“You’ll Be Glad You Did” – Those were the mysterious words displayed on a large sign that once stood on a Glenwood Avenue plot of land that would become Crabtree Valley Mall. The land was owned by Kidd Brewer, and his house overlooked the land from a high perch to the south. In the middle 1980’s the owners of The Bridge Tender in Wrightsville Beach) expanded the house and converted it to The Crossroads Restaurant. Eventually the restaurant failed and was replaced by It’s Prime Only, which moved a few years ago to a strip shopping center at Leesville Road and I-540.
Developers now envision the Brewer land as Crabtree Village, and have filed plans with the City of Raleigh [Z-68-05 (pdf file), SP-33-06 (pdf file)]. According to the plans, developers will raze the land and drastically change the terrain in order to pull off an interesting mix of condos and shopping. The plan calls for the property to have a 70’ vertical drop, the highest point being at the intersection of Blue Ridge Rd. and Homewood Banks Dr. This means there will be a massive haul-off of dirt and a total clearing of the existing vegetation.
(this map points to the intersection in the diagram’s lower right)
The plan calls for a ring of 3 and 4-story condominiums (yellow and purple) around a 6-level parking deck. A future piece of the ring is a hotel site (green), near the project’s highest point on Blue Ridge Road. The lower half of the project calls for a crescent shaped segment of retail (blue). Because the land is so steep, the south facing retail level (blue) will face retail space on the basement level of the residential/retail ring (purple). The basement of the crescent (blue) will have retail space that faces Crabtree Valley Mall.
There will be five points of vehicular access to the project: one at the residential ring entrance (near Homewood Banks on Blue Ridge), two on Homewood Banks Dr., one on Crabtree Valley Ave., and one on Blue Ridge Road. The Blue Ridge access is one end of the main street which cuts between the ring and crescent all the way to Homewood Banks Rd.
Because of the current state of surrounding land, pedestian access is focused on a crosswalk across Crabtree Valley Ave. to access the Raleigh Greenway system and parking lot of Crabtree Valley Mall.
The project has much potential, although the biggest concern regards the viability of tucked away retail in the current era. The Crabtree Valley area is now a city focus area in the Raleigh Recommended Urban Form master plan (pdf file). Given the treacherous existing terrain, the Crabtree Village plan not only offers some walkable retail and residential areas, but also adds density to the area.
One of the chief criticisms of rail transit in the Raleigh area is the area’s lack of dense foci outside of downtown. It appears that the Raleigh Master Plan would nicely prepare the area for future rail transit, but it has to be followed. Should the North Hills and Crabtree areas get much needed density, the second logical step for the TTA would be to connect the phase I line to North Hills, Crabtree, Rex Hospital, and the RBC Center before rejoining the phase I line.
Traffic, in the meantime, needs to be addressed. The completion of the Edwards Mill/Creedmoor and Duraleigh/Millbrook major arteries now offers commuters options to the Glenwood/Beltline interchange. This interchange, though, must be revisited regardless of Soleil’s or Crabtree Village’s progress.
Crabtree Valley Mall has gotten more quiet than a Lee Fowler coaching search (in regards to their plans for the Crabtree plaza, where Barnes & Noble is located). Of course, if they were smart , then they’d follow the Raleighing plan which calls for a walkable retail community perched on two levels of parking garage. This community could be connected to Crabtree Village via a pedestrian bridge, offering continuity to the pedestrian experience. If Crabtree follows the Raleighing plan, they’ll be glad they did.