With Fayetteville Street thriving, Raleigh’s new downtown plan aims to bring similar energy to quieter corners of the city center, from Nash Square to the north end of West Street.
Consultants unveiled a draft of the plan Thursday night to a packed room at Marbles Kids Museum. After a decade that has transformed downtown from dead zone to activity mecca, city planners, residents and business leaders say there’s more to be done.
“While our downtown is dramatically enhanced from what it was 11 years ago, there are still plenty of areas of this new canvas that haven’t been painted yet,” said Highwoods Properties CEO Ed Fritsch, who served on the advisory committee for the plan.
The plan aims to create more focal points like City Plaza and Moore Square, while improving pedestrian and bike connections into downtown and between its districts.
The ideas presented Thursday didn’t involve changes along Fayetteville Street and Glenwood South, which host most of downtown’s action today.
They pointed out that downtown’s districts are isolated from each other. “The walkability and the connectivity between them isn’t all that good,” said Fred Merrill of Sasaki Associates, which developed the plan after months of public input sessions.
The plan identifies four new districts to bridge those gaps, dubbing them Nash-Union Station, Glenwood Green, Market Square and Gateway Center.
The plan calls for Hargett and Martin Streets to get wider sidewalks for cafe dining, making the east-west pair a pedestrian friendly connector from Nash to Moore squares. New retail development – the plan says downtown needs an extra 200,000 square feet – would be centered along Hargett and Martin.
Nash Square would be surrounded on all sides by mixed-use development, replacing smaller buildings and The News & Observer’s surface parking lot. A long-sought grocery store could fit in city-owned property to the north of the square, the study found.
Consultants say development should embrace the rail line there, with a bike trail running beside it to the Dorothea Dix campus. The district would connect across Peace Street to the planned Devereux Meadows Park.
“There’s a real scarcity of greenspace in Glenwood South,” Sasaki consultant Brie Hensold said.
“We all know that Moore Square has a really great history, but it’s also plagued by challenges and misconceptions around safety,” Hensold said.
The plan calls for office and residential development on the east side of the square, with more activity inside City Market and perhaps a boutique hotel next to the bus station.
The centerpiece could be an “urban innovation campus” for enterpreneurs or a “large cultural or sporting venue,” consultants said.