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NCSU's Centennial & Biotech Campuses

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While these buildings were under construction, many of them rubbed me the wrong way. I must admit, however, that they've grown on me. I am now of the opinion that Centennial is full of buildings that are shiny, new, pretty, and extremely easy to take pictures of.

However, Centennial is definitely not a revolutionary campus design. The most revolutionary thing about it is the way that the parking lots and decks are integrated. Unless they get some dorms or student apartments, and restaurants or a dining hall built down there soon this place is going to be eternally consigned to the realm of the Suburban Office Park - pretty to look at but utterly un-livable.

There's nothing organic or natural about Centennial; it feels kind of artificial. It's as if they "planned" all the university campus atmosphere straight out of it. Things seem awfully spread out, too. Mostly, the numerous parking lots and decks are to blame. So far it's an excellent example of how that which looks good on paper does not necessarily translate well into steel, concrete, and brick.

I also noticed that they have a whole bunch of culverts in place under the major roads for future greenway trails. I counted six or seven of them. I suppose that's one advantage of planned design over organic evolution.

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It does seem kind of sterile right now, but once you start seeing more students out there (like this fall when Engineering II gets finished and immediately will see classes) it will lose that feeling a bit. Plus with North Shore, and at least a bit of retail going in there, that may help things as well. I don't know if there are any plans for student housing there, though, and that seems like a mistake--but the master plan keeps changing, so who knows? The Wolf Village apartments they built on main campus seem pretty well-executed, so maybe they'll build another one of those...

Oh, and I will say this: the interior of Engineering I is NICE. Very attractively done.

Also, just FYI, if you've never been to the courtyard between Textiles and EGRC at night--go sometime. They made some really nice use of lighting, and the end result is very pretty.

Edited by richthofen

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Oh, and I will say this: the interior of Engineering I is NICE.  Very attractively done.
I agree. And Engineering II looks to be even better. All the interiors of the new academic buildings at NCSU are very well done, in fact. The COE buildings on Centennial, the USTL, and the new addition to the David Clark labs all have rather dramatic, naturally lit atriums. The buildings all feel very open and comfortable.

I'm pleased with the trend toward attractive, modern, and functional architecture at NCSU. I'm also looking forward to seeing what they have in mind for the Riddick Stadium redevelopment, since that's part of the dwindling underutilized space on North Campus. Right now, they have temporary classrooms (trailers) for the College of Design, but the university has other plans. Sometime within the last year or so, they did a study on Harrelson, determining that modernization and renovation would be too expensive. So, the plan is to build a whole bunch of general classroom space at Riddick to take the load off of Harrelson and allow for its eventual demolition.

The only other large, underutilized spaces on North Campus that I can think of are the parking lots on Hillsborough - which should be leased and built on by commercial developers to get some more mixed-use activity up there.

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Its parking ratios and uses drive it inexorably towards the typical "Generica" office park. Everybody there drives down the strip to Bojangles and Wendy's for lunch, and drives back- nothing to eat on campus.

It's not an accident there are no people in the pictures you've taken- unfortunately, it's by design for them to be in their cars.

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It's not an accident there are no people in the pictures you've taken- unfortunately, it's by design for them to be in their cars.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Actually, there's nobody in those pictures because it was 6:30 on a Sunday morning. :rolleyes:

But you're absolutely right. The part of Centennial that's been built so far is like a suburban office park with better infrastructure and parking decks instead of parking lots. However, it should be noted that this part of centennial is an office park. These buildings are not classes or labs. Some professors have offices there, but they are mostely leased out to companies and government agencies who wanted a location on NCSU's research campus. You can pretty much think of the west half of Centennial Campus as a completely seperate entity from the academic district.

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This is the only picture I posted of an acaemic building. While it looks fairly similar to the rest, there are a few things that set it apart (besides the use.) The entrances are more prominent and wider but not overwhelming, lending a touch of human scale, and there are doors on each side of the building. There are also these neat spots to sit down by the entrances, which is a great idea since students tend to congregate just outside the building when class lets out. The main entrance addresses the "oval" - the main academic quad that will be off limits to vehicles.

