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Mordecai Historic Park: Requesting off-street parking reduction of 31 spaces

posted Jul 26, 2012, 11:11 AM by Reid Serozi   [ updated Aug 6, 2012, 7:30 PM ]
A public hearing on the following case will be held by the RALEIGH BOARD OF ADJUSTMENT on Monday, August 13, 2012, beginning at 1:00 P.M. in the Council Chamber, Room 201 of the Raleigh Municipal Building located at 222 W. Hargett Street, Raleigh, North Carolina.

Raleigh Board of Adjustment Agenda

We [City of Raleigh] are requesting off-street parking reduction of 31 spaces. We are requesting minimal modification to the existing transitional yard conditions. Due to existing property conditions, we are not able to meet the off-street parking and transitional protective yard requirements.

1. Parking

The original Master Plan for the Mordecai Historic Park, adopted by City Council in August 1968, identified alternative locations for the interpretive center on Mordecai Historic Park with parking spaces on Mimosa Street for the Park and the interpretive center. In the early 1970’s, City of Raleigh Planning Department installed 34 parking spaces on Mimosa Street to accommodate the parking needs of the park per Council direction. Parks and Recreation staff has since been maintaining these parking spaces including repaving, restriping, cleaning and plowing. These spaces are not maintained by Public Works Street Division.

The 1989 Council-adopted master plan for the park included a 5,000+/- square-foot visitor center to be used for interpretive displays, offices and educational programs, and support spaces. The master plan recommended 3 off-site alternative locations for the interpretive center, all of which were not owned by the city at that time.

In 2011, Parks and Recreation staff and project consultant went through a master plan amendment process and reviewed the alternative locations identified by the previous master plans. A draft location was proposed on the Mordecai Historic Park property. This location was reviewed with Zoning staff and received positive feedback in terms of zoning compliance. However, this location, along with other potential alternatives on the park property, received tremendous criticism from the community. At the end of the public participation process, the property at 1101 Wake Forest Road became available and was supported by the Council and overwhelmingly by the community to be used as the interpretive center. The historic house on the property (c. 1913) is a contributing structure to the Mordecai Place National Register Historic District and is located across Cedar Street from the Park.

The Interpretive Center will not introduce new uses to the park. All the program elements in the proposed center building are currently accommodated in the existing historic structures and on the grounds of the park. The uses currently contained within the historic structures in the Park will be relocated to the Interpretive Center to allow the historic structures to be fully restored and exhibited as artifacts.

The original purpose of building the interpretive center was for the conservation of the historic park. Currently some of the historic buildings and spaces are used for storage and operation. 2 of the 3 original buildings are not on tour. 3 rooms in the Mordecai House are not open. One relocated building is used as an office and not open to public. Recreation staff has plans to restore and display the Mordecai House and other historic structures for their intended use. With this new interpretive center, we will have an opportunity to consolidate the visitor experience and better showcase the historic buildings on the park

The Interpretive Center is required to provide 33 parking spaces (existing 34 on Mimosa St.) per Zoning Section 10-2081(a) on the same parcel with the building. The proposed renovated Interpretive Center will add (2) accessible spaces at 1101 Wake Forest Road. No other on-site parking is proposed at this location due to the following reasons:

A. As previously master planned, there is and has been sufficient existing parking on Mimosa Street to support the park use.
B. There is no increase in use or program elements for the new Interpretive Center.
C. There are no other feasible sites available in the vicinity to accommodate a parking lot for 30+ spaces without severely impacting any historic sites or the unique characteristics of the Mordecai Place National Register Historic District. 

2. Transitional protective yard

The 1101 Wake Forest Road property is located in SPR-6 zoning district. The Interpretive Center is classified as “Library, art gallery, or museum – governmental” which is a permitted use within the SPR-6 zoning district (10-2018(b)(1). Per 10-2082.9, a Transitional Protective Yard is required to separate this use from the adjacent residential uses. The Interpretive Center is classified as a medium impact use (10-2082.9(e)(2)) which requires a 30’-0” transitional protective yard at the north side and west rear yards (10-2082.9).

The existing historic house is non-conforming as it is presently 17’-0” from the north property line. A one-story classroom addition to the rear of the house will be 27’-0” from the north property line and 20’-0” from the west property line. The zoning code allows these reduced dimensions if tall privacy fences are provided. The property is currently screened with a mix of hedges, plant materials, and fences that have been in place since the 1970s. Rather than disrupting the longstanding context of the historic neighborhood, a variance is requested to maintain, repair and improve these existing conditions to protect the character of the historic residential neighborhood.

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  • City of Raleigh Contact:  Shawsheen Baker
  • Mordecai CAC Contact:
  • Attend the upcoming Board of Adjustment hearing (meeting info posted above)

Letter from Mordecai CAC Chairs to City of Raleigh

From:  <>
Date: Mon, Aug 6, 2012 at 1:04 PM
Subject: Re: Mordecai Interpretive Center on 8/7 Council agenda
To: "Baker, Shawsheen" 

Hi, Shawsheen.

Rebekah Weber and I are the co-chairs of the Mordecai CAC. We would like to express our strong personal support for the Mordecai Interpretive Center schematic design, and for moving forward with this project. We are unable to speak for the CAC at this time because we have been on break this summer, and have not taken a vote as a CAC on this matter. The soonest we would be able to do that is October 9, following discussion at our next meeting on September 11.

Personally, we are very excited about this project, and think it will be a tremendous asset to our community and to the City of Raleigh. We commend you for your hard work on this project, and we particularly appreciate the city's willingness to consider other approaches, as the earlier idea of building a new center on Historic Mordecai's grounds raised some concerns among the CAC. We would appreciate it if you could send our comments to the City Council, again stipulating that we are unable to speak for the CAC as a whole at this time.

Thank you for your time and efforts on this project!

Kim Gazella and Rebekah Weber
Co-Chairs, Mordecai CAC