Wake Forest Renaissance Plan - September 2017

Renaissance Plan for Downtown Wake Forest, NC | SEPTEMBER 2017

“To accomplish great things, we must not only act but also dream; not only plan but also believe.”

— ANATOLE FRANCE, Nobel Laureate

Renaissance Plan for Downtown Wake Forest, NC

Prepared for the Town of Wake Forest




Vivian A. Jones, Mayor Greg Harrington, Commissioner Brian Pate, Commissioner Anne M. Reeve, Commissioner Margaret Stinnett, Commissioner Jim Thompson, Commissioner

Chip Russell, AICP, Planning Director Lisa Hayes, Downtown Development Director

stantec urban places group Craig Lewis, Principal/Project Manager Amanda Morrell David Walters

Mike Rutkowski Dylan McKnight Ashley Bonawitz Kenneth Thompson

mjb consulting Michael J. Berne

zanetta illustration J.J. Zanetta

© 2017 by Town of Wake Forest, NC and Stantec Consulting Services, Inc. All photos and images by the Town of Wake Forest or Stantec and their subconsultants unless otherwise noted. Reproduction permitted with credit in print. Town of Wake Forest, 301 S. Brooks St., Wake Forest, NC 27587 | 919-435-9400 | wakeforestnc.gov


1 Executive Summary 2 1.1 Summary Introduction��������������������������������������������� 2 1.2 Key Goals������������������������������������������������������������������ 4 1.3 Top 10 Projects in 5 Years����������������������������������������� 6 1.4 Master Plan with Key Highlights������������������������������ 8 2 Metrics of Successful Downtowns 12 2.0 How is Great Urbanism Measured?������������������������ 12 2.1 Design Elements����������������������������������������������������� 13 2.2 Implementation & Management Issues������������������ 14 2.3 Measurable Performance����������������������������������������� 15 2.4 Walkability�������������������������������������������������������������� 16 2.5 The 7 “D’s”�������������������������������������������������������������� 17 2.6 Creating Great Places���������������������������������������������� 20 24 3.1 Planning Area Overview����������������������������������������� 24 3.2 Area Growth�����������������������������������������������������������28 3.3 Existing Development Pattern�������������������������������� 30 3.4 Ripe and Firm Analysis������������������������������������������ 32 3.5 Retail & Restaurants�����������������������������������������������34 3.6 Active Ground Floor Use���������������������������������������� 36 3.7 Regional Transportation����������������������������������������� 38 3.8 Area Walkability�����������������������������������������������������40 3.9 Gateways����������������������������������������������������������������� 42 46 4.1 Public Process Overview����������������������������������������46 4.2 Steering Committee������������������������������������������������46 4.3 Stakeholder Interviews������������������������������������������� 47 4.4 Public Design Charrette������������������������������������������ 50 3 Existing Conditions 4 Summary of Public Input 60 5.1 Market Considerations��������������������������������������������60 5.2 Retail Positioning & Tenanting Strategy����������������68 5.3 Locational/Development Strategy��������������������������� 72 5.4 Retail Implementation Strategy������������������������������80 5 Retail Strategies

6 Connect the Core

92 6.1 Connecting the Centers of Energy������������������������� 92 6.2 Festival Street (Owen Street)����������������������������������94 6.3 Mobility Connections��������������������������������������������� 96 6.4 Streetscapes����������������������������������������������������������� 102 110 7.1 Existing Parking Conditions�������������������������������� 110 7.2 Short Term Parking Strategies������������������������������ 112 7.3 Long Term Parking Strategies������������������������������� 115 118 8.1 Connecting Public Spaces������������������������������������� 118 8.2 Spraygrounds & Playgrounds������������������������������� 119 8.3 Public Art�������������������������������������������������������������� 121 8.4 Event Programming���������������������������������������������� 122 126 9.1 Tactical Improvements������������������������������������������ 126 9.2 Additional Opportunities������������������������������������� 134 9.3 General Practices�������������������������������������������������� 136 9.4 Case Study: Parklets��������������������������������������������� 142 146 10.1 AIA Downtown Design Workshop����������������������� 146 10.2 Long Term Development Opportunities��������������� 150 10.3 Downtown 2016 vs. Downtown 2040������������������ 161 164 11.1 Five Year Goals����������������������������������������������������� 164 11.2 Top 10 Projects in 5 years������������������������������������� 166 11.3 Management & Programming������������������������������ 168 11.4 Implementation Matrix����������������������������������������� 170

7 Manage the Cars

8 Create a Destination

9 Put People First

10 Development & Redevelopment Opportunities

11 Implementation Strategies


Twelve Raleigh Architects Rethink a Community’s Downtown�������������� 176 The Parking Problem: Does Form Really Follow Function?�������������������� 182

