City Plaza on opening day. Photo credit: Jonathan Hawkins

Raleigh, North Carolina is one of the fastest growing cities in the south, but until recently, its downtown was largely deserted after 5pm. Now, local leaders are making bold strides to bring new life to the historic city center. At the center of this effort is Fayetteville Street, the once failed pedestrian mall that is now home to a growing number of restaurants, shops and residential buildings.

One of the street’s newest attractions is Raleigh City Plaza, the “public living room” of the city. The plaza features interactive fountains, four LED light towers, retail pavilions and events including ice skating in the winter, a farmers market in the spring, and the annual Raleigh Wide Open festival. PPS was involved in a visioning process for the City Plaza in 2006, when we encouraged stakeholders to plan for a mix of uses that would draw people into the site and encourage them to stay.

Fayetteville Street and City Plaza during Raleigh Winterfest. Photo credit: Jonathan Hawkins

Following the opening of the plaza last fall, we asked a local placemaker to evaluate the site using our Great Public Spaces tool. His initial report is encouraging—the site is well used during the day and draws large crowds during special events. Nightime uses are still limited and contingent on strong programming, as well as greater numbers of residents living downtown. Going forward, the success of City Plaza hinges on strong management to continually reevaluate the space and program it with diverse uses and activities. With the help of committed local stakeholders and a growing number of full-time residents, there is no doubt it will grow and evolve in the future.

To learn more about other happenings in downtown Raleigh, check out local blog The Raleigh Connoisseur.