This quiet alley doesn’t begin to tell the story,
but downtown Raleigh was packed last night. Rounding the corner, a few feet away from this inviting entrance, the Warehouse District was hopping. The galleries on Martin Street were so crowded we had to scooch through sideways. Flanders was a party crowd, and the Visual Art Exchange was a floor-to-ceiling art explosion, and I found no less than four galleries and clubs I’d never noticed before, and I work two blocks away. First Friday’s center of gravity seemed to be the new Designbox, of course, where ultra hip artsy types of all ages were making merry to the doo DJSH doo DJSH doo DJSH club beats in the background, threading their way through the retail space and back to the PBRs.
When I moved to Raleigh, mumble-mumble years ago ago after college, downtown was bleak and desolate after dark. There was a tiny assortment of lunch options for office people on weekdays, absolutely nowhere to sit on a patio and drink a beer, and not much reason to be downtown on a weekend, except about twice a year for Artsplosure or Christmas Parade weekends. It’s hard to remember even five or six years ago; before Hargett Street came alive again; before Fayetteville Street had $12 a drink bourbon bars with crowds spilling out onto the sidewalk ; before there were rickshaws cavorting up and down the streets; before you could stroll down Wilmington Street and squint and imagine, just for a minute, you were in Chicago; before the R-Line, before Raleigh Times, before the Warehouse District was hip and arty.
That much change, in that short a time, doesn’t just happen. It involves a lot of work by hundreds and hundreds of people. City planners, private investors, entrepreneurs, individuals, community groups, and a vibrant creative class. Well done, downtown. Well done, Raleigh. I like it. I like it all.