I’m no city planner, but when I’m on the road there are a few things that are bound to catch my eye. I’ve been to Chicago before–it was February. One thing Raleigh does not need is Chicago’s winters. But with the City of Oaks continuing to stretch its branches, there were a few things–in no particular order–I took note of on my trip to the country’s 3rd largest city.
- Public Bike Share – Never a bad idea idea to start a ‘To Do’ list with an item you’re already in the process of crossing off the list, as the City Council approved earlier this year Bike Share program set to launch in 2017. But we need people to use it. Raleigh has an incredible Greenway system and has shown a commitment to making the city bike-friendly. Chicago’s program was relatively easy and cheap (on the consumer in–again, I’m not the City Planner type) to use, even as a first-timer. Since we’ve dabbled in it before, I guess what Raleigh needs isn’t a really a public bike share program, it’s a successful public bike share.
- Water Features – I get it, Raleigh isn’t on a major body of water, but couldn’t we have an impressive fountain or something? Lake Michigan and the Chicago River are obvious benefits Raleigh doesn’t have, but it’s not like downtown is completely devoid of moving water, as Raleigh Public Record noted a while back. And aside from the large bodies, Chicago has plenty of other fountains and features using water proudly displayed about town. The WRAL fountain and the Wolf statue by Carter-Finley are nice, but feel more like PR than city art. I might not go as far as my friend William Needham Finley IV and support a downtown canal with Tahoe gandolas, but we need something better than those two puny streaming bubblers beside the state capitol building.
- Tall Buildings – I’m not putting on airs of becomes some skyscraper hotspot–I realize we like the small time charm. But there’s a bit of pride involved in seeing those cranes on your city’s horizon. I see enough people pulling off McDowell Street at the Western Boulevard exit to take pictures of the skyline to know that tall buildings impress people. And, personally, I’d rather see business take their structures a few stories higher to be noticed, as opposed to putting a silly red cap on them.
- Late Dinners – Again, I recognize the difference between a city that has millions of people and thousands of visitors all the time is playing a bit of a different game. That being said, would it kill a few more places in downtown Raleigh to stay open/serve dinner a few more hours? The number is growing. Poole’s and Raleigh Times have had wait service and dinner menus for extended hours (midnight and 2am EVERY DAY, respectively) as long as I can remember–kudos to them for acting like big boy restaurants. More restaurants should serve until 11pm on weeknights and 12pm on Fridays and Saturdays, or at least be flexible to do so in accordance with events/concerts.
- Hamilton – As we began, let’s end the wish list with one we’re almost certainly to have granted. I was fortunate enough to see the Broadway smash musical “Hamilton” that has now opened in Chicago. If you’re unfamiliar….well, just become familiar. The show’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda is hosting Saturday Night Live this week, and you’ll soon be hearing his tunes courtesy of the Disney machine, both of which are testaments to Hamilton’s popularity. Fortunately, we have a strong arts and theater community here. DPAC is consistently one of the highest rated and attended theaters in America and will almost certainly get a visit from the show soon after it begins touring in 2017.