Capital Boulevard facelift underway

March 7, 2013 3:08:28 PM PST
More than $1 million in grant money are going to help spruce up and help transform part of Capital Boulevard, just north of Wake Forest Road.

The area has long been an eyesore for businesses, and one councilwoman says it reflects poorly on the city. However, starting next month, downtown commuters will start noticing some changes along their drive into the city.

"It's tired looking. It's dirty and that's not the statement that Raleigh wants to make about a capital city," said Councilwoman Mary Ann Baldwin.

The gateway to the city is littered with warehouses and abandoned buildings. Many of them are built on a floodplain.

"You have businesses that flood every time there's a bad storm," said Baldwin.

Baldwin said it's time for Raleigh to clean up its act. A plan to revamp the Capital Boulevard corridor from downtown to the Beltline is in the works, complete with new bridges, parks and green space.

"If you look at Capital Boulevard now, that's not a place you want to travel on foot or on a bike," said Baldwin. "It's too dangerous."

The multi-million dollar project recently got a boost. The city accepted nearly $1.5 million in state and federal grants to buy up old properties like an old bowling alley purchased last year.

Leaders are also talking with owners about buying the Milner Inn, First Citizens Bank and Blue Tequila restaurant.

"It's something that's long overdue and we certainly support the city," said Mission Bungalow owner Mark Cabot.

Cabot is a big fan of cleaning up the gateway after moving his business just across the street a year ago.

"Street lights, streetscaping, signage, just an overhaul of the area, just as a beautification since it is one of the first things people will see when they get off 440 coming south into downtown ," said Cabot.

Baldwin said businesses have mixed feelings about the transformation.

"A lot of businesses are excited because they want to see a rebirth of Capital Boulevard," she said. "There's always going to be resistance to change and what will it do for my business specifically."

Some business might be asked to leave all together.

The owner of Lee Jewelers has been in the same location for nearly 40 years. He told ABC11 that he's happy to sell his property to the city for the right price and if he can get help getting into a new location.

So far, the city hasn't offered to buy his business.

Demolition of the old AMF bowling alley is slated to begin next month.

The Capital Boulevard corridor improvement is several years in the making. So it's likely we won't see any significant changes to the gateway for some time.

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