The City of Raleigh will hold elections for Mayor and City Council on October 6th. In the at-large city council race, incumbents Mary Ann Baldwin and Russ Stephenson will face Matt Tomasulo and Craig S. Ralph.
This blog will include interviews with each candidate, with answers published as they are received.
Russ Stephenson is an at-large member of City Council, having served since 2007. The DLA asked Russ a series of questions. Here are his answers:
What factors need to be balanced in providing for downtown Raleigh’s growth as a vital, sustainable, creative environment or both residents and businesses?
The many factors to be balanced are found in our draft Downtown Vision Plan. Emphasis should be on (1) adopting the Downtown Plan (2) setting priorities among the many Plan goals and then (3) take clear actions to implement the prioritized goals. (1-3) = putting Vision before Action! Continue reading
Ashton Mae Smith
District D encompasses the downtown Districts of Glenwood South, the Warehouse District, and a portion of the Fayetteville Street District. There are two candidates running for the council seat this year. This Blog will include interviews with each candidate, starting with Ashton Mae Smith, followed by candidate Kay Crowder next month.
The DLA asked Ashton a series of questions. Here are her answers.
What was your inspiration for running for City Council, and what gaps do you fill in that aren’t being met now?
I decided to run for City Council because I have a vision for Raleigh’s future as a world-class city, and we’re at a cross-roads as to how to get there. I grew up in Raleigh, and have had a chance to watch us grow up. The demographics in our city have changed considerably with our growth — the average age of Raleigh residents is 32 — and it’s important for the Millennial generation to have an active role in how we’re building our city. I’m already active with some of our largest areas of opportunity, including transit planning and affordable housing planning, and I serve as the board chair for the City of Raleigh Museum. Add in a background in real estate and the skills I’ve learned working for a bootstrapped start-up that was acquired by Citrix, and I think I bring a unique perspective to Council.
It’s natural that as a city grows, more decisions need to be made that affect more people. As a city, we’ve got to find a way to use metrics and data to guide decisions that match our collective goals.
Raleigh is and should be an inclusive city — diverse and welcoming — like District D. We have great neighborhoods and vibrant businesses thriving side by side, and it’s a balance we must maintain as the city grows. We must continue to manage this growth with the necessary transit and infrastructure improvements so that both businesses and residents can thrive. We must attract and retain the people and businesses who recognize what an incredible place this is to live and work, while ensuring development scales appropriately and integrates into our existing communities. Continue reading
Business is good and it’s getting even better.
You may be one of the thousands of visitors to Raleigh who drop in for downtown events or an occasional trip to the Farmers Market. Each time you come, you notice new businesses, restaurants and shops. Residents have been streaming to downtown, counting on just this shift as more and more people invest in downtown Raleigh’s vital, urban lifestyle. The DRA has gathered these statistics that verify just what we’re seeing in each of our downtown districts.
Where we are today: 166 restaurants, cafes, and bars within the BID*.
There’s been a net gain of over 150 new street-level businesses added within the BID* in the last 5 years.
- 2014 expected to reach highest ever net street-level additions
- Office occupancy at a new high of 92.6%, best in the city
More and more residents
Where we are today: 15,000 residents live within a one mile radius of downtown.
3,000 more residents will soon be living within the BID*, based on units under construction or planned. This represents a 20% increase.
- 8 residential projects under construction, adding another 1,109 units or approximately 2,000 more residents
- Another 1,000 residents will be added, counting the planned projects
Nearly $700 million being invested
- $375 million under construction, 2.2 million square feet
- $314 million planned, 1.6 million square feet
Want to know more? Read the DRA’s full 2nd quarter report
* The Business Improvement District also commonly referred to as the Central Business District, encompasses the five downtown districts of Glenwood South, Capital District, Warehouse District, Moore Square and Fayetteville Street.
Here’s a quiz: Guess where this is?
- You rarely see people walking here.
- It’s located just a few blocks from a commercial center and downtown entertainment district.
- It’s within the downtown improvement district.
- The area is huge, with lots of potential
Answer – see map
As the downtown revitalization has continued to move forward, an area like this could be expected to have attracted a lot of attention, yet developers avoid it.
A favorable bridge redesign offers to spark redevelopment
With the bridge over Peace Street at its useful life, a forward-friendly redesign of the bridge could be a catalyst to redevelop this important area of downtown.
