More on the Upcoming Dillon Supply Company Warehouse Rezoning

Dillon Supply Company warehouse

Click for larger

According to the May 26, 2015 Raleigh planning commission agenda, the rezoning request for the Dillon Warehouse Company building is at bat. I wanted to get into it today before the meeting and maybe follow up in the comments after the results.

For a little background, jump to this post:

Multiple Rezoning Requests on the Table

If you want to get into it, search the city’s website for case Z-1-15.

The request is to rezone the group of properties, listed in the case, for buildings up to 20 stories with some conditions. Here are a few key ones that stuck out to me:

There are a few more that deal with parking but we’ll get to that soon. Just like the story at 301 Hillsborough, there are those for and against this rezoning.

The opponents claim that 20-story buildings are out of place with the warehouse district and that removing one of the great warehouses would be detrimental to the area’s vitality. Those very pro-development want to see intense urban growth in the city’s core as well as making the most for our public dollars being invested across the street in Raleigh Union Station.

Reading these conditions, it sounds like work has been done to perhaps make a compromise.

I thought about it a lot and I lean more toward pro-growth and getting some bang for my dollar in the Union Station project. However, I do love the warehouse district and for us to even have a district at all we need, well, warehouses.

My fear isn’t losing Dillon Supply as it sounds like there are conditions in place to help maintain the facade. I’ll be interested to hear discussion about the 9-story cap on 65% of the southern block as that may limit what a developer can do compared to 20. Still, 9 floors of active space is way better than the zero we have today.

My biggest fear is of course my favorite topic. Parking.

I wrote about what the Citrix project has done to the warehouse district and I fear the project here will do the same.

Less intense development = less of a case for transit. That means large parking decks will be built and downtown is still not moving closer to being a multi-modal area. Raleighites will still find it more convenient to drive to this location, even when across the street from our central transit station.

On top of that, the parking situation with this rezoning leaves some possible undesirable effects. I’m pulling all this from the agenda, emphasis added by me:

However, there are several urban frontage requirements that would not necessarily be addressed, notably design standards that would require structured parking to have active uses on the ground story between the sidewalk and the structure. The conditions do require that W. Hargett and W. Martin Streets have active uses between any parking structure and the rightof-way. The conditions also offer that at least 45% of the width of any parking structure on S. West and S. Harrington Streets would have a “non-parking use” between the structure and the right-of-way. While this provision does offer some guarantee of active uses (or at least nonparking uses) on the ground-floor on these streets, it still leaves a significant portion of building area – some of which would be directly across the street from Union Station – that would not be required to have active uses.

We could see long stretches of the future development being long, blank walls (hello Citrix!) which doesn’t add anything to the urban form of the area. Again, that’s less desirable here because of Union Station being right across the street.

I’ll end here with the conclusion from the agenda:

The proposed rezoning is consistent with the Future Land Use Map and would allow an appropriate density and mix of uses on a site located next to the city’s future transit hub. However, the proposal is not consistent with the Urban Form Map as well as key policies from the Comprehensive Plan. The Urban Form Map and policy guidance from the Comprehensive Plan require an urban frontage designation or a conditioned equivalent, the latter of which the proposal has not fully provided.

In my opinion, the request makes me nervous for the future of the warehouse district. I’m not talking about torn down warehouses. I’m worried about the warehouses being shells for parking decks. I want to see the warehouses incorporated into complex building plans that are interesting and are activating the sidewalks. That’s urban to me.

I hope that the commission can take pause and not be swayed by an opportunity for parking to support Union Station masked by the face of “new development that supports transit.” For me, I need to see this issue improved for my support.

I’ll definitely be watching this discussion and let’s get a conversation going afterwards.

Pic of the Week

Construction at Exchange Plaza

Great to see construction starting on the makeover of Exchange and Market Plazas. The construction should wrap up this Fall.

Construction at Exchange and Market Plaza

Choose Our Transit Video

I recommend email readers click through to the website to see the embedded video.

Still on my to-do list is to catch up on the Choose Our Transit sessions. Above is the video of the meeting that took place on May 11 at the convention center. If you can’t see the embedded video, go see it on YouTube here.

To dive right into things, see the full Expanded Transit Choices report on the Choose Our Transit website.

The consultant, Jarrett Walker and associates, has also introduced the report on their blog.

This begins a period of public discussion about the report and the choices it outlines. That discussion will give us direction on what form the final recommended plan should take. That plan, in turn, will form the basis for a proposed referendum on a sales tax increment to fund expanded transit.

*Raleigh: Four (or 36) alternatives for Wake County’s transit future via Human Transit.

I’m sure downtown Raleigh will be a key role in no matter what comes out from the plan. However, how many routes and the kind of ridership levels coming into and out of downtown could change based on some of the recommendations.

Let us know what you find interesting and make sure to provide feedback, not here but on the sites linked above.

The Link Apartments Tops Out

The Linnk Apartments under construction

Well almost topped out. I took a walk around the site of The Link and this apartment project is currently in the “beehive” construction phase. The eastern most side of the building is topped out with the western half almost there. Last time we talked about The Link on the blog was in November 2014 and the building wasn’t out of the ground yet.

This building has a real impact on the intersection of West and Jones Street which should see a real uptick in pedestrian activity due to all the new residents in the area.

