I agree that Chapel Hill seems to be in a state of flux right now. I would attribute that mostly to the fact that the zeitgeist has migrated north to Durham. Most of the best and most creative restaurants and stores are there now.
Much of the draw that brought people to Franklin Street from the rest of the Triangle has been stolen by Durham, and Franklin is now turning into what I see as an odd blend of somewhat bland upscale stuff (presumably catering to visiting alumni and university guests) and downmarket stuff catering to students (surviving based on sheer volume at lunchtime.) The creative or unique businesses, as well as the old time ones steeped in tradition, all of which were a big part of Franklin Street's draw, seem to be evaporating.
The transition is far from complete and I believe there's still plenty of time to turn the tide, but I'm not entirely sure how.
The context is different, but there's kind of a parallel story that played out in Raleigh as nightlife migrated from Hillsborough street to Glenwood South and downtown Raleigh starting in the 1990s.
If you want to achieve an average neighborhood-wide density of 30 units / acre, without also demolishing and redeveloping the single family neighborhoods that weigh in at 4-10 units / acre, you have to allow higher density along the main commercial corridors like Oberlin or Hillsborough. If you leave 75% of the neighborhood untouched at 10 units per acre, and redevelop the rest at 100 units per acre, then you have an average of 32.5 units per acre. Or alternatively, leave 90% untouched at 10/acre, and develop the remaining 10% at 200/acre, for an average density of 29/acre. If you want to have enough density to support walkable neighborhoods, but also want to preserve our beautiful historic neighborhoods, the density has to go somewhere, and replacing obsolete buildings on main commercial corridors like Oberlin or Hillsborough is "it".
I've not read Jane Jacobs but I think I have a notion of some of the things she said. The buildings that she liked, 2-to-4-story load bearing masonry walk up buildings, are so prevalent in older cities not necessarily because people people back then were smarter or cared more about things and less about profit. They were built because, in their day, they could be built cheaply and easily and guaranteed high profits. They were the "commodity products" of the day. The motivation that developers exhibit to maximize profitis is not new. It has been the primary driver of development since the dawn of civilization and has not diminished one iota since then.
Argue based on form, appearance, etc all you want. I have no contention with that. The buildings going up in Cameron Village (though they don't necessarily turn their backs to the street as you suggest) are mediocre designs at best. In fact nearly everything that's been built in Raleigh this century is mediocre. But if you're going to say that's the problem with these projects, then spend time and energy arguing for better design! There is a tendency to waste a lot of time arguing about density, height, and traffic, but to wind up missing what really matters, which is quality materials, detailing, and proper orientation to the street.
The whole argument about higher density making neighborhoods less appealing just doesn't make sense. It reminds me of something Yogi Berra would say: "Nobody wants to live there anymore; too many people live there these days." The days of density equating to filth are gone with the tenements of Lower Manhattan. Perhaps what you mean to say is, higher density makes the neighborhood less appealing to some current residents, but those residents can laugh all the way to the bank as they cash out, taking advantage of the jump in property values.
Luckily the number of vehicle trips per hour generated by the new apartments on Oberlin will pale in comparison with the traffic already generated by the Cameron Village shopping center.
I think, if we're really serious about transit, under no circumstances should we ever stop approving dense developments in the right locations because of traffic. (Cameron Village is a "right" location. Hillsborough Street is too.) The increased density will bring more retail within walking distance. Hear me out.
There are only three things that can get people out of cars in the numbers needed to make a transit system really work, and in almost every situation, the three are inextricably linked.
1. High density
2. Bad traffic
3. High cost of driving (High tolls, expensive parking, congestion charges, etc.)
If you want to get people out of cars, the traffic has to be so bad that driving really sucks.
If you want my opinion, if you want Raleigh to become more of a city with real walkable urban neighborhoods, first choose the appropriate neighborhoods (Again, Cameron Village should definitely be on the list) remove any and all density restrictions, and make no arguments against projects on the basis of traffic or density. (Of course we should still advocate for proper form and design but as far as density is concerned, the sky's the limit.) If you want walkable neighborhood retail, then we need neighborhoods with way, way more people within walking distance than anything that currently exists in Raleigh (outside of the high rise dorm blocks of NC State University.) Nobody, myself included, wants to see single family neighborhoods like Cameron Park etc torn up by redevelopment, so the commercial corridors (like Oberlin or Hillsborough) really need to get built up to a very high level to compensate.
Citrix is planning some massive changes to the building. Compared to those changes, perhaps "lopping off" one bay isn't that big of a deal.
But is this 100% set in stone that Citrix will go here? If they're set on renovating an old brick warehouse in that part of town (which seems like a pretty good idea to me) how about the one on the block bounded by West, Harrington, Martin, and Hargett? That one doesn't run afowl of any railroad or light rail plans...
Thanks for writing by far the most comprehensive article on this subject.
I think this is an adequate location for a station. The proposed high platforms will be nice. That will cut the dwell times at Raleigh significantly. There's also gobs of underutilized land in the Wye that could be turned into a parking lot, which is sorely needed, at least for now (until we have light rail.) However, there is one issue that needs to be resolved. This proposed station is actually in a less accessible location than the current station. It's right in the center of the wye, and there's no way to get in or out of the wye without crossing a railroad. Imagine getting to the train station 15 minutes before your departure, only to find a freight train in the way blocking your access to the station! I'd like to know if and how they plan to address this problem. The plaza you mention might have something to do with it but it's not clear.
If that problem can be solved, then this will be a decent location. However, I don't think I'm on board with this being Raleigh's final train station forever. First, I'd prefer if the station were in a more prominent, more accessible location. I also happen to think that something more grand will be needed and desired in the future in order to accommodate all the passengers, especially once High Speed Rail, Light Rail, and Commuter Rail are all in place.
Building this as an interim station would grant us the opportunity to have something good enough for now, and when the time comes to build Union Station, build it RIGHT. We could wait for High Speed Rail, Light Rail, and Commuter Rail all to be in place, then arrange for a Public-Private Partnership to build the full Union Station complex. That might be 10 years from now, or 20, or 30. Regardless, if all the transit is in place before the station is developed, then any developers involved can be expected to bring higher quality proposals to the table.
Even though I'd like to see this as an interim station, some of the work that goes into it could certainly be reused, even if the "headhouse" building eventually moves elsewhere. Reusable elements include the H line platform, associated track work, and any tunnels or bridges to access it.
Something I don't quite understand is the utter dread you express at the thought of the Dillon buildings getting knocked down. Now, I understand dread at the thought of demolition WITHOUT a worthwhile replacement, but I've been to plenty of train stations abroad, in cities small medium and large. You know what's usuall next to them? Frequently, one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in town. You know what's NOT right next to them? 1-2 story former industrial buildings of unadorned brick. I'm in no rush, but I have nothing wrong with tearing these buildings down in the future if is part of a grand union station complex.
This is the STATE level expenditure per pupil. What is the TOTAL average expenditure per pupil at public schools, including local contributions, and how does that match up nationally? And how do each of the NC school systems compare?
Speaking of high speed rail, any word on what has become of the NC4 alternative? To me, it was a stroke of brilliance, but it's almost guaranteed that the exact citizen-designed plan would be impossible to implement in real life. Hopefully, they did not reject it again out of hand for being "not invented here" at the first sign of difficulty, but instead put some serious effort in and found out what would actually need to be done in order to make it work. If SEHSR really wants zero grade crossings in Raleigh, "NC4" or something like it is the probably the only alternative that the city and citizens of Raleigh will be able to stomach.
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