Local News

Man Whose Vision Led To Cameron Village Dies At 91

Posted March 2, 2004

— The man who helped reshape the future of Raleigh has died.

J. Willie York passed away Tuesday from stroke complications. He was 91.

York was the vision behind

Cameron Village,

a vision that may come full circle after his death. Cameron Village will turn 55 this year.

Funeral arrangements are not complete.

When he designed Cameron Village in 1949 -- 50 years before traffic jams and urban sprawl hit the City of Oaks -- York had a wild idea: build a collection of stores and offices and surround them with apartments and homes.

At that time, there were no malls. The idea was for store-front parking, free parking, common management, a uniform look and common promotion.

Cameron Village began to attract a lot of shoppers that used to spend their dollars downtown. Eventually, several downtown stores followed the shoppers.

At the same time, the city of Raleigh decided to tear up Fayetteville Street and put a pedestrian mall in place, which hindered business up and down the street and offered no place to park.

With the new malls built beyond the Beltline, shoppers gave up parking convenience for big department stores and familiar franchise chains. That forced Cameron Village to change its look, focus on small specialty stores and generate new interest.

City planners have looked at the success of Cameron Village as a model of smart development, an antidote to commuter traffic snarls and isolated neighborhoods -- so people could live, play, work and shop in the same general area.

"My dad is a visionary," York's son, Smedes, said in 1999, when Cameron Village celebrated its 50th birthday. "He's a visionary today and was a visionary 50 years ago."

And he built a project that has stood the test of time.

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