'It's an eyesore:' Raleigh's $20M bid to buy and transform DMV site goes up for vote

Joel Brown Image
Monday, June 5, 2023
Debate in Raleigh over what to do with old DMV building
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It could be one of the biggest land purchases in Raleigh's history and help transform a part of the city that's suffered from disinvestment

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A major vote on Tuesday by state leaders could give the city control of the old NC DMV headquarters site on New Bern Avenue.

It could be one of the biggest land purchases in Raleigh's history and help transform a part of the city that's suffered from disinvestment

1100 New Bern Avenue sits in the heart of one of Raleigh's most historically Black neighborhoods. But nearly four years since the state moved DMV headquarters from here to Rocky Mount, it's an abandoned shell.

"I think it's an eyesore right now if you want to know the truth about it," said Raleigh resident Jewel Montague. "I want to see them do something with it."

The start of something new could happen Tuesday morning. Gov. Roy Cooper and the Council of State will vote on whether to accept a $20 million offer from the City of Raleigh to buy the five-and-a-half acre site.

The 60-year-old buildings, with their asbestos and fire safety problems, would likely be demolished and replaced with something new.

"They should build housing," proclaimed resident and former DMV worker Amy Armstrong. "Turn it into housing. It's a big building, plenty of room for people to live in. So turn it into housing for folks."

There are big plans for this stretch of New Bern Avenue. It's the future site of the city's first bus rapid transit line. New, high-priced homes have been gradually gentrifying this part of town.

Montague, like other long-time residents, said she would welcome a new development at the DMV site. But Montague has her fears about what it might mean for the cost of living.

"All these big houses all around me, it's not doing me no justice when it comes to that property tax. It will eat you up," Montague said.

If the sale goes through, Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin envisions a mix of affordable housing and market-rate homes on the site, plus neighborhood amenities such as a daycare and workforce training.

"The whole point in doing this is ensuring that there's affordable housing," Baldwin told ABC11. "I want to see mixed-income housing. I want to see people represented who could not afford to live there otherwise. We need to find a place for them."

Raleigh fair housing activist Wanda Gilbert-Coker is not sold on the potential deal. She insisted that this section of the city desperately needs more homes for the working poor.

"What is missing in the city of Raleigh is low-income housing," she said. "There's a major difference between low-income housing and affordable housing. To you, affordable could mean a Tesla. To me, it could mean an old Chevy Nova."

Council of State meets Tuesday morning to vote on the sale. If the sale is approved, the mayor and city council pledges to hold extensive community meetings on what should be built before partnering with a developer.