The Oval is supposed to be the academic heart of Centennial Campus. Judging by the map, it's about half again as big as the Court of the Carolinas. I have enough faith in the university that the Oval will be well-executed; however, the issue will be what surrounds the oval - whether it will end up as student housing, activity centers, dining, and shops, or parking decks and underutilized open space. This question is still very much up in the air, and the strategy for developing the rest of Centennial probably won't be decided until the next round of higher education bonds - which might not happen for a decade or more.

I think the huge kudzu field between COE I and the Partners buildings would be a great place for a mixed use town center. That way they could get a start on it sooner rather than later.

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Its parking ratios and uses drive it inexorably towards the typical "Generica" office park.  Everybody there drives down the strip to Bojangles and Wendy's for lunch, and drives back- nothing to eat on campus. 

It's not an accident there are no people in the pictures you've taken- unfortunately, it's by design for them to be in their cars.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Those statements are a little off. As an employee who works in Research III, the building in which the Centennial Campus development office resides, I know that the campus development/planning group is actively recruiting restaurants and retail to the campus. The Venture Place was expected to be one location with restaurants, a dry cleaners, office supply retail, etc but there has been lots of trouble trying to get those folks to sign on.

Think about it, there is a developing campus with a wide variety of people on it which is a bit isolated from nearby neighborhoods. If I wanted to open a dry cleaners or Quiznos I wouldn't invest my money there yet. The campus hasn't reached a critical mass to support these types of investments.

Just because we wish that there was a mixed use center developed and fully leased (I do so I could walk over for lunch) doesn't mean that it should be built now or that it would be successful.

JB

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One word sums it all up.  Housing (or the lack there-of).  For Centennial to work, it needs to get moving on the residential element.

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I am a big supporter of Centennial Campus but it must be taken for what it is. Residential would help but it is never going to be a large component of the campus. Who would like there ?

Students do not have the cash to support many small business that you would want in a corporate park. There will be a dining hall and a gym eventually opened by the university but the amout of private retail/commercial will never get that large.

Not many white collar professionals are not going to want to live in that enviroment and invest cash for a condo. Why live there ? It isn't very convienent to many places outside work. The housing option that is there would kill a normal person in a manner of months (4 level property - that's a lot of stairs to go up and down.

JB

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Nice pics!

I see more campus that office park, but I bet it'd be a lot easier to get retailers to sign up if there was a mixed use development at Dorothea Dix :-)

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Not many white collar professionals are not going to want to live in that enviroment and invest cash for a condo. Why live there?
In a word: water. People pay embarrassingly huge stacks of cash to live next to a lake, convenience be damned... and guess what. Lake Raleigh is convenient: it's the closest lake to Downtown Raleigh. Lake Johnson isn't much further, but that's been made into a park and can't be developed. I don't expect the condo sales to stop at North Shore, either.

And while students might not patronize the most expensive of upscale restaurants and boutiques, they're not as poor as most would have you believe. Lots of them get more money than they need from their parents, and the ones that don't have part-time jobs to generate disposable income. Students love to shop and eat out. If a restaurant's price and hours are reasonable ($10-12ish for a dinner, after tip) they'd get a steady stream of business from the student crowd.

Something like the Rams Head Center at UNC might do well at Centennial, but maybe something more private in nature would be a better fit. Who knows.

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I am a big supporter of Centennial Campus but it must be taken for what it is. Residential would help but it is never going to be a large component of the campus. Who would like there ?

Students do not have the cash to support many small business that you would want in a corporate park.  There will be a dining hall and a gym eventually opened by the university but the amout of private retail/commercial will never get that large.

Not many white collar professionals are not going to want to live in that enviroment and invest cash for a condo. Why live there ? It isn't very convienent to many places outside work. The housing option that is there would kill a normal person in a manner of months (4 level property - that's a lot of stairs to go up and down.

