I’m sticking with the same Smoky Hollow location as last week. This time, we’re looking at the office tower at 421 North Harrington Street. The nine-story building looks almost complete when looking at it from the outside. Since the nearby Peace building across Johnson is open to provide parking, I would think the building could be up and running pretty soon.
Assuming companies are still wary to come back to in-person working, the office scene may stay quiet for the rest of the year. Still, this building will be among a few new office additions to downtown as we watch Bloc 83 and Raleigh Crossing rising up.
Over by Smoky Hollow, The Line apartments are really showing their presence on West Street. This is over 280 apartments in a key part of Glenwood South and part of the overall Smoky Hollow project.
Once open next year, this will project will really help solidify Glenwood South as the most densely populated area in the Triangle. It could probably use some sidewalks along West Street if that’s the case, am I right?
The blog and Community tend to focus on new developments in the downtown core, such as 301 Hillsborough or The Willard hotel, that we may be overlooking some other activity just on the outskirts of downtown Raleigh. I thought it time for another Walk Series post to show off the east side of downtown, mainly the New Bern corridor.
The New Bern corridor interests me mainly due to some key observations and upcoming projects:
Planned location of the city’s first Bus-Rapid Transit route
Increased residential units from new townhome developments
Upcoming zoning conversations for the area
Loosely defined, for this Walk post, I’m focused on New Bern and Edenton Streets between Tarboro and East.
BRT Transit is Coming
With the implementation of the 1/2 cent sales tax for transit in 2017, higher-capacity transit, among other improvements, are being planned all over the county. Along New Bern and Edenton Streets, bus-rapid transit (BRT) will be rolling through in a few years if everything stays on schedule.
Being one of four planned BRT routes, high frequency transit will be flowing in and out of downtown Raleigh to the eastern parts of the county. Read more about the plan for BRT here.
The corridor may see dedicated bus lanes, expanded bike lanes, and new sidewalks on both sides of the street. It’s a big upgrade for the same corridor that currently runs the GoRaleigh bus route with the second highest ridership in that transit system.
Tarboro and New Bern/Edenton is loosely planned to get a BRT station on this upgraded route. The next stop inbound would be downtown itself.
Last reported, before the pandemic hit, plans were to be rolling buses in 2023-2024.
From Single-Family to Townhome
Historically, the corridor consists of many larger lots with single-family homes. You can still get a sense of the character going back to the early 1900s with the bungalows and larger houses facing the street.
However, it’s not hard to spot some newer homes, mostly of modern architecture style, sprinkled throughout the area. These homes were popping up between about 2008 until today. These homes add a stark contrast to the area as you can see in the photos.
And if you really look more, the modern townhome seems to be making its way into the corridor as of recently. First, the ten-unit project named 10 Arros completed along New Bern within the last few years. Construction is currently taking place at 625 New Bern where 18 units are planned. Similar modern style as the former.
Finally, across the street from 625 New Bern is Oak City Overlook. This development plans 20 modern townhomes and land has already been cleared at the site.
Could more be coming? I’ve seen plans submitted for more and you have for sale signs like this one at 914 New Bern which advertise, “Townhome/Condo Site for Sale.”
And there’s no shortage of space along this corridor. As I mentioned earlier, the single-family houses are on large lots that could easily be subdivided.
You also have the North Carolina State government vacating a large site at New Bern and Tarboro. The long-time site of the NC DMV is being vacated soon and that’ll put 5.4 acres of land a stone’s throw away from a rapid transit stop. Any development here, plus the adjacent surface parking that supported the NC DMV, could greatly change over if the state decides to sell it.
We also have 8 acres of undeveloped land at New Bern and Swain. Currently, the lot is only partially used by the Exploris school in temporary buildings but 8 acres offers a ton of flexibility, capable of a pretty transformative project. Just look at the map above, it’s that empty lot in the middle. That’s huge!
Zoning it Properly
From my perspective, you have two forces that are about to collide. The development is coming. Should transit only serve the single-family and new, high-end townhomes being built here?
To get more people access to the future transit network, an awkward conversation is soon to come, Raleigh. It’s time to talk about re-zoning the area.
This is a good time to revisit a collaborative post I did about a zoning tool called the Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District (NCOD) and it just so happens that this area has one right in the middle. Below is the New Bern – Edenton NCOD and you can see, almost everything mentioned so far sits right inside it.
In short, the NCOD applies additional restrictions on height, setbacks, and is a tool to encourage new development be consistent with the current character. This NCOD was put in place in 1992.
To make transit more effective, these townhome developments help but we’ll need some larger projects in here to ensure additional office and residential density as they will be within walking distance of a high-frequency bus stop. It is a prime opportunity to get Raleigh residents on a car-less lifestyle at a variety of income levels.
I feel that the NCOD implemented in 1992 needs a revisit and with the current talks of more affordable housing around transit, it would be better to deliver hundreds (thousands?) of new units here rather than status quo townhomes near transit.
The land is still available but the development is starting to pick up. I’m hoping the city can start purchasing land for affordable housing as well as pushing for new zoning updates to match our 2030 and beyond goals as a city.
More conversations on this topic are sure to come.
Affordable housing isn’t a typical topic of the blog but this year, I’ve been following two initiatives that may provide atypical housing at a lower price point in Raleigh. These include:
The City of Raleigh wants to sell a plot of land in East Raleigh for $1 (one dollar) in exchange for affordable housing.
