Raleigh seeks public input for downtown revamp
Posted April 21, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — City officials are considering various options to update downtown Raleigh, but they want to add ideas from area residents to the mix before drafting a final plan.
Raleigh's last downtown plan was adopted 10 years ago and included recommendations such as reopening Fayetteville Street to traffic, building a convention center and creating a plaza area.
Planning Director Mitch Silver said the city spent $225 million on such projects, and that has led to nearly $3 billion in private capital invested downtown, from restaurants to condominium projects to office buildings.
"Everything you see (downtown) is a result of that plan," Silver said Monday. "But it’s done, and now we’re ready for the next 10 years."
A new 10-year plan will focus on such ideas as connecting different parts of the city, revamping the warehouse district, where the new Union Station transit hub will be located, and redeveloping sites near the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, he said.
"In terms of what we’re looking at, it’s wide open," he said.
Raleigh leaders also would like to see a water feature downtown, and Silver said more people living in the city's center will increase the need for nearby parks and other open spaces.
"We’re looking at more things to make street life more energetic," he said. "Looking to have a more family-friendly downtown is a priority."
Kristen Rietkirk, a Pinehurst resident who often visits Raleigh with her two children, said she would like to see more space to walk downtown without having to fight traffic.
"I think what Raleigh is missing is an opportunity for more families to just hang out and enjoy being downtown," Rietkirk said. "More spaces where kids could play in fountains, opportunities for kids to interact with art (are) always good."
Restaurateur Van Nolintha, who opened Bida Manda near Moore Square two years ago, said downtown needs more resources for people who live downtown so they don't have to leave the area.
"I think we’re a product of a vibrant downtown in general," Norlintha said of the success of his Laotian restaurant. "I think we’ve come a long, long way and everyone is proud of Raleigh, but we have a long way to go."
The downtown area needs to evolve to maintain an edge, Silver said, noting that it can act as an engine to Raleigh's continued growth and prosperity.
"Downtowns are the new golf courses of the 21st century. This is now where deals get done. This is where people meet up, make connections and start a business," he said.
Public hearings on the next downtown plan will be held May 21-22, and the city also is accepting ideas online. City officials hope to adopt a final plan by the end of the year, meaning some of the recommended projects could get underway within two years.