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With more than 700 apartments on the way for Cameron Village, neighbors and Raleigh leaders are wondering whether the area can handle any more.
City council members on Tuesday approved the third major apartment project on Oberlin Road, developer Jim Anthony’s 616 Oberlin complex. With traffic worries as the main sticking point, neighborhood groups there spent months negotiating with Anthony. They feared the project – coupled with two other large buildings under construction a block away – would choke traffic on Oberlin Road and send more cars through residential streets. Some still opposed the plan, pointing out that the developer hadn’t studied cumulative traffic impacts from the other two developments.
The council approved the project 7-1, but Councilman Randy Stagner said the increased density must lead to better transit options in the area. Currently, Cameron Village is served by only two bus lines and has limited bike and pedestrian facilities. Without improvements, Stagner said, future developments might get halted.
Council OKs Stanhope Center
The Raleigh City Council on Tuesday approved the latest plans for the Stanhope Center on Hillsborough Street near N.C. State University. Developer Val Valentine agreed last month to reduce the building to five stories, bowing to complaints that a seven-story structure would create a “Grand Canyon” effect on Hillsborough.
Stanhope Center will have as many as 520 apartments, but the proposal drew few traffic concerns, because most residents will be N.C. State students commuting a few short blocks to the campus.
“This has got to be addressed and addressed soon, or we will stop with development,” he said.
Councilwoman Mary Ann Baldwin said she found Stagner’s comments troubling.
“It concerns me when I hear people on the council talk about stopping development,” Baldwin said. “The solution is not to stop development – the solution is to invest in our infrastructure.”
Baldwin said the city needs to consider a bond referendum to fund transit improvements. “I think that’s where we should be setting our priorities,” she said. “It’s obvious that Crabtree and Oberlin are going to be popular areas to develop.”
The city has been considering major streetscape improvements to Oberlin for years, but the plan hasn’t gotten off the ground.
A “road diet” project would narrow the five-lane section and add more sidewalks and parallel parking.
“The goal of that is to introduce a more pedestrian-oriented streetscape not too dissimilar to Hillsborough Street,” said Eric Lamb, the city’s transportation planning manager.
Earlier traffic studies show Oberlin could still run smoothly with fewer lanes, though another analysis could be needed when the new apartments fill up.
Councilman Thomas Crowder cast the lone vote against 616 Oberlin, objecting to a provision that allows access to the complex from a residential stretch of Daniels Street. And while he voted for the development, Councilman Russ Stephenson agreed.
“The solution is to reduce car trips with transit alternatives, not shift car trips onto neighborhood streets,” he said. “We really need to have the 21st-century transportation out there to support that type of growth.”
Lamb said that view could change how the city promotes connectivity in the new development code. Until now, Raleigh’s guidelines have promoted access points from side streets.
“Having a good street grid is important to allow traffic to circulate,” Lamb said. “That’s why we encourage that type of sidestreet access.”