Even when Raleigh officials first held a design competition about what to do with Moore Square, this historic piece of downtown real estate was long overdue for re-invigoration.
Laid out in 1792, it was one of the city’s original four squares arranged in a grid design. That’s history upon history: The design was specific to Raleigh, designated as the new state capital in 1788. Thus, the pieces of that original design are landmarks in and of themselves.
Moore Square, bordered by City Market on one side and businesses all around (including Marbles Museum) the others, has been in a state of benign neglect for decades. Some revitalization has taken place as downtown has come into fashion for business and residences, but the square has long been a hangout for some of the city’s homeless, and it’s felt for a long time that Moore Square wasn’t viewed by many as even a diamond in the rough, or a diamond at all.
First outlined in 2011, the plan for Moore Square has languished for years, hindered by a lack of funding, approval delays from the Council of State and changes in hiring contractors. However, recent city councils and Mayors Charles Meeker and Nancy McFarlane have refocused attention on the square, and now city officials say they’re moving ahead, looking at closing the square for the rebuilding/renovation project in the fall of this year and reopening it in 2018.
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There already are high-rise condos and apartments in the area, as well as a number of restaurants and other businesses. The city is planning to redefine the square’s space still using the huge trees there. Plans call for a space for kids, appropriate with Marbles nearby, and spaces for visitors from the new GoRaleigh transit mall. There also is supposed to be space for a temporary stage for concerts (popular in downtown Raleigh these days) and some public restrooms.
It sounds, in other words, as if Moore Square will become a part of the overall downtown revitalization that has transformed the city’s core over the last decade. It hasn’t been that long since downtown was a workplace and entirely deserted on weekends, never thought of as a destination for entertainment and dining. An undeserved reputation as an unsafe place also lingered in the minds of some.
All that has thankfully changed now, and the main problem for visitors is one the city’s happy to have – a need for more parking, and some would say better definitions of where parking is and isn’t. But relative to the challenges the city faced not that long ago, that’s not a mind-bending problem.
Moore Square’s transformation will represent another major piece of the downtown “puzzle” falling into place. Yes, it’s about time. The challenge for the city’s leaders is to have residents view the finished project as worth waiting for.