Neighborhood gallery's events create tensions with some Boylan Heights residents

10/29/2013 3:29 PM

10/29/2013 8:03 PM

The Rebus Works art gallery has become a hotbed of activity in the Boylan Heights neighborhood, acting as host to farmers markets and food truck rodeos. But not everyone in the historic community near downtown is a fan of the events.

City zoning officials recently told gallery owner Shonna Greenwell that she will need a permit to close her dead-end street, and her request for that permit is prompting outcry from some neighbors. They say a residential area is the wrong place for festivities that often draw hundreds of people.

“I feel the integrity of the neighborhood is being compromised by the circuslike atmosphere created during these events, from wrestling to music to food trucks and beer-gardens,” Boylan Heights resident Gayle Lowry wrote to the City Council. “The scale and frequency of events is increasing monthly, with weekday and weekend crowds taking over parking along the neighborhood streets.”

Greenwell says her events are geared toward building community. Her main event, the weekly Saturday Market, offers organic produce, baked goods and food trucks. “There’s been a lot of positive support for our market,” she said. “We’ve tried to really give back to the community.”

Dozens of Boylan Heights residents have emailed the city council to back Rebus Works’ permit request – well aware that a rejection would likely spell the end of the Saturday morning farmers markets.

“The Saturday Market is an asset to our community by providing healthy food choices and a positive environment for neighbors to gather,” Kate Woomer-Deters wrote.

Compared with the extensive street closures that mark many downtown events, Greenwell’s request is relatively simple: She wants to block off the dead end stub of Kinsey Street between her front door and the Boylan Avenue bridge.

She points out that no homes are affected by the closure. “You don’t even have to go around the block,” she said. “We’re not asking to close the entire street, just the little section that goes along our side of the building.”

The only other business affected is Blam!, an art studio located next door to Rebus Works in the same building. Owner Jennifer Coon wrote to the council that she doesn’t want the street blocked because her artists work on weekends.

“The Saturday Market food trucks with their loud generators ... have and will continue to put in jeopardy our collective access to entrances, right-of-way for emergency vehicles and an environment conducive to demanding work,” she said.

The controversy over the Saturday market has implications citywide: As Raleigh’s demand for food truck events, farmers markets and other festivals grows, leaders must decide whether to confine the events to commercial districts or allow them in residential areas. Some residents want events they can walk to and meet neighbors, but others lament the inevitable outsiders taking up street parking.

Lowry is among those in the latter category. “This is so inappropriate,” she said. “In my opinion, these events should be taking place in the Warehouse District in the west side of downtown rather than in a neighborhood adjoining downtown.”

The City Council will take up the permit request in November.


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