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Everything posted by ChiefJoJo

  1. Yes. This is a huge space and that was the problem for Prime Only. There's no way--esp. in this economy--that you can compete with Sullivans, etc, and fill all those tables with enough people night after night who are willing to pay for a $25-30 steak. Southend had something going for a number of years before they failed... which I think had more to do with quality of their offerings rather than the brewpub setup (Greenshields too). If Natty Greene's brews good beer, and keeps the menu affordable and simple, I think it will be a big hit. I think the market for real brewpubs with good beer is underserved in Raleigh and especially downtown. I predict Natty Greenes will be a big success.
  2. Through the draft comp plan, the City of Raleigh identified (as many of have previously) an additional rail stop at Whitaker Mill Rd, to take advantage of the large number of underused warehouses in that area. Beyond that, I wouldn't worry about the stations so much at this point, as one or two could be added later on during the EIS revision. During that process, I would like to see the results of a study that could analyze the potential costs/benefits of running LRT off the rail corridor & into downtown (concept posted a couple of pages back). Using LRT instead of DMU as the primary technology for the rail system opens up a whole new set of possibilities for rapid transit connections within Raleigh. As much as it might potentially delay the process of getting rail transit off the ground here, the cost of making a short-sighted decision is higher. You could add another couple of stations within the DTR core and likely increase ridership as well (though hurting travel time by running slower speeds on the streets). I don't know if it would be worthwhile to build or not, but I'd certainly like to see it fully evaluated.
  3. You got it. The initial goals of the plan for Hillsborough Street were to improve economic development opportunities, make the area more of destination, rather than a through street, and improve safety for all modes. For economic development purposes, increasing on-street parking needed to be a part of the equation. But, when you add parking, you take away throughput (given there's only so much space). So narrowing the roadway to 2 lanes made the median/roundabouts a necessary component to control left turns (fewer crashes & less severity) while still distributing traffic to neighboring properties & streets, which in turn improves throughput and safety while reducing vehicle speed. Of course, in order to get the thing approved they had to compromise on the roundabout at Horne, but I assume an analysis was done that shows it can handle the traffic (~30k vehicles/day). And I'm guessing the median width was driven by standard minimums for ped refuges... with the thinking being if you have to have a median in a heavily traveled pedestrian environment, there needs to be accommodations for peds even if most people can cross the entire width in one signal length... so it couldn't be of the 2ft variety. My guess on the barrier would be that it would hurt visibility and could be considered a safety hazard, so it might do more harm than good. I was originally against altering the roundabout plan (Horne), but in any case, I'm confident the project we have is a good one and so long as the university plays a more active role in economic development of the area (given it is the majority property owner-->Brooks lot & North Hall) and the next leg of the project west of Gardner is done in reasonably short order, the comprehensive plan for the area will succeed.
  4. ^ That's awesome! Not only do we fill that oft-vacant space, but it's another brewpub, which IMO, we need more of downtown. I am assuming they will brew beer there BTW. In any case, I've been to Natty Greene's on Elm St and it's a great spot, so if they can do something similar here in Raleigh, I'm all for it.
  5. If you look at the feasbility study, which IIRC is the only official document that has analyzed that segment, & add in similar dimensions from the current project, it appears as though the concept would extend the median from the proposed Dixie Trail roundabout towards the Stanhope Village area with something close to the following configuration: 10' sidewalk/utility strip, 5' bike lane, 11' auto lane, 7' median, 11' auto lane, 5' bike lane, 7' parking, 10' sidewalk/utility strip... of course that's 66ft, and I guess that wouldn't fit. I'm pretty sure the median is required by DOT to limit access for turning traffic (improve safety), and you probably need 7 feet to make it a legit ped refuge consistent with the current project... so it's possible the bike lane/buffer could be reduced to a 13.5 ft shared auto/bike lane, which is a commonly used dimension and would yield 61 ft, but if you slightly narrowed one sidewalk (NCSU side), you would have this: 9' sidewalk/utility strip, 13.5' shared lane, 7' median, 13.5' shared lane, 7' parking, 10' sidewalk/utility strip = 60ft. That would squeeze in space for sidewalks/lighting/benches/trees, bikes/cars/buses, & parking on one side (Cup-A-Joe side). It would be a tight fit, but there's limited room & opportunities for much else.
  6. To clarify, I meant a few thousand dollars TOTAL, not per year; which could be financed such that the payments per year or per month are very manageable. This is a guesstimate based on the Portland experience (I posted an article about this within the last couple of years) and would depend greatly on the financing package. I'm actually not sure about the mechanics of how the financing would work, or if it would work differently for a public works project than for services. In any case, the net effect is that it is a very manageable amount and would easily be offset many times over by the benefits of a streetcar vs doing nothing.
