Review of Corridor Studies, Blount Street Commons Master Plan, Complete Streets, and Area Stakeholders

posted Sep 25, 2010, 1:25 PM by Philip Bernard   [ updated Oct 31, 2010, 8:33 PM by Reid Serozi ]
Much planning and development activity has occured in our north end of downtown over the past summer and fall months. Here is a brief synopsis of the iniatives going on in our area.
 
Capital Boulevard Corridor Study:
 
Beginning back in summer, the Capital Boulevard Corridor Study got off to a huge start with a "kick-off" meeting at Bobby Murray Chevrolet. Over 200 people crowded into a showroom including a table of interested residents from Mordecai to begin the process of "scoping" out what could be done to turn Capital Boulevard into the 21st century gateway it has the potential of becoming. Each table began to "vision" what Capital Boulevard could look like given the proper design, planning, and funding. With so many variables such as transportation, connectivity, stormwater management, pedestrian access, greenway and economic development it became quite clear during each table's final presentation of ideas that this would be a monumental undertaking, but one that could be achieved with the proper incremental efforts and momentum. A large portion of this study is located within our MCAC, and its rammifications will certainly effect the pedestrain and traffic flow in our adjacent neighborhoods. 
 
The Church and Blount Street Commons:
 
The Blount Street Commons experienced a small flourish of activity this summer with their announcement that an Anglican church would purchase a prize portion of street front property on Peace Street in addition to the existing house on the west corner of Blount and Peace Streets. This raised some initial concern with stakeholders in the area that LNR properties, the primary developer, was deviating from their original masterplan by allowing a church to purchase the property originally designated as mixed use street level commerical with residential overhead.
 
This concern prompted two meetings with LNR and area stakeholders which included reps from MCAC and Historic Oakwood. Council member Russ Stephenson acted as mediator. During the first meeting, concerns about the project such as adequate parking and proper use under current zoning were voiced directlyto LNR with members of the church present.  Stephenson then recommended a second meeting with City staff present to review the master plan. The outcome from these two meetings were that the church is indeed allowed under the current comerical zoning of that parcel and that LNR is currently adhering to a predetermined, percentage-based breakdown of the property between residential and commerical uses. LNR explained that they would allocate the percentage of residential property not utilized in the church location to another location with in the development. LNR also indicated that the parcel located across Peace Street from Krispey Kreme at the corner of Peace and Person Street has already been sold to a developer who is contractually committed to developing this property as mixed use with a certain percentage of commerical on the street and residential overhead.
 
Wake Forest Road/ Person and Blount Street Corridor Study and Complete Streets:
 
Other issues addressed in these meetings included the preservation of the historic properties along Blount Street and the lack of momentum in Blount Street Commons due to the ongoing economic slump. All stakeholders attending including LNR agreed that we should join forces and advocate for postive change in our area of downtown particularly in light of the upcoming Wake Forest Road / Person and Blount Street Corridor study which begins scoping next  Summer 2011. One of the major points addressed during these meetings was that our neighborhoods were counting on the Blount Street Commons redevelopment to act as a catalyst for the Person Street Revitalization. Again, thanks to Russ Stephenson, this corridor study was pulled out of relative obscurity earlier this year and placed in the top priority list of City iniatives.
 
In September, I've met with both Ken Bowers, Deputy Director of Planning and Eric Lamb, Traffic Engineer with Public works to discuss how this corridor study will impact our area and to discuss intermediate steps that can be taken to improve the area until the changes take place. Ken Bowers indicated the their have been some text changes to current zoning restrictions of height requirements and parking which might affect the Person Street Business district. Eric Lamb indicated that a recent priority listing of streetscaping and street calming projects will affect some of our streets incuding Peace, Person, Wake Forest Road, Glascock, and Brookside. He indicated that should Wake Forest Road come up for repaving in the near future there may be a chance to restripe the roads to a different lane configuration which might help make that road a little safer and more pedestrian and bike friendly. It was also mentioned that we might go ahead and submit a request  for a light at Wake Forest Road and Frank Street - - a location which has already been pre-determined by our CAC as the logical interesection for a light. We need to also follow up on a few minor short term changes within the business district.
 
I also attended a lunchtime seminar at the Urban Design Center this past summer about the NCDOT's initiative of "Complete Streets". This is basically a countrywide iniative which encourages all state DOT's to adopt the philosphy that " car is no longer king" and that our streets and roads are to be shared with pedestrains and bicyclists. This will be an important movement within our own state to help create policies that encourage pedestrian and bike friendly streets. I suggested to  Eric Lamb that Wake Forest Road could become "the poster child for complete streets" if they needed an immediate model to start! Unfortunately, Wake Forest Road is relatively low on the priority list but there may be chances to elevate its priority status. 
 
Revisiting Capital Boulevard Corridor Study and Proposing a Stakeholder Initiative in the North End:  
 
MCAC resident Helen Tart  and I attended the 2nd meeting of the Capital Boulevard Corridor study this past Saturday which was a daylong design workshop held downtown. After synthesizing the ideas from the first workshop, participants worked with professional design consultants and design students from NCSU  to begin drawing rough designs of how the new Capital Bouldevard might look. It was a great excercise with everyone from Council members to developers to homeowners providing input. Bobby Poole from East CAC was also at our table. Bobby has begun an initiative in the Capital Boulevard area north of our CAC to stablize that area and address issues of crime and stormwater management. Reid Serozi and I attended the first  stabalization meeting last week and immediately recognized this as a model for a similar type initiative in our area to bring together our stakeholders and start a unified voice for positive growth and momentum for change. Plans are to organize our first meeting first of the year. 
Comments