Jun 13, 2022 - News

Raleigh's Glenwood South dilemma

Illustration of a cocktail with a garnish shaped like a dollar sign.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Raleighites have long held strong opinions about the city's buzzing bar and nightlife district, Glenwood South.

Over the last two years, as the city fights to bounce back from the pandemic's detrimental impact on local businesses, Glenwood South has re-emerged as one of its liveliest — and most controversial — neighborhoods.

Why it matters: Raleigh's explosive growth brings with it new, young residents who are seeking out a lively social scene, amplifying both the benefits and challenges of what it means to be a growing city. Nowhere is that more evident than on Glenwood South.

  • City leaders will be tasked with keeping residents, business owners and visitors of the district both safe and happy as it continues to grow. To do that, they'll need to find solutions for rising crime rates, noise and traffic problems.

"It's kind of a little mirror of what the city's going through, right, because we're growing and we're dealing with growing pains," at-large Raleigh city council member Jonathan Melton told Axios. "Glenwood South is kind of highlighting some of those issues."

Context: Glenwood South is the largest and most densely populated district in Raleigh. It generated nearly half of all food and beverage sales of downtown districts in the first quarter of this year, according to the Downtown Raleigh Alliance.

  • It's home to and frequented by many different types of people, including college students, young professionals, retired folks and even lawmakers who live part-time in condos in the district.
  • And it leads all other districts in residential growth. Over a third of all planned units downtown are in Glenwood South, the DRA said in its 2021 state of downtown report.

"There's a lot more to Glenwood South than the nightlife," said Will Gaskins, DRA's vice president of economic development and planning.

But a recent spike in crime has put Glenwood South back in the headlines as of late, raising concerns about the safety of the area.

  • In March, a video of two separate but simultaneous incidents that took place on Glenwood South went viral on Twitter, generating 8.5 million views and highlighting the chaos that often occurs in the district in the wee hours of the morning.
  • In a presentation to Raleigh City Council in April, Police Chief Estella Patterson highlighted that the number of concealed weapon violations had tripled, and reported assaults have increased.

What they're saying: Larry Miller, president of the Glenwood South Neighborhood Collaborative, told Axios those kinds of headlines give his neighborhood a bad reputation.

  • "We seem to be a good target for sensational things," Miller said. "Ninety-five percent of the time it's a great place to live, but on the weekends it does get a little wild. So those are the trade-offs."
  • Miller also highlighted that the increase in crime could be attributed to both a growing number of visitors to the district, as well as more police patrolling the area.
  • "So yes, you're gonna have more incidents that are reported," Miller said.

What's next: Development could change the neighborhood's landscape and reputation in the near future.

  • New storefronts, restaurants and offices may mean the district is busier during the daytime and thus less focused on nightlife.
  • A pilot social district on Fayetteville Street, which would allow people to walk around with alcohol, could also provide a "cooling off" for Glenwood, Gaskins said.

In the meantime, city leaders continue to work to make the district safer — by adding more lighting and parking corrals for scooters, for example — but still fun.

"​​It's definitely a challenge, but I certainly think the city overall is better for having an entertainment district like Glenwood South," Melton said.

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