Old slabs of boring concrete have been transformed into an urban oasis, housing plants, trees, benches, tables and chairs for dining. To celebrate the grand opening, local restaurants brought food, and a bluegrass band was on hand to provide a little music.
The primary goal of the project is to improve the walkways connecting Wilmington and Fayetteville streets. City officials also hope the new courtyards will make pedestrian access between Fayetteville Street and the Transit Center easier.
The Downtown Raleigh Alliance thinks the transformation will encourage more social interaction and community involvement, and so far it has been a hit.
"I'm just glad there is shade," said Dan Cahill. "There are so few spaces for shade downtown, and you know it will be a great place in the summer to sit out here and have a little lunch and chill out."
The plazas were designed by landscape design firm Surface 678 and executed by Holt Brothers Construction, among many others.
Walter Havener, president of Surface 678, says his company was proud to take on the project.
"We accepted this commission with the belief that design of the public realm is of the highest importance," he said. "We dedicated ourselves to designing these spaces so people can find beauty, pleasure, and comfort."
Aspects of nature were intricately carved into the benches, railings and planters that are strategically placed throughout the project.
Mayor McFarlane says she thinks that the courtyards will strengthen the image of downtown Raleigh.
"The public improvements made in Exchange Plaza and Market Plaza have transformed this space," she said. It exemplifies what you can expect in Raleigh as we grow and strengthen our reputation as one of the best places to live, learn, work and play in the country."
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