Nothing thrilling to report really but it was time to check in on this one again.

The Linnk Apartments under construction

Municipography, 300 Block of Hillsborough Street

Municipography is a summary of current issues going through the Raleigh City Council and other municipal departments in the city. The point is to try to deliver any video, photos, and text associated with the discussions happening at City Hall or elsewhere. Since this is a downtown Raleigh blog, the focus is on the center of the city.

I recommend email/RSS readers click through to the website to see the embedded video.

If you want to become an expert on everything related to the 300 block of Hillsborough Street then this Raleigh City Council video is the one to watch. I actually enjoyed the discussion and if there is any amount of municipal geek in you, then this video is the one to watch to the end.

If the video embed doesn’t show, go here to watch it.

The video of the council discussion has the following:

The short summary I can give is that the council wanted as many facts as possible before “letting go” of this city-owned land. Some felt that discussion should continue, at another time, to see how the land could be leveraged for community benefits, affordable housing being the most talked about. At the same time, with no plan or policy in place today, some felt that this particular piece of land should not be cherry picked into forcing those covenants onto it.

It’s definitely a tough decision and while the rezoning for the 20-story maximum limit was passed there’s still a conversation to be had about how to “dispose” of the property. That will be handled in the Budget and Economic Development Committee.

The old zoning had no height limit and any new proposal had to be reviewed for approval. What the 20-story height limit now does is that any building proposed that is under that limit immediately is approved. It’s like setting the boundaries for development ahead of time and if new proposals fall within that boundary, faster approvals take place.

The opinions were all over the place. Residents in The Dawson wanted something that matches their building, something with a 7-story maximum. A representative from the Downtown Raleigh Alliance sees the density as supporting more retail, more restaurants, and brings us that much closer to actually getting a grocery store in downtown Raleigh, something that at this point is the holy grail in some people’s eyes. The owner of the building, more like a historic house, at the corner of Hillsborough and Harrington, where the law firm is located, even said he saw the rezoning as a “down-zoning” as it was made clear that the previous approval here was a 32-story building. That was approved back in 2006.

In my opinion, I agree that affordable housing is very important. So let’s talk about it. Where is the “Downtown Affordable Housing Action Plan” or something similar? Who, or what group, can spearhead that effort? We should get that initiative rolling so that when future opportunities on city-owned land come up, just like the one here at 301 Hillsborough, council will know what to do and have the confidence of modifying plans so that they benefit the community in a positive way. What shouldn’t happen is rush to form a plan at the last minute just because we see an opportunity.

Since that plan is not in place, let’s not slow things down and I’m happy to see the council approve this rezoning.

As a side note, it’s unfortunate that councilor Eugene Weeks, representing District C where the most affordable housing in the city is located, didn’t say a word during the 1 hour and 15 minutes that this discussion took place. Sure, 301 Hillsborough is in District D but I almost look to him for guidance seeing as he should have the most experience with tons of city-owned properties turned affordable housing taking place in east and southeast Raleigh.

Union Station Groundbreaking on Social Media

Email readers: This blog post has embedded tweets and photos. Read the post on the blog to see them if they are not appearing for you.

I unfortunately could not make it to the Union Station groundbreaking yesterday but I wanted to gather up a few posts from Twitter and Instagram so that others that didn’t make it could get an idea of how the “ground” was “broken.”

Hoping for a big opening party in 2017!

Breaking ground for the #Raleigh Union Station!

A photo posted by Raleigh Planning & Development (@raleighplanning) on

Ground has been broken for Raleigh's Union Station. 🎉🎉

A photo posted by Ian F.G. Dunn (@ifgd) on

Pic of the Week

Raleigh Space parklet on Salisbury Street

The Raleigh [ ] Space parklet on Salisbury Street is looking real good this Spring.

Hilton Garden Inn on Davie Street Rendering, Shows Glass and Curves

Rendering of the Hilton Garden Inn planned for the corner of Davie and McDowell Streets

Rendering of the Hilton Garden Inn planned for the corner of Davie and McDowell Streets. Click for larger.

Coming up during this week’s Raleigh Appearance Commission meeting are plans for the 13-story, 158′ Hilton Garden Inn tower. This project is planned for the northwest corner of Davie and McDowell Streets. With a ground floor lobby, floors 2-5 are for parking, and 6-13 for hotel rooms.

After looking at the documents shared in the meeting agenda, the site is predominantly replacing the Turn Key Tire shop that sits right at the corner along with the brick, one-story warehouse that runs along Davie Street. As a result, if I’m reading this right, the building next door with the trophy shop will also be removed too and the tiny little building nearby along McDowell.

And what a cleanup job this will be as tons of utility lines and terrible sidewalks will be removed and replaced, in front and around the building. Behind it, a public alley will be built for loading/unloading of trash and other services. There’s a vehicle entrance on Davie Street and the plans don’t quite show exactly how the lobby and any potential retail space is broken up.

Rendering of the Hilton Garden Inn planned for the corner of Davie and McDowell Streets

Rendering of the Hilton Garden Inn planned for the corner of Davie and McDowell Streets. Click for larger.

Current site

Current site.

In my opinion, this is probably the best looking hotel proposal in recent memory. The urban form is great and is adding density to new areas of downtown that essentially has none. Bravo to the team behind this project and let’s make it happen.

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