  7. Bob Geary's latest on the push for transit in the Triangle. Not much new there, unless you haven't been paying attention the last several months. This stimulus bill isn't going to help rail get going immediately, as it will take up to two years to re-analyze and design the rail infrastructure to include lighter bridges and overhead cantenary for electrification. Geary notes the change from DMUs to LRT, as well as the loosening of FRA rules on allowing light rail in freight rail corridors. The FRA typically governs INTERcity rail corridors, not INTRAcity rail. So, if Raleigh pursues it's own project initially, perhaps LRT from Spring Forest Rd to downtown or NCSU, the FTA would likely govern the process. In any case, the new plan for rail is all LRT, and I view that as perhaps a net positive in the grand scheme of things. One piece of fresh news is the proposed 10-year Wake Transit Action Plan. Read more here (item #10) & see the presentation here. Contingent upon passage of a 1/2 cent sales tax and increased vehicle registration fee & based on conservative funding estimates (limited state & local support), the action plan would complete LRT from Spring Forest to NW Cary by 2019. If federal or state support were more substantial than projected, the line could be built quicker and/or extended further.
  8. Just so everone knows, Hartgen is basically a lone wolf in the transportation profession in NC. He has performed numerous "studies" for the John Locke foundation, basically seeking to prop up anti-transit, pro-road arguments for years. I was told he once called for Rt 4 to be converted to a freeway. LOL. I personally think the streetcar line is in exactly the right place and makes logical connections between exsiting (JC Smith, Multimodal Ctr, Uptown, Elizabeth, Pres. Hosp., Central, etc) and potential future (Eastland redevelopment) land uses, plus would replace the bus line with the highest ridership. I've always thought that if there was a line that should be funded outside the transit tax, it's the streetcar, since it's not really considered rapid transit (operates in mixed traffic) and is completely focused on central Charlotte. It also makes sense to use the MSD statute (or TIF) for the streetcar since, it can have similar catalyzing impacts on land use as light rail--possibly greater. And of course, there is a huge appetite within the community to accelerate this project well ahead of it's current schedule. Under an MSD, I would suspect the properties adjacent to the line would have the highest tax rate, while those a few blocks away might have a lower rate, and so on. The cost to a property owner (perhaps a few thousand dollars each) could be fairly easily absorbed through financing packages, and would be made up many times over with substantial increases in property value (versus if the streetcar was not built), and many other benefits of mass transit (less driving, fuel, etc). If I were asked to pay a little extra in property taxes and in return, I'd have direct access to an streetcar accessing all the areas in the plan, I'd sign up in a heartbeat.
  9. ^ I noticed that too. It's going to be a nice space for sure, and the whole area will be much more ready for economic development once the street is redone, Stanhope area is redeveloped all the way to the street, and the new BID district takes shape (that will form the DRA-type organization for the street). I glanced at the plans, and I really think people will like it... the LEDs are going to be a nice touch. Two things will be interesting: how the businesses weather the many months of utility and road construction, and how drivers react to a two-lane roundabout at Pullen--one of the few (only?) in the state of NC.
  10. I saw the list, and though it's not final, it's mostly things like bus purchases, a bus maintenance facility, bus station improvements here in the Triangle. There is a project listed to double-track the NCRR between Greensboro and Goldsboro, but that is for heavy freight and perhaps one day commuter rail. The problem is these are supposed to be "shovel-ready" projects, which means they have to have all the designs, rights-of-way, paperwork, and permits completed within a few months to qualify for federal stimulus funds (that is the likely scenario, at least), so there won't be any shovels turned on a rail transit project in the Triangle anytime soon. The EIS on the TTA rail project needs to be revised and updated, and as it seems the region is moving away from both DMU transit and from a regional Durham-Raleigh line (initially). The line that is designed is does not currently match current the regional preference, which is all light rail on the STAC "N" corridor to be built in phases on either end of the Triangle.
  11. I also found these links to media coverage of the Regional Transportation Alliance's annual meeting: WRAL [url="http://chatham.mync.com/site/Chatham/news/story/21495/moving
  12. Check out my post from this summer, and it may provide some clues. So, only the north tower is basically set at this point with the retail, office and condos above, totaling 20 stories... *IF* they can get tenants and financing. The project has city-imposed 155+ residential unit requirement, but nothing else... so they could convert the south tower to rentals, add on a hotel above, more retail, more office, ask the city to alter the contract, or just leave it as is (condos over retail). So my guess is that they don't want to construct the parking beneath the south tower until they know what's going to be above it. BTW, I don't think that Charter ever got site plan approval for the tower (not the deck), though i could be wrong about that.