White Street mixed-use building and retail shops with Binkley Chapel in the distance

Executive Summary 1

KEY TAKEAWAYS Connect the core Manage the cars Create a destination Put people first 10 projects to complete in 5 years


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1 Executive Summary

1.1 Summary Introduction

Time for an Update

The Renaissance Plan Update builds on the original study conducted in 2004. Over a decade ago, a plan was developed to provide policy and programmatic recommendations for the revitalization of the historic downtown. Additionally, it proposed a number of realistic development opportunities for the heart of the Wake Forest community with the goal of creating a more vibrant community for all who visit, work, and live in Wake Forest. Some goals and strategies were completed and some are still a work in progress. The Great Recession in the mid – late 2000s also drastically impacted the way we think, live, plan and spend. Several key public and private investments have occurred since 2004, and we are seeing a renewed interest and vibrancy in downtown Wake Forest.

While continually striving for a vibrant and economically successful downtown that benefits the municipality, property owners, merchants, and potential investors, this plan update does the following: » » It produces a market study identifying development potential » » It develops retail strategies » » It provides opportunities for new housing » » It designs streetscape improvements » » It develops mobility strategies that prioritize bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit » » It provides parking strategies including management, on-street parking, and location of off-street parking areas » » It identifies and tabulates private development & redevelopment opportunities » » It forms strategies for attracting new retail, restaurant, office and housing to the area » » It implements key urban design principles that promote quality of life » » It develops short-term and long-term implementation strategies

RESOURCE: Check out the first Renaissance Plan completed in 2004 (wakeforestnc.gov)


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Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Wake Forest Elementary School

Town Hall




S S Figure 1.1: Renaissance Area Boundary


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1.2 Key Goals

Connect the Core

Wake Forest has two major centers of energy: the historic core along White Street and the Renaissance Plaza Shopping Center. They are currently operating independently; we must connect them. Ultimately, we need a continuous, high quality, and vibrant pedestrian environment from White Street to the Renaissance Plaza Shopping Center.

Manage the Cars

Downtown has plenty of parking spaces. A detailed analysis of both private, public and on-street parking spaces was conducted. A total of 1,649 parking spaces were counted within the downtown core. Traditionally, this quantity should support well over half a million square feet of mixed use development. However, enhancing management of the public parking, encouraging shared parking strategies with private lots as well as improving signage and awareness will help the existing parking spaces work more efficiently for all of the user groups in downtown.




private surface parking on-street parking public surface parking potential on-street parking opportunities for temporary public parking


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Create a Destination

Wake Forest has done a superior job in providing programmed events to activate the downtown area. Successful downtowns add another layer by including activating elements which require no programming and are free interactive public spaces. Attracting families to downtown with spaces designed for children will be key in Wake Forest’s continued evolution into a vibrant place. Downtown Wake Forest will offer a diversity of public spaces of varying sizes and degrees of activity to its patrons and residents. Experiencing these spaces and the connections between them must be safe and enjoyable.

Put People First

Wake Forest is committed to providing a pedestrian-friendly downtown; this requires planning for people. We have identified several tactical opportunities to engage the public in projects and events that will enhance the pedestrian realm downtown. Many of these opportunities are low cost and temporary, but high impact and memorable. There are several other opportunities for the Town to enhance the pedestrian realm through longer term, more permanent and costly projects, like streetscape enhancements at key intersections. This plan includes a range of short-term and long-term project ideas to serve as a guide that both public and private entities can use.


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1.3 Top 10 Projects in 5 Years

Install a parklet on White Street in front of the brewery


Convert Owen Avenue to a shared festival street


Light the bridge and create an iconic & memorable gateway to downtown


Close part of Wait Avenue and consolidate the block


Implement a parking management program



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Build an interactive water feature


Construct the Smith Creek greenway through downtown


Build a playground


Improve the Front Street intersection for pedestrians


Enhance wayfinding and signage to direct visitors to and throughout downtown



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1.4 Master Plan with Key Highlights


Connect the neighborhood to downtown We found opportunities to repair the disconnected and oversized blocks and create more connectivity between existing neighborhoods and downtown. Infill opportunities Roosevelt Avenue is a major road leading into downtown Wake Forest and should be a prime address for new housing and adaptive reuse of older commercial buildings. Close part of Wait Avenue and create a new block Wait Avenue between Brooks Street and Roosevelt Avenue is not useful or advantageous to the downtown street network. Closing it and creating a larger block will accommodate a cohesive redevelopment and contribute positively to downtown. Connect White Street to Town Hall using Owen Avenue as a festival street By transforming Owen to a curbless, shared street, we can connect White Street, the center of leisure and commercial activity, to Town Hall, the hub of civic energy. Connect Brooks Street & Holding Avenue amenities to White Street activity The cluster of senior and civic amenities at Brooks Street and East Holding Avenue is disconnected from the activity on White Street, but as the crow flies, it is only a 6–8 minute walk. As Brooks Street is planned to connect through from East Holding Avenue to Elm Avenue, the public streetscape and private development must create a highly walkable experience.





