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Developer: Skyline's Not The Limit For Downtown Raleigh

Posted September 21, 2007

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— The skyline isn't the bottom line for Raleigh's biggest downtown advocate, who says he wants downtown to grow vibrant as well as tall.

David Diaz, director of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance for three months, said the downtown area is enjoying a boom as companies, including RBC Centura, are bringing in thousands of jobs. But Diaz, who's been on the job for three months, said downtown Raleigh has a long way to go to be able to entertain the tourists drawn by the new convention center.

More importantly, he said he wants the new residents -- who are expected to double downtown's population in the next three years -- to feel as if they live in a lively, energetic city.

"You've got to make sure we just don't develop an office district in downtown," like Charlotte has, Diaz said.

"It's got to be more dynamic than that ... where you have shops, restaurants, performance facilities, open really day and night."

Diaz said he's learned lessons from other downtown revitalization efforts. He said transportation and connectivity are keys to a cohesive downtown.

Raleigh's downtown is split into five distinct areas: Glenwood South, the Capital district, Fayetteville Street, Moore Square and the Warehouse District. Diaz said more than existing streets and sidewalks is needed to connect those districts.

"Right now, it's hard to get to those areas by walking, so we are really interested in linking those areas, perhaps with a downtown trolley," he said. He pointed to the success of that type of transportation in cities, including downtown Portland, Oregon.

"They've been able to connect the different neighborhoods within the downtown very nicely, by using trains, shuttles, buses," he said.

Diaz also said downtown Raleigh could take lessons in providing commercial opportunities from downtown Seattle, known for great shopping.

"They've got great local, independent retailers by the dozens in their downtown," he said. Seattle accomplished that by putting stores on the level beneath offices, so people walk by and stop in the stores.

Diaz said he believes downtown Raleigh will be transformed within five to 10 years. He envisions it as a regional center, connected internally with an expanded trolley system and outward with a light rail system to the suburbs.

"We are really going to see a different downtown," he said.

63 Comments

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  • flashlight Sep 22, 2007

    The "Doomed"? Is there a new Coulterism I'm not aware of?

    To speak to this article:
    Glad to see further development in our downtown. It provides more options in they way that we move around and how we can live for those already here or brought here for a job. I'll clarify. How we move around: not necessarily developing a transit-oriented environment, but one that is at least walkable. That's just as important as providing motorized transportation that's not an automobile. How we live: you're not longer forced to choose between different styles of single family homes in the 'burbs, but rather a high-rise condo downtown, a town house, or even an unattached house should you want to spend your free time toiling over an ever-browning yard.

    This is not about yankees macing you (gun control advocates, remember?), throwing you into the trunk of their Prius and locking you in a high-rise high-density Soviet style apartment building to live out the rest of your days in misery.

  • Steve Crisp Sep 22, 2007

    To ncsustudent:

    In ten years, there will be plenty of things to do. As the market needs change, the old comes down and the new goes up. So if golf becomes a waning pasttime and go cart racing becomes more popular, then all it will take is one person to purchase that unused golf course and build a go cart track.

    Unfortunately, should the next generation be as progressive, er, liberal, as you feel it is, then no one will probably have the money to purchase those links. They will have been too busy giving their money to various causes who will promptly waste it on the Doomed. And they will certainly be giving a significant portion of their income to government who will not only waste it on the Doomed, but waste a lot of it on international Doomed. We'll never see that purchasing power again.

    But tell you what. As a State student, you sit down with Tom Crowder and convince him that he is a protectionist dinosaur. Have him completely revamp our neighborhood and then I'll give you credit.

  • Steve Crisp Sep 22, 2007

    To tracynorris:

    "I am so tired of greedy developers with no conscious. They have completely destroyed this state and state/county governments have done nothing to stop it. Any idiot can wipe out trees and wildlife habitat - it requires no thought. Responsible growth and planning has evaporated in to our polluted thin air. It's all about the money."

    The program to slaughter all human life and their structures will begin tomorrow. We will completely reclaim all that land and the environment for the precious, little animals that we have so wontonly displaced, And we will pay them reparations in the form of corn husks for them to munch on.

    And we must do this because I am certain that the 40,000 square miles of undeveloped land in North Carolina in no way suffices for their needs.

