Update on Proposed Church in Blount Street Commons

Post date: Jul 22, 2010 5:08:19 PM

Reid Serozi, MCAC Co-Chair, Philip Bernard MCAC Traffic chair, and Paul Reimel, Economic Development Manager from Downtown Raleigh Alliance met with Stacy Barbour a senior planner with Raleigh Planning Department to discuss the proposed church to be built on Peace Street across from Peace College in the Blount Street Commons re-development district. Please see previous meeting notes.

Our primary goal was to receive more information about the project, its current status, and if there would be any chance for input from our CAC and other stakeholders in this area.

Mr. Barbour was very informative about the Blount Street Commons master plan details. He explained the primary goals of the master plan were to reduce surface parking and encourage high density, urban development along with assuring at any structure in the property conform to any historical restrictions. He also explained that the underlying zoning of the property would be the primary criteria which the planning department would review in its approval of the building design and parking areas. He explained that as of now, there have been no formal plans submitted by the church, only rough sketches shown in discussions as they explore the use of the property. We have confirmed that LNR, the primary developer, is in negotiation with the church to purchase the property. This section of the property is zoned commercial and the church as an “institution” is allowed within this zoning category.

In our meeting, we learned that the economic downtown has negatively impacted and stalled the Blount Street Commons project in terms of any major residential and commercial development occurring. The AIA NC Center for Architecture is planned for the site nearest to Wilmington Street intersection at Peace Street, please see http://www.frankharmon.com/current/3/ . The church project will potentially fill the space between the architecture center and (will most likely include) the Joyner House at the intersection of Peace and Blount Street. Barbour admitted that he was surprised when a church was interested in a higher priced commercial property, but he added that in the last two years many atypical entities had expressed interest in the various commercial areas within the development perhaps due to potential discounts that might be available in a depressed market.

Since the master plan for Blount Street Commons has already been approved by the Planning Department and the underlying zoning

has already been established, there seems to be no real process at this point for public input. There will be no public notification or meeting which will allow the input of neighbors because the area already has blanket approval. Barbour stressed that the Planning Department would require the church’s plans for development of the property to conform to the city’s zoning code as it is currently written. Barbour did comment that the church will be relatively small as the property is not large enough to accommodate a huge structure with adequate parking. Please see plan to right (click on to enlarge).

Given this information, we have contacted LNR and asked if their representative could meet with us to discuss the master plan, the church's potential involvement in their development, and other issues which might affect changes in their master plan in the future. We also contacted council member at large, Russ Stephenson, who suggested the possibility of revisiting the plan with planning staff.

Submitted by Philip Bernard