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David Meeker is on a mission to preserve Raleigh’s character and culture—one project at a time.
The No. 1 fear you hear from locals? Raleigh losing its identity… morphing into a built-up blueprint of dotted skyscrapers with no forethought of connectivity or personality. Just a concrete and glass jungle where our humble but thriving tree-dotted small city built on Southern charm and a ton of history is but a memory.
Our warp-speed growth—and skyline, with new developments and tower rezoning requests announced on the daily—only serves to simultaneously accelerate our fair city’s cosmopolitan feel and people’s anxiety over losing our traditional culture. But one Raleigh investor is determined to preserve the places and spaces that make Raleigh, well, Raleigh.
Likewise fearing Raleigh is on the fast-track to becoming another Charlotte, Raleigh native and Carpenter Development managing partner David Meeker’s MO has been to keep the character of the City of Oaks with adaptive reuse projects, and he is now branching into new construction with a focus on sustainability via a handful of current projects.
A true investor in his home city, Meeker’s newest endeavors will take his mission of maintaining Raleigh’s personality even further. “We need the density because, without it, we couldn’t have the smaller spots,” he says.
Case in point, SoHi—a two-story, 25,000-square-foot, four-building development featuring retail, a restaurant and a yoga studio, with top-floor offices and coworking spaces to boot.
First announced in 2019 for an otherwise underdeveloped area just a mile south of Downtown on South Wilmington Street, SoHi (dubbed for its location south of I-40) will be one of the greenest developments in Raleigh. Think solar panels on every roof, water cisterns for every building—NTM more bike racks than parking spots (!).
“We are all personally into sustainability and stopping climate change, so it just made sense for us to do as green a development as we can afford to do,” says Meeker. “Hopefully we will have a lot of success with it and others will do the same.”
Projected for 2024 and anticipated to be one of the area’s first new spots, SoHi, Meeker hopes, will revitalize the area. “South Wilmington Street is the old southern entrance to Downtown Raleigh before South Saunders got the I-40 exit,” he says. “SoHi will hopefully bring back life to South Wilmington Street.”
Focusing his efforts elsewhere in Downtown, Meeker, who is also a partner in super-popular Trophy Brewing Co., is arguably positioned to define the future—while preserving the past—of Morgan Street.
In 2020, when now-former owner Arthur Gordon looked to sell Irregardless Cafe—one of Raleigh’s longest-running and most-popular Downtown restaurants—to someone who wouldn’t change it much, he sold it to Lee Robinson and Meeker, who grew up dining there.
Meeker recognizes the growing energy of Morgan Street and how it’s getting built up to become part of Downtown—thanks in large part, he says, to Bloc and The Black Dollar Corp. CEO Johnny Hackett Jr.’s new creator’s space, The Factory. “Johnny’s coworking space (right behind Trophy Morgan) is a gamechanger for our neighborhood,” says Meeker. “The number of people he’s bringing here every day is just wonderful. … And I feel like we have a ton of energy now because of it.”
Now, down Morgan Street, Meeker’s other project —on “the bend” between Irregardless and Trophy Brewing + Pizza, where he bought three houses from a local business owner—will breathe new life into the otherwise arguably undeveloped strip that bridges Downtown to the Hillsborough Street Corridor and Village District. “I didn’t want them to get bought up by someone who was going to build a tower [there],” he says.
Dubbed The Bend, the trio of concepts—slated to bow in fall 2023—will be connected via an almost boardwalk-like shared front porch, so you can traipse back and forth between what Meeker envisions as a coffee shop, wine shop and neighborhood bar—each of which he hopes will be in partnership with established local concepts. The Bend will also include an outdoor area with tables, and a potential shipping container bar and semipermanent food truck.
Clearly, not all heroes wear capes—and this one is quietly quashing Raleighites fears of a concrete jungle while preserving our fave city’s authentic identity—one project at a time.
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