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Midtown-St. Albans Area Plan

Last updated Feb. 12, 2019 - 10:02 am
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Midtown-St. Albans Area Plan

What is the Midtown-St. Albans Plan?

The Midtown-St. Albans plan aims to create a vision and identify specific improvements and policies to guide future investment and development in an area that has seen rapid and significant change over the past decade.

Midtown Raleigh is a rapidly emerging district, serving as an example of a suburban place retrofitted and redeveloped as a walkable urban center. More changes are expected in the coming years, including millions of square feet of new development.

St. Albans Drive currently serves as a transition line between the existing and proposed mixed-use development to the south and older, primarily residential, areas to its north.

As the region evolves, questions and challenges to be addressed change as well. In Midtown, many of these questions now involve transportation demand created by recent and future development, especially along St. Albans Drive.

The goal of this planning process is to involve the community in shaping the growth and development of the area so that transportation, land use, and other decisions are made that meet the needs of current and future residents, employees, and visitors.

Where are we in this process?

1) Visioning. An initial outreach effort aimed at exploring what topics the plan should focus on and developing the elements of a shared vision for Midtown. This stage wrapped up in summer 2018. Read the visioning report.

2) Understanding the Area – this is the current stage. This stage involves a deep date-based dive into current and future transportation and development conditions. It also includes significant public outreach aimed at testing initial visioning conclusions and focusing on specific issues and opportunities in the area. We’re currently in this phase, which includes results from the survey. This phase also will include an issues and opportunities report, likely in February 2019.

3) Options. This phase, which will begin in March 2019, will involve developing a set of solutions and options for transportation, land use, urban design, stormwater, and other issues. These options will be presented at a set of public events and online for input, further direction, and refinement. These events will take place in spring 2019.

4) Final Recommendations. This stage involves refining and prioritizing recommended transportation and other infrastructure improvements, with cost and other considerations explored in depth. It also will include refined policy guidance for land use and other issues. A draft report will be completed and presented at a public meeting for any final refinements.

5) Adoption and Implementation. This last phase includes review from the Planning Commission and City Council, which will be asked to adopt the plan recommendations, including any policy changes. Following adoption, projects from the plan can immediately begin the process of being implemented – funded, designed, and built. Some may be near-term projects; others could be longer-term efforts.

Recent updates and next steps

Thanks to everyone who joined us during our series of December public meetings! We heard from over 100 residents, employees, and community members about their experience in the area, and how we can shape a plan that addresses those experiences. See a summary of input here.

Our Online Open House, which included an online survey and plenty of information about the area, just wrapped up. We’ll be building on that input as we work through the remaining phases of the project.

Next steps will include the creation of an issues and opportunities report and work on developing options for addressing those issues.

How do I get involved?

Your input is essential. A successful plan depends upon an inclusive planning process that receive input from diverse range of voices in the community.

First, please don’t hesitate to reach out to planning staff with any questions, comments, or concerns. Jason Hardin, the project manager, and Sara Ellis are glad to hear your thoughts or just talk about next steps.

Second, take part in the many public meetings or surveys that are part of the plan. We’ll be holding a set of events this spring to talk about options – please check this page or follow us on social media to (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram) to receive notifications once dates are set.

While participating in a planning process can seem daunting or time-consuming, we want to do what we can to remove barriers to participation. We know that it can be difficult to find time to attend a public meeting held on a single given day, often on a weekday evening. For this plan, we are providing diverse opportunities for input at each stage, with multiple meetings held on different days and at different times. Or, if meetings don’t work for you, online surveys held during each stage allow you to participate on your own schedule.

We also want to make sure your input meaningfully influences the plan. At each stage, we’ll publish both the raw data and our summary, so you can see what we’ve heard. And as the input leads to general takeaways that then inform the creation of options and ultimately the final report, you will be able to see clearly how the input was used.

Beyond the meetings and surveys, here are some additional ways you can get involved:

  • Do you have a community group or business, or event you would like us to attend to provide more information on the project? Please reach out to Sara Ellis.
  • Stay informed for future updates by signing up for the Midtown-St.Albans plan communications through MyRaleigh Subscriptions.
  • Word of mouth is one of the most powerful tools to get the word out, so please consider telling all your neighbors and friends in and around the study area about the project. We want to hear their feedback, too!
  • If you’d like to review the materials from the in-person meetings, please see the “Understanding the Area” box to the right.

Again, if you have any questions, let us know!

Why should I get involved?

Plans such as the Midtown plan are a way that the city shapes its future. Planning affects many aspects of everyday life – how we get around, what kind of housing is available for us at various stages of life, whether the places in which we spend our time are beautiful and inspiring, and so much more.

What is an area plan?

Area plans are intended to provide detailed information and solutions to guide the future physical and regulatory characteristics for particular area of a city.