Net New Potential Buildout/Infill Calculations

expanded senior center & town hall + new community center

60,000 sf civic

461 housing units

16–24 room boutique hotel

85,000 sf retail

93,000 sf office


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S S Figure 1.4: Renaissance Master Plan (2016)

Historic White Street with enhanced pedestrian-friendly streetscape

Metrics of Successful Downtowns 2

KEY TAKEAWAYS Elements of good urbanism What makes a great downtown Creating wonderful places


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2 Metrics of Successful Downtowns

2.0 How is Great Urbanism Measured?

In a world where public funding is becoming more and more limited, capital projects have to bring a significant return on investment. We know that more and more people want to work in a walkable environment; it is not enough anymore to have a nice office building. People are seeking meaningful places...authentic spaces where they can live, work and play. Employers are using great places for recruitment and retention purposes. In turn, a diversity of employment opportunities in a downtown equals patrons to restaurants and retail. Through research and experience, we have found that there are essential elements that help create successful downtown environments. In combination, these elements yield measurable performance indicators of success. We know it is not enough to simply get the design right; implementation and management are key to creating an environment where patrons want to spend money and time. The old adage “if you build it they will come” is true only if you have a good code and good design bones in place along with proper management. The products of a successful downtown environment include more employment, a diverse population, higher sales per square foot, and overall positive economic development for a community.



Construction/ Implementation




Measurable Performance


C h a p t e r 2 M e t r ic s of S ucc e s s f u l D owntowns

2.1 Design Elements

Design elements that contribute to successful downtown environments include:

Short Blocks & Dense Street Network This feature provides enhanced walkability for people and increased connectivity for cars. The average block length between cross-streets should be shorter in a downtown environment because it feels more pedestrian in scale. It also means shorter distances between shops and creates a coherent network. On-Street Parking This element provides a one ton safety barrier between moving cars and pedestrians. Ground floor retail also requires convenient parking to be successful. Retail will not survive without it; patrons see cars parked on the street as a signal of activity and a need to slow down and take a look. On-street parking also provides friction for moving traffic and provides an inherent traffic calming element.

S S Short blocks and dense street networks

S S On-street parking

Continuous Frontage This element keeps pedestrians and

bicyclists interested while traveling along the street. Research has proven that people are more likely to keep walking along a continuous frontage to see what is beyond. One vacant tenant space can create barriers to success, so maintaining active uses on the ground floor block by block is key. Spatial Enclosure The ratio of building height to street width is essential to creating a comfortable public realm. Too much enclosure can feel narrow and unsafe, too little can feel vast and empty to pedestrians. Achievable ratios vary based on right-of-way width, but street trees can help create spatial enclosure where buildings cannot. Ideal height to width ratios in the Renaissance Area should be between 1:1 and 1:2 (See Section 9.3.8).

S S Continuous frontage

S S Ideal spatial enclosure for a main street


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2.2 Implementation & Management Issues Implementation of design features and management of the spaces and activities in a downtown contribute directly to the overall success of the place. Some keys include: Quality & Diversity of Public Space Public space is a top requested element in downtowns. It is not enough to simply have one park or civic gathering space. Spaces of varying sizes programmed for a diversity of events are necessary for overall event success and energy. Keys to Parking The key to parking in a downtown environment is that location needs to be considered over quantity. It is all about management. Parking problems are a good thing and mean that people are spending time and money in your downtown. This is an issue that needs to be re-evaluated every three to four years. Active Ground Floor Uses Being a pedestrian is about two things...the journey and the destination. Activating the ground floor of buildings in your downtown is something that can be incorporated into the code. Humans innately have a sense of unease that can be triggered when passing a dead space or boarded-up facade and often prevents us from continuing the journey. Ambient Illumination Lighting in a downtown is about both safety and interest. There are different zones of lighting: the lighting of storefronts, lighting of the general pedestrian pathway, and street lighting. Hours of Operation Twenty-five percent of retail sales occur after 5 o’clock in the afternoon. The coordination of store hours ensures a more predictable environment for potential shoppers. The object is to create an environment about selling things where people already want to spend time. Clustering Restaurants are key to creating destination downtowns. But, rather than being separated and isolated, clustering these types of uses is much more effective and provides options, variety and diversity to visitors.

