RALEIGH – North Carolina State University leadership has been awaiting the next step in a months-long process to determine how the institution could proceed with plans for Centennial Campus, which the university is seeking the OK to redevelop. They got it, as a rezoning request was approved by the Raleigh City Council on Tuesday night.

Now what?

That process, formally begun after the university submitted a rezoning request to the City of Raleigh in November 2020, will now allow redevelopment of 975 acres of Centennial Campus.

And the timing could be fortuitous: Google, Apple, Invitae, and others recently announced plans to establish new Triangle-based offices with thousands of employees expected to be hired in the coming years. According to WRAL TechWire sources, more companies could be on their way to expand in the region or to relocate to the region.  Commercial real estate developers continue to add square footage of office space, indicating signs the commercial market in the Triangle may not see a pandemic dip after all.

‘Future development on Centennial Campus will present additional opportunities for NC State to further its academic and research endeavors,” said Alicia Knight, Associate Vice Chancellor, Real Estate and Development at North Carolina State University in an interview with WRAL TechWire.  “We will also have the opportunity to continue establishing meaningful partnerships that bring value to private partners while fulfilling the university’s mission.  This is a win-win – and the type of value proposition that Centennial Campus provides.”

The university’s request sought to align the zoning of 975 acres within the more than 1,000 acre campus with the city’s Campus Master Plan district, added to the Raleigh Unified Development Ordinance in 2013, according to Knight, who also spoke with WRAL TechWire in November 2020 when the zoning request was first made.

“The rezoning will enable NC State to continue fulfilling the vision of bipartisan state leaders who granted the land to launch Centennial more than 30 years ago,” said Knight in November. “It will enable a vibrant future for Centennial Campus consistent with current development trends and aligned with the university’s vision for a mixed-use and vibrant learn, live, work, play environment on Centennial.”

Inside Centennial Campus rezoning request – Here’s what NCSU wants

The rezoning request, newly approved, is likely to lead to a vastly different Centennial Campus, including towers up to 28 stories tall at their highest point, across nine different sections of land.

Plans would see the property broken up into nine sections, including: one allowing development of 37 acres of land on which buildings up to 28 stories tall at the highest point could be constructed, another 112 acres of land on which facilities up to 12 stories tall could be constructed, and seven other sections with buildings up to 3, 5, or 7 stories tall.

“The rezoning provides a framework for the university to make future decisions about the development of its campus within the broadly defined zoning parameters, while translating legacy zoning conditions into a more modern framework aligned with the City of Raleigh’s current Unified Development Ordinance,” said Knight.  “The zoning framework does not call out specific building locations, footprints or programmatic uses; nor is it representative of a specific plan for development for the campus moving forward.”

Knight previously described the plans as “modest” in noting that the plans included a sought-for increase of Centennial occupied space by nearly 2 million square feet.

“In the context of a campus of 1,000 acres, the square footage of development requested is modest,” she noted in November.

NC State unveils a new Centennial Campus vision – from 28 story towers to more density

“The zoning framework takes a long-term view of future growth and development on Centennial Campus,” said Knight in November. “The rezoning is not simply about one project or one period in time, but a project that will lay the groundwork for future teaching, research and innovation, and that will drive broad benefits to Raleigh and beyond for decades to come.”

One example Knight is now highlighting: the creation of the North Oval Innovation District.  The project is envisioned as a destination for university and industry collaboration, according to Knight, “at the physical convergence of academia and private industry on Centennial Campus.”  A timeline for this project has not yet been finalized, she said.

Earlier this spring, the Raleigh Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend the approval of the rezoning request to the City Council.

Centennial Campus was established in 1984 through an initial land allocation by then Governor James B. Hunt, Jr. and envisioned a new type of research, innovation and public-private partnership campus.

The campus was originally zoned in 1988 to enable educational, research and public-private partnership activities along with residential, and recreation uses through a phased-master plan.

The zoning was incrementally updated in subsequent years to add additional land to the campus, but corresponding increases to the allowable area on which buildings could be constructed were not made in connection with those land additions.