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Wednesday, May 25, 2016
A heavily-wooded lot situated between the I-440 beltline and St. Alban’s Drive near North Hills could soon be redeveloped into a 20-story mixed use development care of Dewitt Carolinas.
Dewitt, which has owned the land since the early 2000s, is essentially requesting to rezone the property to a less restrictive form of commercial mixed-use, its current designation.
While there’s nothing in the property’s immediate vicinity that comes close to the proposed 20-story height, its proximity to North Hills, with its towering office and residential properties, makes the request appear more reasonable than it otherwise might at first glance.
Due to the project’s relatively early stage of development, there haven’t been a ton of details put out so far as to what this project might entail. Here’s how it’s described on the rezoning documents: “This rezoning permits and intense mix of residential, office and retail uses, which facilitates the efficient provision of public services and the opportunity for reducing vehicle miles traveled, which benefits the public.”
Look, I get that the people who do things like prepare rezoning documents and conduct traffic studies and analyze development impacts are all much smarter and more knowledgeable than me, but is there a more ludicrous proposition than “Our giant new development will actually reduce traffic”?
Here’s how that argument works: by building office, residential and retail all together in one place, the people living there are also the people working and shopping there, so they won’t have to drive anywhere, thereby reducing or at least maintaining traffic at its current levels.
I’m not saying that Dewitt is necessarily making this argument for the Quail Hollow project, but I wouldn’t be surprised. I also wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some people reading this who’ve argued from the premise of, mixed-use can reduce traffic, and you’d probably say I’m oversimplifying things. That’s probably true, but it doesn’t make me wrong.
Your contention is probably that no less than the Environmental Protection Agency states that research consistently shows that neighborhoods that mix land uses, make walking safe and convenient, and are near other development allow residents and workers to drive significantly less if they choose.
Of course that’s your contention. You’re a first year traffic engineer. You just finished some Marxian transportation study like Land Use Impacts on Transport by Litman, and so naturally that’s what you believe until next month when you get to Land Use and Traffic Congestion by the Arizona DOT and you’re convinced that higher density and mixed-use developments can reduce total vehicle miles traveled by 25 percent.
But here’s the basic truth of those arguments: they’re saying that mixed-use, as an alternative to another kind of development, generates less traffic. So while the 20-story Quail Hollow project isn’t going to generate as much traffic as perhaps a new shopping center or apartment complex on its own might (and even that sounds a little ridiculous) it’s certainly going to generate more traffic than an empty, wooded lot.
There’s not a whole lot else to say about the Quail Hollow project, so let’s take a quick look at the history of its developer, Dewitt.
Formed in 1992, Dewitt apparently got its start building out a bunch of Baskin Robbins throughout North and South Carolina. That must’ve been a sweet gig. A real treat to work on. They also did some Goodyear Tire projects at the same time, but that’s not as fun.
Since 1995, they’ve developed the following projects in the City of Oaks: North Ridge Crossings, a 244-unit apartment complex, One Renaissance Center, a Class A, 160,000 square-foot office development and The Franklin, a 200-unit luxury apartment complex located on Jones Franklin bordering Raleigh and Cary. Technically, its address is in Cary, but it’s close enough.
Dewitt’s done a number of other projects throughout the Carolinas, including Pier 33, a “luxury, waterfront mixed-use development” located in Wilmington, NC.
They’re all pretty nice looking, if semi-generic developments, which means the Quail Hollow project will likely fit in quite well with the current aesthetic of Raleigh’s development scene. We’ll have more details on this project once the rezoning is approved and the site plans are filed.