RALEIGH – Downtown South, the massive $2.2 billion mixed-use development targeting the southern gateway into Raleigh, is moving closer to becoming a reality.

On Wednesday, developer Kane Realty Corp. unveiled renderings and details about three of what it calls “vertical projects.”

“It will absolutely be the beginning of a transformation of the southern gateway to downtown,” Kane realty Chief Operating Officer Bonner Gaylord said.

Downtown South will cover more than 130 acres along Interstate 40 and South Saunders Street, and area that now features a number of abandoned buildings and row upon row of billboards.

“How I describe it now is an industrial wasteland,” Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin said of the site. “To take it from that to an area that will house people, entertain them and give them an incredible quality of life, I’m pretty excited.”

Kane Realty plans to start construction by the end of the year on Park City South, which will include 335 apartments and ground-floor retail. It’s expected to be finished by late 2023.

Park City South will feature indoor and outdoor social spaces, a full spa and a rooftop lounge and terrace overlooking part of the city’s Dix Park. The retail space will feature a landscape design that meshes with the nearby Walnut Creek Greenway trail.

Rendering of Park City South residential and retail building (Courtesy of Kane Realty)

“Demand remains high for housing, office and retail options in downtown Raleigh, but with growth limited to the west, east and north, downtown’s natural progression is south,” said John Kane, chief executive of Kane Realty, which also developed Raleigh’s North Hills area and projects in the warehouse district near downtown.

Construction is expected to start next year on a second apartment building, with 280 units, and 180,000-square-foot office building that features exposed “mass timber construction,” instead of concrete and steel, and 10-foot-high windows on all six floors.

Rendering of mass-timber office building in Downtown South (Courtesy of Kane Realty)

Nearby residents say they fear Downtown South, which developers hope will eventually include a sports and entertainment stadium, will force them from their homes as property values – and the taxes they pay – soar.

“People are feeling like they’re about to be priced out of Raleigh,” said Stephon Whitley, an organizer with One Wake, an advocacy group calling for more affordable housing and property tax reform in the area. “Their taxes have already doubled and tripled in the last few years, and they worry, once that development goes up, how that will affect their property taxes and their ability to stay in their homes.”

Elaine Peebles Brown has lived in a home her father built in the nearby Rochester Heights neighborhood, off Garner Road, since 1957 said she wants to pass it along to another generation.

“The way the property taxes are increasing every year, it’s making it a true hardship,” Brown said. “We’re loving development and expansion. That makes things good for everybody here in Raleigh and Wake County. But we want to stay, and we don’t want to be pushed out.”

Kane Realty has agreed to offer 10 percent of Downtown South’s units at below-market rates once 1,000 are built.

“There needs to be market-rate units on the ground first to establish the core of the development and establish the amenity structure that allows for affordable housing,” Gaylord said.

“We know this community is desirous of the amenities the other parts of the city have enjoyed for many years,” he added. “We look forward to bringing pharmacies and grocery stores and coffee shops and retail and restaurants, so the residents of the surrounding area don’t have to drive so far.”

$2.2B Downtown South project is making ‘slow’ progress, developer says

Baldwin agreed amenities other parts of Raleigh take for granted will transform the Downtown South area.

“They’re setting it up for success by trying to bring people there and bring retail there,” she said. “This is what people have been envisioning. This is what they said they wanted. This could be the greatest redevelopment community in the history of our city.”

But Brown said area residents need to be included more in the planning and development.

“What I would like to see is more involvement, more community engagement, more community outreach,” she said. “I’d like to see a commitment – a strong commitment – for inclusion in jobs, ownership [and] minority business development.”