mural in The Alley

Out with the Old, In with the New: The Changing Face of Hillsborough Street

UPDATE: Since this post was published in December 2015, these Hillsborough Street shops, restaurants, and businesses have been added to the list of lost treasures: The Alley, McDaid’s, Coffee Haven, Sugar Magnolia, Saxby’s Coffee, and Sotos International Auto Repair.

The Aloft hotel is open. The old movie theater — which still said “Hillsborough Street Textbooks” throughout the renovations — is now H Street Kitchen, and there seems to be nothing but construction happening on this side of NC State University.

As a primary college student hangout, Hillsborough Street has seen a lot of changes over the decades. In honor of Flashback Friday, let’s take a look back at the most recent developments.

Hillsborough Street Developments in Recent Years

New restaurants and shops have opened. Local favorites have closed. And the street itself has gotten a face lift or two. Medians, more roundabouts, and public art installations are just a couple of the newest plans for the stretch of road beside NC State. Everyone has strong opinions one way or the other about these changes.

The Good

Who wouldn’t want to live within a few blocks of the best restaurants at NC State? New student apartments — like Stanhope, 2811 Hillsborough, and these planned new apartments across from the Belltower — let NC State commuter students live within walking distance of campus and be at the center of all the action.

taco dish at upscale mexican restaurantPlus, there are new places to eat popping up all along the street. Brand new additions include:

The Bad

Of course, not all Raleigh residents and NC State students are happy with these new changes, especially in light of new residences taking over beloved campus icons.

Where Sadlack’s Heroes, Buddha’s Belly, and Schoolkids Records once sat — in the shadow of the Belltower, perfectly situated to celebrate NC State Wolfpack victories when the tower lit red — the Aloft hotel now occupies the space, serving as a new campus landmark and adding more space for university visitors to stay for a night or two.

On the other side of campus, neighbors are upset with Stanhope Center‘s construction and location. Established local businesses like Cup-A-Joe and Nice Price Books are no longer the giants on that stretch of Hillsborough Street; they’re now tiny in the face of the new high-rise student apartments and chain restaurants.

New construction and Hillsborough Street revitalization projects have even closed former businesses, changing the established character of the old college hangout into a gentrified and more modern urban scene. Here’s a map of all the “lost treasures,” the businesses that have closed in the past quarter of a century.

The Ugly

Not everyone likes the roundabouts. While traffic used to be a problem on Hillsborough Street before roundabouts were constructed by the Belltower, architects aren’t sure that building more roundabouts, as part of the Hillsborough Street revitalization plan, is a good idea.

Frank Harmon, a well-known local architect and one of the creative minds behind the AIA NC Center for Architecture & Design downtown, said in a WRAL interview that roundabouts “detract from the streetscape” and “eliminate corner stores and create dead spots.”

And there are other issues with traffic: Shops and restaurants would lose business during construction and already limited street parking would be reduced even further, according to a News & Observer article. (Speaking of parking, hopefully Target will keep The Alley’s old parking garage. Otherwise no one will ever find a parking space on Hillsborough Street.)

What Do You Think?

The face of campus is always changing, but what do you think about the new roundabout plan and the new businesses opening (and old ones closing)? Comment on this post with your thoughts — and with the businesses you are sad to see go.

Hillsborough Street is just one aspect of NC State student life. Find out more about the other local campus hangouts, the best places to eat, and a complete guide to enjoying NC State life as an off-campus student on the NC State Student Commuter Guide.

Have a great holiday break, and good luck with your spring semester!


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