A design referred to as the “Square Loop” for integrating off-ramp bridge traffic would create a much needed street grid, giving a big boost to the redevelopment potential for the area. NCDOT has been working with the city for years so this new design is consistent with the approved Capital Boulevard Plan, which envisions a new destination park / waterway and brings Peace Street to a walkable urban form. Both the city and state are in favor.
With just weeks to decide, there’s a catch.
This is the catch: An alternative bridge design can be done with much less cost ($11 million) as it is basically a copy of the bridge today. The details on the two options are laid out nicely on the Raleigh Connoisseur blog.
The city has the opportunity to select the “Square Loop” bridge design, identified by NCDOT as the P5 alternative, but with construction of the bridge planned to start in just two years, the design must to be finalized soon.
Decision must be made by May 23rd.
The final public hearing is April 22nd (4-7pm) at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.
The DLA encourages all residents to come to the public hearing and support the Square Loop (P5) bridge design. For more on this important decision, jump over to the Raleigh Connoisseur Blog to read their latest post.
Within the next few months a group of 22 downtown stakeholders (including 3 leaders of the DLA) will begin working with a team of consultants to begin developing the key elements of a downtown plan that will create a 10-year vision including short, mid and long term improvements to downtown Raleigh.
This group is certainly not starting from a clean slate as the “vision” has been gradually coming together for many years now, with a long list of city supported ‘plans’ that have received lots of public input. I credit the city’s Planning Department, and Mitchell Silver in particular (please don’t leave us!), as being the driver of many of these plans.
Now that the core downtown is developing nicely, the focus has been shifting to the surrounding edges.
Northern edge of downtown
- The Capital Blvd Study includes plans to redevelop the Devereux Meadow area into a public park, and a daylighting or opening of Pigeon House Branch Creek with new greenway connections to the north. Status: On hold
- The Peace Street Visioning Study [download] is focused on making this area more bike and pedestrian friendly by identifying opportunities for improving the pedestrian flow and adding bicycle facilities. Status: On hold
- The Capital Blvd / Peace Street Bridge replacement incorporates new road connections to Capital Blvd and Peace Street to support new development opportunities for underdeveloped areas within the northeastern edge of Glenwood South. Pedestrian connections between Glenwood South and Capital District /Seaboard Station promise to be a big benefit for local residents and workers. Status: Bridge replacement work to start 2016, but required ramp design not yet approved.
Western edge of downtown
- The relocation and redevelopment of Union Station as a multi-modal transit center is already becoming a catalyst for additional commercial and residential development within the large swaths of vacant areas in the Warehouse District, with a key example being the arrival of Citrix Headquarters. Status: Funding for Phase I mostly in place, although original scope of project in jeopardy without additional funding.
- The Wake County Transit Plan enhances bus service and includes Commuter Rail connections between Wake (Raleigh) and Orange (Durham) Counties to attract new transit-oriented development to the area and offers new public transpiration options to relieve road traffic congestion. Status: Currently dead, as the Wake County Commissioners have not permitted a public referendum for the required funding.
- Plans to convert the Dorothea Dix Campus into a regional destination park. Status: Mayor continuing to push Governor to make the land available.
Eastern edge of downtown
- The Moore Square Master Plan is a redesign of the park to increase public use and to encourage development in the adjacent properties. Status: Redesign completed in 2011, but construction is currently unfunded.
- The recent plans for the Blount Street / Person Street Corridor is a phased approach to balance the variety of uses to create a corridor that is safe and attractive to motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and transit users. Status: Plan development is ongoing, funded as part of the recently approved transportation bond.
- The New Bern Avenue Corridor Study [download] targets transit improvements with increasing bus access and bike and pedestrian improvements. Status: Partially funded by the recently approved transportation bond.
Southern edge of downtown
- The Southern Gateway Corridor Study [download] develops a vision for the character of the roadways and adjacent land uses into the future, with the goal of improving pedestrian and bike mobility, and addressing retail constraints and neighborhood connections.
- West Street Extension Project proposes an extension of West Street to Union Station to provide for better street connectivity for vehicle traffic and neighborhoods to the south.
As a member of the Downtown Plan Advisory Committee, an important outcome of this 10-year plan for me would be to have this process become the vehicle that links and ignites action on these existing plans, in much the same way the original 5-year Liveable Streets Plan did for the Fayetteville Street revitalization. I look forward to seeing what has taken place on paper becoming a reality that expands the modern, clean, urban vitality of Fayetteville Street to the edges in every direction. I want people approaching the city from any direction – on rail, bike, bus or car – to feel safe, welcomed and impressed by the vision that has drawn so many of us downtown.