Generally, area plans seek to:

  • Involve the community in developing a long-term vision for that area
  • Define policies and actions that will guide how the area should be maintained or changed in the future.
  • Identify future land uses in an overall community-wide context. Is housing a need? Are park spaces adequate? These are the kinds of questions to consider.
  • Recommend future infrastructure improvements to sidewalks and the street network. Are there street connections that can be made? Is widening an option? Can the area be safer and more comfortable for people walking, taking transit, or riding a bike?
  • Provide urban design guidance. Should buildings be close to the street or should parking line the street? How wide should sidewalks be, and how many street trees?
  • Provide implementation guidance for private and public investments and strategies that should be pursued to realize the vision for the area. Raleigh has resources to make things happen –prioritizing investments is key.

More specifically, an area plan will lead to a series of recommendations which will be presented to City Council. The recommendations of an area plan may take the form of:

  • Land use amendments
  • Zoning amendments
  • Plans for open space
  • Updates to the Street Plan Map
  • Updates to the Greenway Map
  • Transportation projects and future studies
  • Capital projects
  • Renderings and sketches depicting urban design guidelines for the area

Items requiring further study

What else is happening in the area?

Several major transportation and planning projects are set to take place in or near Midtown, including a widening of Six Forks Road, new grade separation for rail crossings, a new interchange at Wake Forest Road and the Beltline, and a look at the future of Capital Boulevard.

Major projects include:

Six Forks Road

The Six Forks Corridor Study concluded in 2018. It recommended widening Six Forks Road to create a consistent six-lane segment between Interstate 440 and Lynn Road. It also recommends new or improved facilities for people walking and biking on both sides of the street.

The city is currently working with NCDOT on funding and phasing alternatives for the project, with design expected to begin in 2019.

Capital Boulevard

The Capital Boulevard North Corridor Study is currently underway. This project will create a vision and implementation plan for the future of transportation and development along Capital Boulevard between Interstate 440 and Interstate 540.

This project is on a similar track to the Midtown plan. Specific concepts have not yet been developed, but a broader vision that focuses on the future of the corridor has been developed.

Wake Forest/440 Interchange

This NCDOT project involves redesigning the intersection of Wake Forest Road and Interstate 440, with the primary goals being to reduce vehicle delay and reduce collisions. The plan envisions a “diverging diamond” interchange, a relatively new intersection design that reduces merging and turning conflict points. The project would include redesigned pedestrian facilities as well.

The project is currently in the design phase, with construction expected to begin in 2020.

More information about the interchanges, including a video that shows how people travel through them, is here: https://www.ncdot.gov/initiatives-policies/Transportation/safety-mobility/diverging-diamond-interchanges/Pages/default.aspx

Railroad grade separation

This project involves the conversion of several at-grade railroad crossings, where trains cross a street at the same level as pedestrians and cars, to grade-separated crossings, where the railroad either goes under or over the street. The project, which includes seven crossings in Raleigh and Wake Forest, is aimed at improving safety and rail efficiency. It also would contribute to plans for higher-speed rail from Raleigh to Richmond and beyond.

Three of the crossings are in the Midtown study area – at Wolfpack Lane, New Hope Church Road, and Millbrook Road. Construction on the New Hope Church Road project is anticipated in 2020. A timeline has not been set for the other projects. More information about the projects is available on their website.

Other projects

The City of Raleigh has numerous transportation projects planned for the Midtown area and other parts of the city. These range from new road construction projects to sidewalk additions and traffic calming measures. The city’s transportation project map shows the locations of the projects and provides links to a timeline and more information about each.

A tour of Midtown

Midtown is a diverse place. It includes tall office buildings and neighborhoods of low-slung ranch houses. It includes streets with comfortable accommodations for pedestrians – and streets with fast-moving cars and no sidewalks at all. It includes several transit routes, but minimal facilities for bus riders.

The following images show some generalized categories of places within the study area.

The southern end of the study area is defined by Crabtree Creek, large surface parking lots, and the intersection of Wake Forest Road and Interstate 440. NCDOT is planning a major reconstruction of the interchange, which would convert it into a “diverging diamond” intersection.

An older office park occupies much of the land on the south side of Interstate 440 near its intersection with Six Forks Road (top three pictures). East of Wake Forest, the Atlantic Avenue corridor is characterized of a mix of office, warehouse, and residential uses and limited or nonexistent pedestrian accommodations (bottom three pictures).

The expansion of North Hills on the east side of Six Forks Road has transformed the area and created an employment and residential center on a scale that resembles a downtown.

Much of the study area north of St. Albans Drive and west of Wake Forest Road is characterized by detached houses from the 1960s and 1970s.

