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Members of the Raleigh Planning Commission this week approved controversial zoning case Z-2-14, a seven-story, 24-unit student apartment complex with ground-floor retail on Hillsborough Street across from NC State’s DH Hill library.
While the standard objections to new apartment complexes typically deal with the problems posed by increased density, and in Raleigh’s case, an ever-broadening definition of what it means to live Inside the Beltline, the ones raised for the Hillsborough Street building were instead concerned with the way the structure’s developers plan to skirt the guidelines laid out in the city’s Future Land Use Map.
Ken Bowers, the city’s deputy planning director, explained that instead of regulating new buildings simply by their maximum height, the Future Land Use Map also factors in the maximum number of allowable stories, which for this site is capped at five.
“When you start separating those numbers, it becomes somewhat contrary to the intent of how the [Unified Development Ordinance] was constructed,” Bowers said.
Although the development does not exceed the maximum height of 75 feet, which Bowers explained was set to allow for variance in floor-to-ceiling height, representatives from the Wade Citizens Advisory Council and the Cameron Park Neighborhood association voiced strong objections to the building’s proposed violation of the five-story maximum, fearing it would set an unwelcome precedent for future construction.
As the majority of commissioners felt the building’s proposed use, in line with what they said the city had hoped to achieve with its redevelopment of Hillsborough Street, was more important than a partial violation of the Unified Development Ordinance, the project was approved with a vote of 8-2. Final approval on the project is now in the hands of City Council.
Coconut Charlie’s Bump n’ Bounce will soon be opening in a space once occupied by indoor skate-park Project 58 in the Celebration At Six Forks shopping center in North Raleigh. Judging by its name, the new tenant will either be a low-end gentlemen’s club, or a high-end children’s entertainment center. A quick Google search indicates it will be the latter.
Construction permits for the 10,586 square-foot facility were issued April 15, and it will soon be home to a variety of inflatable slides, “bouncys,” an obstacle course, a “soft” playground and more fun things they probably won’t let adults play on.
As part of the $200 million expansion of its northern campus, permits have been issued and work has begun at Wake Tech on a new $6.26 million, 8,990-square-foot regional energy plant and a 7,586-square-foot, $2.65 million pedestrian bridge. Nearby residents with a strange fondness for potable tap water should be pleased to learn that the new energy plant will not include a corresponding coal-ash pond.
Another North Raleigh master-plan expansion is also underway, this one at Rex Hospital. Construction has just kicked off on a new, 147,712-square-foot, $7.5 million parking deck, to be located at 4420 Lake Boone Trail. Both this and the Wake Tech projects are being undertaken by New York construction firm Skanska USA, whose work includes the Brooklyn Bridge Park, New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium and the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The company in 2012 reported revenues of $5.8 billion.
The Historic Oakwood Cemetery, which recently updated its web site and released a smart phone application allowing visitors to take self-guided tours, is now undergoing a renovation of a more physical nature: permits were issued April 14 for a $60,000 alteration to the cemetery’s mausoleum. The work is being handled by local construction and development firm Williams Realty & Building, which can trace its own history back to the 1950s with the construction of the first residential subdivision north of Crabtree Creek.
Structural and cosmetic repairs to the tune of $5,000 are underway for the Taco Bell at 4506 Capital Boulevard, although it’s difficult to imagine how the near-perfect aesthetic of nobody’s favorite Mexican restaurant could possibly be improved upon. If the same brain-trust responsible for the Waffle Taco is behind the new design, it’s a frightening prospect indeed. In all fairness, the Doritos Locos Taco, released in 2012, is one of the most successful fast-food innovations of all-time, having racked up more than a billion dollars in sales in its first year of release alone and spurring the hire of more than 15,000 new employees, at least according to Taco Bell.
No data is available on how legalized marijuana consumption in some states has impacted Taco Bell sales.
Aside from the Hillsborough Street development, the only other case heard by the Planning Commission this week dealt with plans for a new 153,000-square-foot Wake County middle school, which the county plans to build off Leesville Church Road near I-540.
Although some issues were raised by concerned residents about how and where parents would access the property from the surrounding neighborhoods, the Planning Commission’s chief concern dealt with the potential environmental impacts that developing the 37.55-acre property could present.
North Raleigh is no stranger to issues with stormwater runoff as a result of overdevelopment. The case was almost postponed because the current plans for the site were designed to handle only the impact of a 10-year storm. Once promises were made to adjust the plans to deal with a 25-year storm event, the project was approved unanimously.
This week’s Planning Commission meeting also marked the final one for Raleigh’s outgoing planning director Mitchell Silver, who is moving to New York City to manage its parks department. Silver expressed his gratitude for the oft-unappreciated work of the commissioners, with whom he said he has greatly enjoyed working over the years.
“I want to personally thank each and every one of you, I want to thank you for the work you do to make this the best city in the United States,” Silver said.