Author: Sarah Lindenfeld Hall; Staff Writer
Edition: FinalSection: NewsPage: B3
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 to them."
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 direction."
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
Copyright 2003 by The News & Observer Pub. Co.
Record Number: h9ioyw89