I snapped this photo of the newly opened Fayetteville Street Mall on a dreary January day in 1978. I had just returned to Raleigh after a 3-year stint away at school. This was my first look at the transformed street, and I must admit, I was not impressed. For some reason an image of cold-war era East Berlin kept flashing through my head.
I remember that upon seeing the mall that day I recalled an incident from a few years previously, when construction had just begun and the street was being torn up. Making my way among the heavy equipment and giant piles of red dirt, I overheard an older gentleman remark to his young companion, “This was once the finest parade ground in North Carolina!”
It’s been 31 years since I saw the mall for the first time, and now Fayetteville Street has just recently been restored to its original purpose — parade ground and all. I’ll admit though, today I’m a little apprehensive about another project currently underway to remake yet another of Raleigh’s axial streets — Hillsboro. Work has just begun on that thoroughfare, and the street is being torn up — heavy roadwork equipment, orange and white traffic barrels, piles of red dirt… I am experiencing a strong sense of déja vu.
In store for Hillsboro Street are roundabouts, 2-lane traffic on on a major traffic artery, a raised median down the middle of the street — hmmm? Wonder if I’ll be around 31 years hence to see what becomes of this particular experiment in city planning?