Downtown South

The elephant in the room — well, in District D at least. This almost 150 acre development proposed along S. Saunders Street just south of downtown Raleigh was unanimously opposed by the Raleigh Planning Commission (8-0) in December and the very next week approved by almost all members of Raleigh City Council (7-1).

Throughout the fall, a variety of groups aired their concerns about the planned development. ONE Wake, a multi-ethnic coalition comprised of 43 faith-based and civic organizations and 50,000 households in Wake County, made their values clear. They insisted on affordable housing and living wage jobs including contracts with minority owned businesses, neither of which were adequately addressed. Similarly Partners for Environmental Justice was seminal in pushing the developer to commit to funding stormwater improvement projects to assist downstream neighbors. The Wake County Housing Justice Coalition held a series of meetings about how the development could be improved and be a boon to current and future Raleighites.

Unfortunately, gentrification and displacement of nearby residents are a given without more stringent affordable housing requirements—the type of requirements that City Council could have asked for. Instead, they instructed city staff to craft a ~$200 million TIG (tax increment grant) for consideration in 2021—more public tax dollars to supposedly ensure affordable housing and other community benefits. Monies will first be spent on the stadium, and then we will see what is leftover.

I wish that City Council had crafted an innovative community benefit agreement with Kane—why not at least require a master plan so that we know what’s coming? And next time, insist on an equity analysis, a recommendation by Planning Commissioner Nicole Bennett. As developers knock on our door, let us have robust community conversations and negotiate to our fullest—in the public’s interest.

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