Reinventing A Downtown Civic Plaza
Who knew it was even called City Plaza? The empty space in front of the old Civic Center in Raleigh was used occasionally for rock concerts or for a Carolina Hurricanes celebration. But it was only when the Civic Center came down and Fayetteville Street was reopened that the idea dawned about this desolate spot becoming a true center-city gathering place.
That's when Jim Goodmon, CEO of Capitol Broadcasting Corp., brought the Spanish artist Jaume Plensa to town, and they tried out the idea of a raised public square and light show. After six months of intense debate, Goodmon and Plensa withdrew that plan-city leaders decided they didn't want Fayetteville Street obstructed again-but their vision had taken hold: In some form, Raleigh would have its City Plaza. But what form?
A year later, following an unprecedented (for Raleigh) planning process emphasizing broad public participation, that question is about to be answered. City Plaza will feature shopping, not art, under the design expected to garner final approval by the city council in early September.
The design showcases four transparent glass pavilions, each 30 feet square and 18 feet tall, set in front of the two office buildings that flank the City Plaza space to the east and west. The effect is to put two small retail stores in front of each building, along with four raised pools and four 40-foot light towers.