West Johnson Street Rezoning Analyzed

Today, let’s jump over to the corner of West Johnson Street and St. Mary’s. A collection of properties is up for rezoning (Z-55-22) and we’re almost one year into it as the case still has not been denied or approved. Negotiations with residents, mostly from the nearby Forest Park neighborhood, started in May 2022 and the conditions on this rezoning are starting to get a bit much. The latest public hearing, from March 7, 2023, about the case is shown above or you can watch it directly on YouTube here.

For the map fans in the house, the map is here but basically all the properties on the block with the 712 Tucker Apartments are up for possible redevelopment. The request can be summarized as:

  • Current zoning: Neighborhood Mixed Use-3 stories-Urban Limited (NX-3-UL) and Neighborhood Mixed Use-5 stories-Urban Limited (NX-5-UL).
  • Requested zoning: Commercial Mixed Use-12 stories-Urban Limited-Conditional use (CX-12-UL-CU).
  • The request is consistent with the 2030 Comprehensive Plan.
  • The request is inconsistent with the Future Land Use Map.
  • The request is consistent with the Urban Form Map.
  • The Planning Commission recommends approval/denial of the request (5 – 0).

Currently, the properties have nondescript buildings from the 1940s and 1950s serving a variety of small office and retail businesses. The only standout is that My Way Tavern is in a building from the late 1990s. Surrounding all these buildings is surface parking.

At this point, the original rezoning request has been conditioned up. You can read the extensive list of conditions yourself but it’s clear the influence the Forest Park neighborhood has had against this case. Within 150 feet from St. Mary’s Street:

  • Any Bar, Nightclub, Tavern, or Lounge cannot have outdoor seating.
  • Any Bar, Nightclub, Tavern, or Lounge can only operate between 6am and 11pm including deliveries.
  • Buildings heights should not exceed 5 stories and 80 feet.

There are also nitpicks like adding two dog waste stations, a bicycle lane, and a crosswalk.

The final condition worth highlighting is a minimum parking requirement of 0.5 spaces per home, which would likely be apartments, in any future development.

The case is still open and will be revisited at the April 4, 2023 council meeting.

Neighborhood Influence

If I’m hearing some the public comments right, the Forest Park neighborhood has it’s own Development Committee. That’s fantastic from a citizen engagement point-of-view but that is also very influential in a variety of ways. There’s protectionism going on here and is most likely a contributing factor to some of the challenges Raleigh faces with growth today.

Are other neighborhoods getting the same treatment with new rezoning cases adjacent to them as Forest Park is? I’m not seeing that so I hope the councilors take an equitable stance on that as they weigh their decision.

In addition, a reduction in height means less new homes for future Raleigh residents. The homes built will help in adding to our low supply, yes, but height shouldn’t be an issue here in a gridded area of town with a very high walk score and easy access to public transit. Limiting this new development reduces what we throw at the incredibly high cost of housing at this time. I mean, I’m sure as the residents drag this case along, those lawyer’s fees keep adding up and the future residents will pay them off with higher rents.

It’s also sad to me that cars, mainly parking and traffic, are yet again a component in a downtown Raleigh rezoning case. The minimum parking requirement is regressive as the city has no parking minimums and removed this policy in 2022. The concern stems from potential spill over parking into nearby blocks with one resident concerned that he, “can’t park in front of my own house.”

To be frank, I have no sympathy for anyone that can’t park in front of their house on a public street but also has no driveway. If they value parking close to their home, they should renovate their house to include a driveway. All developments nearby don’t have to accommodate for ones personal vehicle use. I feel bold enough to say that that is a bit elitist of some residents.

Instead, we should work together and encourage the city to add better on-street parking management systems such as the permitted system that the city has on offer at this time.

If the developer has already agreed to the current conditions, then fine. This case is good to go as is and I hope what we saw on March 7 is what is approved.

Pic of the Week

The site of the future Raleigh Union Station Bus Facility, or RUS Bus, is looking fresh as the final portions of the former warehouses have been removed. A subset of the walls from the old warehouses were saved and will be incorporated into the new building. You can see them at the corner of West and Hargett as well as the corner facing the Union Station plaza.

What we’re waiting for now is for the site plans to finish their review. You can dive into the public docs at case ASR-0068-2022 on the city’s website here. Highlights include about 585 apartments, ground-floor retail space, in addition to the site’s main purpose, a bus station. I’ve got my fingers crossed for a Spring 2023 ground breaking.

