ncwebguy

Downtown Raleigh living & street activity

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On a Raleigh blog I check about once a week, they posted this Ruth Sheehan N&O column on signs that living downtown has "arrived".

It starts with the Cupcake Shoppe, open for a few months now on Glenwood and Artisan Cupcake even though it doesn't have walk-in store. It also mentions dog walking as another sign of people living in the area.

Is there any other "signs" that show people are living downtown now? Are there other signs that will further support/cement downtown's "arrival"?

Is there anything the next wave/new Urbanists alluded to by Jones in the One Glenwood thread need to move from sitting on the fence to a downtown dwelling? Is it just a matter of available/affordable (i.e. more expensive than rent assited, cheaper than Oberlin Court) rental units with modern touches? Better transit options? A grocery store and/or starbuck$?

I think (hope) current downtown residents fall more in the "welcoming/more the merrier" side of the spectrum than the "elitist/downtown is going to be dead" posture that could detract newcomers, but the next few years (and the comprehensive plan) will set the stage downtown for decades.

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On a Raleigh blog I check about once a week, they posted this Ruth Sheehan N&O column on signs that living downtown has "arrived".

It starts with the Cupcake Shoppe, open for a few months now on Glenwood and Artisan Cupcake even though it doesn't have walk-in store. It also mentions dog walking as another sign of people living in the area.

Is there any other "signs" that show people are living downtown now? Are there other signs that will further support/cement downtown's "arrival"?

Is there anything the next wave/new Urbanists alluded to by Jones in the One Glenwood thread need to move from sitting on the fence to a downtown dwelling? Is it just a matter of available/affordable (i.e. more expensive than rent assited, cheaper than Oberlin Court) rental units with modern touches? Better transit options? A grocery store and/or starbuck$?

I think (hope) current downtown residents fall more in the "welcoming/more the merrier" side of the spectrum than the "elitist/downtown is going to be dead" posture that could detract newcomers, but the next few years (and the comprehensive plan) will set the stage downtown for decades.

I am wondering the same thing. I work in Downtown Raleigh but can't afforf to live there. I spend a lot of time there on the weekends and recently checked out the Hurrican Sports Bar down at the Depot on a Saturday Afternoon to catch a College Football game. I really liked the bar but was dissapointed to see that it was pretty dead (only 5 other people were there). I can tell that it will be a real hot spot one day. Just standing in the Parking lot of The depot I could see the cranes from the sites of Bloomsbury Estates, The RBC Plaza, West @ North, and the completed Quorum. Once those places are built and filled up with residents I can see the depot really taking off. I like what I see with Downtown Raleigh, but I really think they need to get soem retail down there and get some more employers to move into the area so it will become a real work/live/ play downtown type atmosphere.

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We're on our way, but some more's got to happen before we are truly there IMO:

1. Complete Fayetteville St.

2. Finish RCC/hotel.

3. Build out of the current pipeline condo stock... 222, Bloomsbury, West, RBC, Hue, 111, Reynolds, Tucker, Blount St, Site One, Lafayette.

1 & 2 are on track for next summer/fall. #3 is crucial just for the continued progress of the street scene/activity and to feed inot the retail/services sector.. it's all intertwined a la the mantra "retail follow rooftops." Of the condos, not all of those projects have broken ground or even been officially approved yet. How will the housing market tumble impact those projects and the DT area in the near term? With the One Glenwood announcement, maybe not much. Over the long term, it's hard not to be bullish on the prospects for downtown, especially with the council-elect, who I think will continue to foster more urban development in the core.

Is there anything the next wave/new Urbanists alluded to by Jones in the One Glenwood thread need to move from sitting on the fence to a downtown dwelling?

My feeling is it's all about relative affordability and buzz. I don't buy the whole notion that people can't find out about DT condos--google "downtown raleigh condos," and there you are. Three years ago, it was all about the future, articles, plans, etc. Once F-St opened and buildings started going up (RBC, West, etc), walking around, I can see people talking about it. I even have people at work asking me about DT condos or SF houses near work--something almost unimagineable 3-4 yrs ago when I took the plunge.

