It could be said, and it is said by many, that the boom in development of new apartments and condos and home sites in the downtown Raleigh area is “all good.” To some degree, perhaps, that’s true. But city council members, and Wake commissioners, are well aware that despite their efforts, and those efforts are ongoing, new development brings displacement of some people who are unable to afford the dwellings going up where they have been living.
And so they’re off in search of affordable housing and in some cases public housing. The area needs more such housing, and officialdom needs to make it an even more urgent priority. In fact, such housing ought to be part of every discussion of the next “exciting” development. If Raleigh and Wake County can engage in a push for affordable housing, then they can celebrate new development with a clear conscience.
Make no mistake. The type of development taking place now south of downtown Raleigh, around the West and Lenoir streets and South Saunders and Lenior streets area, is indeed a positive step for the city. And a bow goes to those who moved into the area and built homes, nice family homes, some time ago, keeping the faith that their chosen neighborhood — they just loved the idea of downtown living — would one day be part of the downtown revival.
And now it is.
The News & Observer reported last week of the closing of Dusty’s, a longtime business at West and Lenoir (early 1980s) that’s giving way to an as-yet unspecified project by developer James Goodnight. Goodnight says it’s a bit early to say publicly what he’ll do with the site, which is surrounded by older homes and some new ones, but promises “to do something really nice with it.”
In addition, there are condos planned on other sites in the area, and townhomes. This area, in other words, is joining the development moves in other parts of downtown, a reversal of the sprawl trend of not long ago. Instead, people are moving back to the center, not trying to get away from it. It makes sense. Raleigh has spectacular entertainment venues downtown, including revered “institutions” such as the North Carolina Symphony. The World of Bluegrass is likely to come to town for years hence, drawing huge crowds. Retail is problematic because of parking, but the city is trying to address that issue as well.
And to access all of these benefits, people in the developing areas of downtown will have only to take a walk.
Neighborhood character takes a hit sometimes. Dusty Dewberry of Dusty’s worries that friends who used to visit at his business, some of them friends of many decades, won’t have a place to go. And certainly the issue of finding affordable housing is ever-present with development that displaces.
There it is again. Housing. In Raleigh, a city of diversity in all ways, there must be diversity in housing, which means housing for lower-income people and for that matter, for working people who can’t afford a $300,000 condo — or more. When that issue is addressed, then the entire city will be able to celebrate the ongoing “rebirth” of downtown.