New designs don’t sway opponents of North Raleigh Publix

ccampbell@newsobserver.comFebruary 10, 2014 

  • Southwest Raleigh courts Publix

    While residents of North Raleigh’s Bedford community are voicing opposition to a proposed Publix store, their neighbors on the opposite end of town are wooing the grocer.

    More than 200 people in Southwest Raleigh have signed an online petition asking Publix to consider their neighborhood. Many of them live in the Renaissance Park neighborhood, which is two miles from the nearest Food Lion and even further from upscale grocers like Harris Teeter.

    “While North Raleigh rallies against this proposed development, Southwest Raleigh is shining and waxing the welcome wagon,” resident Jason Hibbets wrote on southwestraleigh.com. “We’ve got money to spend, and we’d like to keep it in our part of town. Trader Joe’s, we’re giving you a call next.”

— Opponents of a proposed North Raleigh Publix grocery are quick to point to a nearby retail center they’d like to see replicated on Falls of Neuse Road: the Shoppes at Bedford, a small cluster of stores and restaurants inside the Bedford neighborhood.

This week, the neighbors saw a familiar-sounding name on the controversial Publix: the Shoppes at Bedford Falls. Charlotte-based Morgan Property Group is fleshing out its plans for the site, releasing a name and drawings of its proposed shopping center.

Morgan vice president Jeff Surrency says the architecture and name is designed to give the development a neighborhood feel. “This is not simple boxes by any stretch of the imagination,” he said. “What we tried to do is to give this more of a community feel. We really see this as somewhere you go on the weekends with your kids.”

Morgan’s original website for the development, bringpublix.com, now directs to a new site, shoppesatbedfordfalls.com, which features photos of the Village at Pinehurst and the Charlotte Country Club. Opponents point out that neither complex includes a grocery store.

Surrency explained that the new renderings include architectural themes from the buildings pictured on the website. “Those pictures are nothing more than inspiration,” he said. “They are architectural elements we find attractive and appropriate.”

But opponents of the plan – who now boast 2,900 signatures on a petition against the rezoning – say the new images won’t change their minds.

“It doesn’t really matter that you tone down the signage and put brick instead of stucco,” said Stacy Cashin, who lives off Dunn Road. “It’s just the size that’s out of character with the surroundings.”

Opponents of the Publix plan say the site is inappropriate for a 49,000-square-foot grocer because it could impact traffic on Falls of Neuse and neighborhood streets, generate noise and light pollution and create runoff issues just a few blocks from the Falls Lake dam.

To address the traffic concerns, the latest design for the center removes an entrance on Whittington Drive, a quiet residential street. Instead, shoppers would enter from Dunn Road or directly from northbound Falls of Neuse.

“If those living up and down Whittington don’t want access, we’re trying to accomodate them,” Surrency said.

Publix opponent David Cox is skeptical of the change. “Moving it to Falls of Neuse might actually compound the problem,” he said, pointing to heavy rush-hour traffic on the four-lane thoroughfare.

The rezoning issue will go before the Raleigh Planning Commission in the coming months. Until then, Cox said neighbors will continue to go door-to-door with the petition, and Surrency said his company will meet with any residents willing to hear them out.

For now, though, Publix officials are staying quiet, and Morgan’s website features a prominent disclaimer that the Florida-based grocer – which would make its first entry into the Raleigh market – isn’t “endorsing” the plans.

“They’re distancing themselves from the process,” Surrency said. “I don’t blame them.”

Campbell: 919-829-4802; Twitter: @RaleighReporter

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