When Larry Booth bought a 14-unit apartment building on Hillsborough Street in 1998, he was banking on the road staying as it was.
Booth’s property, near the intersection of Hillsborough, Shepherd and Rosemary streets, is lined with several mature oak trees.
“The trees really give character to the property,” said Booth, 68, who lives in Chapel Hill. “It’s the City of Oaks, right?”
But as Raleigh enters the second phase of a massive revitalization project for the Hillsborough Street corridor, one of Booth’s trees could come down to make way for a traffic roundabout, wider sidewalks and buried power lines.
Booth doesn’t think he should have to make room on his property for the city’s project, and he has been meeting with Raleigh officials for months to consider options to save his tree.
Raleigh already made changes during the first phase of revitalization, which focused on the area between Morgan and Gardner streets and wrapped up in 2010.
The $12.9 million second phase will bring changes between Gardner and Rosemary streets, including a roundabout to connect Hillsborough, Shepherd and Rosemary streets near Booth’s apartment building.
Booth’s main concern is a plan to bury power lines.
Raleigh has limited space to put power lines underground near the intersection, said project manager Richard Dickie. Lines must fit between a pre-existing box that carries service to N.C. State University and the edge of the city’s property.
Booth has a few options.
The city offered to pay to remove the trees and replace them with younger oaks.
Or crews could cut into the roots of the tree, which could make it unstable, said Zach Manor, Raleigh’s urban forester. One of the trees has already been cut back to make room for above-ground power lines, said Manor, who evaluated the tree for the city.
Booth could choose to keep the trees, but he would have to accept full responsibility if one of them falls or otherwise causes damage.
Booth thinks the city can do more engineering work to avoid his trees, which he considers an important part of the property. Several of his eight children have lived in the apartment building while they attended N.C. State.
But Booth’s concerns reach beyond his property line. He’s not a fan of recent changes on Hillsborough Street, including taller buildings and smaller trees.
“I think they’re pushing too hard, too fast,” he said of city leaders. “It’s losing the character of Hillsborough Street.”
Others have also spoken out against changes in the area. But it’s an important project for the city and the university, Dickie said.
Early on, Dickie said, business owners predicted the street upgrades would deter customers. But the area has seen more private development, including the Stanhope housing complex, and many concerns have faded, he said.
“People will embrace it once they see it,” Dickie said.