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Re: “Hillsborough, street of dreams

Student's dream street Design would lure pedestrians The News & Observer News B1 Thomas Hackett Staff Writer Published: January 16, 1997 RALEIGH - As a graduate student in design at N.C. State University, Michael Ciriello has some serious designs on Raleigh. He sees a city that could be dedicated not just to growth but to grace and grandeur. But he didn't need to look far to begin sketching his vision. He just had to look to Hillsborough Street next to the campus, seeing in it the starting point for a city of cobblestones, trolley cars and traffic circles. Essentially, Ciriello would like to reclaim Hillsborough Street as it might have been had streetcars not been taken away in the early 1950s. He worked on the project with two other students in professor Dick Wilkinson's studio design class, Juliellen Sarver and Martha Dees, looking to Washington's Pennsylvania Avenue, New York's Fifth Avenue and Richmond's Monument Avenue for inspiration. Theirs is a plan with aspirations. The spirit that distinguishes the great streets of the world - the mysterious alchemy that makes a pedestrian feel ever-so-slightly special while there - is also latent in Hillsborough Street, Ciriello says. To bring it out, he would have a trolley car running the length of the street, from Meredith College to the Capitol, down the center of the street, and it wouldn't just be a piece of nostalgia. Tying into a future regional rail service, it would be a working trolley. But even more important than transporting people, the trolley would help create a pattern of development reminiscent of the congenial streetcar suburbs of Raleigh's past - places like Cameron Park, Boylan Heights, Glenwood Park and Hayes Barton.d of bull's eye for development. A change in pavement to cobblestone - giving cars a bit of a speed-reducing rumble - might also convey to pedestrians the sense that they're more in charge of their environment. "We're talking about changing patterns of development," Ciriello said, "a pattern not designed for the automobile exclusively." But why should anyone listen to Ciriello? He's not a professional city planner. He has no commission, no credentials. He just has ideas. And that's all it should take, says Ben Taylor, president of Envirotek, an engineering and architectural planning firm in Raleigh. So what if the ideas evolved out of a class project? Raleigh's greenway plan came from the NCSU design school, he noted, and so did Fayetteville Street Mall. A project like a redesign of Hillsborough Street might be just the thing to get people to reinvest in their community. "If it's not a good idea, people will take potshots, but so be it," Taylor said. "You've still got to let people know what you think." Ciriello isn't so optimistic. Great design happens elsewhere, he said. It happens in Paris, in New York, in Barcelona, Spain. But Raleigh? Could the city have the vision to "be something we're proud of?" As it turns out, merchants along Hillsborough Street say they're receptive to Ciriello's ideas. They'd like to see Hillsborough become like Chapel Hill's Franklin Street, where people might park in an off-street lot and spend an evening strolling from restaurant to movie theater to bar, but mainly just enjoying the atmosphere. But that vision is far from reality. "Raleigh just doesn't have that identity, that history," said John Hornaday, who manages School Kids Records; there just isn't that civic flair he has found in such cities as New Orleans or Memphis, Tenn. The adult theater that was turned into a McDonald's is now boarded up. The Electric Company Mall is drearily empty. In the nearly four years since she opened Keagan's Coffee House, Kristine Harkness has seen the street become less and less welcoming to pedestrians, as benches are dismantled in an effort to discourage panhandling. "The problem is, if they do that, then other people can't sit on them either," she said. Watson Brown, a city planner, says Raleigh has been making incremental efforts to improve Hillsborough Street - laying new sidewalk, planting trees, putting up decorative street lights - and he thinks the city is keen on hearing additional ideas. "But you can only do so much at a time," he said. "It's all a matter of dividing up the money. Otherwise, you'll have neighborhood and citizen groups asking why this street is getting special treatment." Bob Mulder, a landscaper who heads Raleigh's 11-member planning commission, also sees no major change in the short term. "I would say that right now, that kind of thing is not a priority," he said. "The priority is making sure the tax rate stays reasonable." And anyway, as far a cry as Hillsborough Street might be from the grand boulevards of Europe, it's still better than it was two decades ago, when there were porn theaters, strip clubs and prostitutes. The decadence has largely been erased, but not replaced by distinctive design. But Taylor still sees room for imagination. "If you've got an idea and you think it makes sense, you got to tell somebody about it," he said. "If enough people agree, it gets done. Because great cities do these things." In the end, he says, it all comes down to selling Raleigh on the city it might be. ### A new look for Hillsborough Street?: A traffic circle, realignment of Oberlin Road and a pedestrian walkway in the designer's sketch above are parts of a proposal to spruce up Hillsborough Street between the North Carolina State university campus and the Capitol. The proposed project area is show below. (See N&O microfilm, 1/16/97, page 1B, for color graphic of proposed area. Illustration: c photo; c graphic; Staff A streetcar and his own desire anchor NCSU graduate student Mike Ciriello's vision for remaking Raleigh; his grand design begins with redoing Hillsborough Street from Meredith College to the Capitol.

Posted by John Williams on 05/07/2009 at 9:02 PM

Re: “Hillsborough, street of dreams

The idea was "hatched" by an NCSU School of Design graduate student in 1997. Mike Ciriello first suggested the idea of roundabouts, great streets, and the realignment behind what was then Darryl's. Do a search of the News and Observer to get the truth.

Posted by John Williams on 05/07/2009 at 8:56 PM

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