After a series of delays and deliberations, the Raleigh City Council unanimously gave developer John Kane a green light Tuesday to begin planning what could be downtown’s tallest tower, though the approval came with caveats. 

The council agreed to Kane’s request to rezone a three-acre lot at the corner of Harrington and Peace Streets from a maximum of twelve stories to forty after Kane committed to including an unspecified amount of affordable units in his development. Even then, forty stories won’t be a given; the height will depend on the outcome of a traffic study looking at six nearby intersections and examining how the tower might affect other developments in the area.

According to the terms of the agreement, if the study determines that Kane’s tower would cause any of the six intersections to receive a failing service grade, Kane must bring forward a mitigation plan, build improvements, or take on additional requirements as determined by the city’s transportation director. 

“What we’re doing is putting a condition regarding the level of service at nearby intersections so we have to meet the level of service or we don’t go to forty stories,” said council member David Cox. “So it’s quite conceivable that we would end up with a building that’s less than forty stories.”

Kane initially offered a $1 million contribution to the city for affordable housing, but after pushback from the council, he agreed to include affordable units in the project instead. The amount of affordable units is yet to be determined. Under the terms of the deal, as much as 15 percent of the total number of units in the development could be rented to individuals earning 80 percent of the area median income or less for fifteen years, or as few as 5 percent could be rented to those earning 50 percent of the median income or less for five years.

Kane won’t have to decide until he submits a site plan. 

“We are excited to be part of the solution for Raleigh’s affordability challenges,” former city council member and Kane managing director Bonner Gaylord told the INDY after the hearing. “We really need to take that information to the financial markets after we design the building and figure out how we are going to deploy the affordability based on those options.”

Gaylord is confident the firm can meet the city’s demands.

“Based on our analysis,” he said, “we think we can move forward with a forty-story project. Whether that’s ultimately what we design, that’s yet to be seen, because we haven’t started the design process yet.”

Other conditions include screening the project’s parking decks with vegetation or walls so cars aren’t visible from the street, restrictions on building materials, and reserving ten thousand square feet of commercial space for restaurants, recreation, or retail. (Those retailers can’t be “adult” establishments or automotive services.) 

This agreement, a month from Raleigh’s mayoral and city council elections, will likely be claimed as a victory by Cox and his development-skeptic allies. Cox wants to use rezoning requests to push developers to “voluntarily” include affordable units in their projects—a way around the state’s ban on inclusionary zoning that critics warn may lead to lawsuits if the council ultimately rejects a project whose developer didn’t go along. 

This time, however, Kane played ball.

Contact staff writer Leigh Tauss at 

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