Bob Geolas (HR&A) led a thoughtful conversation on the history and reimaging of Raleigh’s Moore Square with panelists Stephen Bentley (City of Raleigh), Sally Edwards (Marbles Kids Museum), and Vansana Nolintha (Bida Manda/Brewery Bhavana). The discussion was wide-ranging, from the historical importance of Moore Square in the Jim Crow South to the emerging vision of Moore Square as a gathering place to connect downtown workers, transit riders, tourists, visitors and neighbors in a lively, welcoming green space.
Key Takeaways included:
- Stephen Bentley provided an overview of the renovation, describing the thought process behind design decisions including the location and treatment of entrances, the flow of people through the park and the new amenities including a water feature, stage, café and restrooms. Stephen also emphasized that Moore Square is the first small urban park in Raleigh that will have a full-time staff person dedicated to upkeep and will also be highly programmed throughout the year.
- Marbles Kids Museum and IMAX theater see more than 700,000 visitors annually from across the Triangle and eastern North Carolina. Sally Edwards described how visitors use the park as part of a full-day outing to Raleigh. As Marbles plans for an addition and renovation to its own campus, Sally stressed that an important goal was to open up the Marbles campus to feel like an extension of Moore Square. She expressed hope that Moore Square and Marbles could strengthen connections among Raleigh’s diverse citizens.
- Van Nolintha shared the story of how he and his sister, Vanvisa, at 25 and 23 years old respectively, were able to create an internationally-renowned restaurant featuring Laotian food, in large part due to inexpensive rent around Moore Square. Van cautioned the audience that although renovation and rejuvenation can be positive, the community should plan intentionally about how to provide affordable space that will encourage and enable artists and entrepreneurs to create the next unique location or run the risk of downtown losing some of its unique, home-grown soul.
In the midst of excitement about the reinvention of Moore Square, all the panelists stressed a need for continued focus on affordable housing, ensuring access to Moore Square for the entire community, and mitigating displacement in the name of progress.