Downtown Raleigh Provides Inspiration
If you didn’t live in the Raleigh-Durham area 10 years ago, you wouldn’t believe it. You just wouldn’t.
If you hopped in your Delorean, switched the flux capacitor on and set the circuits for August 5th, 2005, you would have found Fayetteville Street, the main artery connecting the Capitol building on one end to the Sheraton on the other end, closed to vehicular traffic. You would have discovered downtown to be a veritable ghost town after 5pm and on the weekends. There was no nightlife to speak of, with the exception of a couple of Irish bars and a dueling piano bar.
Now hop back in your Delorean (now powered by fusion!) and set the circuits to August 5th, 2015. Fayetteville Street is open to traffic. The new Raleigh Convention Center is busy every weekend (it was built in 2008). The streets are lined with restaurants and bars, providing a nightlife scene so lively, it’s caused the City Council to consider patio ordinances to limit noise. Towering over downtown with its signature spire is Raleigh’s tallest building, 33-story PNC Plaza. Up the street is the 170,000 square foot state-of-the-art offices of Citrix, featuring a rooftop garden and yoga studio that opened in 2014 and already needs more space. Across the street from the convention center is Red Hat Amphitheater, which hosts concerts from spring to autumn. Of course ten years ago there was no Red Hat in downtown Raleigh, which is impossible to miss with its rectangular red roof.
Now, other cities are using downtown Raleigh as a model for its own downtowns – like Tampa Bay. According to Ken Bowers, Raleigh’s director of planning, “Landing Red Hat and Citrix has transformed downtown, the office market, and prodded more interest from future developers.”