On election day, you’ll see an option to approve, yes or no, an $80 million housing bond. Jump to more on this on the city’s website.
Lane-Idlewild Affordable Housing
The city wants to leverage over an acre of land on East Lane Street to get some affordable housing units built. The proposal on the table is that the land, valued at over $1.4 million, would be sold for $1 (yes, one dollar) in exchange for more affordable housing.
One of the key criteria here is having at least 51% of the proposed residential units being affordable. In this case, affordable means that it is targeting individuals at the 80% area median income level. (see more about AMI here)
The proposal submission date was in August and the city was flooded with around 32 proposals. This week, the city council moved ahead and the list of applicants has been reduced to four.
Here is a brief overview of the four applications.
Rendering shown above
proposes 10 lots, each with a duplex and an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU).
mix of rental units available to <50-60% AMI, <70-80% AMI and <80-100% AMI
affordability preserved for a minimum of 20 years.
proposes 11 rental units across duplexes and quadraplexes
all units will be available to <40% AMI
tenants will pay a maximum 30% of their income for rent
minimum of 30 years of affordability
will provide a community garden and on-site management services
proposes a mixture of 44 rental suites and units across detached, attached and ADUs
the single-family building types include 1 and 2 bedroom living options arranged as a co-living layout
propose a mix of 50% of affordable suites for <50% AMI and 50% for <80% AMI, or 40% of units at <50% AMI and 60% of units at <80% AMI
a 25-year initial term of affordability.
Raleigh Area Land Trust
proposes 16 Cottage Court units for sale across 8 duplexes
propose 50% (8) of the units be sold to <50% AMI
25% (4) units to <60% AMI
25% (4) units at Market Rate.
RALT would retain ownership of the land while leasing it to the homeowners through a 99-year, inheritable, renewing ground lease, while limiting equity accrual in order for the homes to be resold to other income-qualifying households.
This is such an interesting project and some good proposals are on the table.
Affordable Housing Bond 2020
With voter approval in November, $80 million would be used to fund affordable housing in a variety of ways. From a July 2020 update, the breakdown of those funds are shown below.
What has me most interested in this bond is that money will go directly into purchasing land around transit. We already know where that land is going to be as we’ve been undergoing a Wake Transit Plan since adoption in 2017. I wouldn’t be surprised if the BRT routes are the areas where land purchasing will take place.
In response to concerns about getting the needs from this bond to the ones that need it most, those at the lowest income scale in Raleigh, I’d like to borrow Councilor Melton’s update after the council’s September 1 meeting.
We also adopted the recommendation to produce more housing units affordable at 30% area median income (AMI). At the meeting this week, staff presented policy recommendations for producing more housing affordable at 30% AMI.
Staff recommended allocating $10 million from the bond funds for permanent supportive housing for very low income (30% AMI or lower) chronically homeless individuals, $10 million from the bond funds for non-profit partners to create or preserve small scale projects where not less than one-third of total units serve 30% AMI or lower, and $8 million from the bond funds plus regulatory incentives for new rental developments where not less than 20% of the units are affordable for not less than 30 years. Staff also recommended requiring 25% of units in 9% tax credit projects and 10% of units in 4% tax credit projects to target creating housing affordable at 30% AMI.
We voted to adopt and approve all of these recommendations.
9/1/2020 meeting summary: Affordable Housing Bond, micromobility (scooters!), big rezoning – link
It’s a pretty large initiative that certainly attempts to close the gap on Raleigh’s housing needs and deserves your consideration when voting this Fall.
The latest iteration for the property at 615 West Peace Street is now a residential building named 615 Peace. One and two bedroom units are planned for an empty site that has gone through a few proposals over time, including a hotel with a controversial rezoning.
Even with the ongoing pandemic, downtown residential occupancy is very strong according to the Downtown Raleigh Alliance’s latest State of Downtown Raleigh report.
The project’s site also mentions ground-floor retail which is refreshing to see on a busy street like Peace. The plans look pretty decent so I’m hoping the condo market makes it happen as rentals still seem to dominate downtown.
Starting this week, the city is having protected bike lanes installed on West and Harrington Streets as part of the Downtown North-South Greenway Connector. This will be downtown’s first protected bike lane which connects the warehouse district to Smoky Hollow. You can already see parts of it along West, shown above.
Along West Street, bicycle traffic can start from Union Station and head toward Smoky Hollow in the protected lane until North Street. If heading the other way around, you can get back to the warehouse district riding down Harrington Street.
The placement of the lanes is also nice as there are several Citrix Cycle stations along them including Union Station, across from Morgan Street Food Hall, Hillsborough Street, and at Jones Street.
This is excellent to see as it is a foundational route that one day could connect to a greenway heading north along a Devereux Meadows park in north downtown and to a greenway to Dix Park which is to the south. The lanes should be 100% by October.
The demolition continues on Caswell Square, this time with the Oral Hygiene building along Dawson Street coming down. By the time you read this, it is most likely gone.
The demolition on the square itself started in March 2020, see this post, and no plans for the land have been announced. If I recall correctly, this is the last building to be removed from the square.
I said it before and I still continue to think that the state government needs to improve the management of their own properties as the loss of these buildings, with private interest in rehabilitation, is a loss for downtown Raleigh.