1/22/2020 Work session on parks and greenways; regular meeting issues include potential big development for downtown

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Yesterday was a busy day for Raleigh City Council. We started the day with a work session on our potential bond referendum for parks and greenways, and then we had a regular session council meeting in the afternoon (with a surprise recess because the microphones stopped working, yikes). Here’s a quick summary of some pertinent issues:
 
1) At the work session on parks and greenways, we learned about the history of parks bonds and how the money has been spent. We also discussed criteria for projects that would receive priority, including equitable distribution of parks, connectivity, and accessibility. I asked that we also consider parks that were promised under prior bonds that had not yet been completed due to inflation, a saturated construction market and a lack of subcontractors;
 
2) At the regular session council meeting, the city gave out the first “Employee Big Idea Award” to Amy for her idea to create a city college program for Raleigh employees, which is an internal educational training program that aims to increase an employee’s knowledge of other departments and to increase collaboration. This award was one of the mayor’s new initiatives to unlock ideas from city staff;
 
3) Also at the regular meeting, we continued our discussion of the potential bond referendum on affordable housing. We reviewed a history of the city’s housing bonds, discussed creation of an advisory committee to engage stakeholders on housing, and discussed ways the money could be spent to address affordable housing and housing affordability. Of note, I mentioned that our first priority should be getting as many people as possible into housing, including affordable rentals. I also indicated support for the Homebuyer Assistance Program which assists first-time, low to moderate income home buyers with financing the purchase of a home. At our affordable housing work session on December 17, we learned that the Homebuyer Assistance Program opens the doors to home ownership for many individuals who may not otherwise be able to afford a home, which is an issue of equity, in my opinion;
 
4) Finally, of significant note, we authorized the city to start seeking developers for two downtown parking lots in front of the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts. This property is widely considered our “oceanfront” property. The lots are already zoned for 40 stories, and we are seeking construction on one of the sites of a full service, “upper upscale” (industry term) hotel to support the needs of our convention center, and we are seeking construction on the other site of a class A office tower with a major anchor tenant, ground level retail, and residential units. This will be a signature project for the city, and we are looking for unique, quality design. Attached are images indicating the location of the sites and a rendering of the type of quality designs and height we desire.
 
Our next regular sessions council meetings are Tuesday, February 4, 2020 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.

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