Hillsborough Street’s rapid redevelopment took another step forward Tuesday when the city’s planning commission approved two more mixed-use apartment and retail buildings.
Charlotte developer Jim Zanoni of FMW Real Estate got a green light to build two four-story buildings with ground-floor retail – one next to IHOP, the other at the Dan Allen Drive intersection where Sakura Express was recently demolished.
Zanoni’s developments are the latest in a long series of proposed and new apartments that span from the Morgan Street roundabout to Meredith College.
One large apartment development is planned, while five others are in the works. Most will replace gritty, one-story brick storefronts that housed dive bars and cheap eateries that have defined Hillsborough Street for decades.
Most renters will likely be students, although Zanoni’s group expects to attract graduate students and visiting faculty as well.
Planning commission members voted unanimously for the FMW apartments and said they’ll be a good fit for the area.
“If you were a college student, living next to IHOP would be the closest thing to nirvana you could experience,” commissioner J.B. Buxton joked.
Architect Ted Van Dyk said FMW will break ground on both projects this fall and hopes to welcome residents next summer.
“They’re going to hopefully proceed simultaneously,” he said.
The building next to IHOP will feature 38 apartments and 3,700 square feet of retail. The building at Dan Allen will be slightly smaller with 30 apartments and 3,000 square feet of retail.
Both will have parking but won’t have a space for each apartment because many renters won’t be bringing cars.
And while other student-focused apartment projects will feature numerous four-bedroom units, some of FMW’s units will have just one bedroom.
Van Dyk said the storefronts will offer a higher-quality space for restaurants and other shops than many of Hillsborough Street’s older buildings. The streetfront will have 28-foot-wide sidewalks in some sections.
“We’ll be bringing fresh retail space with high ceilings and great floor-to-ceiling glass,” he said. “There’s a lot of space (on Hillsborough), but a lot of it is beat-up stuff.”
The two FMW projects didn’t generate much discussion because at four stories high, they conform to the existing zoning. A few blocks down Hillsborough, though, plans for a seven-story apartment building on the site of Two Guys Pizza drew neighborhood outcry and a split vote from the Raleigh City Council last month.
The neighborhood groups urged a five-story limit, and they said they’re happy with Zanoni’s plans.
“They seemed appropriately scaled and sited,” said Neil Riemann, president of the Cameron Park Neighborhood Association.
Riemann said the proposals show that redevelopment on Hillsborough Street doesn’t require seven stories of density to be economically viable. Proponents of the seven-story apartments have said that more stringent height restrictions could stifle growth.
Van Dyk said he thinks each development proposal comes with different needs. He said that Zanoni opted for four stories because no rezoning would be required.
The site next to IHOP was already vacant after the demolition of the Jackpot bar several years ago. Sakura restaurant had already closed and was the latest in a string of short-lived eateries.
“It’s quite a different thing to go to the middle of a block and take down buildings that are still producing rent,” Van Dyk said.