The Comprehensive Planning process has overwhelmed us with its spirit of continual civic improvement, and in that vein we wish to point out some very, very low-hanging fruit:
Change the city code so that the following can NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN.
We are assuredly not the first, nor even the ten-thousand-and-first, to compare the 1970s to a psychotic episode. But where pride of place -- so to speak -- is concerned, the development of this site (the State Employees Credit Union on St. Mary's Street) must surely take the cake for Worst Streetscape Interface In Raleigh History.
What gives this building its je ne sais quoi?
Is it the compressed-gas holding tank, screened in such an original fashion from the adjacent sidewalk by the circlet of prickly bushes? ("An opaque vegetative buffer!" exclaimed the critics of the time -- "surely a solution never before conceived by the mind of Landscape Architecture!") But Modernism is nothing if not innovative.
Is it the semi-subterranean automated doors on the parking-garage vomitoria, which risk the lives of pedestrians at not just one, but even a generous two, junctions with the sidewalk?
Is it the malign apertures in the Death-Star pillbox of a parking deck that forms the structure's principal streetwall, whether to enable the launching of Phlogiston Bolts By Lockheed-Martin (TM) or simply to facilitate the entry and exit of the personal flying commutercraft of the future?
Is it the pinkish-orange cast of the sodium-vapor illumination in the Vehicular Storage Basement, which, in the nighttime, casts outward through the rectangular gun-ports a baleful and corrupted light, shedding doom and disorder on its surroundings -- a lantern of darkness -- a modernist inversion of medieval stained glass -- spreading spiritual desolation, as if the entire construction were an inside-out York Minster?
And yet these features do not fully exhaust the potential of the site to shock and dismay. Indeed, horrified reader, there is more!
We have yet examined only one-half of one side of this triple-frontage lot.
If you work in downtown Raleigh think of the gas $$$$ saved and no more wasted time stuck in traffic. $3.00 a gallon, $3.50 this summer maybe $4.00. Oh yea you can get house in johnston county listening to your neighbors five dogs bark or you can walk to Glenwood South.
"I can't help but think that workshops at Irish pubs about creating rivers that will need to flow uphill are just intentional diversions so that the homefolk don't notice the developers down the street in the Cardinal Club cooking up the meat and potatoes of the comprehensive plan."
Raleigh hosted a "Big Ideas" workshop last week, a brainstorm which produced the predictable golf-ball-sized hail of notions about monorails, artificial rivers, and "filling in the skyline" with lots more tall buildings.
Big ideas are seductive, and they lend themselves well to slush funds and grandstanding. Naturally, politicians love 'em. But (by and large) they're not what makes cities livable.
Rather, city comforts -- also known as "quality of life" -- are all about small ideas: little details, multiplied many times. It's a place to sit in just the right spot, or a colorful new coat of paint on an ordinary building; places for kids to play safely and close to home (above); a crosswalk just where it's needed.
City Comforts author David Sucher says we need to pay more attention to "the small details of cities that really make the difference in our comfort ... the thousands of small details that make up our daily experience."