Local News

WakeMed wants to improve area conditions

Posted November 13, 2009 9:49 p.m. EST
Updated November 13, 2009 11:56 p.m. EST

— WakeMed Hospital is located in an area of the Raleigh that is struggling with poverty and crime. Hospital officials are asking city leaders to help clean up the surrounding neighborhoods.

For some, the hospital, located at 3000 New Bern Ave., is their first introduction to Raleigh.

“Sixty percent of the patients who come to WakeMed come from outside Wake County,” said WakeMed CEO Dr. Bill Atkinson.

Hospital leaders want that introduction to be positive, but say the New Bern Avenue corridor is not as clean, as pedestrian friendly or as safe as it should be.

Atkinson said one of the biggest problems in the neighborhood is criminal activity at The Black Tie nightclub, located at 3201 New Bern Ave.

“It is a flashpoint for many things that are exceedingly dangerous from shootings to rapes to drug offenses to stabbings,” Atkinson said.

In 2006, a Durham man was murdered in the nightclub’s parking lot. In June, police investigated multiple shootings along New Bern Avenue near WakeMed.

Since July 1, there have been 44 police calls to the nightclub. Of those, five have generated incident reports.

“We know about the club that’s there. We certainly monitor it, we have contact with the ownership there, the management there,” said City Manager Russell Allen.

Allen said the nightclub has been responsive to working with the city.

Calls to Benjamin Becker, the owner of The Black Tie, were not immediately returned.

Allen said crime is just one issue the city is working on in the area. The city has been in talks with the hospital since June.

“We feel like there are far more assets in that area than there are any detractors and that by working together we really can accomplish greater things in that area,” Allen said.

“I don't think we're starting with something broken. I think we're just starting with an opportunity to make it something we can be even more proud of in this generation and those to follow,” Atkinson said.

Hospital leaders said they envision the area around WakeMed being the city's medical district. They want the neighborhood to be safe and welcoming for patients and visitors.

Atkinson said the hospital would like the area to be known as a “health care superblock.” They would like crosswalks to connect the hospital and pharmacies across the street, better landscaping and litter control.

WakeMed treats about 1 million patients a year and employs 7,800 people.

A new children’s hospital is expected to be completed by May and officials said they recently received approval to build a new diagnostic image facility.