Now I get the sense that more of the average joe knows what's going on and with the housing stock catching up (as we speak), the prices are moderating. The key for some middle-income suburban folks is going to be... can they see themselves downsizing their space, fewer cars, etc. It's a big obstacle for some, but not so much for others. Increasing cost of auto-ownership ($3+ gas prices, etc) and more traffic congestion will probably help to some degree as it has in Charlotte (who want s to sit in traffic?). Over time, to keep the DT market robust and growing, we're probably going to need transit to tie in to other employment centers (RTP especially), which then opens up a new marketplace for other workforce groups who might choose Brier Creek now (live near work?). Traffic will keep getting worse, and transit can pick up some of that market share, simultaneously connecting to other "pearls on the string," just like say I-540 has done for E Wake Co, except for urban transit.

No, downtown is not "there" yet, but maybe only a few years away.

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I'm reviving this topic and adding the general feel and activity downtown...

Maybe it's just the nice weather and some of the recent events like St Patty's Day, 1st Fridays and the Beer Fest, but I have gotten a sense that the foot traffic has really jumped recently, and even on the weekends there are more people in the center city (F-St area) than I can ever recall seeing before in my lifetime. Particularly, the area around Hargett and Wilmington (Empire's corner?) where Raleigh/Morning Times have firmly established a thriving business at all hours of the day and night. If there was a good way to count people on the streets, I'd say it's up substantially (20-30%) over last year at this time.

We've also seen an increasing number of establishments open on the weekends for the first time in years... ie, Mecca, which has been serving food on Martin St since the 1930s is now open on Saturdays for brunch for the first time in decades (IIRC). Sosta is now open in Saturdays, along with many of the coffee shops. I feel like some of this is due to some added residential (Palladium/Hudson), but also people driving and biking in from adjoining neighborhoods, as well as a handful of visitors from out of town. Of course, adding the next wave of condos (West, 222, Bloomsbury, RBC), the RCC, and city plaza/F-St extension will all add even more to the activity this fall.

Anyway, I'd like to get other's opinions... have you noticed a difference?

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Morning Times has been the key spot imo. There are often a dozen or more people sitting outside there on a weekend morning, usually 20 and 30 somethings biking or walking in from their downtown apartment or house. It attracts locals more than depending on drive in customers. But its all on the uptick. I ate lunch at Crema one Saturday and probably 10 other people came in the 30 minutes I was there. Big Easy also pulls well at all times of day every day. The Mint is also adding to foot traffic since it opened. On a nice day there are many places with outdoor seating...Raleigh/morning Times, Riveria, FST, Crema, Big Easy, Yanceys...I have definitely noticed that this summer is sahping up to be the best yet...the magic 2008 we have been talkin up for the last 3 or 4 years.

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I feel the reason for the rise in activity is the rise in options people have compared to this time last year. the warmer weather is a big factor also.

Is it safe to say that downtown has the most new openings of restaurants/bars then anywhere else in Raleigh over the past year? 2 years?

Downtown is dynamic and as new places are opening they are attracting more people that keep coming back. When they come back they notice all the other places and give them a try. Loyal customers keep coming back to the places they like while others have a long list of places to go to.

I also think the nightlife is continuing to take off in all areas of downtown.

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It is hard to belive, but Fayetville Street was just getting the finishing touches a short two years ago. At that time, there was *no* activity in that corridor day or night. And the rest of downtown didn't have much going on either, outside City Market (mostly during First Fridays, Downtown Raleigh Live, and other events), the warehouse district near Morgan/West/Hargett, and Glenwood South (though not to the extent it is today). People used to come into downtown on Thursdays for Alive After Five and then go elsewhere. Now there is no AA5 (or convention center), but people still come and *stay*.

