Midtown Raleigh News

Crabtree Valley traffic fix: No more shops?

As traffic in the Crabtree Valley area continues to worsen, the Raleigh City Council is considering restricting new shopping developments in the area.

The council could hold a public hearing as soon as next month on the plan, which would allow a number of landowners to build only offices, hotels and apartments along the busy section of Glenwood Avenue.

“The near-term solution is to think about smaller-scale changes we can make to make it easier to get in, out and through there,” said councilman Russ Stephenson, whose comprehensive planning committee took up the proposal Wednesday. “We’ve got plenty of retail here, and the market is asking for more hotel, apartments and office.”

Traffic has been a constant complaint for years as mall shoppers jockey for positions with commuters coming off the Interstate 440 Beltline. As each new Crabtree development has come before the council, congestion is typically the top concern.

Traffic worries nearly derailed the latest development approved for a mix of apartments and shops at the northwest corner of the Lead Mine Road intersection. Councilman Randy Stagner pointed to gridlock at Lead Mine and Glenwood and said he would prefer the developer build only apartments to lessen traffic impact, though he later voted for the project.

Traffic engineers agree that shops and restaurants draw more car traffic than offices and residential developments. And plenty of all three are already set to start construction soon. In addition to the Lead Mine apartments and retail, three other projects have been approved recently, mostly in the area behind the mall along Crabtree Valley Avenue.

The four projects total 1,800 new residences, 400,000 square feet of retail space and 350,000 square feet of offices. It’s too late to change those developments, which will put more cars on Glenwood and surrounding streets. The latest traffic study found that Glenwood drivers face average delays of six minutes at peak rush hour.

“We’ve seen a fair amount of development activity, and for all intents and purposes the horse is out of the barn on a lot of these properties,” city planner Travis Crane said.

The proposed changes to Raleigh’s land-use plan would affect future development applications. City planners suggest swapping the “regional mixed-use” label in certain areas to office- and residential-only land use designations. The original designation that allows retail would remain for the mall property and at least two other sites. Planners will offer the council details about which properties would be affected in the coming weeks.

Raleigh leaders hope to make bigger changes to Crabtree Valley traffic patterns in the years to come. When the state eventually overhauls the Beltline/Glenwood interchange, Stephenson said the city will push for a direct connection from I-440 to Crabtree Valley Avenue and the mall’s back entrance.

“It’s not going to be a short-term solution,” he said. “It may be 10 years out.”