The Unique, The Same, and The Ugly

Here’s a topic that I’ve been thinking about for years. Downtown Raleigh is great but it’s not unique. As we land new shops, breweries, coffee shops, apartments, and barcades, we’re actually just getting them around the same time as many other cities.

Scooters, trolley pubs, bottle shops, bikeshare? Yeah, lots of places have that.

We’re mainly just followers in a long line of growing cities around the country. We’re good at copying and following the “big city” checklist.

This city needs that, for sure, but we have got to find a few truly unique things about us and market the absolute CRAP out of it. It would be part of our city brand and unique culture that NO ONE can touch or even dare challenge us on it.

What could that thing be?

I encourage you to read this and think on this topic.


An intriguing concept.
Some unique things about DTR?

  • Two historically black universities. Few cities have two of them. In fact there’s no HBUs north of philly or west of Texas. Shaw is really close to the core (wish it was more part of the fabric tho). Map of HBUs
  • The state capital building is one of the most underwhelming of all capitals. The ones in Nashville or Austin are huge and awesome. Raleigh? A solid Greek Revival building that’s very low rise. It’s really a bit unique as these things go.
  • Krispy Kreme’s iconic Raleigh locations. But, bought out by out of town developer.

Note to young people: be different - don’t get a tattoo. :slight_smile:


I completely agree that Raleigh needs a differentiator, and needs to market the living shit out of it. The trouble is that these sort of things are risky and take a lot of political courage to support through completion. This might mean that the local government takes the lead, or it might mean that the local government completely gets out of the way. It could also mean an incredible public/private partnership.
It could be a hairbrained idea conceived by eccentric billionaire. It could be something that is philanthropic that changes the game on how we treat our citizens. It could be an experiment in housing. It could be a downtownwide art installation that does something to pique interest of residents and visitors alike to follow its path. Who knows?
One thing for certain, it needs to be bold like the EcoPRT system envisioned by NC State. It will be something that you have to be in Raleigh to experience, and that experience will be special.


Great ideas. Interestingly, Illinois and Iowa both have simple Greek Revival capitols no longer in use. Both are seen in this [wikipedia article](http://iowas city old capitol).

Oh, let’s just say something simple like a donated Plensa sculpture for the Fayetteville Street renovation? That’s right, we turned it down.


I know… I thought of that as well when I first read this thread. IMO, that was the singularly biggest cowardice fail on the part of the city’s leadership.

I’m always in the extreme minority on this one so maybe I’m wrong but I’m happy they passed on the Plensa project planned for city plaza. A little reading for those not familiar.

The art itself seemed fine but what really bugs me about this is that cars were still needed to drive around the square, almost like a roundabout but the art would be isolated. I’m also not sure how long-lasting the LED grid would really be. I really think it would look dated in 20+ years.

Perhaps it could have been updated over time, sure.

We wouldn’t have gotten the 4 kiosks that we have now so while it looks like a nice place to sit and eat there would have been a lot less options.

Just my two cents. Do I still want something grand and much more public art in downtown? Of course. This one though just didn’t seem that unique to me. I’ll also admit, I don’t have that eye for art so I am perfectly fine if I found out I was wrong though. :grin:


My unique idea for Raleigh is one that no one else can have. It’s a drink. Cherry Bounce.

The history behind it always intrigues people. Here’s the original story and here’s a modern twist.

I think every bar in Raleigh should serve their own variation of Cherry Bounce. We should build a culture around this in the city. People need to demand it when they visit. It’s just what you do here.

T-shirts need to be made with snarky cherry bounce memes and slogans.

Cherry Bounce dinner parties should be a thing at restaurants.

There should be a cherry bounce festival every year.

If we embraced it, it would just emanate into the world and that’s a thing we would have. It sounds so small but then smart, creative people would get behind it and do interesting things around it.

How to do that takes time and a few creative people who know how to start something big from something small.


I am in total agreement with you on this one…
How would this look in front of Memorial Auditorium? Two other points with this option:
First, the city already owns the land.
Second, no need to dart around traffic to get to it.


I REALLY think that we need some large public fountains. There is something about the sound of water and the cool spray that draws people to it. Raleigh could put their own spin on the design (a fountain of Acorns? haha), but it/they need to be large in scale. Lots of cities have public fountains, true, but we have some perfect locations (IE Days Inn property where Capital enters the city is one such location) where a large public fountain would welcome visitors, and activate the area between the government complex and Sleepy Hollow/Glenwood South and create more connectivity to the city as well as a memorable landmark visitors would associate with the City.


Even Cary has a very nice public water fountain now. The one that Raleigh built on the plaza is the most unimpressive water feature ever…

1 Like

A City in a Forest.

I like this concept a lot. In fact I have already come across several articles (not local) describing our area as such. Who wouldn’t want to live in a green, verdant city with strong support for eco-friendly design? We already have a fantastic greenway system and Dix Hill. We could make green architecture a hallmark of our city brand by supporting high LEED standards along with incorporating green elements into the design of buildings such as green roofs and walls


I’m not completely opposed to fountains, but I do struggle with the superfluous use of water when many are predicting water shortages. If we do go that route, it needs to activate the space… look to the Crown Fountain in Millenium Park in Chicago (also a Plensa design, which also may become dated quickly) where the fountain encourages people to splash and play. A misting/fogging option that provides some cooling during our warm summers would be welcome.


I haven’t read anything yet that would be unique to Raleigh. Keep thinking!!!

I like this one too. It could be pushed even more with energy-generating buildings such as City Gateway. (whenever/if that’s built)

1 Like

From Wikipedia: The city of Atlanta, Georgia has a reputation as the “city in a forest”

Sorry to burst your bubble, but I heard this phrase used to describe Atlanta many years ago.

1 Like

Keep the ideas coming. Here’s another, not at all hip or sexy but I think it would be huge and welcoming.

Require, or heavily incentivize, all new construction to have elevator shafts.

I’ve toured lots of properties and with Raleigh getting in on the infill development game, I find a disconnect between builders who do townhomes/SFHs and lots of older buyers that want to “age in place.” I’m sure you’ve seen that term. Elevators could be the next central air, television, etc. of the future american home. I think they are seen as a luxury item now but what if a city wanted to scale out it’s housing with elevators to every floor?

Builders could just build the elevator shaft which reserves space for the hardware down the road. I’m sure architects could work that into their plans and it would be a nice long-term gain cause homes are future-proofed for it.

Maybe it’s not a unique thing but if we started now, we could be known for a dynamic housing stock for all ages and abilities. The accessibility capital of the country!

Any realtors in the house? I’d wonder if there would be any market analysis to this.

1 Like

No worries @Nickster. Thanks for letting me know. I will say that Raleigh is much more a city in a forest than Atlanta. IMMHO.

1 Like

There used to be fountains on Fayetteville street until 2005.

Don’t you think building regulations such as this would just unnecessarily raise the price of construction even further, reduceing the amount of homes and increasing the housing affordability problem? I have thought we should be examining the code to find requirements that could be safely removed inorder to encourage more construction.

In a smaller 3 story townhome; takeing 25sqft out of each floor would be quite consequential.