Wake County

'Sprawl is for Cary' – How tall should buildings be along Avent Ferry Road in Raleigh?

Pedestrians cross a wide and busy Western Boulevard at Avent Ferry Road near N.C. State University's campus.
Pedestrians cross a wide and busy Western Boulevard at Avent Ferry Road near N.C. State University's campus. N&O file photo

Seven-story buildings could one day replace the quaint Mission Valley Shopping Center in west Raleigh, under a new design proposal.

But that doesn't mean it's going to happen: Property owners would have to be willing to sell to developers or redevelop the site themselves.

Even so, ideas for the future of the Avent Ferry Road corridor from Western Boulevard to Tryon Road are taking shape. Raleigh hired consultants who are putting together a plan based on public feedback that will serve as a guide for future land use, development and infrastructure projects.

The Avent Ferry Road Corridor Study aims to figure out how to better connect people to jobs, restaurants and entertainment, Lake Johnson and N.C. State University. More than 22,000 vehicles travel some portions of the road per day.

Raleigh held two public input sessions this week to get feedback on design proposals. An online survey (https://publicinput.com/2566) is available until the end of April.

And two more pop-up information sessions are planned: 9 a.m. to noon April 4 at the Thomas G. Crowder Woodland Center, 5611 Jaguar Park Drive; and 9 a.m. to noon April 7 at Lake Johnson Park, 4601 Avent Ferry Road.

Here are some highlights of the tentative design plans.

Mission Valley building
This is one option people can consider for the Avent Ferry Corridor Study

Mission Valley Shopping Center

Located at the intersection of Avent Ferry Road and Western Boulevard, the Mission Valley Shopping Center includes chain and local restaurants, bars, retail outlets, a hookah lounge, a tattoo parlor and a small movie theater.

Built in 1972, the shopping center's proximity to N.C. State University and downtown Raleigh make it a prime candidate for redevelopment.

The survey for the corridor study offers building-height options from fewer than five stories to more than seven stories. Respondents so far have had different ideas for how they envision the future of the site.

"This is the perfect place for very intense uses and taller buildings: Fantastic transit including the future (bus rapid transit), and across the street from campus," one survey-taker wrote. "Twelve stories, maybe even more, could work here."

Another commenter said Mission Valley needs more green space. "I like my sunlight and trees. We don't need more tall buildings around to shade our natural areas."

The survey also asks about how far buildings should be set back from the street or curb.

Gorman frontage
This is one option people can consider for the Avent Ferry Corridor Study

Avent Ferry Shopping Center

The Avent Ferry Shopping Center, located at the corner of Gorman Street and Avent Ferry Road, is anchored by a Food Lion grocery store and includes other retail stores and a North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles office.

The survey asks whether buildings on the site should be three stories, five stories, staggered or some other combination. It also asks if buildings should be set back enough to make room for outdoor seating or sidewalks .

Some respondents said the shopping center should keep its multicultural, accessible vibe but add "more useful shops."

Some people who commented on the survey said they worried about increased traffic, while others said the area should become more dense because it is so close to Interstate 40.

"Five (stories), we're a city. Sprawl is for Cary," one person wrote.

Another survey-taker wrote, "Three stories or less. Not enough parking to allow for more shopping."

Varsity to Western
This is one option people can consider for the Avent Ferry Corridor Study

Streetscape improvements

A core part of the study is determining what streetscape and intersection improvements can be made.

Currently, pedestrians often dart across the street to GoRaleigh or Wolfline bus stops, and it's not uncommon to see people standing in the middle turn lane while waiting to cross.

Several survey respondents said they want to improve existing intersections and crosswalks while looking for other opportunities to increase safety.

Options in the survey for street changes along Avent Ferry Road include bicycle lanes on each side of the street or a two-way bike lane on one side of the street.

The plan also shows a lane dedicated for buses and more greenery near Lake Johnson Park.