The Wake Forest Chamber of Commerce has made a preemptive strike to protect an industrial park from becoming the newest site for residential development in town.
Marla Ackridge, president of the Chamber of Commerce, told the Wake Forest Board of Commissioners on Tuesday it was important to “keep our industrial park an industrial park.”
The town currently does not have any proposals from developers to build homes near the South Forest Industrial Park off Capital Boulevard.
But it’s important to think about protecting the park as town leaders evaluate available land in town, Ackridge said.
The industrial park features an auto body shop, a construction-supply company and other offices. It also includes Endeavor Charter School, and Ackridge said the school has posed problems with traffic and safety in the area.
“Our goal was to bring to your attention that it’s tough already to mix a school with ... the type of environment down there,” she told commissioners.
The Chamber of Commerce collected some information about the industrial park to present to town leaders.
Businesses have invested more than $4 billion in capital projects at the 39-building industrial park, which employs more than 1,600 people, Ackridge said.
Five businesses did not respond and were not included in the count, she said.
The park continues to grow. A dialysis center is preparing to open, and there are two empty buildings ready for new businesses, Ackridge said.
Wake Forest Planning Director Chip Russell said there has been no official application for residential development near the site.
But Akridge said she and her staff have heard from a residential developer who is doing early research on the available land.
She wanted the board to have some information and context in case a development request comes before them for consideration.
The industrial park is not within town limits, so commissioners would have to annex future development in the area.
Ackridge said protecting the park would be a strategic move for economic development. It’s important to consider where certain kinds of development best fits in town, she said.
Commissioner Margaret Stinnett said putting homes near the industrial park would create a walkable hub where people could live and work.
“I’m just playing devil’s advocate,” she said.
Other town officials said they didn’t think the area was suited for residential projects.
“I think it’s a terrible place to put a townhome project,” said Mayor Vivian Jones. “There isn’t a lot of space dedicated to industrial in the town.”