Checking in on the Apartments at Platform and West End

West Cabarrus Street is getting a big shot of residents with more apartment projects. We’ve been tracking The Platform, shown above, and later this year, we should have another project break ground, West End II. That’s about 440 (Platform) plus 240 (West End) equals 680 homes for the area in the coming years.

The Platform project really maximizes the land near the railroad tracks. Cabarrus and Dupont have never looked better. (in my opinion)

Next door, at the corner of West and Cabarrus, will be another apartment project that is planned to break ground this year. West End II will include over 240 apartments and kind of compliment Platform in style. West End plans to open in 2025 so the construction party is only half over for anyone using West Cabarrus.

See more about Platform over at Cline Design.

Filling In the Spaces of Smoky Hollow

I have a quick note before you read any further. I apologize for the boring photos. Why are they boring? Because there are no people in them and that makes places look less interesting. However, what can you do around 10am on a Tuesday, am I right?

Smoky Hollow is starting to make noise and I wanted to run down the spaces and places that are offering up eats and drinks right now in the Hollow. There’s still more to look forward to as we have had some announced places for the near future. (fingers crossed)

Now Open

Hands go up to Dose for opening up first. They offer yoga classes and smoothies at the corner of Tucker and Harrington Streets. If you’re into tea-base drinks, I want to say Milklab is the first to offer these tasty beverages in Glenwood South. I have yet to try Midwood and J. Lights but do make sure and check out their menus.

Coming Soon

There’s plenty of food and drink on this list to keep you busy once the weather gets warm. (which is right now, right?) You may even stumble on an event right down the middle of the Hollow as it has been used for a variety of events including the Raleigh Night Market and Raleigh Fashion Fest.

This spot is certainly maturing these days with the businesses mentioned above and even more ground-floor spaces for new businesses to open up sit available today. There’s so much that can be done here and it’ll be fun to enjoy it as it all opens up.

See you out there.

Pic of the Week

400H has been getting all dressed up lately. The glass tower at 400 Hillsborough Street definitely looms over the street as you get into town and cross the bridge. The mixed-use project looks to be topped out and I imagine soon the tower crane will come down as workers add the finishing touches.

The tower should be open this Fall. Let’s review the stats of 400H. From bottom to top:

  • Gound-floor retail
  • Parking on floors 2 and 3
  • Office on floors 4 to 8
  • Amenities on floor 9
  • Apartments from 10 to 20

That’s a pretty good mix of uses which I’m hoping keeps this area vibrant seven days a week. Check out more about the project at 400hraleigh.com

Happy 16, Connoisseurs

It has now been 16 years since I started the blog and I couldn’t be happier with the current state of it. There are still new readers that are discovering it for the first time as well as long time followers who are sticking with me. I appreciate all the kind words everyone has sent in and for any of your contributions including eyes-on reports, photos, and curious thoughts.

This is an excellent time in the post to state that I also appreciate those who have contributed financially to help with the maintenance of this site as well as the chattier, sister site, the DTRaleigh Community. I only ask once a year but if you find value, in any way at all, for the online work that I do about downtown Raleigh, consider a small tip over here through my Paypal. Suggested amount is currently at $16 so get it in now before it’s $17 next year.

I can’t help but put it out there that I am having a BALL being in and around downtown Raleigh. Things are still kicking and there is no shortage of fun times to be had. Food and drinks are top of mind but I’m including other things like events, museums, music, performances, and the arts. With a little planning, a lot of people can have a great day or night out in downtown.

However, being a local, and running a blog for over 16 years, means you start to notice some things, some trends.

If you are a local news junkie like me, the headlines aren’t helping downtown Raleigh. This is a hard perspective to see, as a local, but I feel that if you have never been to downtown, or the city in general, judging us by the news and online chatter will tell you a few things. The main one I wanted to call out today is a perception that we’re demolishing all our historic buildings and replacing them with soulless glass towers.

Defining historic is tough and very subjective. What is a historic building anyway?

The underlying frustration from locals is probably seeing parking lots, some of them not even paved but made of gravel, remain in downtown while century-old buildings, perfect for renovation, are instead torn down. The opinion spectrum is wide on this topic but I have a working theory that the loss of the business inside an older building is more valuable than the building itself.