  13. I flew thru CLT over the holidays and I gotta say that the terminal is on the cramped side for having so many connecting flights go thru the airport... so are there any future plans for expansion of the terminal? Ditto. I flew with them on said trip, and the transition from international to domestic is as stark as it has ever been... pretty much a lousy way to get back home. I don't think I saw a single order placed for any food or drinks either, and that was on a 5 hour cross-country flight. I think passengers have completely adjusted and accepted that it's going to suck, so they are ready for it.
  14. For the purposes of discussion, let's just forget about moving the Raulston Arboretum, and instead look at it this way... as Mr. Brown pointed out, the existing Arboretum is used for teaching purposes and not just for 'show.' Then why not retain the arboretum solely for horticultural education and use a site at Dix for a unified NCSU landscape architecture and botanic garden project somewhere near Centennial Campus perhaps? That would be a nice complement to a Dix Park... creating and enhancing what surely would be a regional tourism destination in the heart of the city.
  15. So, um, back to Dix... whether you agree with the botanic gardens idea or not (& I am adding this simply as food for thought based on positive experiences in cities overseas), there is no question that "developing" Dix as a park or even as a mixed use community will be a major challenge with the severe lack of connectivity and access to the site (as Jones alluded to above). In seeing the 306 folks advance their cause as the apparent de-facto locally preferred plan (only to see years of delay in the legislature), I would still submit that no one has ever explained in detail how a 306 acre park would be executed and the myriad issues & stakeholders' interests (like say the Caraleigh neighborhood) dealt with effectively. I'm sure this will be down the line, but it will be interesting to see where Gov-elect Perdue comes out on this issue.
  16. Why does it have to be "stealing" to relocate a public facility to perhaps a more ideal location where it could be enjoyed by many more people? You might call it stealing, and I might call it enhancing. How many people go to the Raulston Arboretum in it's current location tucked away on Beryl Rd? Rather than speculating, I'd like to know how it rates vs peer gardens in Chapel Hill, etc. It just seems to be underused and in a less than ideal location. While you make a good argument W/R/T Umstead and the Museum Park, Raulston is in no way connected to those facilities and they aren't promoted as such (that I know of). Unlike a ferris wheel or aquarium, a botanic garden fits nicely within the concept of Dix being a natural oasis within an urban setting and would be walkable from downtown and its many attractions, drawing more visitors to the park and nearby residences and businesses via walking trails. To the "zero advantage" comment, I would argue that if they could generate several times more visitors per year, that would provide a very nice advantage to the school, generate more revenue for the garden itself and promote their programs more effectively. Maybe NCSU wouldn't be interested at all, but given the unique opportunities presented in that location, it seems like a good opportunity to take advantage of the synergy between the state/university and the city to look into developing a garden at Dix.
  17. Gene Conti was named as the new Secretary of DOT. "Under his leadership, we'll have a department that makes decisions more efficiently and more professionally," Perdue said. "Transportation decisions will be based on data." "It's far too early for promises, but I want to ensure the people of North Carolina that we will be open and honest," Conti said. "I am simply not comfortable doing business any other way." He formerly served as Asst. Sec. for Transportation Policy at USDOT under Clinton. From what I know, while perhaps not being the ideal candidate for new urbanists, he definitely has some expertise and should be viewed as a positive development for transportation in NC.
  18. Yeah, I agree with you in principle. I was just presenting the minority viewpoint that if loop roads are to be built, I don't think the Fayetteville freeway is necessarily unjustified. I just want folks in Charlotte to be careful about the arguments they use to justify roadway expansion in the QC. I would argue that we need a sustainable strategic plan for all state infrastructure, regardless of geographic or political influence, that focus on maintaining our existing highways, expanding intercity rail between major economic centers, and vastly increases urban/multimodal investments in our growing cities. That would be a plan that I could get behind, and would undoubtedly benefit the state's largest metro more than a petty, backward-looking political argument. Instead, Mr. Myers is saying the money should be spent in Charlotte over Fayetteville because the 'traffic is already here on our freeways, so we need more freeways to cope with the traffic.' We know the fallacy of that argument & that doesn't sound like much of a strategic plan to me. So, all I am saying is don't fall into the trap of arguing that freeway dollars are better spent in Charlotte because we have the traffic that others do not have. Not a winning argument.
  19. So, I was traveling recently, and one of the things I noticed was some of the nice botanic gardens very near the city centers... now maybe it's a very British sort of arrangement to create these gardens close to town (it's very common), but many of the gardens were fantastically executed and to me, they added a nice element to those cities, beyond just a simple park. So, way back when the state was taking public comment on what to do with Dix, I recall there was a group pushing for botanic gardens at Dix. I would say that in addition to a more standard park area with walking trails at the Grove (oak trees overlooked downtown), I want to see a botanic garden added to the mix (though not it's entirety). Not only that, but the park's proximity to NCSU would lend itself to a natural partnership with the school to co-develop the landscape architecture and select plant species. Why not relocate the NCSU Raulston Arboretum to the Dix site? This would immediately become a prime location that would yield many more visitors and in conjunction with the Grove Park and greenway connections to downtown, Centennial Campus, the multimodal transit/rail hub, the farmers market, and perhaps a medium density mixed use development on the Lake Wheeler Rd flank, would create an ideal mix of access to all sorts of activities and amenities within a close area.
