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Raleigh-NC

Triangle Metro Center (Davis Park) in RTP

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It appears that although the developer wants to move full speed ahead and the Durham County commissioners are behind him, the City-County Zoning Committee seems to have a few issues. Nevertheless, this development is the kind of development we should expect to see near TTA's [proposed] regional rail stations. Of course, shopping centers will always sneak into the big picture, but I surely hope the developer will find a way to do this right. I would hate to see this project end up like yet-another gated community.

Durham land rezoned for complex

Durham board clears way for huge project near RTP

By MICHAEL BIESECKER, Staff Writer

DURHAM -- Durham County commissioners voted 5-0 Monday night to rezone two large parcels of land near Research Triangle Park that could become part of the largest and most expensive mixed-use development in the county's history.

In a joint venture with the Research Triangle Foundation, Craig Davis Properties of Cary is proposing a sprawling complex of offices, stores, restaurants, townhouses and apartments to be clustered around a planned commuter rail station.

The massive project, to be called Triangle Metro Center, is expected to take about a decade to build, but when complete it could top $300 million in total investment, according to the developer.

"This type of development is what we need around all of our station sites," said Paul G. Vespermann, the director of transit corridor planning for the Triangle Transit Authority. "Density is the lifeblood of the transit system."

The development would be built on a former cattle farm, bordering N.C. 54 and the Nortel Networks campus on its northern edge and extending south along an existing railroad line to Hopson Road. On its west side, the project would straddle Davis Drive.

To help negotiate the complex planning requirements for a project of that scale, the development was packaged as three separate tracts that together total about 180 acres. A rezoning for the northern section of the project, which would include a dense collection of mixed-used high-rise buildings totaling more than 700,000 square feet, was approved earlier this year. A large hotel with convention center also is a possibility.

The two parcels that won rezoning Tuesday would be used to build between 1,150 and 2,285 dwellings on the east side of Davis Drive and a 160,000-square-foot shopping center on the west side of the road with a supermarket, as well as 80 to 215 additional residential units. The whole development would be accessible from walking paths that lead to and from the TTA's planned commuter rail stop.

"This would give those who work in RTP a first-class residential option that doesn't exist now, eliminating an automobile commute," said Patrick Biker, the attorney for Craig Davis Properties.

Planning staff had recommended approving the rezonings, but the city-county zoning committee voted 6-0 to recommend denial, citing concerns about unresolved road improvements and how stormwater would be handled at the site.

Though the commissioners were generally supportive of the project, Commissioner Becky Heron questioned whether planning such a large development around a commuter rail station that has yet to win final federal approval was a sound idea.

"We're taking a calculated risk," said Jim Schaafsma, a partner at Craig Davis Properties. He pointed out that the development also would be accessible from the Triangle Parkway, a proposed toll road connecting the Durham Freeway and Raleigh's Outer Loop.

Schaafsma indicated that the company was still revising the size and scope of the project, but he said a detailed site plan likely would be presented to the commissioners for approval by the end of the year.

Board Chairwoman Ellen Reckhow expressed some disappointment that the shopping center proposed for the project's western edge, farthest from the rail station, appeared to be geared more toward people in cars than pedestrians. However, she praised the project overall.

"I think this will be an excellent project for Durham and the whole Triangle," Reckhow said.

Staff writer Michael Biesecker can be reached 956-2421 or [email protected]

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Yes, you are correct. It is a shame that Raleigh has not yet seen something major, even in the form of a New Urbanist community, but I am willing to bet anything that Raleigh is likely to see big infills and conversions of former shopping centers into some more "urban" projects. The problem, so far, is that Raleigh has placed some restrictions in the zoning guidelines that prevent projects like TMC from becoming reality. The good news is, there is a commitment, on behalf of the city, for changing this. TMC has to carry its promise in order to see similar communities flourish all over the Triangle. The very fact that the developer is willing to take the financial risk says a lot. That is, start building TMC before even the whole TTA regional rail gets the final "blessing".

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Absolutely... Mixed-use is necessary, given that enough people live around. This explains why the developer also plans on a larger community around TMC. The latter cannot become financially viable, by itself. Hopefully, we won't see any cul-de-sacs, or gated communities appearing there. That area needs a more urban look and feel. I am not talking about something out-of-scale, but merely a nice transition from RTP's current fabric. Retail is necessary, even if that means having a shopping center incorporated into the entire project. Of course, TMC will not include such shopping center; we are talking about the 155 acres that will be used for the residential community. In order to make the community known, it will be necessary to provide enough parking space for visitors. They could create something along the same lines with Cameron Village, where grid is utilized, walkability is a reality and there is plenty of parking space.

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This is great to see! I have wondered why the area hasn't been on board with this yet. Smack in the middle of RTP, and very easy to access Raleigh, Durham, or Chapel Hill. This is also something that would make rail work quite well as it gets going. The retail and living component is absolutely huge. You could take this in to Raleigh for a show, dinner, etc. VERY good to see!

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In reading through the N&O this weekend on the TTA's woes with the Rail Plan, I noticed a suggestion from one of the readers that I thought would be of interest here. Is it time to address traffic congestion on I-40 by allowing mixed use development within RTP? If more people lived near the huge businesses located in the park, traffic may be reduced considerably if it is done correctly. However the down side of this is that it means you are building a new city in the area and this may negatively affect Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. It could be a positive effect as well given that it may help to curb unplanned sprawl that is occuring elsewhere.

