Published: The News & Observer, January 30, 2003
Sarah Lindenfeld Hall;
Urban design has a home
RALEIGH -- For now, the Raleigh Urban Design Center on the first
floor of the historic Alexander Building has tall ceilings, tables
and chairs and a good view of Fayetteville Street Mall.
But officials hope the 4,000-square-foot center eventually will
be a place that inspires people to figure out what makes Raleigh
unique and how urban design can reflect the city's individuality.
The goal, officials say, is to ensure that as Raleigh develops it
doesn't turn into a knockoff of another city.
The center at 133 Fayetteville Street Mall will host its first
public session today with the fifth Livable Streets symposium, an
initiative aimed at updating the city's plans for downtown.
"We hope it will be an exhibit place to display the best and
maybe the worst of urban design in our community," city Planning
Director George Chapman said, "a place where people of all
different walks of life can be exposed to those ideas and contribute
City Manager Russell Allen proposed the center last year, and the
City Council quickly agreed. Allen worked with a similar center
in Rock Hill, S.C., where he was manager before he started in Raleigh
last April. In Rock Hill, architects and landscape architects at
the center reviewed city projects and worked with private developers
on their choices of streetlights and design materials.
" There's lots of good design," Allen said. "Sometimes
it's not coordinated. It's not distinct to a community. We want
to make sure the design elements, particularly for public space,
is consistent and it sends a message about what's important."
Last fall, the city hired planner Dan Douglas to be the center's
director. Empire Properties is offering the space in the Alexander
Building at the corner of Fayetteville Street Mall and Hargett Street
rent-free for two years.
Officials are in discussions with N.C. State University's College
of Design to set up an urban design studio at the center where students
would focus on emerging issues in Raleigh, Douglas said.
The city hopes to broker other relationships with local architects,
designers and neighborhood groups. Chapman said eventually the center
could become a free-standing nonprofit group.
The center will focus on downtown development at first, but it
is not meant to work exclusively on downtown issues, he said. The
center will look at the design of public projects in outlying areas
such as fire departments or police stations. Douglas plans to host
more workshops, forums, speeches and exhibits there.
" These are activities that we would be undertaking in a more
disparate fashion if we weren't doing it at the center," Chapman
said. "It's more focusing our activity and giving it clearer
WANT TO GO?
WHAT: The fifth Livable Streets public symposium will explore the
design of public spaces downtown.
WHEN: 4 to 5 p.m. today WHERE: Raleigh Urban Design Center, 133
Fayetteville Street Mall at the corner of Hargett Street
For information on the Livable Streets program, contact city planner
Ken Maness at 890-3655 or firstname.lastname@example.org,
or go to www.raleigh-nc.org/planning/Downtown