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With the selection of Raleigh architectural firm Clearscapes to design a new train station in downtown, the city will move into a new phase on the long-awaited rail hub.
Mitchell Silver, the citys planning director and an early champion for the station, talked about the project in an interview. Answers have been edited for brevity.
Q. What are some of the challenges posed by the Dillon Viaduct building where the station is planned?
The sunken plaza that will be the primary entrance to the building is going to be a huge challenge. There must be a sealed corridor. People cannot cross the tracks at grade level.
Right now, its planned as an outdoor area. There will be both a ramp and stairs.
Youll have to go down to the plaza, underneath the tracks and then up into the building. How does that work and how do you prevent people from walking straight across the tracks?
The second challenge is that the Viaduct building is a piece of Union Station. There will have to be a connection between the building, above ground, and the Dillon building adjacent on West Street.
This will be the passageway that takes you to future light rail on either Morgan or Hargett street. Were taking a look at which one makes the most sense. We want it to be like an airport with the smoothest transition possible.
There will be an underground hallway to high-speed and Amtrak services. That is another consideration. The whole question is how that connection is designed.
Q. Are there similar projects around the country that can serve as models?
I dont think so. Most train stations are built new, or older stations are rehabbed. It is a unique opportunity.
Q. Describe the experience that you hope to give visitors when they enter the building.
We would prefer to see a lot more glass. Youre in a place where you have full access visually to downtown. We want it to be a gateway to the South. When visitors enter, we want them to feel physically theyre in downtown Raleigh. At nighttime, it would be even more dramatic. They would see downtown glow.
Because it already has historic bones, Im almost sure theyre going to retain that warehouse feel. They could even leave some of the cranes that were used to move material.
Q. What are some ways to incorporate public art into the complex?
There is huge opportunity both inside and outside the building. I just met with the arts commission two weeks ago and had that very same conversation.
Everything is on the table. It could be benches, lighting, seating, creative tiling. Its wide open in how you incorporate public art.
Putting it in parks was the easy part. Weve evolved. Were ready to incorporate art in very unique ways. The possibilities are endless.