Some of the people are coming from new residences (the bikes at/around Times Bar is encouraging), but many are driving a little further, passing on an hour wait at the Olive Garden to try something different downtown -- Big Easy, Yancy's, Soma, Poole's, Dos Taquitos Centro, Mint, etc. I hope the high gas prices don't change people's habits, as mass transit after the afternoon work rush is still not good enough to make downtown a viable 18 hour city yet.

Also, the incomplete City Plaza (which doesn't look close to starting construction) will eventually be a barrier between the performing arts complex/convention center/Mariott and the rest of F Street, but hopefully there will be an acceptable pedestrian connection.

I know that Fayetville Street Tavern's decision to open for lunch was based primarily on the increased pedestrian traffic that comes with the warmer weather. Momentum builds as more people feel safer to walk during their lunch hour while working and/or visiting at night.

In the last five years or so, Brier Creek, the North Hills revamp, and Triangle Town Center were the only other clusters of new things opening. They all draw pretty well, but provide a different experience than downtown offers. When North Hills opened, it wasn't a ghost town but it was not nearly as popular as it is now. A combination of positive experiences with enough things to see and do will drive word of mouth buzz. As long as the current positive, welcoming attitude is maintained, downtown will continue to grow organically and thrive.

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Wait, how will City Plaza be a barrier to pedestrians? It can't be any more than it is now, because construction is blocking everything...

I also think it is important that F street goes all the way through to South Street. Are there any plans for the area where the parking lots are in front of Memorial?

I have also seen an increase in people downtown. Of course there is a long way still to go, but it is MUCH better than only 5 years ago. Once all of the major projects get wrapped up, I would like to see more infill along the streets, establishing more street level retail, especially stores. Of course restaurants would be nice, but shopping should be a major attraction as well. A good example is Charleston, SC. Although the city is much smaller and has a much different history, they have established great shopping areas with chains as well as boutiques that are pedestrian friendly and almost uninterrupted. The more retail that fronts the streets, the better. Parking decks should not be allowed to front streets because they inhibit easy walking and interrupt the flow of the street. I like the way the city is going and I am pretty happy. No if we could just get rid of those dang parking lots...

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More foot traffic and dining & retail options help a good deal. Of course what really helps is more residential. (And not just luxury condos for the rich!)

Now I just wish the city would concentrate on infrastructure some. People often still think of downtown as dirty and full of potholes...and in many cases they're right. Compared to North Raleigh, the condition of downtown's streets is dismal! :angry: (One coworker told me it wasn't parking keeping her from downtown...it was fear of ruining her car's suspension.)

Not to mention out-of-date stoplight intersections, broken/bent/missing street signs, etc. (The suburbs get these great large street signs that hang from the stoplights now so that people can tell where they're going...but downtown has hardly any.) It's like the city's traffic department doesn't even know downtown exists.

And I like the street fairs, parades, etc. But I think they really need to slow down and think the scheduling some. About 2-3 weeks ago I think, there was like three different events downtown closing streets. Getting through the area was impossible! Do they think that's going to help downtown's image? As the place "nobody can drive in on a Saturday"? I don't think so....they need to not just automatically approve anyone who simply requests to close down a street. Let's think it through first, folks.

I think businesses are mostly doing their part...particularly the Alliance...in trying to bring life downtown. It's time the city steps up a bit. Fayetteville Street revitalization was great...but don't stop there!

;)

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This post shows what F Street looked like during the mall to street conversion. The plans for City Plaza will involve a similar amout of work, with sidewalks being as narrow as they can get away with, probably for months. It is better than the solid wall created by the underground parking deck construction fence, but barely. It doesn't scream "hey, this is an interesting place to walk around" right when a lot of new visitors will be coming to the city's core for the first time.

