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.