S S Layering of signage

S S Quality and diversity of public space


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S S Parking management

S S Active ground floor uses

S S Ambient illumination

S S Hours of operation

2.3 Measurable Performance Residential population within a walkable distance to downtown is one of those performance measures that often comes before the other design and implementation elements. Wake Forest is fortunate to have quality housing within a half mile of the downtown core. The other elements shown below are good measures of the success of a downtown environment. All of these feed and complement one another. Daytime Employment Total employment population in downtown as a percent of the overall community employment.

Commercial Activity Sales per square foot should be higher than in the suburban areas of the community.

Pedestrian Activity Density of pedestrian activity on White Street is a key indicator of success.


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2.4 Walkability

Walkability is about the journey and the destination.

The journey must be comfortable and well-connected.

The destination must be lively and entertaining.


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2.5 The 7 “D’s” Understanding the dynamics that create successful downtowns can often seem mysterious. Why does one place succeed and another does not? It can often feel like the answer is something intangible, because there appears to be no other logical explanation. Decades of working in a range of downtown environments has revealed a set of key attributes that contribute to creating successful places. When these 7 “D’s” combine with strong business owners, capable municipal staff and political leadership, both economic and social success follow. A brief explanation of these seven essentials can be found on the next two pages.


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Destination Accessibility

The easier it is for people to travel to and from downtown Wake Forest, the more attractive it will be to draw patrons wanting to share experiences and spend money. It is essential to provide adequate wayfinding to not only help people get to the core but also navigate their experience once they arrive.

Development Density

Small towns such as Wake Forest typically thrive at a density of 2–4 stories within the core. This is not a hard and fast rule but a good baseline for future development.

Distance to Transit

Downtowns with access to transit services can accommodate higher volumes of users without adding pressure on parking. Ensuring safe and comfortable journeys from neighborhoods to transit stops is key to user safety.

Dynamic Activity

Vibrant downtowns are dynamic in nature with a mixture of sidewalk displays, outdoor dining, creative signage, diverse public spaces and enticing window shopping.


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Human-Scaled Details

Several design details are critical to the public realm in downtowns. Some are: pedestrian lighting; seating; landscaping; the arrangement of windows and doors on buildings; and sidewalk width. They contribute to a human scaled environment where people feel comfortable and safe. Designing places for people is a key tenet of successful placemaking.

Land Use Diversity

Highly active downtowns not only need a mix of uses within the core but also a significant number of residential units and employment centers within a five to ten minute walk. This diversity of land uses contributes to the number of people within walking distance to downtown retail and public amenities.

Street Design

Downtown streets should accommodate two way multi- modal traffic flow and provide on-street parking for retail patrons. Streets should include comfortable sidewalks for pedestrians with street trees and a variety of furnishings.


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2.6 Creating Great Places Great downtowns are places where people come together. They include:

S S Places to relax

S S Places to shop

S S Places to eat

S S Places to play


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Great places are complex, organic and sometimes messy.

“If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get people and places.”

— FRED KENT, Project for Public Spaces

The clock on White Street in the historic downtown

Existing Conditions 3 KEY TAKEAWAYS Recent rapid growth in Wake Forest A need for more active ground floor uses Lots of infill development potential Opportunities for gateway enhancement


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3 Existing Conditions

3.1 Planning Area Overview


Historic District

The Renaissance Area encompasses approximately 220 acres within the heart of Wake Forest. The area is generally bound by the CSX rail line to the west, NC 98 to the south, and the Historic and Central Business Districts to the north and the east. The downtown includes a mixture of retail, service, office, governmental, residential, and light industrial uses. A variety of undeveloped properties and vacant lots are also scattered throughout the planning area.

The Downtown Historic District, listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2002, developed to the east of the railroad tracks across from the original Wake Forest College campus. At least two known fires, most recently in 1915, destroyed many of the historic downtown’s first generation buildings. Thus, the majority of the historic downtown’s buildings are post-1915 construction, yet they provide significant architectural examples throughout the downtown. The CSX railroad tracks form the western boundary of the Renaissance Area. Buildings originally fronted the tracks, with the rear of the buildings facing present-day White Street. Elevated sidewalks along portions of the western side of South White Street offer a significant reminder of original building orientation and their importance in relation to servicing the railroad.

Land Use

The majority of the central and northern sections of the Renaissance Area is zoned Urban Mixed Use (UMX), while the southern portion is predominantly zoned for Residential Mixed Use (RMX) development. Additional zoning classifications include

the Renaissance Area Historic Core (RAHC), Open Space (OS), General

Residential 3–Conditional Use (CUGR3) and Neighborhood Mixed Use (NMX). The RAHC incorporates the Downtown Historic District, while CUGR3 and NMX occur on the eastern edge of the Renaissance Area and serve to transition from Downtown to residential neighborhoods. OS encompasses the urban parks and greenways in the planning area.