Not doing the work now was a lost opportuinty if everyone was on the same page. Doing the work *now* would have provided a nice connection from the hotel and convention center to the rest of F Street. And F Street could have connected to at least Lenoir Street, if not South in front of the performing arts complex. I hope the work is quick and not too disruptive, but converting the plaza into a street plus programmable public space is not going to be finished in a couple of weeks.

A lot of events take advantage of the warm weather with everyone wanting to get out. The military appreciation, beer festival, wine tasting, and various fundraising runs/walks all seem to schedule during the mid April to mid May window. I think (hope) the activity will die down after next weekend's Artsplosure, since Downtown Raleigh Live only closes down Martin from Blount to Person. The city did put in new street signs, but put them on the signal *poles*, not across the intersection itself. They are larger than the old signs, have rounded corners and a nice white border. But they are not as big as the cross streets' signs on Capitol.

The only streets downtown that get any attention are Dawson, McDowell, and now Fayetville Street. Everythign else gets the shaft to keep North Raleigh beautiful. I hope McDowell/Cabarrus/Salisbury get improved once Convention Center construction starts wrapping up, but the rest of downtown, especially the Edenton/Hillsborough-New Bern/Morgan corridors are abused by a lot of use even though they were repaved a few years ago.

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The city has done some street work--don't forget the two-way conversion of Martin and Hargett St. Hargett also received about 4 extra feet of "reclaimed" sidewalk--the first ever street diet in Raleigh I'm told. Also, with F-St part 2, the city is converting Lenoir and South to two-way operation. I think there are longer term plans to two-way Jones and Lane as well. The only pairs remaining would be Blount/Person, Wilmington/Salisbury, and Dawson/McDowell, which will probably remain in their current form.

Wait, how will City Plaza be a barrier to pedestrians? It can't be any more than it is now, because construction is blocking everything...

I also think it is important that F street goes all the way through to South Street. Are there any plans for the area where the parking lots are in front of Memorial?

The city plaza holdup hurts because it won't be done by the fall when the RCC and hotel open. It sure would have presented a much nicer picture of the city to have that complete (not to mention more hotel space). Plus the phase 2 of Fayetteville St (to Lenoir) will be complete with an unfinished hole in the middle (plaza), from what I understand. I would expect there will have to be some pedestrian connections in tact during plaza construction, but it will be a mess--like the phase 1 project was.

Sites 2 & 3 in front of the Memorial Auditorium are going to be released in an RFP for developer interest (+ design competition?). I believe extending Fayetteville St to South St will depend on the the developer's proposal. It could be another small plaza, or some other public space. For connectivity purposes, I'd like to see the street extended to South, but we'll just have to wait and see.

Back to street activity... I'm hoping that the old Holly's Hallmark store (being redeveloped) and Empire's Mahler Trust (dollar store) bldg renovations will house active uses... Thursday night, F St was pretty dead... we desperately need more residential in the core (RBC=good) plus as many active street retail (5-11pm+ hours) renovations as possible, and I agree more wrapped parking decks.

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I helped entertain some out of town friends here for some local graduation stuff. It was very hard to find stuff to do that was not associated with eating or a museum during the daytime. I of course know this already, but really wanted to give a good impression of the City. Here was the day and I think it reflects on the current status of street level life...of course there are plenty of other possible plans but anyway.....

- Starting from the Sheraton we chose Big Eds for breakfast. I considered Mecca but it could not handle our big group well in my opinion. Also we wanted a "hearty" breakfast and not just a bagel or a scone so that pretty much took the coffee shops off the list for the moment

- had an hour to kill before part of the group had to split, so wandered around Artspace for a bit. The public galleries are nice and the building is very cool to look at in the daylight (as opposed to a first friday mostly at night) but at 10 am it had just opened and only one artist was in studio. We did kill the hour and about 5 other people were in there looking around but it was just too early to fully appreciate the place with so few artists open

- With the nice weather I wanted to stretch the legs in the form of window shopping. The three gift shops in City Market were not much so we drove to the Farmers Market. It was freakin' packed and made a good impression on my guests but I was a little embarrassed downtown had almost nothing.