  20. I thought this op-ed to the N&O might provide a good counterpoint to Mr. Myers argument. Perhaps he should have published it in the Charlotte Observer too, though there's probably not much sympathy for Ft. Bragg and Fayetteville in the Queen City. I should point out that when Mr. Myers compares the traffic on Fayetteville's loop (<20k) to the traffic on I-485 (~120k), it's like comparing the Lynx line to the Denver T-Rex or Portland MAX, a startup line vs a system in the making for decades... not necessarily an apples to apples comparison. Lacking a data-driven, long term, strategic blueprint for infrastructure in NC (why, where, when), and given that freeways loops are going to be built in the near to medium term--new urbanists or common sense be damned--I have less of a problem with I-295 in Fayetteville than I do with some others... such as the $1.5B+ Gaston Parkway, which is a 100% pork barrel land grab... or the $1B+ Cape Fear Skyway, an unecessary road with an unecessary post card bridge span to the 'wrong' coastal port. At least I-295 serves an existing, large & growing economic engine for a part of the state that doesn't have too much else going for it.
  21. I just returned from an overseas trip, and after seeing the vitality of a number of the downtowns where I visited, despite not having many skycrapers nor a large population to draw from (most smaller than Raleigh), reinforces my belief that pursuing more skyscrapers for DTR is not the answer to building a better downtown and city. One of the things I think this real estate and economic crisis should inform us, is that we Americans love to supersize things (buildings, highways, etc), but that concept isn't necessarily sustainable nor the best "strategy" for producing the type of places we want to live or the economic outcomes we want. Take RBC Plaza. Yes, RBC is a good vertical mixed use project, and 90% of people will agree to that. But, frankly, there are many pockets of DTR that have empty surface parking, empty retail space, and horribly underutilized buildings. To me, there should be much more focus on that aspect of building a vibrant downtown built for people, rather than the pursuit of the next giant tower. One of the results of huge, fancy (expensive) new towers is high rents, and as the RBC retail spaces sit empty, while some older spaces are filled (Empire comes to mind) even in tough economic times, it reinforces the idea that bigger isn't always better. For the folks who live DT, I would bet most would say that Hatem's Times & Heilig Levine projects have done more for DT than probably any other project that I can think of. Plus, while the big developers (including Hatem on Lafayette) wait on financing for the highrise projects that may never materialize, cheaper adaptive reuse of some cool old buildings has injected some life & charater to a pocket of DT that had basically zero street activity. I recall DRA Chief David Diaz said recently he wants developers to build 40 or 50 stories instead of 10 or 20... I'd rather see 6 midrise buildings w/street retail built on some of our empty/underused blocks than two 40 story buildings that we might have to wait years to see come to fruition. The market for condos, office space, and retail is not unlimited--especially now. We should realize that sometimes it's the smaller, under-the-radar projects that can do just as much, if not more, for DTR as the fancy highrise.
  22. Eventually, when the economy recovers and capital/credit becomes more available, I think in a growing market like the Triangle, you will see old malls and S/Cs like CTC, University Mall, Waverly Place, etc, move to a North Hills redevelopment model... that is to say change to the walkable, urban, mixed-use, "park once" lifestyle center.
  23. Matthew Eisley of the N&O wrote an opinion column advocating that we should expand rail investments in NC and rebuild the downtown rail station. Interesting to note how miniscule the state's annual investment is in rail compared to highways.
  24. I read recently that the proposed RDU flight to Paris (CDG) has been postponed, perhaps until 2010, or even longer. A startup international flight is a tough sell in this market in these tough economic times, so no big surprise.
  25. I think what we have seen is a long period of time where passenger rail travel grew very moderately, and simply wasn't a good choice for a lot of travelers... rising gas prices, combined with the steady travel time & reliability improvements made along the Raleigh to Charlotte line, have created a larger travel market for intercity rail in NC... and we are not prepared to deal with it. Planning and building these public facilities takes a long time, and the recent resurgence has rendered the Raleigh station inadequate for the job. My sense is that with the renewed interest in DTR, energy prices on the rise (long term), more interest in developing mass transit--both local and inter-regional, and the stated plans of the incoming administration in DC, I think we will actually see something come to fruition with the MTC this time. It may not be built for 10 years, but I believe something will happen. Of course the wye configuration is going to complicate things quite a bit, but it's nothing that can't be overcome. I will be very interested to see the development plan that the city & state come up with next year.
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