Centers of Activity

There are two major centers of activity in the Renaissance Area, the historic core and the Renaissance Plaza shopping center. Numerous specialty retailers, restaurants, and small businesses exist throughout the downtown, primarily along South White


C h a p t e r 3 E x i s t i ng C ond i t i ons



Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary


Wake Forest Elementary School

Town Hall





HB Institutional Campus Dist. Neighborhood Business Neighborhood Mixed-Use Open Space Renaissance Area Historic Core Rural Holding District Residential Mixed-Use General Residential 10 General Residential 3 General Residential 5 Highway Business




Urban Mixed-Use Urban Residential Renaissance Area Boundary



S S Figure 3.1: Renaissance Area Zoning





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Street, Jones Avenue, and East Owen Avenue. Although the town’s Main Street is located to the west of the planning area, South White Street functions as the community’s specialty retail and business core. The Renaissance Plaza shopping center is located along South Brooks Street and contains a variety of popular entertainment and food-related businesses.

S S Renaissance Plaza Shopping Center

Civic Uses

A variety of town buildings are situated east of the Downtown Historic District between South Brooks Street and South Taylor Street, including the Town Hall, Police Department, and Public Facilities Department. Adjacent to the Town Hall complex lies H.L. Miller Park, a 1.3 acre park replete with picnic tables and benches. A greenway traverses the park, which is proposed to connect to the town’s greenway system along the Spring Branch creek in the future.

S S Wake Forest Town Hall

Character Areas

The center of the Renaissance Area lies between Elm Avenue and East Holding Avenue. A variety of uses are scattered throughout this location, including retail, commercial, multi-family, and light industrial. Additionally, there are several vacant properties located within the heart of the planning area. The area surrounding East Holding Avenue in the southern portion of the Renaissance Area contains a variety of institutional uses, such as the Post Office, the Wake County– Wake Forest Branch Library, the Northern Wake Senior Center, and an assisted living center. The Heath Ridge Village subdivision and a small office park are located at the southern-most portion of South White Street. The Franklin Academy Charter School also occupies two buildings along South Franklin

S S H.L. Miller Park

S S South White Street light industrial


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Street near the intersection of Holding Avenue. Some medical office uses have also been developed on South Franklin Street. At the time of the charrette, a large townhome development was underway on the east side of Franklin Street near NC 98 and another townhome project just south of the Renaissance Plaza Shopping Center was in planning stages. NC 98 marks the southern boundary of the Renaissance Area. Since Franklin Street has been extended to NC 98, traffic has bypassed the historic downtown area of Wake Forest somewhat. This has served to make the core more pedestrian-friendly, but it has also made downtown more isolated from all of the potential visitors and consumers traveling along the NC 98 corridor. Within the northern portion of the planning area, a variety of commercial uses dot the landscape along Wait Avenue and Roosevelt Avenue (Business 98) between North Franklin Street and the bridge at Roosevelt Avenue. Uses include an auto parts store, fast food restaurants, and a dry cleaner.

S S South Franklin Street medical office

S S Roosevelt Avenue commercial uses

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Although outside of the Renaissance Area, it is also important to highlight the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, which is located across the railroad tracks northwest of the Downtown Historic District. In 1946, the R.J. Reynolds Corporation offered Wake Forest College $40 million to relocate their campus, presently Wake Forest University, to Winston-Salem. The Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary now occupies that campus and is home to approximately 3,500 students in undergraduate and graduate programs.

S S Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary


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3.2 Area Growth

Wake County continues to experience rapid growth and development. The Raleigh metropolitan area continues to be reported and ranked by a wide range of sources as one of the most attractive places to live in the country and one of the hottest development markets in the nation. The cost of living is relatively low and the quality of life remains high when compared to peer cities nationwide. Similarly, Wake Forest and northern Wake County have been experiencing significant growth and development over the past 20 years. The population of Wake Forest itself more than doubled from 2000 to 2010 and is forecasted to continue growing at a similar pace over the next 20 years. Such rapid growth has and will continue to have significant impacts on Wake Forest’s retail market trade area, transportation system, and economic activity. The diagram on the following page illustrates

northern Wake County’s change in corporate boundaries from 1999 to 2015. The corporate limits of Wake Forest and Rolesville have expanded significantly, especially along the corridors of US 401 North and US 1 North/Capital Boulevard between Raleigh and Wake Forest. Twenty years ago, Wake Forest was the edge of the Raleigh metro region and the town was much different. Now, there are many more amenities, homes and residents, and traffic flowing through the town as part of the larger regional network. Wake Forest is part of a greater whole, rather than the hole in the doughnut. The town is growing with thousands of new residents projected to come year after year. Moving forward, the Town of Wake Forest must dictate how it will grow, especially in the Renaissance Area where there is so much opportunity for new development and redevelopment.