What do you think?

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It's already underway. Craig Davis Properties and RTF are developing a mixed use center around what will become the South RTP station. There will always be corporate campuses (campi?) that want to retain a segregated environment due to security, both physical and of intellectual property, but there will be an increasing number of high-intensity, finely mixed use developments around the edges of RTP to get workers and shopping closer. This will add an additional layer or two of company type to the R&D focus of the RTP, and increase its staying power and the region's economic vitality.

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It's already underway. Craig Davis Properties and RTF are developing a mixed use center around what will become the South RTP station. There will always be corporate campuses (campi?) that want to retain a segregated environment due to security, both physical and of intellectual property, but there will be an increasing number of high-intensity, finely mixed use developments around the edges of RTP to get workers and shopping closer. This will add an additional layer or two of company type to the R&D focus of the RTP, and increase its staying power and the region's economic vitality.

So would the mixed use development not include housing?

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It does include housing-I believe that is the focus of the first phase of the project (Triangle Metro Center). Condos and townhouses will be the majority of housing in this phase.

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Ah, ok. Having a nice mixed use product could be a good thing I would think as having a few restaurants and shops near would further keep folks off the roads. And although I have never been to RTP, it would seem DT and the RTP area could flourish independently since they are not in close proximity to each other.

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So will these people in the mixed use areas of RTP have RTP addresses? I assume that Raleigh and Durham would still not be allowed to incorporate the new RTP residents, so will these people always be considered residents of the the county. Do you think that if enough people live in RTP that RTP could one day incorporate into an actual city? If the mixed use thing in the park takes off how high could the RTP population get?

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It's already underway. Craig Davis Properties and RTF are developing a mixed use center around what will become the South RTP station. There will always be corporate campuses (campi?) that want to retain a segregated environment due to security, both physical and of intellectual property, but there will be an increasing number of high-intensity, finely mixed use developments around the edges of RTP to get workers and shopping closer. This will add an additional layer or two of company type to the R&D focus of the RTP, and increase its staying power and the region's economic vitality.

Is this actually inside the park? The question was about rezoning land inside the park for residential/retail/new urbanist kind of stuff.

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Yes it is. Its actually a partnership between the Research Triangle Foundation and Craig Davis Properties. Construction has begun at the intersection of Highway 54 and Miami Blvd.

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Great find. The site says it Triangle Metro Center will have 700,000 sq feet of class A office space. Is this inclusive with the existing buildings and if so how much of this will be new office space?

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Triangle Metro Center is not actually within Research Triangle Park, it is on the eastern border. Remember that the NCRR tracks form the eastern border of RTP (for the most part)--observe how development just mysteriously goes from suburban to rural as you cross that line in certain places.

This is about allowing mixed use development inside the 7000 acre park. I think it is a grand idea. It would certainly help reduce traffic in surrounding Durham County during the day.

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I think its new office space but its not total build out-there is still about 1000 undeveloped acres although I have some unreliable sources that there maybe movement on some of this property. Arysta Life Sciences is going to build their North American HQ but I don't know if this will be on this land or if they will take existing property. Lenovo is still in the air. There are a couple of other companies scouting RTP as well right now.

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Arysta is a crop science/agri-business/life science company similar to Syngenta or Bayer Crop Science-also in the Park. The area has become a hotspot for these type of companies. Lenovo is the Chinese company that bought IBM's PC business.

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I've given a lot of thought into the development issues in the Research Triangle Park. As you all already know, the current system encourages sprawl. Companies moving in choose their own private campus, and stay locked up and isolated there behind miles of forest and asphalt. There's no inner organization to the park. There's no effective communication between areas of the park.

I'm thinking about a few possible solutions.

1) When getting future companies on board for moving into RTP, a planning council could be created that worked to put the companies into close, mixed-use settings.

2) We could take it a step further and begin building a "research mall" in a central location in RTP. Future companies moving in could attach their buildings to this network, and create a large, communicating research structure. Gradually others would move to it, and it would become one of the largest individual structures in the country.

This would generate a lot of landmark recognition for RTP. Instead of being a sprawling wasteland, it's almost a private sector pentagon. It makes the region look advanced, and it could lead the way to exponential growth in RTP.

The campus of RTP would be more compact, dynamic, and incorporating ammenities with it would be easy enough. The gigantic lobby that connects all of the buildings would be quite a sight. Imagine taking a people-mover to your office. That'd be pretty cool.

3) Alternatively, we could try to offer all of the same cost advantages of moving to the park in the cities themselves, coaxing companies into urban areas. RTP would be left to rot. The region would still be a big tech market, and it would strengthen our other urban cores. But without the lack of an obvious landmark to tie our identification to, the Triangle might seem a bit more like every other metro.

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I think that they are already planning a "city-center" type of development around a proposed TTA station. I think it is Craig-Davis doing the work on it. I don't know if it will ever be possible to reverse the growth pattern attributed to RTP itself though. I think people will still opt for Cary and Morrisville and continue the sprawl. I just don't see all of the families living in this area and working in RTP leaving their yards and moving into a condo. I can see the young professional doing it, but not the 40+ yr old engineers making that move.

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