- after enough of the overwhelming farmers market we did head back downtown at my guests request for [in fact] the quiet. We got coffee at Morning Times and browsed Father and Sons. F&S occupied another hour and doubles as a sort of museum along with it being a store. Several funny books were taken home as souvenirs.

- Finally we had to meet someone else coming into town who we knew liked plants, flowers and such. I considered a stroll in Oakwood, plus Pullen Park, and Lake Johnson, but finally decided to drive to the Arboretum. It made a good impression on my visiting friends but secretly I wished downtown proper had more than just Moore Square and the Capital Grounds for outdoorsy strolling.

- lunch could have been downtown of course but after having driven away from downtown it was decided Neomonde was quiet and close to the Arboretum.

My guests were actually impressed and happy with the day. The weather helped alot. They noted all the construction downtown and I emphasized how things are continuing to evolve and improve for people living and visiting downtown. One guy was a banker and was impressed by our two bank headquarters plus a F500 company all right next to each other. I think if my guests had been cut loose on their own, they would have had a harder time filling up their day...they enjoyed having a tour guide as most family and friends do. Anyway, just wanted to share a story of a day on the street with folks not from here and how it played out and the challenges involved.

Edited by Jones133

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Well...I think that a PBR at the Raleigh Times is a must-do after this week for out-of-towners :)

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Well...I think that a PBR at the Raleigh Times is a must-do after this week for out-of-towners :)

They are Obama supporters....

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- With the nice weather I wanted to stretch the legs in the form of window shopping. The three gift shops in City Market were not much so we drove to the Farmers Market. ....

.....We got coffee at Morning Times and browsed Father and Sons. F&S occupied another hour and doubles as a sort of museum along with it being a store. Several funny books were taken home as souvenirs.

Next time consider Stuff on West Martin....if your friends like nice things for ridiculously cheap, you could occupy a good block of time there easily. :shades:

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They are Obama supporters....

So?

Anyway... thanks for explaining that thing about city plaza and everything... yeah it doesn't seem like the best plan to leave it unfinished now.

I went to a show at Memorial Auditorium last night (Avenue Q... which was really good by the way) and I noticed how cut off it seemed from the rest of downtown. Of course that it is because of the construction and everything, but it seemed like there was NOTHING around the area. Like no restaurants, shops, street-level retail, etc, unless you count that McDonalds. There is a lot of potential in that area for people going to eat before or after shows.

Also, after leaving we drove by the convention center (I forgot what street we were on) and I was disappointed to see a block-long blank wall. I thought that the whole idea of the project was not to have blank walls and be inviting for people to gather. I know it is just a convention center and there may not be room for retail and such, but I was rather disappointed to see. It is an imposing structure with absolutely nothing to invite people in, at least on that one side. Hopefully across the street something will go up to make the area more livable...

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So?

Obama was served a PBR at the Raleigh Times.

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I went to the Sunday matinee showing of Avenue Q and it was quite entertaining, though not as "dirty" as my wife and I expected.

There is a lack of restaurants near the south end of downtown, but that is why the city runs the showtime trolley -- to get people from City Market (and other parts of downtown) to the theater without having to walk through the construction zone. Site 1 and the hotel will have some restaurants, and once City Square and sites 2 and 3 (the surface parking lots between South and Lenoir) are finished, the district will be "connected". But we are at least 4-5 years from that taking shape, if not longer due to the credit crisis.

Even the McDonalds land (and the surface parking lots north of there bound by Wilmington/Lenoir/Blount/Cabarrus) could be redevloped with better use of the land. But the Pope House is there, which complicates the issue. The McDonald's owner was adamant on keeping things as they are now, at least in the short term. But if downtown takes off, then development pressure will be there to do something. Shaw students are as woefully underserved as the theater's patrons, but there had been little movement in that part of downtown until the old convention center was slated for demolition.

