Letter Sent to WPU Trustees

posted May 21, 2013, 8:40 AM by Philip Bernard   [ updated May 21, 2013, 8:43 AM ]

The following letter was sent to WPU Trustees:

May 21, 2013

Dear Trustees of William Peace University,


We represent the neighborhood organizations surrounding William Peace University (WPU) and the nearby Seaboard Station shopping center. We understand that WPU is attempting to purchase Seaboard Station and are alarmed by this prospect because we believe that such a move could pose tremendous risks for current and future Seaboard tenants as well as for WPU. We respectfully ask that you carefully reconsider your bid to purchase Seaboard Station and join us in a search for a more appropriate owner because:


·         We could risk losing our wonderful shopping center!

·         We could see the businesses and jobs of these merchants and their nearly 300 employees put at risk.

·         We could see the City of Raleigh risk losing income from property and sales taxes and privilege licenses that will affect all Raleigh taxpayers.

·         We could see our local university risk making a multi-million-dollar mistake that would compromise its future.


In recent years, Seaboard Station has become a vibrant, popular destination for Raleigh residents, visitors, downtown employees and the neighboring communities. As residents who have invested in this neighborhood, we recognize that William Peace University is a vital part of our neighborhood. We have a true interest in the university’s current and future success, but we have a stronger interest in ensuring the vitality of this dynamic downtown shopping center that has contributed greatly to our quality of life.


In a recent meeting with President Debra Townsley, we understand that WPU officials have not had conversations with current Seaboard merchants due to confidentiality agreements. But we have listened to the merchants’ concerns and would like you to consider the following points:

·         The combined Seaboard Station tracts have an estimated value of more than $14 million, a significant investment for any purchaser to consider.

·         This land contains a successful shopping center filled with 14 thriving independent businesses and 11 neighboring businesses. It has become a bustling destination that anchors the north end of downtown Raleigh and is not only a boon to nearby residential neighborhoods and downtown employees, but also makes WPU more attractive to potential students, faculty and staff. It would be important for the purchaser to maintain the center’s viability and future growth.

·         The reason Seaboard Station is a success now is because passionate, talented, dedicated business men and women have set up businesses believing they will be there for many years and that their businesses will continue to grow with the downtown area.  The purchaser of the center should continue this passion and dedication.


If WPU is the successful bidder, the neighbors and tenants believe this could change. Given WPU’s stated long-term need for dormitories, athletic fields and parking, it would completely alter the character of the center, even if you maintain the retail section as an income-producing investment. If existing parking spaces are eliminated, the stores will be hurt. And without prospects for additional retail growth to attract shoppers, the atmosphere will be one of uncertainty, not of optimism.


The tenants have explained to us that serious merchants cannot develop their businesses in temporary quarters. Our fear is that they will gradually look for other locations, and no one will want to take their place. Once the storefronts begin to empty, fewer people will go to Seaboard, and other businesses will fail. The result could cause a rapid downward spiral and consequently, WPU would have a big, empty shopping center that is earning no rent, but is still costing taxes, insurance, maintenance and loan payments. 


Obviously, WPU is not ready to develop the Seaboard tracts right now; WPU has undeveloped land and still owes money for building projects recently completed or in the works. We understand that WPU wants to buy Seaboard as an income-producing investment that it will develop at some point in the future. This long-term plan is the reason that WPU apparently would be willing to pay more than the market value for this shopping center. However, this purchase carries great risk for WPU.


As trustees for an urban university, you have a leadership responsibility to your adjacent neighborhoods and to the future economic vitality of the City of Raleigh. The City is developing long-term transit plans that include the Seaboard area, as well as revitalizing the Capital Boulevard corridor and the Peace-Blount-Person Street area. We wish that you would join with us and the City of Raleigh in a collaborative spirit which will allow us to all work together to strengthen our community and find solutions that accomplish your goals as well as ours.


Again, we ask that you seriously reconsider and withdraw from any attempts to purchase Seaboard Station for an income stream or expansion of the University.  Instead, we ask that you support our neighborhoods in our quest to retain Seaboard Station as a fully functional downtown retail shopping center with the goal of expanding to include more businesses and residential development for professionals who wish to live and shop downtown. We encourage you to pursue other options for your expansion and allow other buyers whose goals are more consistent with the success and expansion of a popular downtown shopping center to purchase Seaboard Station.




Philip Bernard and Sarah Roholt, organizers of Person Street Partnership

Brad Carpenter and Kim Gazella, Co-Chairs, Mordecai Citizens Advisory Council

Barry Kitchener, President, and Matthew Brown, Community Development Chair,

            The Society for the Preservation of Historic Oakwood

Carole Meyre, Five Points resident



cc:  Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane

        Raleigh City Council

        Seaboard Station Merchants

        111 Seaboard/York Properties


Logan’s Trading Company

Downtown Raleigh Alliance

Raleigh Downtown Living Advocates

Raleigh Housing Authority