But a new Time magazine article is praising one city leader who's working to put an end to the sprawl and turn Raleigh into a world class city.
It's a long way from the shops and condos on Glenwood South to the quiet subdivisions in west Raleigh, if you're looking to walk or take the bus.
That's partly what earned Raleigh the nickname Sprawleigh over the years and the city's planning director knows it.
"I knew that having a sprawled pattern is not sustainable," Raleigh City Planning Director Mitchell Silver said. "So the question is, we wanted to find out, where would Raleigh be 30 years from now and how do we get there?"
Since taking the job in 2005, Silver has helped build up downtown Raleigh, among other areas, but he knows there is much work ahead.
"It wasn't just about Fayetteville Street," he said. "We knew we had to create more options, more walkable places."
Silver and his efforts are featured in a Time magazine article.
With Raleigh now named one of the fastest growing cities in the country, the city is focusing most of its growth on eight specific areas and several corridors.
"Downtown, Midtown or North Hills, Brier Creek, around the arena, Crabtree, Triangle Town Center, so we picked locations where we felt could grow more dense over time," Silver said.
While there are mixed feelings about the city's growth, Silver is hoping Raleigh will be a top world class city within 20 years.
"Clearly, Raleigh wants to have its own authentic identity so that cities will say, I want to be like Raleigh, versus we want to see we want to be like," he added.