In the past year, Citrix opened its headquarters downtown, the Oakwood modernist house case moved through the court system, voters approved a major spending plan for parks, and the World of Bluegrass set an attendance record in Raleigh.
All that and so much more happened in Midtown Raleigh and beyond in 2014.
Here are some highlights of the year:
World of Bluegrass fest sets new attendance mark
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World of Bluegrass made a splash in Raleigh in October.
The overall five-day attendance for the 2014 International Bluegrass Music Association’s World of Bluegrass festival came to more than 180,000 people.
That’s nearly 29 percent more than last year’s total of 140,000, and the biggest crowd Raleigh has ever seen – bigger by far than the 138,000 drawn by the 2011 NHL All-Star Game and fan festival. While the hockey game’s events generated more direct visitor spending ($11.4 million), this year’s World of Bluegrass topped it in almost every other measure.
The Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates $10.8 million in direct visitor spending, up 16 percent from $9.28 million in 2013.
Area hotel room nights were up 15 percent to 23,000.
Citrix opens headquarters downtown
Citrix Systems opened its headquarters in October, breathing new life into the Warehouse District downtown.
The move was hailed as triggering a wave of new development in the area. Downtown Raleigh and Glenwood South have seen a renaissance, but the changes mostly bypassed the Warehouse District.
Citrix, a Florida software development company, has 600 workers at the site at the intersection of West and Hargett streets. The new offices pay homage to the building’s industrial legacy with touches such as giant shipping containers transformed into meeting rooms.
Development in the area could be accelerated by Union Station, which could eventually feature commuter rail.
Modernist house causes controversy
The modernist house in the Oakwood neighborhood near downtown made national news as neighbors and the homeowner continued to disagree.
Across-the-street neighbor Gail Wiesner filed her appeal in October against the house, a move that sent the architectural battle to the N.C. Court of Appeals.
Wiesner lost the last round of appeals when Superior Court Judge Elaine Bushfan ruled in favor of the house.
Bushfan’s decision overturned the city’s Board of Adjustment – she said it used an “incorrect standard of review” – and allowed homeowners Louis Cherry and Marsha Gordon to resume construction. Bushfan also determined that Wiesner doesn’t have legal standing to fight the house.
Wiesner argues that the modernist design doesn’t fit historic rules for Oakwood and that Raleigh’s historic commission made a mistake by approving it.
Hillsborough Street sees changes
Hillsborough Street continues to be in the midst of redevelopment.
Raleigh’s planning commission approved two more mixed-use apartment and retail buildings in August.
Charlotte developer Jim Zanoni of FMW Real Estate got a green light to build two four-story buildings with ground-floor retail – one next to IHOP, the other at the Dan Allen Drive intersection where Sakura Express was demolished.
Zanoni’s developments were the latest in a long series of proposed and new apartments that span from the Morgan Street roundabout to Meredith College.
One large apartment development is planned, while five others are in the works. Most will replace gritty, one-story brick storefronts that housed dive bars and cheap eateries that have defined Hillsborough Street for decades.
Food distribution center opens
The city opened an indoor center in June where charities can hand out food to the homeless downtown.
A months-long controversy ensued when charities said they were threatened with arrest for providing food to the homeless in Moore Square. The debate began when police suddenly began enforcing an obscure rule that requires $800 permits to distribute food in city parks.
City officials and nonprofit leaders had meetings that often become heated.
The Oak City Outreach Center is housed in a windowless warehouse at 215 1/2 S. Person St., behind the old Salvation Army building.
While the city provides off-duty police officers to keep the new center secure, Catholic Charities has a contract to manage the facility with a part-time coordinator and a long list of volunteers.
Raleigh lowers cap on road races
The Raleigh City Council voted 6-2 in September to lower the annual cap on road races.
Under the new policy, no more than 95 races can take place in a year. The previous cap was 100. The policy also bans existing races from closing streets in the same neighborhoods on back-to-back weekends, forcing some events to change dates or locations.
No additional races are allowed in neighborhoods around downtown and Hillsborough Street: Mordecai, Oakwood, Boylan Heights, University Park and Cameron Park.
Businesses and residents there have complained that frequent roadblocks make it hard to get around and hurt shops and restaurants.
But race directors have protested the new policy, saying it could cost them their longtime date and location – and potentially some fundraising revenue.
Voters approve parks bonds
Raleigh voters gave the thumbs up in November for $92 million in bonds to to spend on parks.
About half the money is expected to go toward upgrading and renovating existing facilities, including Chavis Park. A third is set for land purchases and new parks, and the remainder for greenway improvement and construction.
The bond package carries a potential property tax increase of 4 percent. That’s 1.72 cents per $100 valuation, or about $51 annually on a $300,000 home, according to the city.
This was the sixth parks spending package approved since 1981.
Wake Forest voters also approved a $25 million bond referendum. The money is slated to fund streets, parks and recreation and greenway projects.
School board OKs assignment plan
The Wake County school board approved a student assignment plan in early December that could move more than 2,700 students next year.
More than half of the students are eligible for “grandfathering,” or staying at their current schools if families provide transportation.
More assignment shifts will come in the next few years as the 155,000-student system deals with growth. Wake is also working to fill the 11 new schools that are scheduled to open in the next few years.
Some parents in western Wake County expressed major concerns about the plan, but Raleigh parents weren’t as vocal.
The board declined to make changes for some western Wake neighborhoods, but it removed 168 Enloe High School students from the plan. Those students would have moved to Southeast Raleigh High.
Raleigh City Councilman Thomas Crowder dies
Thomas Garrett Crowder, who resigned his 11-year post on the Raleigh City Council this fall in the face of an advancing illness, died Oct. 14. He was 58.
Crowder was a lifelong resident of Raleigh and represented the southwest part of the city on the council.
Doctors diagnosed Crowder with testicular cancer in March 2013, according to his obituary. He announced in September that he’d “exhausted all options for a cure.”
Crowder first was elected to the council in 2003, after two terms on the city’s planning commission. An architect by trade, Crowder’s interest in city politics was partially rooted in his love of art and design.
His wife, Kay Crowder, will finish his term on the council.