And we went!

First Friday is an event in downtown Raleigh on the first Friday of each month. Restaurants and art galleries and other businesses open their doors and usually provide a special offer or discount for that evening.

We decided to walk around Glenwood South a bit first, so we got downtown a little early. It's so much easier to see the city on foot, and we decided to visit only places we hadn't been. We checked out FM Sounds and Shoes - very hip. Too hip for me, but they have very cool stuff. Next door we went into Firefly, which also has very cool stuff. Camper shoes for men and women and some super fun clothes and bags with a handmade look to them for the ladies. I'll be going back there for sure.

From there we just walked around, checking out all of the new stuff going in. They've fenced off where 712 Tucker is going to be built. What's nice about that project is that they are planning to rent a few of the condos, so folks who may not be ready to buy can still live downtown.

One of the highlights of our tour was the stop at the top of the Clarion hotel. Nineteen stories above downtown, you can see what an incredible view many of the condos are going to have when they are finished. RBC condos, West at North, and the Quorum are all high rises and will have awesome views no matter which side you choose.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

I'll have the Poulet, please.

My favorite lunch spot in downtown Raleigh is definitely Sosta Cafe. I work two or three times a week at the Hudson, a condo-conversion project on Fayetteville St. I'm downtown a lot and thought I'd start up a blog on all things downtown. I tend to ramble, so this title seemed appropriate.
Full Disclosure: I am a Real Estate Broker/REALTOR.

Anyway, Sosta Cafe is a block from the Hudson. It has a sophisticated look to it, which is pretty new for this area for a lunch spot. Most lunch places are burger joints or sandwich shops with your basic menu. You can only eat a turkey sandwich so many times for lunch. Sure, there are lots of sit-down places, but that's not an option when I'm at the Hudson.

Sosta is a cool coffee shop in the morning and their lunch menu is unique for this area. Don't get me wrong, I love a good dive as much as the next person, but sometimes you want something healthy and fast. And so I go to Sosta. A lot.

I'm a southern, chicken-salad-eating girl. So when I saw the Poulet on the menu (curried chicken salad w/lettuce & tomato on multi-grain bread), I knew that I had a new favorite place. First, it's a unique twist on chicken-salad. YUM! But the sides are super healthy, too. Usually you get a chickpea salad, and they also have navy bean salad and another one that looks like really big couscous grains. Can't remember the name of it. But it's good.

Don't ask me if anything else is good because I order the Poulet every time. The tomato soup is wonderful. I have tried that. I am there so often that now when I call they even know my name. That's service.

"Yes, please."
"It'll be ready in 10 minutes."