JB

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The housing isn't supposed to be completely student oriented. According to my research, there are to be 7,000 residents at build-out. The first phase of the 358-unit Northshore condo development by Comstock has been very successful. The first building of 35 units has sold out, construction has started on the next building and it only has three units left and the third building has presold 28 of 35 and they don't even plan to start construction till November. I'd say there's demand. NCSU simply needs to start selling off the pieces for more residential instead of sitting on it. They already have pissed off most homeowners in Southwest Raleigh by not providing enough housing for students (thus forcing them to live off campus).

Edited by Miesian Corners

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According to my research, there are to be 7,000 residents at build-out.
That's not nearly enough, in my opinion. Main campus currently houses something like 7,000 students, out of a student body of 26,000. Over the next 25 years, I bet that NCSU's student body will double. It literally has to, just to keep up with the state's explosive growth. Perhaps the university expects all these students to live in cheezy apartments way out on Tryon Road or Glenwood and drive in, but the idea of having around 30,000 students drive in and park every day doesn't exactly sound like planning genius.

The TTA line might change things significantly, but we're still not even sure that it's going to happen in the first place.

I've heard university folks talk about tearing down Sullivan, Lee, and Bragaw, and replacing them with lower density low-rise buildings. But if they want to maintain a real on-campus community, they need more mid and high-rise dorms, not fewer as they propose. Sure, build some of them for single occupancy and charge more. Sure, build them nicer than Sullivan or Metcalf and charge more. But don't let the on-campus dwellers be a piddling minority; I say at least half the undergraduate student body should be on campus, and all but a very few should live close enough to walk, bike, or take public transit.

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And while students might not patronize the most expensive of upscale restaurants and boutiques, they're not as poor as most would have you believe. Lots of them get more money than they need from their parents, and the ones that don't have part-time jobs to generate disposable income. Students love to shop and eat out. If a restaurant's price and hours are reasonable ($10-12ish for a dinner, after tip) they'd get a steady stream of business from the student crowd

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

So true.. students disposable income more than it may seem

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I understand the the developers of Centennial Campus, Craig Davis Properties, will be the same company developing USC's Research Campus in Columbia. Here are the proposed renderings. The architecture looks similar, except in USC's case, the facade will be different. Also, USC's campus will be located downtown. As I understand it, Centennial is not located in downtown Raleigh. Do you guys think that would have been an ideal location for it? Would it not come off as so "suburbanish" had it been located downtown?

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Centennial Campus is inside the Raleigh Beltline, so to most people in North Raleigh, it is downtown - but the truth is it's about a mile and a half from the State Capitol building. Main Campus is in a very urban location about the same distance from downtown, but Centennial Campus was built on a vast piece of property that was completely untouched from the 1850s (when Dorothea Dix was established) until the late 1980s. That meant they got to start completely from scratch - no roads, nothing, which is an urban planner's dream, but unfortunately having so much space to work with ended up biting them in the end.

If this had been located downtown, or in a more urban area, I they couldn't have gotten away with leaving so much open space. Buildings would have been taller and distances shorter, and the order of development would have been different too.

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they got to start completely from scratch - no roads, nothing, which is an urban planner's dream, but unfortunately having so much space to work with ended up biting them in the end.

If this had been located downtown, or in a more urban area, I they couldn't have gotten away with leaving so much open space. Buildings would have been taller and distances shorter, and the order of development would have been different too.

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It's true. When I was at the school of design in the late 80's early 90's, almost every class did a Centennial Campus project. Most were dense, mixed-use campus plans. Sadly, the university didn't consult with its design school, and chose to develop on a suburban office park model, oriented to cars and commuters. It's nice as suburban office parks go, of course, but on balance I see it (like the RBC Center) as a major lost opportunity.

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It's true. When I was at the school of design in the late 80's early 90's, almost every class did a Centennial Campus project. Most were dense, mixed-use campus plans. Sadly, the university didn't consult with its design school, and chose to develop on a suburban office park model, oriented to cars and commuters. It's nice as suburban office parks go, of course, but on balance I see it (like the RBC Center) as a major lost opportunity.

One thing about this campus is that it will be successful from a research/economic standpoint-the most impotant thing at this point. It has many acres of land and years to reinvent itself if need be, plus I think its proximity to the Dix campus will allow for closer residential opportunities in the future.

