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You only have one opportunity to make a first impression. And for business owners, storefront aesthetics could either drive business up or away. Unfortunately, expenses associated with renovating the outside of a business can put a halt on such efforts. But with help from the City of Raleigh, it is possible to increase customer traffic, gain more exposure, and build a better business brand.

Since the 1980’s, the City has been helping businesses with funding via the Façade Rehabilitation Grant Program. To date, more than 100 property owners in downtown Raleigh and older commercial districts have benefited from the program, putting a new face on the way they market their goods and services. The program provides up to $10K in grant rebates for each project, making it possible for businesses of any size to refurbish the exterior of existing buildings, restoring them to their former glory or completely reinventing them.

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How many times have you walked through Market or Exchange Plaza in downtown Raleigh? Did you even know these pedestrian plazas existed? My hunch is that most visitors are not aware of the plazas unless they frequent One Exchange Plaza (the building that houses the City’s Planning and Development offices, amongst others). Personally, I have made the journey well over a thousand times and have noticed that each plaza is in a certain stage of disrepair. That is all about to change!

City Council recently approved plans for a complete makeover of both pedestrian plazas. The plans call for the creation of more flexible and modern spaces, including new concrete paving, benches and seat walls, updated planters, improved site lighting, shade structures, and screen enclosures.

And if you're a history buff, you'll appreciate this...

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Raleigh Union Station (RUS) has been in the works for years. In fact, it has been contemplated since the 1990’s and is a significant component in the City of Raleigh’s draft Downtown master plan.

Last Friday, a groundbreaking ceremony took place which officially kicked off the construction phase of the project. Improvements to some of the rail infrastructure are already underway, but I am told that  the work in downtown Raleigh will not begin in earnest until later this summer.

The ceremony was conducted at the location of the former Dillon Supply Co. warehouse and was very well attended. The crowd enjoyed short speeches from Gov. Pat McCrory; Mayor Nancy McFarlane; Congressman David Price; NCDOT Secretary Tony Tata; Carlos Monje, assistant secretary for transportation policy for the U.S. Department of Transportation; and Jay McArthur, senior manager of State Corridors for Amtrak.

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The City’s Street Design Manual was first adopted back in 2013 as a technical supporting document of the UDO. With the understanding that there is a critical link between land use and transportation, the design guidelines provide for coordinated development with necessary facilities to serve and protect all users of Raleigh’s transportation system. The manual includes excerpts from different codes, including those from Transit, Solid Waste, Trees, and other related subjects.

While the manual has provided clarity on some topics, we’ve gotten feedback that the document is not as “user friendly” as it could be which prompted its first update. Underway since last October, the update is intended to improve functionality by creating a “smart document.” In other words, it will be enhanced to include hyperlinks to applicable UDO sections, City construction standards, and other related webpages.

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