While parts of the study area are characterized either by multi-story residential buildings or larger one-story ranch houses, the area includes a range of residential housing types, particularly along or near Wake Forest Road. They include older apartment complexes that may see redevelopment in coming years and smaller detached houses in the neighborhood behind Duke Raleigh Hospital.

Wake Forest Road (top) and Six Forks Road (bottom) serve as major transportation facilities in the area. Both move a high number of vehicles and have limited pedestrian facilities.

More about the area and the history of the Midtown-St. Albans Plan

Background

Midtown Raleigh’s transformation began in 2003 with the redevelopment of an aging enclosed mall and strip center into a mixed-use development featuring retail, hotel, office, and residential. In recent years, the expansion of North Hills on the east side of Six Forks Road has continued the area’s evolution.

The approval of the North Hills East Master Plan in 2007 set the stage for additional transformation on the east side of Six Forks Road, with high-rise office buildings, a variety of residential types, and more retail. The build-out of North Hills, as summarized in an Urban Land Institute Case Study, includes roughly a million square feet of office and retail, over 500 hotel rooms, and nearly 1,400 residential units. A recent expansion of the master plan increased this potential even further.

St. Albans Drive is central to many of the issues raised by the changes in the area, many of which are taking place along the portion of the street that runs between North Hills and Wake Forest Road. It also serves a more traditionally suburban commercial area and Duke Raleigh Hospital along Wake Forest Road, before turning northward to terminate at New Hope Church Road.

With the recent rezoning changes and Six Forks Corridor improvements, St. Albans Drive area is poised to see significant change as this part of Raleigh continues to grow and transform. Neighborhood streets that connect into St. Albans—including Hardimont, Dartmouth, and Quail Hollow—may see traffic spillover from increased trips to and from the area.

The area south of 440 is undergoing significant change as well. A project billed as “Midtown East” is redeveloping a parcel near the intersection of Wake Forest Road and 440 with a Wegmans grocery store and additional retail development. Farther south, larger surface parking lots occupy a significant part of the floodplain along Crabtree Creek. The creek itself, one of the larger waterways in Raleigh, flows eastward before joining with the Neuse River.

More broadly, while an interstate highway and several arterial streets serve the Midtown area, it does not have the type of connectivity found downtown, creating a set of transportation challenges. Traffic is concentrated on a few heavily-traveled streets, bus service is slow, and safe and comfortable options for people walking or biking are few, particularly across I-440.

For more information about the project area, please see the briefing book, which contains maps and images documenting current conditions.

Confirmation Group

The project features a “confirmation group,” which is charged with ensuring that the planning process invites and includes input from all relevant stakeholders. Ultimately, the group will be asked to “confirm” that the plan’s recommendations reflect public input received during the process.

The group, which was appointed by City Council, will meet throughout the plan process. Minutes and meeting materials from the group’s meetings are available in the “Confirmation Group” box on the side of this page.

The group’s next meeting will take place at 4:30 p.m. on February 5, 2019.

Visioning Phase

The first phase of the project involved an effort to better understand the key issues to address and to begin developing a vision for the future of Midtown.

More than 400 participants completed the online survey or took part in one of three in-person visioning events in June. The events were aimed at providing information about the project, gathering data about places people like and places that need work, and better understanding stakeholders’ vision for the future of the area.

Input from those events has been compiled into a summary report and supporting appendix. Primary issues included:

  • Transportation
  • Bike and pedestrian safety
  • Improved transit

However, many other issues also emerged during the process and will be closely analyzed during the planning process.

Perhaps the strongest themes appeared in attendees’ visions for the study area. Many attendees expressed a desire for increased walkability or increased multi-modal options. A significant number of participants hoped the area will grow in diversity but maintain a strong sense of community and sense of safety. Many also hoped the area will be home to beautiful streets and neighborhoods and will retain ample trees and greenery. A Midtown that is more inclusive and affordable was also envisioned by many. Lastly, there was a theme of a Midtown area that is prepared for future storms and stormwater challenges.

Examples of what people hope to see in Midtown’s future include:

“Walkable, inclusive, safe.”

“Still livable by all income levels. With manageable traffic. And increased walking and biking opportunities.”

“A well-planned, pedestrian-friendly urban/residential area with great parks and great transportation (light rail, bus, bike lanes).”

“The kind of ‘neighborhood’ that can have the reputation for both (i) the best restaurants in walking distance, and (ii) the best trick or treating!”

“Safe, walkable, and full of green space.”

“A dynamic, pedestrian friendly area with civic spaces. A direct connection to downtown Raleigh but also an area with it’s own identity and offerings.”

“Somewhere that my children can safely navigate by bike or foot with public transportation options. urban and green with open space.”

“A place where many people can find housing, groceries, access to transit, and access to jobs without needing a car.”


View the entire visioning report.

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