Soccer stadium would boost Southeast Raleigh

The Downtown Raleigh Entertainment District, to be named Downtown South, has the potential to bring economic and lifestyle benefits on a scope and scale that Raleigh has never seen. The project is being led by a team of partners — John Kane, Billie Redmond, and Steve Malik — who have a track record of success. Moving forward with Downtown South has truly significant upside for our entire city and county.

First, the combined economic benefits of the 20,000-seat, open-air stadium, housing, retail, office, hotel and dining components would yield an astounding $20.3 million per year in annual city and county property tax revenue. Thousands of jobs would be created during construction and, then, permanently, once the development is completed. Over the first 15 years, $3.8 billion in economic activity would be generated in Wake County. These benefits will occur with no out-of-pocket tax impact. All of the city and county revenue would be generated from activity within the new development, not from taxpayers.

Second, the location of the proposed Downtown South project will generate this economic infusion in an area that has not shared equitably in the boom experienced in downtown and northern Raleigh. This fact has been well documented, most recently in the 2017 county-generated plan named Wake County Destination 2028, which highlighted the need for development in the very location of the proposed Downtown South district.

Third, the project lines up in an area designated by state and federal agencies as an “Opportunity Zone.” Opportunity Zones were born of a Congressional initiative established to encourage investment in low-income urban and rural communities. I’ve met with the developers, and I believe they are committed to ensuring affordable housing options so that the people who currently live and work in this area can remain and take part in this next chapter of Raleigh’s story

I speak as a resident of downtown Raleigh, and as president of Shaw University, which is located where Southeast Raleigh and downtown Raleigh converge. I know that Southeast Raleigh has tremendous economic potential, and a boost such as this project could help this area achieve that potential.

But Downtown South is not a done deal. It won’t be a done deal until Interlocal Funds are allocated to the project. A great deal of private investment will make the surrounding development possible, but the stadium—designed to house sports, entertainment, special events, and more—needs a boost. This kind of project is precisely why Interlocal Funds are set aside: to support projects that are designed to increase tourism, as Downtown South surely will.

The elements of this equation are simple: no cost to North Carolina taxpayers, money from an influx of tourism flowing back into the Interlocal Fund, millions in annual property tax payments to help meet city and county needs, thoughtful growth in an area of Raleigh that needs it most. All of this adds up to a win for taxpayers, a win for city, county and state tax coffers, and a win for Southeast Raleigh. Let your city councilors and county commissioners know, as I have, that we support Downtown South.

Dr. Dillard is the 18th president of Shaw University.

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