Wake County

Early plans for Moore Square call for community space

An artist rendering of design plans for Moore Square.
An artist rendering of design plans for Moore Square. handout

Early designs call for an updated Moore Square to include space for performers, vendors and community groups, in an effort to revitalize a part of downtown Raleigh.

A design presented to the Raleigh City Council last week incorporates features and styles from larger fixtures such as Bryant Park in New York City and Sister Cities Park in Philadelphia. Those parks feature designated open space for events.

Moore Square’s early plans include “grove rooms” for meetings or small gatherings.

About 40,000 square feet of lawn space in the park’s northwest corner near the intersection of Hargett and Blount streets could be used for large fitness classes and performances, according to design plans.

The other side of the park would feature a plaza, framed by low walls, that could seat as many as 500 people. Eight entryways to the park would be wide enough for informal gatherings or performances.

The design also includes a play area, a cafe and public restrooms.

Oak trees would continue to border the park, although they wouldn’t be as dense in as the current setup.

That change is important because one of the most common complaints about Moore Square relates to safety, said David Diaz, president of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance.

With a clear view from one side of the park to the other, visitors should feel more comfortable, Diaz said.

Mike Hakan, who owns City Market across the street from Moore Square, said he’s been waiting for this moment for many years.

“People can feel comfortable walking through and around the park,” Hakan said. “That’s prime.”

Moore Square has been a mostly undefined space in the middle of downtown. The city created a master plan for the 4-acre park in 2011, and the City Council voted in 2014 to borrow $12.6 million to fund the project.

Local charities handed out food to the homeless in Moore Square for years, but in 2013 Raleigh police told volunteers to stop serving in the park. The controversy sparked discussions about how to best help the city’s homeless.

Last spring, Raleigh held public meetings about plans to upgrade Moore Square.

The goal, in part, is to spur interest in nearby businesses, with Moore Square serving as an anchor. The design is a key component in the city’s Downtown Plan, which aims to re-energize quieter parts of the city’s core.

Hakan said City Market has renovation plans of its own, including new paint and awnings.

“It’s going to make a huge difference in the whole area,” Hakan said of Moore Square. “We see it as a center of a new neighborhood.”

The final design for Moore Square is expected to be finished by next spring, with construction starting next summer. The redesigned park should be complete by summer 2017.

“It’s going to be transformational for that part of downtown,” Diaz said.

Mechelle Hankerson: 919-829-4802, @mechelleh