Some fear Raleigh roundabout plan will hurt business

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Phase Two of the City's plans to re-vitalize Hillsborough Street will add three roundabouts, including one at Dixie Trail.

Tony Coates opened Campus Auto at 2012 Hillsborough St., with his father back in 1978. They bought the property four years later.

What Coates can't get his mind around is the fact that after nearly 40 years, it's the City of Raleigh threatening to bring his business down.

"We were looking at doing re-development here," Coates said. "When we started looking into it, we ran head-on into Hillsborough Street, Phase Two."

Phase Two of the City's plans to re-vitalize Hillsborough Street will add three roundabouts, including one at Dixie Trail. Campus Auto is right on the corner and the roundabout will cut into a large portion of its parking lot.

"What's going to be left is going to be virtually unusable," Coates said. "We were going to do away with the whole building and build a high-rise; a five story building with four stories of student housing and one floor of retail."

RELATED: Find out more about the Hillsborough Street Revitalization Project

Coates said the city offered to compensate him for the portion of the parking lot they'll take through the process of eminent domain (where the public interest trumps private property) but said it doesn't begin to cover the lost revenue he would have brought in.

"We're obviously not going to receive what we would have received over the next 30 years," Coates complained. "They're going to take all of our options away from being able to do business here on Hillsborough Street. This was going to be our retirement."

City planners told ABC11 that more than 32 properties will be affected by Phase Two. Of those, they've reached agreements with 24, leaving eight with whom the city is still negotiating.

Both planners and at least one city council member said the process is too far along to hold it up for one property owner, suggesting the project will move forward without Tony Coates' blessing.

"We're not getting the city's ear," Coates said. "They're not listening. It's like it's going to be done regardless. We're trying to fight an uphill battle here and no one is listening."

Other business owners on Hillsborough have separate concerns with the project, ranging from the effectiveness of roundabouts (three are planned for less than a mile stretch of Hillsborough) to details of the project, such as a raised median replacing a third lane.

"Roundabouts are a good thing in the right place," said Frank Harmon, an architect and professor at NC State, "but this is not a good place."

Harmon pointed to the current crosswalk at Dixie Trail. "It's 40 feet to cross the street. With the roundabout in place, what you're looking at here will be completely surrounded by railings and you'll need to walk 350 feet out of your way to cross the street. Where you get a constricted area of density, shops, housing, offices, people moving about, they're a bad idea."

Chuck Grantham owns property just down the block from Campus Auto and has many of the same concerns.

"In spite of this, increasing density is going to shrink this road from three lanes down to two, (the city is) going to remove the center turn lane and replace it with a raised median. We think that is going to severely constrict traffic that is badly needed for commercial, for beer trucks, for deliveries, for people getting in and out of their apartments. We are very concerned that an already very tough traffic situation is going to get worse and worse."

Raleigh City Council member Russ Stephenson said Phase One of the Hillsborough project didn't create those problems, claiming it's been a huge success. "Property values have tripled," he said.

"Once the council has made up its mind," Stephenson said, "It's difficult to tell the public that we're changing our minds and changing our design. It's not fair."

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