A sweeping plan to bring more energy to parts of downtown Raleigh could transform Nash Square, including through a possible sale of City Hall.
The latest draft of the 10-year downtown plan puts a priority on remaking Nash Square and the surrounding blocks, as well as bringing new development to the south end of the city’s center and strengthening downtown retail.
While many elements of the downtown plan already are on the books or would fit into an existing plan, those three areas would require significant new planning, design and public and private financial investment.
As part of the vision for Nash Square as a connector between the planned Union Station rail hub to the west and Moore Square to the east, the plan calls for a ring of more than 1 million square feet of mixed-use development around the park.
An office, hotel or residential building could land on The News & Observer’s surface parking lot. A block of municipal buildings could be replaced by a mix of civic, commercial and residential uses.
Dedicated affordable or workforce housing units could be included in new residential buildings.
Restaurants could offer sidewalk seating, and the park itself could get a new entry plaza and reconfigured pathways.
The plan says the city could choose to keep its municipal buildings on Hargett Street across from Nash Square, which would bring stability to the area as it transforms, or move to help free up additional land for private development.
Ken Bowers, city planning director, said staff members are in the early stages of evaluating what would work best. They’re looking at if and how city work spaces could be consolidated and what would be most cost effective.
Once that analysis is clear, the city can make decisions about how to proceed.
“Obviously there needs to be the involvement of our elected officials,” Bowers said. “It’s not just a question of what’s cheapest, it’s about what is most beneficial for our citizens and the health of downtown.”
The city is seeking comments through May 13 on the final draft, which offers greater detail than a version released in September.
The basic ideas of the plan remain the same, though: The city seeks to bring greater energy to key pockets of downtown and make it easier for people to move between them.
City planners will incorporate the comments into a final report that will go to the Raleigh Planning Commission and City Council. The report is a guide and doesn’t commit the city to funding any particular project.
As part of the plan, consultants identified and named five emerging city districts where they said public and private investments could pay off in a big way, including Nash Square:
Glenwood Green: The new district would be north of bustling Glenwood South with the addition of new residential development, a park and greenway.
The plan seeks to build on coming improvements to the Capital Boulevard and Peace Street interchange and bridge.
Moore Square: The plan looks to build on the funded remaking of Moore Square and the Moore Square Transit Center.
A new boutique hotel, more residential and office development and a revamped City Market all are part of the vision for the area.
Gateway Center: The plan calls for a new precinct at the southern end of downtown near the convention center and the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.
The area could accommodate several blocks of new hotel, retail and office development and serve as a tourism, employment and entertainment destination. A new sporting center or cultural center could eventually be built on the western portion of the site.
The city should consider the creation of a new tax district to help finance improvements in the area, according to the plan.
North End: The district runs along Peace Street between Person Street and Seaboard Station and is an addition since the draft released in the fall.
Trisha Hasch, a city planner, said the community advocated strongly for the neighborhood’s inclusion as part of downtown.
“It’s very clear that Peace Street is a main corridor and is an important part of connectivity,” Hasch said.
The plan doesn’t call for large-scale redevelopment but for renovations to Peace Street and some new mixed-use or office space to help connect the neighborhood to downtown.
Have your say
To view the draft plan, visit raleighnc.gov and search “Downtown Experience Plan.”
Copies of the draft plan also are available at the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, 120 S. Wilmington St. #103; the Raleigh Planning and Development Department, 1 Exchange Plaza, third floor; and John Chavis Memorial Park, 5050 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Send comments to Trish Hasch at firstname.lastname@example.org (919-996-4641) or City of Raleigh Planning & Development, P.O. Box 590, Raleigh, NC 27602.