Many families are flocking to Raleigh from around the world making the City of Oaks the second fastest growing city in the United States. In order to account for its growing popularity, more infrastructure is needed to house and provide for future Raleighites. One such project that was recently approved is Downtown South, located by the intersection of I-40 and South Saunders. This area surrounds the Walnut Creek floodplain raising environmental challenges including flooding, habitat destruction, and pollution. The developers have proposed many innovative circular designs to decrease flooding and preserve natural spaces but there is still room to improve.
Downtown South is a large development project that was given the go-ahead by Raleigh’s City Council last month. The project will include a soccer stadium for the NC Courage pro soccer team and space for retail, apartments, hotels, and offices. The area will be a very walkable and bike-friendly area, with “pocket parks” to preserve some natural space and provide residents green space for mental health. While these features make it a very appealing place for people to move and work, there are lingering ecological and social issues that need to be addressed.
Out of three large sections of the project, two fall within floodplains. Floodplains are flat areas surrounding a river that are subject to frequent flooding making them a risky place for development. The floodplains also house over 5,000 species of animals that could face death with unmitigated encroachment upon their territory.
Local environmental leaders have voiced their concern for this project while also praising some of the approaches taken by the developer, Kane Realty. Partners for Environmental Justice and the Wake Audubon Society expressed concern over stormwater management and the impact on the animal population. Two out of the three sections of the development are within a floodplain, and there have always been issues with flooding of residential areas in southern Raleigh. So, what has Kane Realty done to address these concerns?
Partners for Environmental Justice publicly stated its approval of the stormwater and flood prevention measures that Kane Realty has proposed. The measures considered by Kane include rainwater harvesting, green roofs, planters, and permeable sidewalks. All of these methods provide circular solutions to water runoff by providing ways that water can serve the community and ecosystem without transporting pollutants from the road to the river. This regenerates nature and designs systems that eliminate pollution.
The overall impact of Downtown South is a mixed bag. South Raleigh is a historically poor area, and the developers have not granted nearly as much affordable housing as the community has requested. This means that poor people who have been able to afford living in the area in the past will be forced out because of rising housing prices. On the circularity side, flood mitigation, park creation, and innovative stormwater management practices are balanced by lingering environmental concerns which cannot be ignored. Check out our article on natural overpasses for additional ideas on how nature and urban environments can harmonize.
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