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After bedroom communities sprouted along Falls of Neuse Road and Capital Boulevard in North Raleigh, developers turned to the northeast along U.S. 401 as the city’s new growth area.
But as plans for neighborhoods and shopping centers were drawn up, 2008 and the recession arrived, shelving blueprints and leaving strip malls half empty. Four years later, bulldozers adding lanes to U.S. 401 near Wake Tech could herald the area’s turnaround.
Louisiana-based Commercial Properties Realty Trust has started construction on its long-delayed 5401 North project. The 400-acre mixed-use development was first announced in 2006, before Interstate 540 opened to connect Northeast Raleigh to Research Triangle Park.
Tina Rance of Commercial Properties said the location has added plenty of selling points. Wake Tech has been expanding its north campus next to the 5401 North property, and a bond issue could spur more growth there. Shopping options have exploded around Triangle Town Center. U.S. 401 and Perry Creek Road were widened, and the city’s Neuse River Greenway will connect the property to 28 miles of trails when it opens next year.
“In the past 24 months, there’s been huge growth in that area,” Rance said. “It’s the growth sector, and we believe that from a commercial standpoint, it’ll be a new employment center.”
Rance hopes many 5401 North residents will be able to walk to work in the planned 1 million square feet of office space. Downstairs from the offices, developers hope to attract small neighborhood businesses such as dry cleaners and coffee shops.
‘A sense of community’
The business area will be surrounded by 2,200 houses, townhomes and condos when 5401 is built out. Home prices will range from $165,000 to $700,000, and Rance said her firm is negotiating contracts with homebuilders now. “We’re focused on economic and social responsibility, where the single mom can afford to live there as well as the surgeon,” she said.
The developers also plan to meet environmentally friendly building standards when possible, and the entire project will have sidewalks, open spaces and bike paths. River Bend Elementary is in the neighborhood, and last month, Wake schools bought land in 5401 North for a future middle school.
“We are focused on sustainability, we’re focused on healthy living, and we’re focused on a sense of community – how people remember old towns in America,” Rance said.
Crews are putting in 5401 North’s infrastructure now, including widening U.S. 401 at the neighborhood’s entrance just north of I-540. Rance expects the first families will move in next fall.
Businesses moving in
A few blocks north of 5401 North, Widewaters Properties is working with builders to start a residential component for its 5-year-old retail center at Forestville Road and U.S. 401. Forestville Crossings opened in 2007 anchored by a Lowes Foods, but many of the storefronts remain vacant.
Chris Kutlick of Widewaters said more businesses are moving in now, thanks in part to the growing Highland Creek neighborhood across the street. “Leasing has picked up quite a bit,” he said.
But not all Northeast Raleigh developers managed to weather the recession. Earlier this year, South Carolina-based Kahn Development foreclosed on the Shoppes at Greenway, which it built around 2008 near Perry Creek Road. The largely vacant shopping center is now in the hands of a bank.