Residents and council members came Friday to hear a consultant’s suggestions for redeveloping a town-own park-and-ride lot, but a Southern Village developer’s idea held their attention.
Developer D.R. Bryan has proposed creating a large, open green space on the parking lot’s southeastern corner, near U.S. 15-501 South. The green would form a diagonal line of sight linking a green planned across the highway at the Obey Creek site and the green at Southern Village. The Christ United Methodist Church spire would be a defining focal point.
His sketch also shows buildings clustered on smaller footprints and connector streets, reminiscent of Southern Village. A separate church-owned lot with offices at the corner of Market Street and U.S. 15-501 could be part of the plan. Church officials have said they want to hear more.
Residents chimed in with their own ideas for the green space. A member of a local contra dance group asked about the possibility adding ballroom facilities to the site, while another woman suggested enlarging the green space to include a civic building and recreation and teen amenities.
Traffic and disability access to the bus stop were among the concerns, and one resident suggested relocating a proposed bike and pedestrian bridge across the highway so that it connects green spaces on both sides, rather than ending atop a building at Obey Creek.
Councilwoman Donna Bell said she also would like to see bridge landings end up “somewhere softer and more inviting.” Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt offered another perspective, saying the bridge should arrive at a destination rather than green spaces that have to be crossed to get anywhere.
“The bridge itself is a journey (and) ... when I got off the bridge, it means I’m at a place,” he said, “which to me, that’s more of a psychologically satisfying thing than a bird’s-eye view of a bridge that has two green spots on both sides.”
The Town Council, while negotiating with developers for up to 1.6 million square feet at Obey Creek, are considering options for a mixed-use project at the 8.4-acre park-and-ride lot. A parking deck topped with solar panels could be part of the new development, but Dover, with Dover, Kohl & Partners, said the town also might want to consider reducing or moving the 432-space lot, to ensure parking for retail customers.
The consultants presented two options at consecutive meetings, one public and one with council members. The options were draft revisions, based on a series of January meetings with the public and the council. It could be many years before the town thinks about building anything, Dover said.
One draft plan showed multiple buildings clustered around Sumac Drive, which now cuts south through the parking lot from Market Street to the highway. A parking deck was wrapped in ground-floor retail stores, catty-corner from the existing bus stop loop.
A second plan was basically the same but replaced a cluster of buildings near Southern Community Park with a 23,000- to 25,000-square-foot anchor retailer – about the size of two CVS stores. There has been interest in a larger space for Weaver Street Market, Dover told the council.
There’s a big difference between the consultant’s options and the one Bryan proposed, Councilwoman Sally Greene said. The consultant has offered a lot of positive ideas that respond to what’s at Obey Creek and the highway, she said.
“But to my mind, what D.R. has come up with echoes Southern Village, which is more appropriate because it’s on the Southern Village side,” Greene said. “I actually like the way the buildings are not entirely at right angles, I like the street grid, the way it’s interrupted, because it fulfills these New Urban principles for (comfortable walking) distances.”
All three plans include a roadside bus pulloff in front of the parking lot, a new road connecting Sumac Road to Scroggs Elementary School and a bike and pedestrian bridge connecting the site with a future Obey Creek development across the highway.
They also show a civic building, likely for parks and recreation facilities, at the park and a four-way, signalized intersection at Sumac Road.
The town has talked with the N.C. Department of Transportation about the proposed intersection and could hear back in the next five to six weeks, Dover said. The town has a stronger case if it argues for the vision of an interconnected, pedestrian- and transit-friendly area, he said.
The council also could ask about building a roundabout at U.S. 15-501 and Dogwood Acres Drive to ease concerns about speeding traffic cutting through the neighborhood to Smith Level Road.