KEY POPULATION GROWTH STATISTICS » » From 2000 to 2013, the population of Wake Forest grew 151% » » Wake Forest total households grew from 4,617 in 2000 to 10,521 in 2010 » » Wake Forest is expected to add 1,000 new residents every year over the next 10 years » » The neighboring community of Rolesville grew by almost 320% from 2000 to 2010

(Source: Wake Forest Economic Development)


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corporate boundaries 1999 corporate boundaries 2015 renaissance area Wake Forest boundaries
















S S Figure 3.2: Northern Wake County Corporate Boundaries 1999–2015


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3.3 Existing Development Pattern

The figure ground diagram on the following page clearly shows areas of more tightly packed development in the downtown core along White Street. This area is the most pedestrian friendly and offers a variety of urban amenities, including shops and restaurants. However, many of the blocks to the north, east and south of the downtown historic core have several large gaps, or vacant undeveloped lots, between buildings and some blocks contain few buildings at all.

A figure ground diagram is generated by illustrating the building footprints and the blocks. This diagram clearly displays the distance between buildings and conveys how many buildings make up each block within the study area. Generally, high quality urban environments are composed of buildings that define the edges of the block and create continuous frontage along the street network. Typically, where there are no buildings on a block, that space is usually composed of parking lots, vacant lots or wooded areas.

S S Consistent, cohesive block development on White Street

S S Inconsistent development pattern on Owen Avenue


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Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Wake Forest Elementary School

Town Hall



blocks buildings



parks/open space renaissance area

S S Figure 3.3: Existing Conditions Figure Ground


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3.4 Ripe & Firm Analysis

opportunity or ripe. This analysis was used to identify areas both likely and unlikely to change. Often, there are areas that are not clearly one or the other and are identified simply as opportunities. The results of this analysis are shown in Figure 3.4.

Prior to creating the master plan, a ripe and firm analysis was conducted on all parcels in the study area. To complete this analysis, a walking or windshield survey was conducted for each parcel and the development that occupied them. Each parcel was classified into one of three categories: firm,

Firm »» Existing multi-story, mixed-use building with historic character and architectural significance, built up to the street with active ground floor uses »» Fully occupied with tenant mix that supports vibrancy

Opportunity »» Underutilized property, but currently occupied with an active business »» Current use is not conducive or additive to a vibrant and walkable downtown »» Classified as an ‘opportunity’ because the parcel would have a more positive impact on the success of the downtown with a highly active use, such as a restaurant, market or brewery

Ripe »» Vacant parcel at the edge of the downtown historic core »» Not currently utilized for formal

parking and is well-suited for a variety of significant development opportunities


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Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Wake Forest Elementary School

Town Hall




ripe opportunity firm renaissance area

Friendship Chapel Rd

S S Figure 3.4: Ripe & Firm Analysis


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3.5 Retail & Restaurants

There are also a variety of retail products sold on White Street from boutique women’s clothing to art to antiques to hardware and garden supplies. There is, however, an opportunity to attract more restaurants and retailers to White Street, as there are some vacant shopfronts. Additionally, a few spaces are occupied by non-retail uses that do little to activate the street. Such businesses could locate anywhere in downtown or in greater Wake Forest, but do not have to be located on the main shopping and entertainment street, much less on the ground floor.

Existing retail and restaurant offerings in the downtown are predominantly clustered on White Street from Roosevelt to Owen and in the Renaissance Plaza Shopping Center on Elm Avenue (see Figure 3.5). White Street offers the most establishments and the widest variety, which is appropriate for the most prominent street in downtown Wake Forest. A variety of restaurants offer a range of different cuisines in downtown. The coffee shop culture has emerged in Wake Forest and there are three different coffee shops, one being a full-fledged coffee bean roaster.

S S Shorty’s on White Street

S S White Street retail shops

S S Back Alley Coffee Roasters on Brooks Street

S S Food truck on White Street


C h a p t e r 3 E x i s t i ng C ond i t i ons


retail or restaurant

Wait Ave

E Jones Ave

E Owen Ave

Concentration of Retail/Restaurant

Elm Ave

Gap in Retail/Restaurant Offerings

S S Figure 3.5: Retail & Restaurant Frontage


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3.6 Active Ground Floor Use

Active ground floor uses are critical to a vibrant downtown. Not only do the uses need to be active, but ideally, they should align closely with the desired character that Wake Forest is pursuing and is sought after by potential visitors. As pedestrians and visitors walk or drive down White Street, they need to see other people visibly enjoying themselves in the downtown; this is a compounding effect — people beget people.

