September/October meetings summaries: affordable housing, pedestrian safety, historic preservation

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It’s been a while. I’m back with summaries of our recent City Council meetings.

1) We invested approximately $8 million in funds for affordable housing. About $3.5 million was authorized to purchase land and properties for construction of new affordable housing. The acquired sites are along New Bern Avenue and Western Blvd., both bus rapid transit (BRT) corridors. We also awarded an affordable housing provider, CASA, $2 million to help them acquire Grosvenor Gardens, a naturally occurring affordable apartment building on Hillsborough Street. CASA will preserve these rentals as affordable housing to low- to moderate-income households. Lastly, we appropriated nearly $3 million to renovate and improve the hotel the city purchased last year to provide permanent supportive housing.

2) We made several significant changes to downtown streets to make them safer for pedestrians, bicyclists, wheel chair uses, and other non-car users. We reduced the speed limit in the core of downtown to 25 mph. The data is clear, pedestrian safety increases when car speed decreases. We also eliminated double turn lanes. Next, we will eliminate right turns on red in these areas. These changes align with our Vision Zero program in our continued efforts to build a less car dependent city.

3) We approved a rezoning for Seaboard Station with meaningful preservation conditions for the historic Seaboard Station building. The Seaboard Station building was previously owned by Logan’s and they never sought any historic protections for the building. Logan’s sold the property and building to a developer who plans to add residential and retail to the site. They could already bulldoze the Seaboard Station building and build 7 stories of new construction by right. Because they were seeking a rezoning to allow 20 story buildings, we were able to negotiate preservation conditions. I worked closely with the community groups who were advocating for preservation, and I was happy to support the compromise conditions to protect the Seaboard Station building. As we grow, it’s important we preserve as much of our history and spaces that make us unique as possible.

4) We approved a rezoning request for the Depot development owned by the North Carolina Railroad Company. The rezoning included conditions to preserve the historic “Head House” of the existing depot and incorporate it into the new development structure, require photo documentation of the remaining existing structure, and provide a 30-foot wide pedestrian plaza connecting Cabarrus Street and Davie Street.

 

5) We approved a text change to substantially improve and enhance screening requirements for new parking decks. If you’ve been downtown or to midtown you’ve probably noticed a lot of the new buildings have “parking pedestals” or parking decks that are either exposed or partially screened to some extent. This new text change creates requirements for new buildings to make the parking decks less noticeable and more visually pleasing.

6) We approved a rezoning request near Nash Square adjacent to the Berkeley Cafe. When this request initially appeared on our agenda, it included the Berkeley Cafe building. Like Seaboard, there is no historical protection on that building, but it means a great deal to the community. Through negotiations with the developer, they agreed to remove the Berkeley Cafe building from the rezoning request and to extend the Berkeley Cafe lease. The rezoning was approved only for the vacant land adjacent to the building.

Our next City Council meeting in October 18, 2022 at 1 p.m.

Also, we’re fewer than 30 days away from Election Day, November 8, and early voting begins October 20 through November 5. I would greatly appreciate your vote in this election. It’s going to be a long ballot, and my race is on the back near the end. Please also tell your friends, family, and coworkers about my re-election campaign and make sure they know to vote the whole ballot. Thank you.

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