Garner has been working to improve its entrances and main corridors. It’s not the only town with such aims.
A company contracted by the City of Raleigh has recently launched an effort to gather opinions from residents on how to improve the South Saunders Street corridor linking downtown to Raleigh’s border with Garner, efforts that could positively affect Garner.
Raleigh notes in its 2030 long-range plan that “the appearance of Raleigh’s commercial corridors, especially U.S. 1, New Bern Avenue, U.S. 70, Hillsborough, and South Saunders streets, has been detrimental to the City's image.” City staff deemed it “essential that these roadways convey a positive impression” in the 2009 report.
Raleigh has $150,000 set aside this fiscal year to develop concept designs for the South Saunders corridor into Garner. A contractor is seeking input through a website and various social media tools. Online polling asks about options such as beautification of the streetscape, improving access for walkers and bikers, encouraging various types of development and creating public space.
Garner, meanwhile, has been working toward the installation of a gateway sign on the northern entrances to town, and plans to improve aesthetics of its highways in the near future. According to Garner’s former economic development director Tony Beasley, Raleigh’s efforts can only help.
“If they start to improve the overall condition of South Saunders Street, if you raise those standards, hopefully it it would encourage better development along that entire corridor,” Beasley said.
Councilwoman Kathy Behringer also sees hope that Raleigh’s efforts will complement Garner’s. She has strongly advocated for increasing funding for beautifying major corridors through Garner, particularly U.S. 70, in next year’s budget. The bond also funds some improvements to U.S. 70.
But Behringer also said the benefits could come with some downside.
“I have a little bit of fear that it might push undesirable elements our way,” she said, later naming crime such as drug dealing as the undesirables. “Sometimes when things are improved in one neighborhood, it just causes some things to move down the road a little.”
Garner has used targeted police presence near the U.S. 70/401 split near the border over the last few years to reduce crime in the area with some success.
Raleigh officials have yet to decide what Saunders improvements might look like, and how much of it would be public projects to improve appearances or efforts to entice particular types of development. But based on options being surveyed by Cityzen, the company charged with aggregating community input, a variety of options could be on the table.
Based on early polling data, creating a public space, encouraging new development and making it easier to bike and walk have been popular options.
A vast majority answered yes to the question “Should the city improve the bicycle & pedestrian experience along South Saunders Street, even if it meant traffic delays?” However some vocal opponents in the comments opposed inconveniencing the most common mode of transport for niche groups such as bicyclists.