When a building becomes dilapidated, it’s often torn down to make way for the new. This is not the case for Raleigh Iron Works, located in Raleigh, North Carolina.
This historic space has been reclaimed and transformed into a mixed-use development. In 2021, Jamestown & Grubb Ventures Services broke ground on Raleigh Iron Works and turned to landscape architect Max Cohen at Future Green Studios to craft a landscape design that gets people out of their comfort zone and is LEED certified.
Myatt Landscaping & Construction, based in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, was brought in to execute Cohen’s landscape design. Now open to the public, Raleigh Iron Works has become a destination for businesses, retail and apartment buildings.
“It’s really amazing to see what it was 10 years ago to see what it that this property looks like today,” says Scott Myatt, president of Myatt Landscaping.
The 19-acre campus features two buildings that were originally part of Peden Steel. In the 1800s, the Bow Truss Building was located in downtown Raleigh and was moved to its current location in the 1950s. Peden Steel built the Double Gable building beside it shortly after that move.
The Bow Truss Building includes ground-floor retail space, second and third-floor offices and 370,098 SF of new Class-A office space with covered parking. The Double Gable Building now includes an event space, a corner restaurant, retail spaces and a second-floor office space.
The refurbished space utilizes the industrial framework for art, trellises, monuments and planters in the landscape. Phase one of the project took place from April through September in 2022.
Because Future Green Studio is based in Brooklyn, New York, communication was key to ensuring that everyone was on the same page. Cohen visited the jobsite to help lay out plantings and remained accessible for the team as the project progressed. The Myatt team could FaceTime him when they had questions or needed some additional direction.
“The accessibility and being able to use technology to kind of have him there with us was a plus,” says Kate Watts, the account manager for the project.
Myatt Landscaping frequently partners with outside landscape architecture firms so they are accustomed to having constant conversations to build someone else’s vision.
“We would always send stuff to local landscape architects that we felt good about because they would reciprocate by sending great jobs to us too,” Myatt says. “We’ve always just built a mutual relationship together.”
The hardest aspect of the project was installing it in the summertime. Because the property has no irrigation system, lots of hand watering was required.
“That was intentional, by the way, they wanted the project to follow LEED standards,” Myatt says. “That’s one way they could do it was knowing that we wouldn’t be wasting water for any sort of irrigation system and it would just be done by hand.”
In pursuit of LEED Neighborhood Development certification, Raleigh Iron Works also features native planting.
“We do not have any annuals on the property,” Watts says. “Everything’s perennial and ornamental grasses and shrubs. We have gotten maximum benefit. The landscape took us to, I would say February very successfully with the grasses and the textures and the colors. It was very impressive, actually.”
Jasmine Bee, the estimator for the project, says when they were procuring the plants Cohen requested, some were unavailable and others they knew wouldn’t thrive in the microclimates. They were able to have conversations with the landscape architect about alternatives and make suggestions of their own as well.
“As far as acquiring plant material, we went through a lot of different varieties,” Bee says. “The idea was that we were going to go more native, and we ended up with a lot of native varieties, which I think is cool, and I think it’s working out there. It gives it a lot of different textures and color that’s going on out there. It gives it its character.”
Myatt Landscaping also handles the landscape maintenance of this property. Watts serves as the site’s full-time horticulturist. She says there are 60 containers total on the site and some are on balconies with overhead roofing. This prevents access to rainwater, so they require hand watering. Growth under the balconies is also a challenge with the overhang impacting the plants’ growth direction.
Aside from hand watering, Watts is constantly deadheading and trying to control harmful insects while supporting beneficial ones like butterflies.