Category: Capital District (Page 2 of 2)

Raleigh’s Capital District: Where history is made and preserved

Of the seven districts that comprise downtown, Raleigh’s Capital District is the one which has the most far-reaching impact throughout the entire state of North Carolina. Raleigh’s Capital District is where North Carolina’s governing officials convene and shape history and it welcomes thousands of visitors interested in learning about the state and its rich heritage.

Within the borders of Peace Street to the north, Person Street to the east, Morgan Street to the south and Dawson Street to the west reside the North Carolina State Legislative Building, the North Carolina State Archives, the Executive Mansion and the State Capitol. Marble-faced buildings and manicured lawns seamlessly intertwine the government structures with two of North Carolina’s major museums centered amongst them. Both the North Carolina Museum of History and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences occupy Bicentennial Plaza, the pedestrian mall that lies between the State Legislative Building and the State Capitol. 


Visit to read more of this article on the Capital District.

Old Raleigh Water Tower is FOR SALE

Walking home to Glenwood South from Fayetteville Street, my wife and I have often been drawn to the unique, historic building at 115 W Morgan Street, which served for many years as Raleigh’s primary water source. Made of stone and brick and built in 1887, it’s on the market for the first time since 1938, when it was converted into architectural offices, later becoming the AIA state headquarters.  

At $685k, it seems like an amazing opportunity for living, working or even entertainment/dining space.  We can just imagine eating outside by candle light in the little private outdoor courtyard nestled amidst the crepe myrtles.  

A little history . . .

As an historic structure, the Raleigh Water Tower holds double significance. Its construction signaled the dawn of local municipal water service.  Half a century later, its renovation became one of Raleigh’s first examples of adaptive reuse. The stone and brick structure was erected in 1887.  

Prior to the tower’s construction, water in the city was primarily drawn from private wells and cisterns. Concern for water quality in the 1880s led to the decision to develop a municipal system.  A private company was contracted to draw water from Walnut Creek immediately south of the city. There, water was conveyed from a dam by pipes to a nearby pump house.  Steam pumps forced the water through sand filters and either into a large reservoir on site or through pipes to the water tower downtown. The tower’s upland location and 85-foot height assured constant pressure for subscribers. Originally, its octagonal tower supported a 100,000 gallon water tank.  An attached two-story building facing Morgan Street housed offices, while a stand-alone building to the rear contained a maintenance shop.

Historic view of Raleigh Water TowerBy the early 1900s the system was supplying the entire city. A subsequent burst of residential growth, however, stressed capacity. The city acquired the operation in 1913, and soon thereafter created a larger impoundment upstream, removing the 1887 dam. The downtown water tower was abandoned in 1924, its tank removed and a larger metal tower erected further west. The city long considered demolishing the earlier structure, but in 1938 sold the property to Raleigh architect William Henley Deitrick. Deitrick, who chose to convert the aging tower into his architectural offices.  Renovations included removing the nine 12×12 inch heart pine columns which once supported the tank, and creating four interior floors.  In 1963, Deitrick deeded the water tower to the North Carolina chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), which undertook a significant renovation of the site in the 1990s, continued to maintain the property as its state headquarters.

Reinventing Capital Boulevard – Northern Gateway into Downtown Raleigh

The kickoff public meeting for the Capital Blvd Corridor Study was held on June 24th with over 200 people in attendance, most of whom either lived in, operated businesses, or owned property in the immediate area.  The intent of this study is to reinvent this northern corridor to Downtown Raleigh and design a plan on how to redevelop this area from the near to long-term.

Following an overview of the study, participants broke into groups (8-10 people) and discussed four main topics that the Planning Department wanted to make sure it captured through public involvement:

1) Did the study boundary include all of the areas that should be under consideration for redevelopment, or were any left out?

2) What are the biggest issues that redevelopment of this area could address?

3) What are the biggest opportunities that redevelopment of this corridor could accomplish?

4) What are the biggest obstacles standing in the way of making our visions a reality?

The ultimate goal of this study is to create a list of priorities based on the final recommendations, in order to create short-term, mid-term, and long-term development goals of this area.  Eventually these will be presented to the City Council to get funding and begin action.

It is critical that other efforts of the City Planning– be integrated into this study, including both the plans for high-speed rail along this corridor (including the planned new Union Station), and the Unified Development Ordinance, which will address new zoning regulations for Raleigh.  This study will also open up the opportunities to create a “gateway” into Raleigh, including a greenway into Downtown that connects with the one just south of I-440, cleaning up Pigeon House Branch Creek (possibly creating a “river-walk” experience), enhancing landscaping along the corridor, controlling traffic patterns between downtown and I-440 in a more logical manner, and countless other opportunities. 

The next public meeting is expected to happen in September or October of this year. You can stay up to date on this topic and other development related information by subscribing at the City of Raleigh’s Planning Department site.


Report provided by Chris Roberts, DLA Representative for the Capital Boulevard Corridor / Northern Downtown Gateway. 

DLA member Leo Suarez of the Raleigh Connoisseur also attended the kick-off meeting, so you’ll also want to jump over to the Raleigh Connoisseur to read what he has to say in his recent post “What is the Future of Capital Boulevard?”