Figure 3.6 on the opposite page depicts our analysis of the ground floor space in the core of the Renaissance Area. Below are descriptions of each category from the diagram:

Firm »» Active throughout the day and night »» Attracts a wide variety of visitors/ patrons »» Fully occupied with tenant mix that supports vibrancy

Ripe »» Vacant storefront »» Needs a tenant that adds to the vibrancy of the street »» Physical enhancements to the building and facade may be necessary Opportunity »» Tenant mix could be more supportive of street activity »» Small change needed, like adding outdoor seating or operable windows that open to the street Underutilized »» Could be more active with new tenants or a change in the facade to function more like a traditional storefront, open, permeable and transparent


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Legend Le





opportunity ripe

opportunity ripe

S S Figure 3.6: Ground Floor Activity


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3.7 Regional Transportation

Wake Forest has a rich regional road network, which is one of the qualities that make this town so attractive to live in. In less than 30 minutes by car (and without much traffic), one can travel to downtown Raleigh, three major shopping malls and the RDU International Airport. Just beyond is downtown Durham and the Durham Performing Arts Center. Regional highways like I–40, I–85 and I–95 that connect the eastern United States are also relatively close to Wake Forest. Locally, this transportation network has connected Wake Forest citizens to nearby jobs and amenities. But, the major arterial corridors of US 1/Capital Boulevard, US 401 and NC 98 are often clogged with traffic. Wake Forest offers a great alternative to commuting to Raleigh — the Wake Forest–Raleigh Express. This bus runs from downtown Wake Forest to downtown Raleigh with a stop at the Triangle Town Center. There are morning and afternoon departures during rush hour. At only $3 per one way trip, the Wake Forest–Raleigh Express is a very convenient transportation option, an alternative to commuting by single occupant vehicle.

Soon, Wake Forest residents will begin to make the choice to avoid the commutes to Raleigh for employment and North Hills Mall for shopping; in fact, many already do. They will choose instead to live, work and play in Wake Forest almost exclusively. The best way to prepare for this growth and change in lifestyle that the data and trends are predicting is to give people mobility options. If the main roads are more congested, then well-connected neighborhood streets will offer our residents many other choices to get around. We will prioritize interconnected two-lane streets over multi-lane thoroughfares. In addition, in dispersing this traffic around the community on smaller, lower speed streets rather than concentrating it on a few large, high-speed roads, we will continue to move the same amount of vehicles while ensuring safe options for pedestrians and cyclists. Ultimately, this vision of a street network will be the bones of our walkable and bikable urban neighborhoods as we develop in a smart way over the next few decades.


C h a p t e r 3 E x i s t i ng C ond i t i ons

Legend Le d

Raleigh boundaries Wake Forest boundaries neighboring town boundaries renaissance area

S S Figure 3.7: Connections to the Region


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3.8 Area Walkability

Increasingly, whether an area is walkable, or not, has become very important to making places successful. Investors, businesses, employees and residents alike are increasingly desiring more and more walkability in the places they live, work and play. Several factors impact the walkability of a location: »» the amount and variety of amenities that are within 1/4–1/2 mile »» connected sidewalks and other off- street paths »» the quality of the streetscape and pedestrian environment Walk Score (www.walkscore.com) uses an algorithm to calculate the walkability index of a location. Amenities such as businesses, parks, shops, theaters, schools and other

common destinations within a 1/4 mile distance are given more points and the farther away the amenity, the less points are awarded. High walkability correlates to significant increases in real estate value and desirability. Figure 3.8 on the opposite page shows the walkability index, the Walk Score, of neighborhoods in and around the Renaissance Area. The historic core of downtown scores fairly high, as expected, but the Walk Score drops quickly as the neighborhoods get farther and farther from downtown. As a point of reference, Manhattan, NY receives a perfect Walk Score of 100. Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill, NC gets a walkscore of 86 and Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh gets a 78.

Walkability is about the journey and the destination.

S S Highly walkable historic core

S S Opportunity to improve walkability along E. Jones Ave


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18 90-100 Walkers Paradise 70-89 Very Walkable 50-69 Somewhat Walkable


25-49 Car Dependent 0-24 Car Exclusive

renaissance area


5 minute walk

greenways proposed parks/ open space

greenways existing



S S Figure 3.8: Walkscore by Neighborhood


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3.9 Gateways

Gateways are key entry points to an area and are often underappreciated though they should be significant, iconic and memorable components of downtowns. The Renaissance Area has several gateways, some major and several minor, but none of which is “iconic.” Franklin Street at NC 98 is a gateway, but it is very distant from the historic core and Franklin Street does not connect directly into

downtown. The most relevant gateway is at Roosevelt Avenue and the rail underpass, as well as the intersection of White Street and Roosevelt Avenue. The gateway should be enhanced with elements that give visitors a sense of arrival and mark the entry to downtown. Detailed recommendations follow in Chapter 9.

