North Raleigh News

Wake Forest plan calls for more downtown development

Downtown Wake Forest, seen on Wednesday, May 11, 2016.
Downtown Wake Forest, seen on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. SHANE SNIDER

A proposed plan to revive downtown Wake Forest calls for a park, boutique hotel and new restaurants.

Consultants presented recommendations for an update to the Renaissance Plan on Tuesday during a Board of Commissioners meeting. Nearly 50 people attended the presentation.

The goal of the plan, first adopted in 2004, is to make downtown more appealing to visitors and developers.

Short-term projects could include a small park with water features, a designated street for festivals and new outdoor seating along White Street, according to representatives of Stantec, a consulting firm with an office in Charlotte.

“It starts with all those strategic things that don’t cost a whole lot of money that have high visibility,” said Craig Lewis, a principal for Stantec.

Recommendations also include longer-term projects, including new residential development and a boutique hotel. Five new restaurants could open in five years, empty storefronts along main corridors could be filled, and the town could increase enforcement of parking rules.

The area surrounds the Renaissance Centre for the Arts on South Brooks Street and is bordered by a CSX rail line to the west and by the N.C. 98 Bypass to the south. Historic and central business districts comprise its northern and eastern borders.

The original Renaissance Plan set downtown on a positive path, said Planning Director Chip Russell. It spurred roadway improvements and construction of a new town hall complex.

An updated version of the plan aims to reassess priorities after the economic downturn.

“There are no silver bullets,” said Lewis, who met with downtown stakeholders in April. “There’s no one single project that’s going to save everything.”

About 160 townhomes are under construction downtown. Lewis suggested the town encourage the development of 150 additional units in the next five years.

Pam Tarangelo, who has owned La Foresta Italian Cafe on South Brooks Street for 24 years, said she liked what she heard during the presentation. Her restaurant sits next to the site where the Renaissance Plan calls for a boutique hotel with under 30 rooms.

Tarangelo considered retiring and selling or closing her business after her husband died two years ago, but all the downtown development is pushing her to stick it out a little longer. She hopes that as the area continues to develop, more visitors will stop in for dinner.

“I think my restaurant is a destination in downtown,” she said. “We’re like Cheers.”

The Board of Commissioners plans to hold another public hearing, before adopting a final Renaissance Plan update this fall.

Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi