There’s a place on South Saunders Street where motorists often stop, get out of their cars and snap a photo of the downtown Raleigh skyline to the north.
From that vantage point, visitors wearing blinders might think south Raleigh is one of the nicest spots in town. But if they turned around and looked south?
“It might not look that beautiful,” said Roberta Fox, an assistant planning director for Raleigh.
The city government for years has neglected the area between downtown Raleigh and Garner – a corridor that more than 40,000 people travel each day. It lacks sidewalks, it’s not well-manicured, and there are vacant buildings and few markers to show drivers when they’ve left Garner and entered North Carolina’s capital.
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Raleigh recently spent about $300,000 to have a consultant study the area’s needs. City leaders now want to hear from residents about a draft vision plan for the Southern Gateway Corridor, the area between downtown and Tryon Road.
The area’s strength – two major thoroughfares in South Saunders and Wilmington streets – also contributes to its weaknesses. Because the streets are wide, pedestrian accommodations are limited and the area isn’t as walkable as it could be.
The consultants’ report calls for new sidewalks, bike paths, greenery, bus lanes and an extension of Wilmington Street southward around commercial buildings all the way to Tryon Road. It calls for Raleigh leaders to encourage single-family homes and neighborhood-serving retail in an area that’s dominated by rental units, offices and factories.
“Additionally, the vacant, underutilized, or undevelopable land within the study area has contributed to the negative character and perception of this area,” consultants with JDavis Architects wrote. “The overall feel is tired and in need of updating.”
Residents who attended two community meetings last month – at the Wake Tech Public Safety Campus and John P. “Top” Greene Community Center – provided lots of positive feedback, said Dhanya Sandeep, one of Raleigh’s urban planners.
“We didn’t really have a planning effort (for the South Saunders corridor) in more than two decades,” Sandeep said. “Everybody was like, ‘It’s about time that you guys did something.’ ”
The plan is still in draft form and, if endorsed by the City Council this winter, will likely be executed piece by piece over many years.
Some of the recommendations are in compliance with the Wake Transit Plan and could come to fruition soon if voters approve a half-cent sales tax increase in November to fund the plan.
Like Wake’s plan, the Southern Gateway plan calls for bus rapid transit service, known as BRT, on Wilmington Street – which Sandeep said is underutilized. Unlike traditional bus systems, BRT often provides faster service than other automobile traffic by running in dedicated lanes and getting special priority at traffic signals.
“That would be a game changer” for the corridor, Sandeep said.
Have your say
City planners want to hear from residents about a draft Southern Gateway Corridor plan to improve the area between downtown Raleigh and Tryon Road. A copy of the plan is available online at http://bit.ly/2b1q2yM.
Residents can comment online by clicking the “Draft Report” on the city’s Southern Gateway Corridor page. For more information, contact city planner Dhanya Sandeep at 919-996-2659 or firstname.lastname@example.org.