Raleigh must decide on Moore Square's purpose

September 17, 2013 

Few people in Raleigh would be opposed to the idea of churches and other charities feeding people who are hungry. That is a noble instinct. But members of the city council, and many citizens for that matter, do have legitimate concerns about Moore Square, the historic park downtown that was part of Raleigh’s original design, becoming something of an outdoor soup kitchen on weekends.

The square has been a gathering place since the late 18th century, a park, a business center for the African-American community, a home for festivals, a camping ground for Union troops after the Civil War and now, a green oasis between the Marbles children’s museum and the revitalized City Market.

It also has become a place where well-meaning charities and churches have taken to feeding people on the weekends. One problem is that there are reasonable questions as to whether, because of the location, the free-food distributors draw people who are not necessarily destitute, and whether some of those people could cause worry or disruption for families going to Marbles, for example.

Allowing the vendors to continue in another, or several other, locations, would seem one viable alternative. It might move the help offered closer to those who need it. But it is not in the best interest of the city, which wants downtown to thrive as a residential and commercial area, to let Moore Square become known as the headquarters for food giveaways. That is not heartless; it is a recognition that any city council has to make decisions favoring the city’s broader interest, while at the same time showing imagination and assistance to charitable endeavors. Both can be done.

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