Raleigh, N.C. — The canvases that stretch along the walls of the North Carolina Museum of Art tell only part of the story.
Thirty-five acres of land recently transferred to the museum by the state could be transformed into a mixed-use campus of shops, apartments and possibly a hotel, under a plan envisioned by museum director Larry Wheeler.
He sees the site, at the corner of Wade Avenue and Blue Ridge Road, as a place where people could live, work and play. The money generated from the development would be used to support the museum.
“Superb design and architecture and sustainability, and all the best qualities of living in the 21st century,” Wheeler said. “We hope very fine public art will be a signature of this place.”
He said the arts campus could become an international model for regional planning and design.
Plans are in the early stages, and developer and designer still need to be found. But the project has the support of Raleigh Planning Director Mitchell Silver.
He’s behind a push to revamp the Blue Ridge Road area and divide it into four districts to take advantage of assets including the PNC Arena, Rex Hospital and the museum.
“It really represents what we see as one of the major streets of the future as the city grows over the next 20 years,” Silver said.
The city’s proposal is 10 to 20 years off, but the museum plan could happen in about three years.
Museum visitor Courtney Brett enjoys the grounds and said an arts campus is a good idea, if it’s done right.
“If it’s something that can involve the entire campus and the entire community, I think it’s wonderful idea,” she said. “I think we need more of that kind of art and creativity in our community.”
Wheeler sees the big picture – and he likes it.
“It’s such an exciting time in the history of Raleigh,” he said. “To be able to create institutions of international importance, that’s exactly what Raleigh deserves.”