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Downtown away from town 

The latest applicant to become a Planned Development District (PDD) is Colonial Properties Trust. It’s the real estate company out of Alabama that’s taken an option from N.C. State University to buy the 179-acre tract west of the RBC Center on the Wade Avenue extension. The pricetag: $14.5 million.

The land is zoned for agricultural use now. Before it goes through with the purchase, Colonial wants it rezoned a PDD—in effect, removing all zoning restrictions on it other than those the company imposes on itself in a so-called “master plan.” That’s what PDDs are all about.

Colonial’s master plan is pretty vague. That’s not surprising, since, as Charles McGeehee, the firm’s executive vice president, told a City Council committee last week, it will take them 5-7 years to develop the tract and, as yet, they haven’t signed the first tenant.

So they’d like to retain as much flexibility as possible about what could go there.

The problem is, local leaders worked hard with the city to draw up a small-area plan back when the arena was going up—to make sure that what came with it wouldn’t overwhelm their neighborhoods. The small-area plan calls for “village scale,” as Councilor Neal Hunt, the committee chair, noted. But Colonial’s master plan would allow buildings up to 120 feet tall and two big-box stores of 85,000 square feet each. Colonial still had time to revise it, but as it stood then, Hunt added, “there’s no effort to have a real mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented development there.”

Meanwhile, the tall buildings Colonial wants to put up on the highway are just what Raleigh says it wants downtown. Of course, the RBC Center isn’t downtown, either.

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