Raleigh, N.C. — The $15 million City Plaza – featuring sculptures by local artists, retail pavilions, motion-sensing fountains and 50-foot light towers – opened on Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh Friday afternoon, just in time for the city's Raleigh Wide Open celebration.
City officials say the plaza is meant to serve as a "public living room" for concerts and events. It will also have free WIFI service.
The Collector's Gallery, Shishkabob and Krispy Kreme all opened inside the plaza Friday. Jimmy John's, the first business to commit to the plaza, will open at a later date.
Doug Grissom, assistant director of the Raleigh Convention Center, said having the plaza nearby will help when booking future conventions.
“You can bring a customer out here and look from end to end and it sells itself,” Grissom said.
Director of Convention Sales Laurie Okun said the plaza is already helping.
“I think we won a conference over Atlanta, Ga., because we can have this space as their reception space,” Okun said.
Nick Coppedge and his family live about a block away from the new Plaza.
“It’s just going to give us one more thing to do in downtown Raleigh,” Coppedge said. “It’s awesome.”
The plaza opening coincides with the city's fourth annual Raleigh Wide Open, a daylong street festival celebrating downtown.
The event kicks off with a parade at 10 a.m., concludes at 10:45 p.m. with a fireworks show and includes 20 bands, about 100 food and art vendors, beer and wine tents, street performers and fireworks.
The city's first Raleigh Wide Open in 2006 coincided with the reopening of Fayetteville Street to vehicle traffic. The historic street had served as a pedestrian mall for 30 years prior.
An estimated 35,000 people attended that event, which culminated the 16-month, $9.3 million project
Fayetteville Street's reopening marked the beginning of a number of changes in the area as part of the city's downtown revitalization efforts.