by Bob Geary
Saturday morning dawns, and Morgan Street is now 2-way all the way from downtown to the new roundabout at Hillsborough Street. No more "Do Not Enter" sign going west when you come to St. Mary's.
Slowly but surely, emphasis on slowly, the city is converting our downtown one-way raceways to two-way urban streets. The former: Good for cars in a hurry to get out of Dodge. The latter: Good for pedestrians, dogs, residents and what, for lack of a better term, are known as walkable neighborhoods. (How about just neighborhoods?)
In other words, slow is good.
The completion of the Hillsborough Street—Morgan Street roundabout, and the conversion of Morgan Street, sets the stage for downtown Raleigh's latest rezoning case, involving the nearly 7-acre "Bolton tract" and Charlotte-based developers FMZ. (Note: That's the old Bolton building on the right in the picture; the acreage is around and behind it.)
This is in the area that city planners attempted to attach to the downtown Central Business District last year when the new comprehensive plan was in play. Neighbors in the adjourning Pullen Park, West Morgan and Cameron Park neighborhoods (I live in Cameron Park) pushed back, one fellow calling it "the monster's head" because of the shape the DT-CBD would've had if given a big neck and head (the Bolton tract) out to the west. City Council then made the Bolton property and West Morgan the subject of a special "small area study" that is underway to determine what the character of this area should be.
Fodder for another day. On a lovely Saturday morning, it's enough to say that this is one of downtown Raleigh's most important, strategic locations. It's halfway from downtown to the NCSU campus. It's on one of Raleigh's busiest bus routes. It's close to the spot where a streetcar line might someday run if — a big if — we ever get a light-rail system going in Raleigh and IF — another big if — the line comes out of the rail corridor behind Central Prison and runs into and out of the downtown along West Morgan Street.
What should be built at such a strategic location? A strategic location, I'd add, that has been sitting fallow for years and years — one of the first meetings I attended in Raleigh after moving here 23 years ago concerned the future of the already-vacant Bolton Corporation property.
As a neighbor, I'm involved in the planning exercise. So whatever I have to say about it and the rezoning case should be understood in that context: This is a great chance for Raleigh to move forward as a city with the right kind of development in a key location, but it's obviously not a great time to get any sort of development anywhere ... so how should we proceed?