Prominent Gateway Enhancement Opportunities

S S Existing nondescript gateway into downtown from the SEBTS campus

S S Enhanced gateway with decorative crosswalk, graphic art pavement treatment and monument signage

S S Existing Roosevelt Avenue bridge view of gateway into downtown from the S.E.B.T.S campus

S S Enhanced gateway with playful colors and the Wake Forest name illuminated


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state road/hwy major streets planned connection renaissance area gateways

S S Figure 3.9: Key Gateways into Downtown

Wake Forest citizens and stakeholders discussing draft concepts of the Renaissance Plan during a presentation at Town Hall

Summary of Public Input 4 KEY TAKEAWAYS Broad stakeholder input Community workshop results Favorite characteristics of Wake Forest Favorite places in Wake Forest


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4 Summary of Public Input

4.1 Public Process Overview

The planning process for the Renaissance Plan Update involved several outreach strategies and opportunities for the citizens of Wake Forest to participate. Our desire was to create a meaningful dialogue with the community that would help mold the vision for Wake Forest’s downtown area. With both on-site opportunities to interact with the design team along with an online portal known as mySidewalk, citizens of all ages and ability levels were part of the process. Interested individuals or groups were also invited to email their input to downtowndesign@wakeforestnc.gov. 4.2 Steering Committee Mayor Vivian Jones appointed a group of Wake Forest citizens who helped guide the consultants and city staff throughout the nine month process. This steering committee met several times and were key participants in the public design charrette. Each member was charged with encouraging participation from neighbors, colleagues and friends.

S S Public Kickoff Workshop small group mapping exercise


C h a p t e r 4 S umma ry of P u b l ic I npu t

4.3 Stakeholder Interviews The design team conducted a reconnaissance trip that included two days of stakeholder interviews on March 30–31. The meetings were focused around various topics and city staff identified and invited specific individuals to participate. Local merchants, realtors, elected officials, and property owners were targeted as part of these interviews. Key takeaways are summarized below:

»» Businesses are owned by both lifelong residents and transplants from other parts of the country; most merchants truly care about Wake Forest. »» The last 7–8 years has seen a shift in more people knowing that downtown exists and loving the quaint “mom and pop” feel of the area. »» Merchants have tried to evolve their product selections to serve the new customer base; shift in sensitivity to buy local and avoid chains. »» General feeling is that the downtown streetscape improvements and the addition of White Street Brewing have had the most impact on the shift in demographics visiting downtown. »» Some businesses seem disconnected from the core, particularly those down at the Renaissance Center; more private investment is forthcoming on that end of town.

»» Staying open later is a challenge and is perceived as being cost prohibitive. »» There is lots of tenant interest in downtown buildings; have found challenges with landlord expectations and viable tenant spaces. »» Apex, Durham, Asheville, Savannah, Pinehurst and New Bern are cited examples of desirable downtowns to emulate. »» Downtown is difficult to find; improved signage/wayfinding is necessary. »» Housing market is a bedroom community of Raleigh; SEBTS campus draws families and older population into town. »» Current demographic moving in: mostly younger families (30s and 40s), large retirement draw from northeast.

S S Stakeholder meeting focused on retail in downtown


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»» Parking Issues: some feel the need for a public garage, business valet service, public/private trolley service through downtown, golf cart service, white horse service, improved parking signage, people believe the parking problem is perceived and not actual, unwillingness to walk, shared parking should be investigated, angled parking conversion where possible, removal of 2-hour parking, park and ride options. »» White Street receives the most attention for improvements and investment; desire to include neglected areas such as Brooks Street and north of Roosevelt with signage and beautification. »» Downtown needs to be a destination with more consumer related retail and entertainment where people want to come spend the entire day; Wakefield/ Heritage need to be customers of downtown. »» Downtown needs more restaurants including a finer dining option. »» The Renaissance Area needs more investment in gateways.

»» Town marketing has helped with communications with a fantastic app and neighborhood notices; continue even more cross promotion with merchants. »» Events have made a big difference in activity level in downtown; may need to consider adding a public restroom in downtown area and a parking garage; Art after Hours, Dirt Day, Friday Night on White…are bringing business to downtown. 99% survey respondents say their business increases 50%. »» Strong demand for current apartments and townhomes under construction in downtown area; this will yield more patrons in walking distance of the core. »» Downtown needs a major water feature, music for ambiance, and access to water for irrigation outside of businesses; strive to be a pet-friendly downtown.

S S Public input method used during the charrette

S S Public presentation following the charrette updating stakeholders on the project

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