New Bern Transit-Oriented Development Plans Start To Move Forward

Above is the video for the March 5, 2024 City Council evening session where council revisits the topic of rezoning properties along New Bern Avenue in an attempt to support the now under construction Bus Rapid Transit route. It’s actually a more manageable 40 or so minutes to watch so I encourage anyone to check it out or watch it directly on YouTube here.

Seeing as the rezoning request consists of over 740 properties and spans miles along the New Bern corridor, it was likely that this would be phased in and it sounds like the approach will be to work through those phases at different points in 2024. However, on March 5 progress was made and the Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) ordinance was unanimously approved with the exception of some properties such as historic structures and anyone in a conservation district.

What does that mean exactly?

With the TOD in place along New Bern Avenue, those properties, when redeveloped, will have to conform to transit-friendly designs rather than car-oriented designs. The easiest example to share would be that TOD prevents drive-throughs and gas stations. This is good to see so that any car-dependent development that takes place this year or next would be out of place once the BRT gets going in a few years.

Second, the TOD being in place today enables the affordable housing bonuses. This allows developers to add additional heights to their project if a certain percentage of residential units are included at below market-rate. There’s more math involved in that bonus formula but I’ll leave it at that for now.

The rezoning request includes many height changes as well but council did not move on very much of that on March 5. The properties they did move on are ones that have affordable housing plans in the works which include 600 New Bern Avenue and two city-owned properties. They wanted to rezone the former DMV Headquarters but that needed to wait until the city’s purchase of this property is completed.

Photo of 600 New Bern Avenue

600 New Bern is a big property, consisting of almost eight acres of open space. The owner intends to build housing here including units that would be considered affordable.

The next steps include more discussion and tours of some of the different areas along New Bern. The areas closer to downtown differ compared to those outside the beltline. I’m hoping that the car-oriented spaces such as the near-empty shopping centers and surface parking lots around the Walmart and other suburban-style shops can be rezoned without much debate at the next meeting.

Stay tuned for more updates.

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