Southern Living Comes Full Circle: What You May Not Know About Raleigh’s Celebrity Rural Roots

Raleigh used to be a small town in a rural state.  While Raleigh is getting bigger, the movement toward local, sustainable food is picking up steam, which helps our local farmers.  And there is a link to our rural history right here in town.

You may have read the great article recently in  The Raleigh Downtowner about the rural roots of Raleigh and the role of agriculture over the years.  To continue on that theme, we thought we’d point out that Raleigh is home to a celebrity – Progressive Farmer magazine.  That’s right , Progressive Farmer – you don’t have a subscription?  You may laugh, but you very well may actually have a subscription because Southern Living magazine started as Progressive Farmer.  

Let’s take a step back.  Oral history tells us that on his way back from the Civil War, Leonidas Lafayette Polk (L.L. to you and me) realized that for the South to recover, they needed to organize.  Polk was a Colonel and a native of Anson County. Read all about him here. Anyway, he was the first Commissioner of Agriculture and fought to improve farmer’s well being.  He went on to found Progressive Farmer magazine, which, fast-forward to today, is now Southern Living. See! We have more things to be excited about than Clay Aiken.  

What the hell does this have to do with Downtown Raleigh?  Well, thank you for asking! The Polk House Museum is just around the corner on Blount Street, but has an interesting history of its own, having previously been at the site of Krispy Kreme.  While downtown Raleigh is enjoying a resurgence in new construction and activity, just a few blocks away are some jewels of history.  The house has been restored and will eventually be opened as a museum sometime this fall. However, the ties to rural North Carolina still remain.  

Though the museum may not open for a few more months, the foundation is still actively supporting rural farmers.  Through their NC Green Market program, residents can purchase local, seasonal crops in an effort to help support the family farms. 

So, it kind of comes full circle when you think about it.   Wherever you choose to buy your produce, I think LL Polk would be happy just to know that it was local.  

Downtown Raleigh has 40,000 office workers, so why aren’t there more convenience oriented retail businesses?

This is a question echoed from the sidewalks of Fayetteville Street. to the offices of City Council.  To find an answer, the Downtown Raleigh Alliance engaged MJB Consulting, (a NY-based national retail planning and real estate concern) to do a Retail Market Analysis & Positioning Strategy for Downtown Raleigh.  They gathered data over a six-month period from August 2008 through February 2009.

This is what they found.

Daytime office workers will typically provide support throughout the weekday for various quick-service food concepts, where diners submit, pay and receive their order at a counter (e.g. Chick-Fil-A, Quiznos Sub, Port City Java.), specialty beverage purveyors (e.g. Starbucks, Morning Times), and other convenience oriented businesses (e.g. CVS and the UPS Store).

So why aren’t there more options available like these?

The study drew the following conclusions:

1. Too far to walk from Capital District . . . 

Most government buildings are located in the Capital District, which was never designed to include retail space.  Workers tend not to wander far for lunch or other conveniences, where the rule-of-thumb is that the typical office employee will not walk further than six minutes, and the Capital District’s distance from Fayetteville Street makes it too far to walk.

2. Faster to drive for Government workers . . . 

Government workers typically enjoy cheaply priced reserved parking spaces, so these workers find it is faster to drive to lunch or for other errands to the automobile friendly places in Cameron Village, or Sunflowers Sandwich Shoppe or Seaboard Cafe off Peace Street.  

3. Government workers have no time to take the bus . . . 

With the Downtown Raleigh Circulator/”The R Line”, government workers potential reach has been widened, but with just two buses plying the roughly twenty-minute route at any one time, it can only operate on headways of ten minutes, and could easily veer off schedule. Workers on break do not have a moment to waste, and such issues of frequency and reliability would likely minimize its use for this purpose.

4. Lack of convenience store size spaces in the Fayetteville Street District . . . 

The Fayetteville District has collected a number of convenience oriented businesses given the presence of workers located within the large corporate office towers.  However, a key limitation on worker-oriented retail in the Fayetteville District is the lack of 1,200- 1,400 sq.ft. spaces with appropriate dimensions on Fayetteville Street, with the excessive depths resulting in several cases in unusable square-footage in the back. Landlords are hesitant to split those bays because they are not confident that the levels of foot traffic on the parallel streets — Wilmington Street and Salisbury Street — would be sufficient to attract interest.  

5. Residential population is too small . . . 

Offerings for the worker are also limited by Downtown Raleigh’s still relatively small residential population. Many types of businesses struggle to survive on just Downtown’s weekday-lunch trade alone, and yet, they do not see the number of rooftops that would justify later opening hours. This hinders, for example, efforts to attract the newest wave of quick-service food concepts, the “fast-casual” restaurants (e.g. Panera Bread, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Noodles and Company).  There is clearly a demand for this sort of concept among Raleigh’s daytime workers, however the lack of sufficient residential density in Downtown Raleigh discourages those fast-casual brands that also rely on quick-service evening trade.


The study seems to conclude that the large population of daytime workers cannot translate into more retail by itself, and must depend on other customer types (event goers, residents, destination shoppers), which will be discussed in future posts to this blog.

Bringing more retail to our Downtown core is clearly a desire of people who work and live downtown.  So what do you think?



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