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The way to get Centennial to work is to connect it via a transit greenway to downtown - through the Dix property. If people who work out there - projected to be over 20,000 at build out - can get on a train/monorail or other fast connection and be in downtown and back within the 1.5 hour lunch period then we are complimentary with each other.

If there is no connection and Dix develops with a major housing component it becomes a major competitor to our downtown. Especially if a retail center develops out there as well.

That puts the proposed NCSU golf course within a ten minute ride of downtown - a major draw for downtown residents and potential headquarters projects. It also puts our new convention center/hotels/restaurants within a ten minute ride of the campus - a major draw for residents, office users and research associations etc that may host meetings.

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NCSU has added some aerial views of Centennial Campus on the website. I never realized how many buildings have already been constructed. I believe they just broke ground on a 90,000 sq. ft. biotech training facility as well.

Link

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Centennial land used to be part of the Dix campus (farm land worked by the patients/residents to grow food to be self sustaning and make it a long run to escape!) until the mid 80s when Gov. Hunt gave it to one of his alma maters, NC State, for what is now the campus.

I covered the 10th anniversary of Centennial Campus for the student newspaper, the construction of Centennial Parkway, and went to a few meetings where the master plan (at the time) was... wait for it... a *monorail* connecting Centennial with "traditional" campus. All existing roads are only two lanes, to be removed when no longer necessary. All the decks have access away from the oval, the pedestrian center of everything. The monorail would loop around centennial campus, picking people up at exterior park and ride lots (to be replaced by parking decks as needed) and bring them into the "core" of centennial and to the heart of "old" campus, where it would end near Renyolds Coliseum and ... connect to TTA. So could go from DT Durham or Raleigh to there to Centennial without a car or bus. I think some of the "greenway" culverts may be placeholders for some kind of people mover.

It would also get its own exit off I40, about a half mile west of the existing Lake Wheeler exit. There was also talk of putting the RBC center on Centennial campus, with students taking the monorail and alumni staying in the hotel(s) or having easy I 40 access, but we know how that went... Valvano

This was pre-Hurricane Fran (which wiped out Lake Raleigh), but one of the stops on this monorail would be a hotel/convention center/shopping/eating/entertaining district on the Lake Shore (I think where North Shore is now, but it might be the area south of EGRC and ABB building). This district would be a real life lab" for the college of managment (hotel/retail/restaurant managment, hospitality, event planning, etc.) and be complimented by a golf course. The same golf course that Pinehurst and Grandhover (and behind the scenes UNC, Duke, UNCC) have been fighting/fearing -- unfair use of public dollars to compete with the private sector, gives NC State golf team a home course, gives NC State a chance to lure businesses to set up R&D there instead of other campuses. The course would also help the turf managment part of the College of Ag and Life Sciences, and course administration/managment . The proposed convention center was one reason why the Mission Valley Inn became Avent Ferry Complex (is it still called that?).

Most/all research (and the grad students) would move to Centennial and the "old" campus would be freed up for undergrads. There already is a middle school on Centennial to educate the residents on campus and surrounding neighborhoods, but it is not (yet) connected with the rest of campus.

The idea was corporations would build the buildings NC State wanted in exchange for cheap R&D from

the students. Unfortunatly, only two companies bought into this -- ABB and Lucent. Lucent closed up shop soon after and is now the Red Hat building/HQ (Some of Red Hat's founders went to State and State has one of the top Computer Science programs in the country). When no one built buildings, the university went to the office park model and built a building (the Research and eventually Venture buildings) and broke it up into pieces for companies.

The College of Textiles moved completely over there on industry's dime to build state of the art everything. This was before the post NAFTA offshoring of factory jobs, but there is still a lot of materials and other textile research done there. The National Weather Service was one of the first ones out there in Research I. Other research entities on campus include the mars mission rover project, and the USDA to name a few.

The bricks are representative of the bricks on the old campus, and the working class heritage of the university. The plan was supposed to take 40-50 years to fully implement, though the economy has messed with the timetables.

I don't know how much of these plans are still relevant, but it would have been neat if it was pulled off.

It still may be a goal of the university, but I'm not a good, dues paying alumni.

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