Development prospects around Shaw, Saint Augustine's draw mixed reactions

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Thursday, June 20, 2024
Development plans around Shaw, Saint Augustine's draw mixed reactions
To preserve history or push ahead into the future? That's the question facing two HBCUs in Raleigh.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- As leadership at Shaw University and Saint Augustine's University plan for their respective futures, development surrounding and impacting their campuses are drawing varied reactions.

Thursday marked one year since Raleigh City Council voted to approve the redevelopment plan around Shaw University.

University leadership believe the Shaw U District, which would see the university lease out its land to developers to create retail, office and residential space, would help modernize campus, attract new students and better integrate the university into downtown Raleigh.

"One thing it will increase is the value of the property here. Also, they're cleaning it up around Shaw and in this area here so it would be a good thing to enhance the neighborhood and community," said Tobias McLean, who owns Harris Barber College on South Blount Street, right across from Shaw's campus.

McLean has been associated with the college for more than 40 years. He also owns a home in southeast Raleigh.

"I really would love to keep keep the barber college going because it's been a blessing to this community here, been a blessing to a lot of young men in the community and the city," McLean said.

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A lengthy letter from the SAU Board of Trustees Chairman said there was a coordinated effort to get Shaw and SAU to merge so Shaw's campus could be torn down and redeveloped.

Both schools are in the middle of massive, ongoing development which has seen the expansion of new housing and the prospect of additional businesses.

"I think it's a great thing, making this area what it should be. But I think at the same time there should also be that culture that's left there," said Merrick Scheidler, a student at Harris Barber College.

In May, Shaw announced it had chosen Little Diversified Architectural Consulting to lead its master planning process, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year. ABC11 reached out to Shaw regarding its timeline, but a spokesperson did not respond.

Less than two miles away, the future of Saint Augustine's University appears to be less clear.

"Growing up in that neighborhood, I would see the students as they would walk through from campus to the off-campus housing. I had lots of friends and family members that actually attended St. Aug's and so I understood the importance of that university in our neighborhood," Karen McDonald said.

Malaika Kashaka similarly appreciates the school's place in Raleigh, opening up Juiced across from campus in August, hoping to cater to students and staff.

"It is essentially a desert, a nutritional desert," said Kashaka.

Initially, sales were strong, with the opening coinciding with the beginning of first semester. However, that changed after Thanksgiving.

"The natural thing is that it's going to become lighter because of the holiday (and) everyone is traveling, but no one came back," Kashaka said.

In early December, the SACSOC Board of Trustees voted to remove Saint Augustine's from its membership, a move effectively stripping its accreditation. In February, the university lost its appeal, and students ultimately transitioned from in-person to virtual classes in April.

University leadership has acknowledged grave financial challenges, with the school missing multiple payrolls.

"Our current financial situation, or lack thereof, has significantly hindered the operations across our campus, and I am acutely aware of the hardships it has caused. We are pursuing several opportunities around our greatest asset, our land. While we are on the brink of finalizing these transactions, the process has taken longer than anticipated," Burgess said in an email sent to staff in February.

"I feel that as they start selling the land, eventually the university will be no more," McDonald said.

"Someone may say, 'Oh, it's just a couple of acres,' but it's acres that the students used to become the wonderful people that our city needs, our country needs," Kashaka said.

While both women acknowledge the reality of economics associated with further development, they are hopeful that Saint Augustine's can continue to have a presence in Raleigh.

"I am for preserving history. (Saint Augustine's) has so many historical points, contributions to the City of Raleigh," Kashaka said.

"As you progress, let's still keep some of the history. Let's still make sure that it's know that this is a historically Black college and university" said McDonald.