Most of us like to bring home souvenirs from our travels, and John Kane, CEO of Kane Realty, is no different. However, instead of buying books, art, or tourist trinkets, he collects design ideas for new buildings.

Visiting notable architectural sites and taking countless pictures has become a consistent part of Kane’s travel itinerary when he is away from Raleigh for business or pleasure. He has seen the Burj Khalifa in Dubai from a helicopter and ventured into the Amazon headquarters’ lobby by accident while exploring Seattle on foot.

“Everyone in our office takes lots of pictures when we are away, because we are all excited about our work,” he said. “We look at everything from a garbage detail to lovely parks. We share those pictures and talk about what works and what doesn’t work.”

Design inspiration from Kane’s trip to China in 2016 can be found in the plans for The Towers at North Hills. Kane said he was fascinated by skyscrapers in major Chinese cities that stacked hotels on top of offices and apartments. Particularly memorable was the International Commerce Center overlooking Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor that has a Ritz-Carlton located on floors 102-118.

The two Towers at North Hills, one residential and one office, are in the design stages and will be built along Six Forks Road and I-440. The residential tower will be more than 30 stories, and Kane has planned 10 levels of boutique hotel rooms and 20 levels of luxury apartments. Next door, the 18-story LEED office tower will feature 12 stories of Class A office space on top of eight levels of integrated parking. The project will include street level shops and restaurants, a terrace with a ballroom, as well as outdoor space.

“As we continue to develop dense urban places, making efficient use of the land in a way that is conducive to your market is very important,” Kane said. “For the Towers at North Hills we combined some ideas that we saw in China, Vancouver, and Seattle that were quite interesting. Building a tower that’s over 30 stories and having a hotel and a residential building in one structure is a big game-changer for Raleigh. No other city in North Carolina has that.”

Kane’s national and international trips have influenced the design and planning of all three phases of North Hills. Historic European and American cities have helped fuel Kane’s commitment to walkability, green space, and public art, while Asian cities and the Pacific Northwest have influenced his creative approach to land use through density. Despite the many ideas he gathers from other cities, he emphasizes that his top priority is creating developments with a strong local identity.

“Each time we start a new project, we explore how we can make the development unique with a sense of place,” he says. “We worked really hard at North Hills to be something you can’t find anywhere else. It has its own feel, its own use, and its own place in the city.”