Just on the southern side of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Raleigh’s South Blount Street is seeing rapid change.
If you were to drive down that street south of downtown, you would pass new modernist homes selling for more than $400,000 right next to a church built out of cinder blocks and one of the neighborhood’s corner stores.
Just a little bit farther you would come across an expanse of vacant land, covered in broken concrete and weeds. That property, a little less than four acres, was once warehouse space for Carolina Coach and Carolina Trailways but has sat empty for years now.
It could be the site of that area’s largest development yet.
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Stanley Martin, a home builder based in Virginia, bought the property, located at the intersection of South Blount and Bragg streets from Greyhound for $4 million in December. The land is zoned industrial but the builder plans to ask the city to rezone it for residential.
George Weller, a division vice president at Stanley Martin, said in an interview that his firm wants to turn the property into a dense residential development.
Michael Birch, an attorney with Longleaf Law Partners, which is representing Stanley Martin, said in an interview the company would submit a plan to the city of Raleigh in the next couple of weeks.
The Carolina Coach property isn’t Stanley Martin’s first foray into Raleigh nor will it likely be the last. Weller said the company is “bullish” on the area and that despite increasing competition for land the company is “happy with its performance here.”
The firm’s presence in the Triangle now stretches from single-family homes in Durham to condos in downtown Raleigh as well as several other projects.
It’s the company’s previous work in downtown Raleigh — the Blount Street Commons condo development on Person Street — that could provide some insight into what sort of project will be planned for the Carolina Coach property, Weller said.
“In general we intend to have a residential project there, with maybe a mixed-use component as well, but we are early in the city’s rezoning process,” Weller said. Blount Street Commons “was a successful project for us and we would like to incorporate parts of that project in the Greyhound property.”
The Blount Street Commons development includes multi-story condominiums, and that is likely what will be built at the Carolina Coach property.
It will probably be two-story condo units on top of two-story condo units, Birch said, though the designs are likely to be a lot different than the Blount Street Commons condos.
The Carolina Coach property used to be a depot for the Carolina Trailways bus lines, dating back to 1939. In 2015, several brick warehouse buildings there were demolished after one of them partially collapsed, despite some groups calling for the buildings to be preserved, The News & Observer reported at the time.
Several groups were interested in buying the property back then, including the nonprofit Passage Home and downtown developer and restaurant owner Greg Hatem, but both backed off after the buildings were torn down, The News & Observer reported.
At the time, Hatem told The N&O that the area was still too industrial, saying “it’s going to take, I believe, a decade before the character of that area really changes.”
A year later, a police-involved shooting on Bragg Street, a few blocks from the Blount Street site, heightened tensions between residents there and the Raleigh Police Department.
But the area’s character has changed dramatically in the two years since Stanley Martin has been eying the Carolina Coach property, Weller said, pointing to other homes that have been built in the neighborhood recently.
“I think for sure it can” handle this sort of development now, Weller said. “There has been a wave of change in that neighborhood. In the last 12 to 18 months, especially, it has changed drastically.”
Interest in the area south of MLK Boulevard has heated up in general in the past two years.
Near the Carolina Coach property, an old Cargill plant was demolished with the intention of attracting developers to build there — and last year, Raleigh development firm Five Horizons Development filed a rezoning request to allow buildings of up to 20 stories to be built along part of South Saunders Street. The redevelopment of Dorothea Dix Park has also fueled interest in the southern edge of downtown.
The increasing interest has led to concerns that rising land values will push out longtime residents of southeastern Raleigh.
And while Stanley Martin’s potential development won’t be affordable housing by any means, Birch said, it will likely create some housing that is cheaper than some of the other new construction nearby.
“Some of the bottom-floor units could go for somewhere in the upper $200,000s,” Birch said.