The Raleigh planning commission on Tuesday approved an apartment complex across from Trader Joe's on Wake Forest Road.
Greenville, S.C., developer Russ Davis wants to build the 243-unit Jones Grant Apartments on the current site of the historic Crabtree Jones House, which will be moved.
It’s among the last undeveloped sites near where Wake Forest Road meets the Beltline. “It is an exceptional urban site for a multifamily development,” Davis said. “It’s a walkable site. People can, from this location, do most of what they do in their daily life on foot.”
Most neighbors are comfortable with apartments next door. But they’re upset about a plan to connect Hines Drive -- the central street through Crabtree Heights -- to Wake Towne Drive at a cluster of hotels. The additional traffic from cars taking a shortcut to Six Forks Road would make the road unsafe for kids, bikers and walkers, they said.
“A cut-through extension of that street would cut through the heart of our neighborhood,” said Jay Mills, who said he was asked to represent fellow homeowners.
Davis doesn’t want to build the road either. He said he intends for his apartment residents to use Wake Towne Drive as an entrance.
Requiring Davis to build the much-maligned shortcut is part of a city development policy designed to create connectivity. Developers have to connect roads where possible to improve traffic flow in an increasingly congested city. City planners also argue that the additional access to the apartments is needed for emergency responders.
Some commission members said they’d like to approve the project with the road connection taken out, but city staff members said that’s not an option for the board. Only the city council could grant a variance for developers to avoid the road requirement.
“The council’s not going to have significantly more freedom with this than you all have,” city attorney Ira Botvinick told the commission.
The commission ultimately voted for the project, with the caveat that the developer help fund traffic calming measures on Hines Drive. Speed bumps and stop signs could make the residential street a less appealing shortcut.