Raleigh, N.C. — A massive 1,700-home development between Poole, New Hope, and Rock Quarry roads in Raleigh is transforming an area known as Olde Towne.
But that development only pales in comparison to a piece of land just east of Raleigh that the city is looking to annex.
Witnessing all the growth along Raleigh’s east end is a throwback from yesterday, according to the store owner of Paul’s Grocery, Robert Lee. The general store has been in Raleigh for 93 years serving fresh country cooking and selling nuts, bolts and furnaces filters.
Car batteries sit across from the beef. Beer is just down the aisle from the Beanie Weenies. Live bait, chairs to enjoy a Little Debbie, Coke, and a chat harken back to a different time and pace.
All around Paul’s Grocery, the future creeps closer.
“You can’t stop progress. It’s going to move on whether you’re ready for it to move on or not,” Lee said.
Just a few miles from Paul’s, what is known as Raleigh’s Olde Towne off New Hope and Rock Quarry roads is becoming a new town.
Assistant Raleigh City Planner Travis Crane said the growth is easy to describe.
“It really is transformative, to be honest with you,” he said.
After a development plan fell apart more than a decade ago, the 515-acre Olde Towne site features more than 300 apartments. About 800 townhomes are under construction and developers have plans to build more than 600 single-family homes, ranging in price from $400,000 to $600,000.
“Believe it or not we’re only about four and a half miles away from downtown itself,” Crane said. “It may not feel like that, but that’s reality. Again, that’s why it’s important we have connectivity.”
The city accomplished that by extending sewer service, traffic studies and utility to Olde Towne, planning to open the door for more growth.
“We know that growth is coming. It’s been coming for years,” Crane said. “So, our question … is how do we want to accommodate that growth?”
Raleigh is looking to expand beyond Olde Towne, to area near the Neuse River about the size of Chapel Hill.
The 11,000-acre annexation plan, called the Southeast Area Study, eyes 17-square miles tucked between Garner, Knightdale, and the Johnston County line.
Planners are weighing multi-use growth phased in over years.
Crane says the project will take time, but it’s for a reason.
“We understand that there really is a finite amount of land and that’s as far as we can go,” he said. “This study is intended to take a hard look at how we want that area to grow.”
Growth often comes with casualties, including traffic congestion and clear cutting. That doesn’t sit well with a lot of people, including Wake County property owner Robert Wise.
“It’s disturbing because they’re tearing down all the trees,” he said.
Wise has watched eastern Wake County evolve since the 1970’s, with the new interceptor sewer line cutting through his backyard. He said that’s not what he had in mind when he bought his property.
“[I’m] so used to living in the country, and being quiet, and now it’s just going to be totally disturbing,” Wise said. “It’s taking our lives away.”
Crane said the city understands this is frustrating for many locals.
“Change is hard and it doesn’t matter how you frame the change,” he said.
As the Olde Towne growth and other developments alter the city’s landscape, Paul’s Grocery serves as the bridge from past to progress.
“Little more hectic getting out of the driveway in the morning, but growth is good. Keeps the world moving,” Lee said.
Raleigh’s annexation plan is still in process.
A final Southeast Special Study Area plan will be presented to city council within the month with public hearings to follow.
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