Moore Square in downtown Raleigh to reopen this summer. Here’s what will be there.

Downtown Raleigh’s renovated Moore Square will reopen in August

Moore Square will reopen in August with a cafe, tree house play area and public art
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Moore Square will reopen in August with a cafe, tree house play area and public art

After an uncertain journey and months of delays, Moore Square should open this summer.

Moore Square, bordered by Martin, Person, Hargett and Blount streets in downtown Raleigh, was closed to the public for construction in late 2017 and was expected to reopen by March.

Now city staff estimate it will reopen by the end of July.

The reason for the delay? Rain.

“2018 was the wettest year on record in the history of Raleigh,” said Stephen Bentley, assistant director of Raleigh’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department. “It affected every construction project in the Triangle.”

Once it is open, Moore Square will feature a cafe, space for the downtown farmers markets, food trucks, large walking paths, a water feature like a splash pad, public art and natural play area resembling a tree house for children.

The Moore Square project is no stranger to delays. Raleigh leaders approved a master plan to guide the development of the park in 2011 but decided not to move forward until the economy improved. The project was funded in 2014 for about $12.6 million, but then the city faced disputes over the qualifications of its preferred designer in 2016, the News & Observer previously reported.

Raleigh also had to wait for approval from the state to start construction in 2016, causing another delay. The four-acre square is one of four public spaces planned for Raleigh in the late 1700s, though only Moore and Nash Square remain. The land is owned by North Carolina and leased to the city.

Before it closed, the square was a frequent gathering place for downtown workers to eat lunch and for people to wait for their bus at the nearby bus station. It was close to several organizations that served the homeless population, and homeless people were known to gather in the park.

The square also hosted several large festivals and concerts that damaged the land, Bentley said.

“The community would not respect the square,” he said. “We’d have a live concert and the parks department would spend months restoring it just to have another live concert.”

Attendance at those large events could reach about 10,000, he said, but the new square is designed to fit about half of that. And small barriers and fences will help keep people away from the trees. And the city’s large metal acorn will not be moved back to Moore Square but remain at the intersection of South and Salisbury streets.

The nearby historic Norwood House, at 226 E. Martin St., will be the square’s visitors center, a retail space and history exhibit of the square.

The 1,000-square-foot cafe will feature “typical park” food like hamburgers, hot dogs and salads and beer and wine. There will be no indoor seating at the cafe, but there will be public restrooms.

The events at the square will include book readings, workshops, large concerts and festivals. People will be able to rent a small space of the square, like the play area, but the entire square won’t be closed for an event, said Amanda Fletcher, Moore Squares events manager.

The walkways through the park are meant to mimic the natural paths that were created and used to get from the integrated City Market and South Park neighborhood, the city’s largest historic black neighborhood, to East Hargett Street. That area was the historically black “Main Street” and home to black doctors, retailers, pharmacists, Mechanics and Farmers Bank and the popular Lightner Arcade in the early 1900s.