Cartoon by Brittain Peck
This week’s Q&A embraces that most cliche, yet time-honored, New Year’s tradition. But since New Raleigh writers are perfect already, we’ve come up with some New Year’s resolutions to encourage our beloved city to make. Pipe in with yours in the comments.
I hope that small business ventures will be able to open and be successful and that the city entertains a climate of support rather than restrictions. I would like to see small scale aspects of the city grow and shift with a greater spontaneity and creativity, rather than a sense of growth through committee. Raleigh has always had an identity and is not just developing one now. Its identity will continue to be shaped through the desires and actions of individuals, spaces and places that come and go, and I just hope for a level of truthfulness in the city rather than a move towards contrivance.
I’d like for Raleigh’s nightlife to really begin to pulse. The Blacklisted parties at Five Star are beginning to take it there, but as of now there’s only enough energy around town to fill one good party. I’d love to go out Friday night, any Friday night, and have options. Shall we dance here or shall we dance there? Come to think of it, to hell with Fridays; I’d love to find a full bar on a weeknight other than the Raleigh Times. I look forward to the evening that I take my out-of-town guests out on the town, and don’t eventually throw my hands in the air and sigh, “Let’s just go buy some beer and turn on music at my apartment.”
While areas around downtown proper have a small amount of retail (Hillsborough Street, Cameron Village, and Glenwood South), my hope is that 2009 is the year that downtown Raleigh breaks past the obviously taboo retail barrier. Over the past few years, the grid has added countless restaurants, bars and condo buildings, but few retail spots have popped up. Each of these spots have been locally run businesses, some of which have done very well, some that are still struggling along and others that closed within a year of opening.
While small businesses define the character of many cities with a similar population as Raleigh across our country, and while I want the few that actually exist (Holly Aiken, Stuff Consignment, Father and Son, Knockabout in City Market) to survive, it is completely necessary for a couple of larger market stores to move into the downtown sphere.
Many chain retailers conceal moral and ethical reasons not to shop at them, but others provide excellent products and service. I won’t name any names but it would be great to be able to buy a cd, book, hat, shirt or scarf on my daily bike ride or walk home from one side of downtown (the gridded part) to the other.
Why are we still not luring any retailers downtown? Seriously, Raleigh, get your hands out of your pockets and play with the big boys and girls. 2009 is your year to be #1 place to open a retail business, not quirkiest New Years Celebration or any of the other random Top 10 Lists you keep landing on.
To me, the best cities have a unique character. Even though this quality may be inherently intangible, my favorite cities simply have the “it” that makes them unique. New York, Seattle, Chicago, D.C.—cities like these seem to take pride in their unique identity, whether it be in their architecture, their arts, their services, their food, or other attributes. Simply, the distinguishing factor in places like these is that it just feels unique. My hope is that in 2009 we in Raleigh make a sincere effort to discover our own distinguishing characteristics, our own unique features, our own individual culture. I’d love to see Raleigh move from somewhat generic to outstandingly individual. I hope that sometime soon, people will travel to Raleigh simply to experience what it feels like. And I hope, of course, that it’s a wonderful feeling.
This year, I hope that Raleigh’s population thinks locally, to go out of their way to support our many locally owned businesses, artists and performers. As downtown grows and national chains increase their focus on our city core, I hope that our citizens take time to remember locally owned retail establishments and restaurants. Keeping our money in the city and funneling it through the cultural establishments is the best way to help define our character. As the economy wanes, it is only that much more important to support things that are truly local.
2008 saw the closing of several establishments that probably could have survived given more community support. When we lose businesses, we lose the investment they make in the community and the smart entrepreneurs behind them. The same goes for local artists and musicians; it is imperative we support our cultural contributors so that we don’t lose them to other cities that offer more opportunities. On date night, eat at the local joints and catch your movie at the independent theaters. On Valentine’s Day, buy your honey gifts or art that was made and sold right here in the city. Think of it as an investment. My hope for Raleigh in 2009 is a culture of localism.