While we often look to other cities for things that they have, we often don’t reflect enough on all the wonderful things about our own city. Sometimes it takes fresh eyes to show us that we are in a really great position and that the future of the city is really exciting! I’m looking at you @atl_transplant ! Let’s talk about all of the great things that our downtown offers that may not be unique to Raleigh, but are certainly differentiators that play to downtown Raleigh’s strengths.
While I could start with a whole list of things, I’ll limit myself to just one and give the community the opportunity to chime in.
Downtown Raleigh is ringed by interesting, historical, and highly viable neighborhoods that are all walkalbe to at least one district of downtown. Below is my list of neighborhoods and their reasonably walkable downtown districts. Please fill in any gaps that I missed, but note that I was trying to go by a broader brush painting of residential neighborhoods and have avoided naming pocket ones, infill new construction, etc.
I know that everyone is going to have their own definition of walkable. FWIW, I am trying to look at this through the lens of people who actually like to walk, and you may or may not agree with how I am defining walkable. To put that in more perspective, I’ve walked to all downtown districts from my place on the NW corner of Glenwood South. I am also using the districts as defined by: Districts | Downtown Raleigh, NC
Mordecai > Seaboard/Person Street & Capital District
Oakdale > Seaboard/Person Street & Capital District
Oakwood > Seaboard/Person Street , Moore Square & Capital District
South Park/DT East > Moore Square, Capital & Fayetteville St District
Fuller Heights > Warehouse District
Boylan Heights > Warehouse District, Fayetteville St & Glenwood South
Cameron Park > Glenwood South & Warehouse District
Glenwood Brooklyn > Glenwood South, Seaboard & Capital District
My definition of walkable is almost certainly not the same as most people. My wife and I woke up one morning and walked to downtown Cary and back (from DTR). We like to joke about “walkable” sometimes.
Moving on, my “brag about Raleigh” is how much most ppl love and prefer “local” in almost any regard. Coffee, beer, talent (art, music), retail shops, etc. It may even be to a detriment as it makes it difficult to adopt larger brands and companies. I love how homely Raleigh is and how quickly newcomers feel welcomed and “at home”. As we grow, I hope we continue to accept all and keep that local feel.
I think I’ve spoken to this a little before, but I think Raleigh punches way above it’s weight vs first glance at the skyline.
An outsider may think Fayetteville St is the only place where stuff is going on since that’s where the tall buildings are (hopefully that continues to change). But there’s is so much more to offer. Raleigh has a great feel walking around it. And it’s more than just walking up one block and back. There’s tons of restaurants and shops and they’re not just concentrated in one section like many downtowns.
Also while I mentioned that downtown punches way above its weight, it’s still compact enough that you can reasonably walk between any two points in downtown. That is something many downtowns (looking at you Atlanta) can’t say. Another thing, while we have our government district, it still feels like it’s a part of downtown and is actually an enjoyable area - another thing you can’t really say about Atlanta. Our downtown development seems to be just about equally distributed across all districts of downtown so we won’t have areas being “left behind”. That goes into my favorite part, which is while walking around last night there’s people having a good time everywhere, not just in one or two spots. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Atlanta and it has loads to offer but there’s just no connectivity between the districts, even downtown. You have a nice spot here, and a nice spot there with bits of nothingness in between.
If I could change something, all those surface lots are screaming “build on me” haha hopefully that will come.
Also, I know y’all don’t wanna hear this part but the suburbs are also designed much smarter here than any other city I’ve seen. There’s much more focus on creating a primary / secondary road grid instead of just letting subdivisions pop up wherever on original roads and letting them become chocked. This is ultimately what doomed Atlanta. There is so much more forward thinking planning in pretty much every aspect of planning and engineering, it makes me so happy haha.
Yesterday we walked from the Quorum to Dix Park and did the 2.7 mile walk around the park and then back up to Wye Hill for lunch. It was a beautiful day and we feel so lucky to have Dix walkable. Also, we went in the renovated chapel and they did a fantastic job!
Made me think of Elrond and the Last Homely House from the Hobbit.
Anyways, um, to be on topic…
I guess I just like how it’s big enough to always find something to do, but small enough that they all feel like neighborhood places. And that every new mural or building or shop or restaurant that opens makes an impact still, and doesn’t just get lost in the noise.
