RALEIGH, NC-For the past 32 years, Peter Batchelor has looked for real-life architectural problems to bring to his students as case studies. This year, Batchelor has found a situation in Raleigh, 150 miles northeast of Downtown Charlotte. He is asking his students to accomplish what he alleges a local developer has failed to do–create workable redevelopment plans for North Hills Plaza. The objective is to meld the development ideas with the wishes of an active and tight-knit community.

Earlier in the year, John Kane of Kane Realty Corp., unveiled plans to redevelop the aging plaza into a dense, mixed-use development with several high-rise buildings and a parking garage. Not pleased with what they saw coming, neighbors quickly organized the North Hills Neighborhood Association to fight the plans. The conflict presented a chance for Batchelor’s students to participate in a real-life situation.

Leland H. Ulery, a 34-year-old student who is also an intern with an architectural firm in Raleigh, became interested because the project was actually on the drawing board. The projects from all seven students were displayed at the university’s School of Design and had to meet several requirements to receive a passing mark.

The drawings and models had to maintain the 100-foot vegetative buffer currently in place between the plaza and the neighbors. Kane has proposed cutting into it. The designs had to avoid placing parking garages on the site’s perimeter, as well as be adaptable to a future society not reliant on cars. The designs could not use roads into or out of the site on certain streets, which could only be used for residential traffic. Also, the development had to be kept compatible with the existing neighborhood. Kane has suggested buildings as high as 14 stories; the students were encouraged to build low.

Finally, like Kane’s plans, the designs had to include a 122-unit hotel, 104 condominiums, 200,000 sf of office space, 130,000 sf of retail space and about 1,500 parking spaces. Kane defends his ideas, saying the density is necessary to churn a profit from the 14.8 acres, reportedly purchased for $7 million.

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