Moore Square could be so much more

April 16, 2009 11:17:22 AM PDT
City leaders hope to get more out of Raleigh's most visited park."The kids are out on spring break, and we actually came to Raleigh to have them look at the museums," Raleigh visitor Donna Johnson said.

The Johnson family is visiting from Fayetteville and walked through Moore Square en route to Marbles Children's Museum. What was Johnson's impression?

"Not a place I'd come for a picnic, just a cut-through to get to the museums," she said.

And that's exactly the problem, according to city leaders. The downtown park is often a concert venue and host to weekly farmers markets in the spring and the summer.

But with dirt patches everywhere and rusting metal structures, some say it's getting worn out.

The park also has a lot of quirks that don't really work anymore. Take for example one of the park's walkways. It goes from the street about 20 feet into a cluster of bushes, and then you can take a seat on a lovely wooden bench, which offers such a beautiful view.

Raleigh Planning Director Mitch Silver believes Moore Square could and should be so much more.

"It's a green space with plants, trees, some grass and that's basically it," Silver said. "We really want to make sure that it's really addressing all the users, so it's really a downtown park for all people."

He is asking the city council for permission to hold a nationwide competition to redesign the square, which was built in the 17th century. Silver sees a modern park that plays off the surrounding city market and children's museum.

"In terms of picnic areas, where people want to throw Frisbees, there are kids right at Marbles," Silver said. "Are there play spaces that they can go to?"

Nearby store owner Michelle Lyon said, "I think redesigning it is a good idea."

She said her store is about a half a block from the park, but the biggest problem isn't Moore Square's appearance. It's the homeless people who populate the park.

"I think they can redo Moore Square, but until they can relocate these folks it's not going to help," Lyon said. "Families want to come down, go to Marbles, walk across the park and they don't feel safe doing that right now."

Case in point is Donna Johnson. "I kind of avoided them, I do have my young children with me," she said.

Silver agrees it's a tricky issue -- one that needs to be tackled as part of making more out of the park.


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