The Downtown Raleigh Renaissance – Creating Livable Streets

Daniel T. Douglas, Raleigh, NC 

How did the City of Raleigh revitalize its downtown, create a series of signature public spaces and attract $2.5 billion dollars of new investment in 5 years?

The City of Raleigh had not seen a major investment in its downtown in 10 years. Downtown was languishing – nobody lived, visited, dined or shopped there. In 2002, a new Livable Streets Partnership was formed, an Urban Design Center was created and together they embarked on creating a community driven strategic plan.

The Livable Streets Plan identified 131 actions in 12 broad categories, 125 of the actions were underway or completed within 5 years. Reopening Fayetteville Street, the city’s main street and at the time a failed pedestrian mall and creating a new signature public space, City Plaza, were two of the most significant projects in the program.

These two major public realm improvements catalyzed a revival of street life. Five new festivals, twenty new outdoor cafes, a return of the parade and over 750 new residents have brought life and living back to Fayetteville Street. City Plaza is the heart of the downtown. An interactive fountain delights children, 55 ft. tall light towers proclaim Raleigh’s high tech prowess, public art is installed on a rotating basis, five new restaurants nourish hungry patrons and all are drawn to the pedestrian friendly experience of a renewed city life.

This presentation will outline the key design decisions, critical public policies and processes that created one of the most successful public spaces in all of North Carolina.