Blue Sky Services Development Leads Phase 3 Of Hillsborough Street Rezoning

RALEIGH — When Raleigh adopted a new comprehensive plan in 2009, supporters hailed it as breaking away from the kind of urban sprawl development that characterized much of the city’s previous growth.

The plan is designed to funnel the city’s future growth to a handful of areas and major road corridors, where there will be high-density development that mixes residential use with restaurants and shops.

Perhaps no area of the city is moving more quickly to embody this vision than Hillsborough Street. Since the recession ended, the long-neglected thoroughfare that runs along the edge of N.C. State University has seen a rash of new development, much of it apartments for both students and non-students.

Now three more residential projects are being proposed, with two of them scheduled to be discussed next week. The projects are likely to rekindle the debate about how best to incorporate higher intensity development with established single-family neighborhoods.

The two projects on the agenda of Tuesday’s Wade Citizens Advisory Council involve rezoning a trio of parcels to make room for apartment projects.The larger project involves rezoning a 2.18-acre site between Montgomery and Furches streets, just east of where Hillsborough intersects with Faircloth Street.

Concerned neighbors

The developer is Cedar Fork Investment, an entity being run by Jeff Glenn, a broker with CBRE’s Raleigh office who specializes in multifamily housing. In an email, Glenn said Cedar Fork is composed of his family’s assets. “I am running point on the assemblage and entitlements for a to-be-announced development group,” he said.

The rezoning Cedar Fork is seeking would allow for the construction of about 100 units, plus a parking deck and some ground floor retail. The site is now home to a fraternity house and some office space.

The city’s Planning Commission is expected to vote on the project Tuesday morning before the advisory council meeting. The project is consistent with the city’s new comprehensive plan, but that hasn’t assuaged neighbor concerns. Some of those neighbors recently hired a local attorney to represent them as the project makes its way through the approval process.

The student housing project involves rezoning a 0.18-acre site along Hillsborough between Horne and Pogue streets. Cary Joshi, a local developer, is seeking to turn the property into a seven-story student complex that would include 24 units and housing for up to 96 students. Joshi owns the Two Guys Pizza restaurant that is one of the three retail properties included in the rezoning request.

The project would be similar to 2604 Hillsborough, the student housing project that Charlotte-based FMW Real Estate recently completed just a block west. Like 2604 Hillsborough, Joshi’s project would include ground floor retail and no parking.

Height an issue

A similar development is also being proposed by Raleigh-based Blue Sky Services, which is behind the third active rezoning case along Hillsborough Street. The request, which is expected to go before the Planning Commission next month, involves rezoning a 0.2-acre site adjacent to where Kane Realty is now building an 800-student housing complex. Blue Sky plans a five-story building with ground floor retail, no parking, and housing for up to 56 students.

At seven stories, Joshi’s project exceeds the five-story maximum that is recommended for what the city calls a “Neighborhood Mixed Use” area. City staff has suggested limiting the project to five stories, and Joshi plans to limit his building’s height to 75 feet, which is the highest you could build a five-story building. (The Aloft Hotel planned for across from the Bell Tower on Hillsborough will have seven stories, but it was approved before the city revised its guidelines.)

In addition to questions about scale, all these projects are likely to raise more issues about traffic. With several new apartment projects scheduled to open later this year at nearby Cameron Village, the area is about to experience a major infusion of new residents.

That has the potential to create exactly the kind of lively street activity on Hillsborough that would likely be welcomed both by existing retailers and surrounding homeowners. But it also could create the sort of growing pains that could lead to a backlash.

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