As for the convention center itself, the McDowell street side will have the shimmer wall, an art installation of small pieces of reflective items that will change with the wind. West of there will be the service entrance/potential outdoor pavilion, so there won't be any actual "street activity" on either side. Ideally there will be more street activity on the two blocks north of there. McDowell/Davie/Dawson/Cabarrus has Poole's and will eventually have the L. The old Button South/Warehouse/Gemini building could be something, but right now is still empty. The McDowell/Davie/Harrington/Cabarrus block (due north of the CC, with the Enterprise rent-a-car) would be ideal for a hotel site, but for now it is surface parking.

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Obama was served a PBR at the Raleigh Times.

I knew that... I had a couple of friends who were downtown and someone said to them: "Obama's at Raleigh Times," so they ran over there. I thought by saying "they are Obama supporters..." meant that you didn't like that they supported Obama. Sorry, maybe I got confused too.

Thanks for clarifying the thing about the convention center.

Yeah I think the McDonalds lot has so much potential... not saying the McDonalds should go, but the area could be redeveloped like a New York style one, no drivethrough with other retail next to or above it. Only wishing.

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IMO the Wilmington/Cabarrus corner site next to Charter Square (site 1), Lincoln theatre, and the Pope House will be developed prior to the McDonalds. It's surface gravel parking, and would help weave together that area between F St and Lincoln/Palladium Plaza. I recall hearing that Empire has an option on the land or owns it outright. I could see another Lafayette-type project going in--next time with more condos.

webguy has it right... it's going to take a while for the south end to see results so the perf arts center is connected to downtown proper. Charter Square has only begun work on the parking garage, Lafayette is stalled, and sites 2/3 are years from bearing fruit. Patience is a virtue, or so I'm told...

Still there's been some good progress, and lots to be enthusiastic about in the near future.

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I guess this observation can go here.....I have noticed what look like street light rough-ins in several places downtown...Peace st, and Wilmington st off the top of my head but I have seen them in other places too. Downtown has always had some dark spots and this is good with the increase in foot traffic over the last few years.

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^Interesting.

Though to be completely honest....before this city starts installing new street lights, perhaps they should learn to do an adequate job keeping the ones that they have actually working. Just driving around for a mile or two, I can't even begin to count the number of burnt-out ones I see everywhere. <_< On some roads, you'll actually find more burned out lights than working ones....it's frankly embarrassing.

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I've never done this before, but try reporting the streetlights to Progress Energy. It's actually them that do streetlight maintenance, not the city. Take down the pole numbers and nearby addresses, and try reporting a couple that you see are burned out. It would be interesting to see if / how fast they actually get around to fixing them.

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I've never done this before, but try reporting the streetlights to Progress Energy. It's actually them that do streetlight maintenance, not the city. Take down the pole numbers and nearby addresses, and try reporting a couple that you see are burned out. It would be interesting to see if / how fast they actually get around to fixing them.

Heh...actually I do that quite often. :shades: Usually for ones near home, that I'm able to walk up to, in order to get those pole numbers. No way I could do that for the many ones I drive by regularly....and even if I could, to enter them all in I'd be glued to a computer for hours if not days. I guess if more citizens helped out..... :whistling:

But to your inquiry, usually it gets done within a week or so of reporting it. So they're at least good in that regard. :good:

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I noticed the rough ins to on Thursday while walking the dog during lunch. They went as far east as Jones betwen Blount and Wilmington, with some on Blount proper just north of Cafe Luna.

My wife called in the light in front of our house to the city of Raleigh's number... and nothing happend. She called back and was told there was nothing wrong with it. There is only one other light on our block, and it isn't near the address she gave, so I don't know what they were thinking, or if they even checked it out. We re-reported it, with the pole number this time, and are now waiting/hoping.

Driving around last night we noticed several more which were on vacant land so no one probably bothers to call them in. With it getting warmer, we will go for a walk at night and write down the other pole numbers, since address alone didn't seem to work.

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