    Next loon...

  • Steve Crisp Sep 22, 2007

    To tarheelsDLE:

    "Other than a few relocated liberals from New York City, there is not a demand for downtown condos."

    And if there is one, solitary person who is willing to pay for that, then more power to them. The free market will accomodate their wishes within the boundaries of the law.

    If I wanted to construct an animal zoo in place of our courthouse, which is properly a people zoo, and I had the money to buy the building, afford them the relocation costs. and construct the best zoo ever, do you think anyone would stop me?

    It would be grossly impractacle to the point of being folly, but if I was dropping a couple of billion dollars on anyone who walked by in the downtown area, you'd better believe we'd have a zoo down there.

    It's the same with all supply and demand. Just because there is not wholesale demand for something does not mean that the demand does not exist. It just may cost more to satisfy your wants.

  • Steve Crisp Sep 22, 2007

    To wildervb:

    "The market can't take of everything. Virtually all the roads you drive on were paid for by the government."

    The free market could more than handle building our roads. I mean they already do as contractors for the city. Do you think the city actually is the ones with the crews and equipment? And private roads were once the way many major road projects in this country got built.

    But having said that, there are economies of scale in having citizens extend the authority to a city in order to build and maintain roads. There is obviously far more coordination and planning that can be done with a centrailzed office rather than a hundred road builders each trying to make their own profit. And then there is the problem of how private developers would recoup their investment from the citizens with a patchwork of private roads.

    By the way, government "paid" for nothing. Taxpayers pay for everything that we allow government to spend our money on as proxy for our purchase power.

  • Steve Crisp Sep 22, 2007

    To FriendlyPrimate:

    No, I am not an "expert" in these matters if expert is defined as someon who makes their living in the industry of public infrastructure or is certified by a court to testify on a particular matter.

    But I do read. Textbooks on public policy. Monographs on the industry and particular projects -- from all sides of the issue. And various other sources by true "experts" in the field.

    As to why I am negative about this and many other stories of their ilk? I have read all sides of the issue regarding light rail in Raleigh. The only way the pro side makes it viable is to manipulate numbers for their own benefit. And the only reason it is still on the table is because Meeker and several others stand to make some serious cash as a result of such a venture.

    The con side has overwhelming evidence, both empirical and anecdotal that light rail will never work in Raleigh. Hence, I come out against light rail and anyone who supports it.

  • ncsustudent Sep 21, 2007

    The bulk of this city's power is in the hands of baby boomers who want to Golf,Socialize,drive around and pick up something at the local Grocery Store. In 10 years all these babyboomers will be thinking about their retirement and a more progressive generation will rise to power. They will be left with the same options of Golf, and driving around. It will be veeerrrry sad that there will be nothing to do, and no centeral location to socialize or have a good time. The city has to think about its future now, even if it is hard for some to think about. I'm really sorry if this post offended anybody, but it is the truth.

  • ncsustudent Sep 21, 2007

    People are coming here whether you like it or not. Now what do we do with so many people. Do we develop two or three centralized areas, or do we build thousands of more strip malls that reach the town of creedmoor. The price is the same for both developments yet one is much more logical. Some people who don't keep up with current events still haven't realized that the area is growing.

  • Joshua Sep 21, 2007

    cont... and any money poured into mass transit will be a waste of money.

  • Joshua Sep 21, 2007

    Back on subject, bussing is this town is rediculous... Most of the time, buses are empty. I live and work downtown. The busride for my 8 miles to work would take 1 hour 20 minutes. Or 20 munites by car with heavy traffic. This is a no-brainer. I'm going to drive! And while I want to bike to and from work, people are rediculously rude to cyclists and there is no way I'm willing to get on the roads with cars. Buses to the 'burbs already exist. How many people do they carry to and from downtown? Very little. A lite rail would be no better. A horrific waste of money. I don't know how to solve the problem of bussing. Obviously there are many problems. Ridership is minimal. The bus terminal is a haven for vagabonds and drunks. Cummute times are triple to quadruple the driving time for passenger vihicles. And while fares are inexpensive, who wants to ride the "ghetto cruiser"? Until mass transit can tackle these issues, mass transit will continue to falter.

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