New RTP master plan to be unveiled this fall

dbracken@newsobserver.comJuly 16, 2012 

With a key piece of legislation now in place, leaders of Research Triangle Park plan to unveil a new master plan for the park by early October.

During its recently concluded short session, the General Assembly adopted legislation that allows the park, in collaboration with local governments, to set up “Urban Research Service Districts” that could include a mix of retail, restaurants and residential developments.

Adding such amenities is a key component of the new master plan, which seeks to transform RTP from a suburban, isolated campus environment into a place where workers and visitors alike can eat, shop, stay overnight at a hotel and even live.

“This gives us the ability to look across the park at places where we would want to redevelop and do mixed-use and have a tool and a mechanism to do it,” said Bob Geolas, CEO of the Research Triangle Park Foundation, the nonprofit that runs the park.

The legislation also establishes rules for how the tax rate and services provided within such districts would be determined. Companies that own or lease space in the 7,000-acre park currently pay a special tax rate, and an oversight body of tenants and owners review how those funds are spent.

Geolas said that in creating the districts, the legislation first had to make sure that retail tenants or homeowners paid taxes that were comparable to what they would pay in either Durham or Wake counties.

“You couldn’t have people who own homes here within the park have a financial advantage over other people in the market,” he said. “That would simply be unfair ... you have to have a tax rate that is consistent with the marketplace.”

The legislation also had to make sure that residents didn’t have taxation without representation.

“We didn’t want residents of the park to feel like they didn’t have a fair way to petition their government if they had tax issues,” Geolas said.

Each urban research service district will be affiliated with either Durham or Wake county depending on its location within the park. Park officials will work with county government officials to establish how services, such as garbage and police, will be provided and at what cost.

“We will work with the county governments as we begin to define the specific projects that are coming online first,” Geolas said. “We don’t know yet if we’re going to start with a residential or a mixed-use (project).”

It’s been more than two years since the Research Triangle Park Foundation hired a New York urban design firm to update its master plan. It’s the first update to the park’s master plan since North Carolina legislators created RTP in 1959.

The review has been complete for sometime, and Geolas said the park already knows where the first urban research service districts will be located.

“We know it will be on the Durham side,” he said, declining to be more specific.

Such specifics will presumably be revealed in late September or early October, when RTP launches a major rebranding effort.

Bracken: 919-829-4548

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