Five months after purchasing the property, the new owners of Raleigh’s Earp’s Seafood are applying for a rezoning that would allow a new 12-story apartment building on the site.
In March, North Carolina apartment developer WAJ Management bought the five-decade-old fish market and two adjacent parcels for $880,000. At the time of the deal, WAJ owner Jim Adams said there were no plans for the property, telling a News & Observer reporter “we are just a proud seafood market owner.”
But WAJ filed a rezoning request earlier this month that could be the first step toward changing that.
If approved, the new zoning would allow the construction of an apartment building up to 12 stories tall. In its application, WAJ said new apartments would help close the housing gap near downtown Raleigh.
As a condition of the rezoning request, WAJ is proposing that 15% of the apartments will be reserved for tenants earning 80% of Raleigh’s median income.
In a phone interview, Adams said the project will include around 200 apartments, 10,000 square feet of retail space and potentially a restaurant, noting that plans are preliminary. WAJ had hoped the apartment complex would be larger, but Adams said the company wasn’t able to acquire any other adjoining lots.
Pending city approvals, Adams said the company would like to begin construction in 12 to 24 months.
“So much of this is on the front end,” Adams said of the early nature of the plans.
Earp’s has been in business since 1952 as a family-owned seafood market, now run by the third generation. Founded by Herbert and Mary Earp, taken over by their daughter Nancy Earp Salmon and now run by son-in-law Daniel Stewart, the Saunders Street market has been a destination for holiday oysters and fresh seafood from the North Carolina coast.
Reached by phone at the market Wednesday afternoon, Stewart said the new owners have been in contact this month, but haven’t laid out their plans or what it means for the market.
“They’re going to do something,” Stewart said. “They bought the land for a reason.”
In the spring, Adams said he hoped Stewart would run the market for “years to come.” Even with the apartment project, he said he still hopes that.
“We hope (the market) is around for a long, long time,” Adams said. “There’s a plan to incorporate the seafood market in the development. But there’s no guarantee it would work out. We still have design and engineering phases and a seafood market comes with its own challenges.
“It might be that we will have to move (Earp’s) somewhere in the near proximity,” Adams said. “But our first choice would be part of the development.”
Stewart said the family is waiting on news from the new owners, that he’s heard of plans for apartments and also keeping space for Earp’s as a fry shack.
But he’s finding it hard to reconcile the two.
“Nobody wants a fish fry on top of their apartment,” he said.