Axios Raleigh

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๐ŸŒ„ Good morning. Welcome to Tuesday.

โ›…๏ธ Weather: Increasing clouds with a high of 58ยฐ.

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Today's Smart Brevityโ„ข๏ธ count is 909 words โ€” a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: AI comes for the Triangle house search

Photo: Courtesy of Tomo

A new AI-powered home search portal is launching in the Triangle today.

Why it matters: As more real estate marketplaces integrate AI into their platforms, searching for homes could become a lot faster and easier. Plus, results could be more personalized.

Driving the news: The new technology comes from mortgage platform Tomo, a company founded by a former Zillow executive.

Details: Tomo cofounder Greg Schwartz developed the platform so consumers could search for homes based on specific wants โ€” beyond the number of beds and baths โ€” and shop more like savvy investors.

The intrigue: What makes Tomo different from existing home search giants is the platform's built-in, AI-powered free-text search capabilities, according to Schwartz.

  • The idea, Schwartz tells Axios, is for consumers to describe their dream house the way they might to a friend.

Axios tested the tool and found it was capable of picking up on specific preferences. We plugged in: "Home with a view of Lake Washington, modern design, a rooftop deck, and it's really important for me to have a space to WFH. Oh, the kids love a backyard."

  • More than 300 listing matches came up, clearly tagged with which boxes the home checked. Some had just a couple of the requisite tags checked off, others had most.

Read more... Try it yourself

2. Durham startup raises $53 million

Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Higharc, a Durham software maker seeking to modernize the way builders design homes, is gaining momentum, raising $53 million from investors that include industry leaders like Home Depot and Ferguson.

  • The new round of funding brings the company's valuation to $233 million, Higharc CEO Marc Minor told Axios.

Why it matters: Founded in 2018, Higharc's tools automate much of the design process for new homes. It also creates 3D online models that make it easy for customers to pick design elements.

  • Higharc's software updates plans immediately as design changes are made, taking into account local code rules and how each small tweak could lead to differences in material usage and affect design in other parts of the home.

State of play: Minor said he believes Higharc's tools work better and more efficiently than AutoCAD, a 41-year-old software platform that is still used by a majority of designers and architects.

  • It's even persuaded Carl Bass, the former CEO of Autodesk, which makes AutoCAD, to invest in Higharc.

What they're saying: "90% of homes in the U.S. are designed using a 40-year-old piece of software," Minor said in an interview. "Our goal and our trajectory is to replace that piece of software and to be used on all homes."

Of note: Schneider Electric is also an investor in the company.

The bottom line: The building and construction industry is intrigued by Higharc, Minor noted, because it believes the data its software produces can more accurately forecast the amount of materials needed to build a home โ€”ย potentially cutting down on waste.

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3. The Tea: Craft beer bar opening in 400H tower

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

๐Ÿบ The Brass Tap, a craft beer bar, will open a location in the 400H tower in downtown Raleigh. (Triangle Business Journal ๐Ÿ”’)

๐Ÿš“ The Raleigh Police Department is one of five in the country that will partner with the U.S. Department of Justice to receive more resources to address violent crime. (News & Observer ๐Ÿ”’)

๐Ÿšฐ A federal effort to remove lead pipes from public and private water systems could cause higher prices for utility customers. (WUNC)

โšก๏ธ Attorney General Josh Stein, who is running for governor, is challenging a recently approved rate hike by Duke Energy that would cost the average utility customer $20 more a month. (WRAL)

4. Go get your unicorn sticker

Photo: Wake County Board of Elections

Wake County's early voting sticker features a unicorn and was designed by a local middle schooler.

Flashback: Wake County officials asked middle and high school students last year to design the sticker given to residents who participate in early voting in 2024.

  • The winning design came from Shannon Fisher, who at the time was a sixth grader at Neuse River Middle School.
  • She's since transferred to Thales Academy in Knightdale, as North Carolina Rabbit Hole journalist Jeremy Markovich noted last week, calling Fisher's artwork "transcendent."

What they're saying: "I guess I just like unicorns," Fisher told Markovich, "and I also like my brother."

Share this story ... Go deeper: Guide to voting in North Carolina's March 5 primary

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5. ๐ŸŽธ Quote du jour

Dex Romweber performs with his sister, Sara, as part of the Dex Romweber Duo. Photo: Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images

Jack White, of the band The White Stripes, on Chapel Hill rock legend Dex Romweber, who died Feb. 16 at 57 (via Instagram):

"He wasn't a Rock N' Roll musician, he WAS Rock N' Roll inside and out, without even having to try, he couldn't help himself. People toss that around a lot, but in Dex's case it was actually true."

Why it matters: Romweber influenced a generation of guitarists, like White, with his raucous underground rock groups Flat Duo Jets and the Dex Romweber Duo.

Read Romweber's obituary in Indy Week

6. Fresh eyes on the Triangle

Umstead Park in Chapel Hill. Photo: Katie Peralta Soloff/Axios

Hi, Triangle-area readers. Axios Charlotte editor Katie here.

I recently moved to Chapel Hill with my husband and (almost) 2-year-old daughter. We're always on the lookout for the best kid-friendly spots, so I thought I'd start writing about some of the ones we find and love.

Why it matters: Entertaining a toddler is like a full-time job. Finding free and fun ways to do so in a new town is a big priority for us.

First stop: Umstead Park next to the Bolin Creek Trail in Chapel Hill. The playground was a hit and boasts all the features my daughter loves โ€” big slides (she calls them "wees"), a bouncy rubbery ground covering, swings and lots to climb.

  • The park also has free parking, a basketball court, sand volleyball courts, a picnic area and access to the trail, which is great for running.

Have any toddler-friendly activities/spots in the Triangle you'd recommend? Let me know: [email protected].

๐Ÿง€ Zachery ate a Cheddar Bo Biscuit after reading this story about eastern North Carolina's specialty in making cheese biscuits.

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This newsletter was edited by Jen Ashley and copy edited by Lucia Maher.