Last week, Raleigh approved rezoning for one of the largest developments in its history. Developer John Kane will build Downtown South, a $2-billion complex in southeast Raleigh that will include housing, hotels, shops, restaurants and a 20,000-seat soccer stadium.
Rather than being bystanders in this critical process that will shape the future of our city, UUFR members played a key role. Because of our involvement with ONE Wake, we were able to listen to and amplify the voices of our southeast Raleigh neighbors who are likely to be affected and displaced by the project.
It all started in October, when more than 3,000 people, including hundreds of UUFR members, attended the ONE Wake Founding Assembly. At the assembly, we heard from several congregations in southeast Raleigh about their concerns that the project would lead to gentrification, increased flooding in areas that are already flood-prone, and not enough jobs that pay a livable wage.
We joined ONE Wake in pushing Kane for more affordable housing units, stronger stormwater protections, and a guarantee that workers on the project would be paid at least $20 an hour. In the end, we didn’t get everything we asked for. But we did get some affordable housing units, and some strong stormwater runoff rules.
If ONE Wake hadn’t been involved, it’s possible this huge project would have been approved without the voices of the people most affected being heard at all. Instead, ONE Wake organized 600 emails to the City Council and held a press conference that was attended by over 1,000 people. These actions were well-supported by UUFR. City leaders heard us loud and clear at public forums, and several news articles were written about our requests.
There are many more stages in the approval process, including Kane’s request for hundreds of millions of dollars in tax subsidies. ONE Wake and UUFR will be there every step of the way, speaking up for the kind of vibrant, inclusive and diverse community we believe in.
Some thoughts on UUFR’s work with ONE Wake
Rev. James Kubal-Komoto
I was disappointed the city council approved the zoning request. It highlighted for me that there is a big disconnect between the city’s elected leaders and its citizens, especially our most vulnerable neighbors. However, even though we didn’t get everything we wanted, we moved the needle. I’m so proud of how many UUFR members and friends became involved. This was a real example of us living our values in the public square.
I also want to commend Michele McIntosh, a UUFR member who serves on the Planning Commission. Michele and other planning commission members took a bold, courageous stand for the good of our community, which wasn’t an easy thing to do.
I hope that all of us realize this is the beginning of the process, not the end of it. Our ultimate goal is not only about Downtown South or any other issue. Our ultimate goal is to build a citizens’ movement that has enough recognition and power to influence the common good of our community. These past few months, we’ve taken a huge step in building such a movement.
Chris Olson, Head of UUFR’s ONE Wake Organizing Team
Our work with ONE Wake has been my first venture into community organizing. I won’t lie, the City Council’s approval of the rezoning stings – how could they so clearly ignore the public and prioritize a private developer’s agenda and profits? This type of disappointment is probably familiar to all of you who’ve spent years in community action. BUT I do feel proud of our work and heartened for the future. The easiest thing to do is nothing, and if we had done nothing then the development would have breezed through with no flood protection nor affordable housing. ONE Wake has only been in the public for a few months and we made a splash – I look forward to growing our influence and continuing the good fight.
Jim Hurdis, Member of UUFR’s ONE Wake Organizing Team
I volunteered to be one of the co-chairs for ONE Wake’s affordable housing team. Last June, the co-chairs were talking with the director of the Wake County Housing Crisis Department. She commented that the county commissioners were considering allocation of $5 million for immediate housing of the homeless. ONE Wake made a call for action to send comments of approval to the commissioners before their meeting. A record 687 favorable comments swayed the commissioner’s decision. Ultimately. $22 million was allocated for housing and eviction relief.
More than 90 members of the UUFR participated in this. The voice of the UUFR was loud, but when we were part of 687, we were heard. Our Vision to be, “a community where we bring our passions to and are influential in the larger community, intentionally reaching out to partner with others to realize our commitment to social, economic, and environmental justice” can be realized by our partnership with ONE Wake.
Mark Long, Member of UUFR’s ONE Wake Organizing Team
We appreciate being part of ONE Wake, joining with our diverse community of activists in advocating for social justice in the Triangle.