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Raleigh Planners Holding Public Meetings Concerning Growth Around ESA

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RALEIGH — Raleigh's new Entertainment and Sports Arena is a magnet for growth. Beginning Thursday night, the city will hold a series of public hearings on what should go where and when.

The series of public workshops should result in a master plan for the area around the ESA.

Growth in the area has been expected, but planners want to ensure, as much as possible, that any plan will be agreeable to as many people as possible.

At issue is a big piece of west Raleigh bordered by Western Boulevard to the South, Wade Avenue Extension to the North, Interstate 40 to the west and the beltline on the east.

The area around the ESA serves as a major gateway to Raleigh. It is also an area of major development. Signs of development already dot the area, and new buildings are sprouting quickly.

Land use planners hope public workshops will help develop a workable plan.

"I think you have a lot of land owners, stakeholders -- you also have communities. The whole purpose of this is to have a plan which will fit the needs of all the communities, the citizens," says planning commission member Thomas Crowder.

Several residential communities have sprung up since the arena was started. People living there have their own ideas about what is needed.

"I'd like to see gas stations, restaurants put in the area. Preferably not hotels," says resident Kevin Blackmon. "The traffic is going to increase, [they] have to do something about these roads out here."

N.C. State has put a large parcel west of the arena on the market. How it will be developed is not known.

"I think, probably, residential would be the best thing to put out there, It would drive up the property values," says Blackmon.

Each of the nine workshops will focus a different topic. City officials will use comments from the workshops as they develop a plan.

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Tom Lawrence, Reporter
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