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Religious leaders say plans for affordable housing in Downtown South project are not enough

Posted December 14, 2020 7:03 p.m. EST
Updated December 15, 2020 9:07 a.m. EST

Raleigh City Council is set to have a public hearing Tuesday night on the massive Downtown South project. Should they decide to move forward, a vote to rezone the land could come this week.

The $2 billion project would be anchored by a sports and entertainment stadium. What makes up the rest of the 140-acre site along Interstate 40 and South Saunders Street is still up for debate.

In June 2019, Kane Realty and the owner of the North Carolina Courage proposed a mixed-use development to include housing, restaurants, hotels and a 20,000-seat soccer stadium.

But a group of religious leaders called ONE Wake says the project, in its current form, would do more harm than good.

"John Kane has made a binding offer on affordable housing which we believe is far too low for rezoning of something of this unprecedented size and value," said Rev. Jemonde Taylor.

ONE Wake is calling for 300 affordable units in the first phase of the project, rather than the 100 Kane proposes.

It also wants a guarantee that workers on the project will be paid a $20/hour minimum wage.

The group says Kane's plans for Downtown South would push property values out of reach of lower-income earners, including those who currently live in the area.

"Families that have lived there for generations, they cannot stay in their own neighborhood because of gentrification," said Royce Hathcock, of Tapestry Church of the Nazarene.

He said the group was asking for rents of no higher than $1300 per month.

The Raleigh Planning Commission has already voted unanimously against rezoning the property, saying that community benefit issues, such as affordable housing, are beyond its purview.

Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin says that vote was intentional, in order to bump the decision to the City Council.

"This has been discussed a lot," she said. "The planning commission held seven meetings. Some of those meetings lasted two to four hours."

Project developers held their own virtual news conference Monday to introduce three partners in the project, all minority-owned companies.

"(I am) excited about the opportunity to work on this project, which I know will bring so many economic development opportunities for businesses, individuals and families in south Raleigh,” said Bridget Wall-Lennon, owner of BLWall Consulting. “I’m here to ensure that we have an aggressive outreach to minority-owned business and the historical businesses in the community.”

Levelle Moton, the head men's basketball coach at North Carolina Central University who was raised in Raleigh, was also there. “I want to do something,” Moton said. “I want to help create generational wealth in our minority communities.”

The developers say they need to rezone the site before the end of the year so they can close on the property.

City Council meets Tuesday night at 7 to consider the issue.

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