Take for example The Berkeley Café at 217 West Martin. If the building was empty, would the rezoning case that threatens demolition have been amended later to exclude the building? I don’t think it would have been. It helped that The Berkeley was there and the owners removed the rezoning of 217 West Martin and even extended the lease for The Berkeley.

Another example is Goodnight’s, the comedy club formerly at 865 West Morgan Street. Would the demolition of their location have been so news-worthy if locals thought Goodnight’s was closing for good? I’m not so sure it would have been.

Today, Goodnight’s moved over to nearby Village District but the building at 865 West Morgan is now gone. The Berkeley Café is still open in the same location but the future of the business, and the building, is still undetermined.

So which story are you reading? The possibility of Goodnight’s or The Berkeley Café closing or the demolition of the buildings they occupy?

I think the point I’m trying to make is that it’s so important to support the people, typically that’s also their local business, that is affected by the changes going on in downtown Raleigh. We have national attention on us now and while some big-time projects are good for the health of the city, it can’t come at the expense of the people who are making downtown local.

I feel this is ultimately what people want, more so than to save a building. We want local tastes to thrive and the growth threatens that, more so than just tearing down buildings from past centuries. At least that’s the theory I’m working on.

This brings me to my header image at the top. Here is West Street in October 2012. This is before The Dillon, Raleigh Union Station, Citrix, and Morgan Street Food Hall. At the time, I would have called this a pretty dead street. Other than Five Star, this area didn’t have much going on as a majority of that warehouse space was empty.

Today, the street is obviously very different and tends to be vibrant throughout the day. Even more is coming to the area and while some hate to see the demolition of the warehouses, I just can’t get behind it when you think about what is was like and what it is now. Even more so with the fact that the buildings were empty. Five Star did relocate further down West Street by the way.

Now it may be a huge hassle for a business to move like Goodnight’s or Five Star did. I don’t know, I’m not a business owner, but it can be done and I imagine it’s easier when locals like us support them through it. That’s what’s really important and what drives downtown vibrancy from my perspective.

I’ll leave it at that for today but next time, as I’m sure it’ll happen again, when an older building facing re-development hits the news, think about the local businesses that are affected and your feelings towards the building itself. As always, make sure you are spending your dollars at these places cause that is the best way to help them out and keeping downtown local as much as freakin’ possible.

Kindley Street Getting in on the Upzoning Action and Mira Raleigh Apartments Under Construction

Kindley Street is not mentioned all that much in the news. Mainly because it is a dead-end street that branches off Salisbury Street. In this section of downtown, there have been one-story, suburban style office buildings probably since the 1980s. (or even earlier) That dynamic is already starting to change.

Zooming in, I am mostly talking about some land that is southwest of the train tracks crossing Kindley Street. A collection of properties have been acquired and there is a new rezoning on the table to raise the height limit from the current 20 stories up to 40 stories. In addition, construction of a building with 288 apartments is already taking place. Finally, we may see Kindley Street connect to Martin Luther King Jr Blvd in the future.

You can see the site in the google map aerial above, highlighted in orange. Again, it’s probably not an area most go to as Kindley dead ends and there isn’t much there to begin with. (more so now after all the recent demolition nearby)

A new apartment building, named Mira Raleigh, is already constructing some future homes. It’s a tough location to photograph but you may have seen the building come up if driving down MLK. Here’s one photo, in addition to others, on the Community.

Rezoning case Z-088-22 has a majority of the property wanting to go taller. What’s also interesting is a separate subdivision case that may connect Kindley Street to MLK. The way I’m reading things, it actually looks like they own the northbound ramp from MLK to McDowell Street so I feel this may be removed if this new street configuration is put in place. I’m sure an alternate route will be put in place.

The rezoning case is still in the early stages and has yet to go before the planning commission. I’d like to think this is an easier rezoning to approve as no existing structures are impacted, there’s no traffic increase for anyone to complain about, and the location is very close to the downtown core.

If interested in this area, make sure to also check out nearby Salisbury Square.

Pic of the Week

Freedom Park has it’s signature piece installed. Work has been a bit slow but that can’t come to a surprise to anyone with the state of construction these days. A lot of earth moving has taken place since we’ve last checked in with the site and today you can see the outline of the walkways. The retaining wall edges of the walkway and plazas are somewhat in place also.

Get to know more about the project right here.