crane over The Alley

Is Hillsborough Street Dead?

mural in The AlleyWe’re all shocked that The Alley is closing next month. Though The Alley itself has only been here since 2008 (it had been Western Lanes since the 1960s, and before that it had been ManMur Bowling Center since 1939), the building has been a Hillsborough Street landmark since 1960.

But it’s just one of many iconic businesses that have come and gone since Hillsborough Street’s revitalization.

Hillsborough Street is NC State’s unofficial Main Street. Hole-in-the-wall places used to line the street from Meredith College to the Belltower. These places weren’t flashy; they didn’t need to impress anyone. College students and long-time Raleigh residents would make a day of visiting the dimly lit dive bars and family-owned restaurants. But all that’s changed.

Luxury Apartments Have Replaced Local Landmarks

There was The Brewery, a music venue for up-and-coming artists, where Raleigh locals saw now-famous names like Sheryl Crow, Hootie and the Blowfish, Paramore, All Time Low, and Panic! At The Disco — demolished in August 2011. Stanhope has taken its place.

hotel on Hillsborough Street
The Aloft hotel on Hillsborough Street

There was Sadlack’s Heroes, a sandwich shop by day and bar by night, filled at any given moment with long-time regulars — demolished in May 2014. Its neighbors, Buddha’s Belly, Bell Tower Mart, and Schoolkid Records, were also torn down. The Aloft hotel has taken their place.

Sylvia’s Pizza closed in 2010, replaced by Hot Box Pizza. But even that place closed, too. The building has since been demolished and replaced with 2304 Hillsborough, a new apartment building under construction since August 2015. Only a PokéStop immortalizes the former pizza place.

All of the new apartments have taken the place of old college landmarks: Hillsborough Lofts replaced The Keg and Two Guys Pizza, 2811 Hillsborough replaced Sakura (remember the pink barn?), Stanhope replaced Time Out Restaurant and Katmandu…

Where’s the Character of Hillsborough Street?

Look at the comments section of any new Hillsborough Street development story and you’ll see people’s disappointment, frustration, and bitterness. Even Movoto says that the street has lost something important:

Now Hillsborough Street is a bit of a traffic maze with a mish-mash of various businesses – not all bringing character and uniqueness.

modern facade of apartment building
2811 Hillsborough

While the Aloft hotel and Stanhope went with an NC State-inspired brick exterior, other apartments — namely 1301 Hillsborough, 2604 Hillsborough, and 2811 Hillsborough — stand out with their ultra-modern, sleek facades.

The restaurants are changing, too. The new ones, including H-Street Kitchen and Gonza Tacos Y Tequila, are not cheap eats catering to broke college students, but are instead fine dining establishments worth two dollar signs on Yelp.

Is All This Demolition Making Way for Something Better?

You can’t deny that recent Hillsborough Street improvements have made the street’s walkability a little better. The CVS and (should it indeed take the place of The Alley) the future Target make grocery shopping incredibly convenient for students who live on or close to Hillsborough Street.

The addition of new restaurants underneath new apartment buildings — Stanhope, for instance, has Pieology, IHOP, and Smoothie King — make the area much more of an any-time-of-day destination.

restaurants under apartments
Stanhope and its collection of ground-floor restaurants

Plus, the roundabouts that are coming with Phase II of Hillsborough Street’s revitalization are making the area safer for pedestrians and bikers (and hopefully reducing the awful rush hour traffic).

This College Street is Now a Raleigh Destination

A historic marker for the old NC State Fairgrounds
A historic marker for the old NC State Fairgrounds

The Hillsborough Street area has a long history as an up-and-coming place to be. Tracing its beginnings all the way back to 1792, the street has seen many local icons come and go, namely:

  • North Carolina State Fair: The fairgrounds were located across from NC State from 1873 to 1925, when the fairgrounds moved to the current location at Hillsborough Street and Blue Ridge Road.
  • Varsity Theater: The movie theater was open from 1940 to the 1980s, when it went through times as an X-rated theater, McDonald’s, bookstore, and now H-Street Kitchen.
  • Rathskeller: “The Rat” closed after a few decades in the early 2000s, when it became Porter’s City Tavern, then McDaid’s, which closed in January 2016.
  • College Grill: This college hangout operated from the 1940s to the 1970s. According to Goodnight Raleigh readers, it was located in the now-abandoned bar under Mitch’s Tavern.
  • Edward’s Grocery: This bar/grocery store closed in 1980, like many of the establishments in “Hillsborough Square” (where Liquid State, David’s Dumpling & Noodle Bar, and soon-to-be-built Studio 1912 are located).

Hillsborough Street has become a destination as more and more people attend NC State and move to Raleigh. The Hillsborough Street Renewal Project, which began in 2009, is turning the once-college-student-only hangout into a place to live, work, and play.

What Do You Think? Is Hillsborough Street Dead?

Is the street sacrificing its character to attract more than just college students? Is this area finally getting the attention (and development) it deserves? Or do you have mixed feelings about all the lost icons and brand new features?

Share this post with your friends and leave your memories of NC State’s old haunts in the comments.


More Stuff You’ll Like

Flashback Friday: Hillsborough Street

Before all those cranes and new apartments popped up, Hillsborough Street was a quintessential college student hangout. Here’s what’s changing. READ MORE

The Best Places to Eat at NC State: Hillsborough Street

Whether you want a quick bite to eat or want to treat yourself to a fancy meal, Hillsborough Street has just about everything.  READ MORE

The Best Places to Eat at NC State: Western Boulevard

Starving but don’t feel like parallel parking on Hillsborough Street? Here are our picks for the best restaurants on Western. READ MORE


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