So great to hear this from your perspective. I think Raleigh catches a lot of flak for not being a “real city”, and honestly I think a ton of that negativity is in direct relation to @John’s critique of the city’s branding problem. Perception is everything.
When I think about why people visit Downtown Atlanta I come up with three main reasons: Sports, Attractions and Partying.
I think if we get a downtown arena we should try to get the ACC tournament. I think someone else mentioned it but we could use some type of college basketball museum, we already have some good museums but I feel like they aren’t promoted. Atlanta does this city pass thing where with one ticket you can go to all the attractions. If we can enhance Dix and Pullen and hopefully connect them better to downtown maybe that’ll help a little in the attractions regard. A mid sized zoo and aquarium would be cool but not sure if the state would like it. As for partying, Glenwood south is great for people looking for that stuff but not as trashy as the districts I’ve seen in other cities. I know some don’t like it at all but it’s greatly important to the perception of the city to young people.
As for the present, the city needs to hang it’s hand on something and commit to promoting the hell out of it. I’ve never seen like a “discover Raleigh” commercial.
I love how the city and its leaders are committed to solving issues like climate change, racial equity, affordable housing, among other things. The city is also very unique because it has multiple areas with medium to large sized local retail shops near every district. We also have multiple schools within downtown including two HBCUs, one of which is the first HBCU in the south, which needs more support from the state. Along with those we have NC State which is expanding every year, Peace college which has beautiful architecture and landscaping, and Campbell’s Law school.
Yeah I would never live in Atlanta. I’m not going to say the main reason why but I like my voting rights and cooler weather. “Raleigh, the place to be” should really be our motto? Is that the right word.
I doubt Raleigh could ever host the ACC Tournament because any downtown arena would be paired with State. And schools don’t have the Tournament on their home floor.
It’s also unfortunate that KC and Greensboro already have the college basketball HOF and ACC Hall of Champions respectively. But the NC History Museum would be a great avenue for celebrating basketball with a permanent collection. Along the lines of the Carolina Basketball Museum, you could use it to highlight not only the Big Four but also all players with ties to states. A Curry exhibit would be nice, from Charlotte to Golden State. A nice leverage for extolling just how important basketball is to the state.
Yeah, this is why Charlotte hosts the ACC Football championship game. They don’t have a horse in the race.
NC State/Raleigh has hosted the NCAA first and second round men’s bball at PNC but then NC State can’t play in it on their home floor.
Raleigh missed out on some really neat attractions. The Improv went to Cary but has had some good comedians go in.
The DPAC is another one. I’ve been to a few of the plays there and they are great.
Although it is not DTR, I believe the area around PNC could easily be developed. I’d say move the Fairgrounds someplace else and do some mixed use development out that way. I understand the whole thought process of moving things to downtown south, but PNC is getting remodeled. Carter Finley is already there. The NC Museum of Art and JC Raulston Arboretum is nearby. It is also near the bus lines from Chapel Hill and Durham.
I also agree an aquarium or zoo would be good. If we had better connectivity to Lake Johnson, then I’d think kayaking there would be a good addition to a city pass thing.
Edit to add: Biking could also be good for City Pass. It seems that a lot of the attractions for City Pass are museums.
I also believe there was a company that did kayaking on the Neuse River a couple of years ago. That could be another thing as well. Unfortunately that is a bit of distance away from DTR. I believe bike rentals are done up on that trail. It is a popular place for biking. It would also be nice if there was a company that rented bikes near the art museum to bike towards Umstead (or elsewhere). They have the city bikes, but I’m not sure if they’d be good for biking on the gravel path of Umstead.
And more to add because I just realized it. The 3D theater in the museum needs work. I wish they would hve had the Imax theater there. The Imax at the marbles museum plays the same features you’ll see at the Smithsonian museum, but it’s not incorporated to the museums here. Maybe it will feel more incorporated after the History Museum expansion.
We have a really nice tree canopy and lots of nice outdoor recreational space in Raleigh. I remember being at an event at Skyhouse and somone commented about how much green was down below.
From a family vantage - Marbles Kids Musuem is pretty special and along with a finished Moore Square - grounds that part of downtown as a family friendly area that our crew loves to visit. That and all the free museums! Pretty awesome feature for Raleigh.