Should Raleigh allow permanent string lights outside The Dillon?

In News by The Dillon

Originally published in the News and Observer on May 22, 2017.

RALEIGH – People driving, biking or walking on a stretch of Hargett Street downtown will travel under a grid of lights if Kane Realty gets its way.

Raleigh-based Kane Realty is asking the city for permission to hang string lights across Hargett as part of The Dillon project, a development it’s building between West and Harrington streets.

The lights would hang between the six-story apartment building Kane is constructing on the north side of Hargett and an 18-story, mixed-use tower on the south side of the street. They would be between Citrix and Legends Nightclub.

The city doesn’t currently have a policy that would allow such nontraditional lighting over a major street, so Kane can’t move forward with the plan for string lights until it does.

John Kane, the company’s founder and CEO, said his team thought of the idea a while ago. But it hasn’t nailed down the details of how many lights to hang or what style the bulbs would be. The company first wants to get approval from the city.

In a letter to Raleigh leaders on May 12, Kane asked city leaders to make a policy.

“We are confident that this project will create a vibrant urban space and set a precedent for more innovative design across the city,” Kane wrote.

City staff is now in the process of crafting an ordinance that would enable the lights, said Jim Greene, Raleigh’s assistant city manager for economic development. The City Council likely won’t vote on it until later this summer.

Councilman Russ Stephenson said he’s seen string lights hung in similar warehouse and industrial districts, like LoDo in Denver, and that he generally supports the idea.

“It has a very nice place-making effect in terms of being part of an overall streetscape design,” Stephenson said.

The city mostly relies on lampposts for lighting in downtown Raleigh, with the exception of City Market, a mixture of restaurants and event spaces on downtown’s east side. String lights dangle above City Market’s cobblestone streets inside the private development.

Kane expects to open The Dillon next year, and some believe its completion will create a ripple effect of new development in and around the Warehouse District.

Construction on the project is progressing as the city is building a new transit hub known as Union Station, which is just across West Street from The Dillon.

Union Station is essentially a three-story train station with office and dining space overlooking a boarding platform on the ground floor. Kane designed The Dillon to incorporate an entryway on its southwestern façade, which faces Union Station.

The string lights, along with a 40-foot brick wall façade on The Dillon’s southeastern side, would be another distinguishing feature of the project.

Paul A. Specht, News and Observer