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In the coming year, Wake County will welcome a new crop of leaders. Work will begin on several development projects and a major urban park. The music industry will arrive for an international bluegrass festival.
And Raleigh may finally pass a new development code.
These are among the highlights we’ll be following in 2013. Here’s a sneak peek to help you prepare.
Political season for Raleigh council
This is an election year for Mayor Nancy McFarlane and members of the Raleigh City Council, all of whom serve two-year terms.
McFarlane has not yet declared her intentions. Her political strategist showed up at a recent council meeting to record the landmark vote on Dix Park, providing a glimpse at a likely campaign theme.
McFarlane, owner of a specialty pharmacy business, showed that she is willing to spend her own money, to the tune of $235,000 in last year’s decisive victory over two opponents.
You’ll want to save extra time to fill out the ballot. Council members are expected to consider a transportation bond referendum to pay for road, sidewalk and greenway upgrades.
Prepare for massive traffic backups
Southern Beltline repairs will start in summer 2013 as crews replace all pavement on the 30-year-old expressway, digging two feet into the ground to remove cracked concrete.
Traf will be squeezed into two lanes each way, day and night, for months at a time. The three-year overhaul is officially known as the I-40 Reconstruction Project, with work to occur between U.S. 1-64 in the west and U.S. 64-264 in the east.
Big decisions await school board
The Wake County school board will search for a new superintendent, develop a long-range student assignment plan and finalize the details of a new school construction bond package.
A misstep on any of these issues could set the district back for years. Additionally, the bond issue could go on the October ballot at the same time four school board seats will be up for election.
Bryan to lead Wake commissioners
The Wake County Board of Commissioners, under the leadership of recently elected chairman Joe Bryan, will hold talks with the county school board on a possible school construction bond issue.
Figures have ranged from about $300 million to more than $1 billion, with the lower figure more likely given the political climate.
Commissioners could also clear the way for voters to pass judgment on a sales tax increase for new transit services, but Bryan has said transit trails far behind education in his priorities for 2013.
Bluegrass comes to town
North Carolina may or may not be the home of bluegrass. But for at least three years, it will be the home of the World of Bluegrass.
The International Bluegrass Music Association will bring its weeklong convention and awards show to Raleigh Sept. 23-29.
A three-day “Bluegrass Fan Fest” with more than 60 acts will take place downtown.
The 2011 convention’s events in Nashville drew a reported 16,000 visitors, more than half from out of town. Raleigh city officials project similar figures, estimating the local economic impact at about $10 million.
A park takes shape at Dix
With an agreement reached to preserve the land at Dorothea Dix Hospital, Raleigh government leaders and citizen groups can begin drawing up plans for a destination park.
Over the years, suggestions have included an outdoor amphitheater, a botanical garden, a water park and an extension of nearby Pullen Park, which draws crowds to its popular train and carousel.
As a first step, the city will perform an assessment to determine the condition of the buildings and grounds. Raleigh officials will begin the work “as soon as we can,” Mayor Nancy McFarlane has said.
Wake’s largest high school to debut
Wake County will open its largest high school this summer on the outskirts of Rolesville.
The campus can accommodate about 2,500 students and will draw from Northeast Raleigh to the Franklin County line. Former East Wake High Principal Ericka Lucas will lead the new school.
She’ll oversee planning and hiring as construction wraps up.
The school community will help choose a mascot and colors as they begin new traditions.
New northern Wake developments
Construction is expected to finally begin this year on several long-delayed developed projects in North Raleigh and Wake Forest, as the real-estate market shows signs of a rebound.
Developers plan to build the first homes in 5401 North, a massive mixed-use project near Wake Tech’s northern campus. The site will eventually have offices, stores and 2,200 houses, townhomes and condos.
In Wake Forest, homebuilders plan to break ground on the 700-home Traditions subdivision. A new access road on the northeast side of town will serve the neighborhood.
New era for development in Raleigh
Yes, this item was on our list last year. But talks on a new development code are still unfolding.
The city is finalizing a new code that encourages walkable, transit-oriented development.
Instead of big-box fortresses and huge parking lots, think mixed-use villages with wide sidewalks and modern street designs.
It’s one of the ways Raleigh is trying to position itself as a 21st century city.
Staff writers Tommy Goldsmith, Keung Hui and David Menconi contributed to this report.