Raleigh has a new long-term vision for downtown
Posted September 12, 2014 5:47 p.m. EDT
Updated September 12, 2014 6:35 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — Vic's Ristorante Italiano in Raleigh's historic City Market has been a fixture near Moore Square for nearly two decades.
But, in recent years, as nearby Fayetteville Street has been redeveloped, the dining spot has become disconnected from the energy and life of downtown, says owner Mario Longo.
"Business went down, but thank God we survived," he said.
Now, the city is thinking about what the area near Moore Square – bordered by Blount, Person Hargett and Martin streets – and several other fairly low-key areas could look like with a 10-year "Downtown Experience Plan" aimed at reinventing them as diverse, energized and connected places to live, work and play.
"We want to promote that each part of downtown has a different character and tie them all together," said Grant Meacci, director of the City of Raleigh's Urban Design Center.
Planners have several projects in mind that would beautify and help revitalize the areas. They plan to seek public input in October and hope to begin some of the smaller-scale projects at the start of the new year.
Around Moore Square – dubbed Market Square – upgrades could include improved streetscapes as well as office, residential, retail and hotel space as well as accommodations for bicycle traffic.
The same goes for what's being called Nash-Union Station a short distance away in the city's center. It includes Nash Square – bordered by Martin, Hargett, Dawson and McDowell streets – and expands toward West Street to connect with the Warehouse District and the planned Union Station train terminal.
Glenwood Green toward the north end of town near Glenwood South could also feature retail and residential space as well as a public plaza and a park, including a small water feature.
Ideas for the Gateway Center on the south end of downtown – near the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts – could include building an arena on the southern edge or expanding the Raleigh Convention Center near Red Hat Amphitheater.
Expanding each of the four districts would bring them closer to each other and make them more accessible, Meacci says.
"Right now, there are blanks where you walk from block to block, and there might not be anything," he said. "This plan focuses on filling in those blanks."
The last time the city implemented a vision plan was in 2003, when it looked at reopening Fayetteville Street, which for decades served as a pedestrian mall. It was a $25 million public investment project that ended up generating $2.5 billion in private investments.
That's good news for business owners like Longo, who wants to see profits soar again.
"Now, with this, I hope we start to see the light again," he said.