It’s no secret that the Town of Wendell is booming. It’s location just East of the City of Raleigh, lower housing costs than Raleigh and Cary, direct interstate access, good schools, great community and more have catapulted Wendell to being the fastest growing municipality in the area.
Realizing this, the Town put together a 2030 Blueprint Plan to help guide development. Please be sure to check it out here: https://www.blueprintwendell2030.com/ The plan strives to strike a balance of mixed-use nodes while maintaining greenspace. While the plan provides the framework for the next decade, there are five specific things in my eyes that are imperative to keeping Wendell from becoming a typical car-choked, traffic filled suburb.
Make the Most of the Downtown Core
I believe that Downtown Wendell has the best bones of any suburban Downtown in Raleigh. We have a classic Main Street lined with shops and restaurants, but without the traffic. In most other area towns, the Main Street carries the actual main route and is filled with traffic. Wendell’s Downtown also has a few solid blocks of classic early 20th century shop fronts which have done pretty well the past few years which is something else that really sets us apart.
Also working in Wendell’s favor are the multiple warehouses that could be converted to additional shops, restaurants, lofts, food halls, etc, the possibilities are ENDLESS and could transform Downtown Wendell in to a true gem and destination. While this may not sound ideal to some people, the additional foot traffic would do wonders for our local businesses and could bring people in from far and near.
To further build upon the client-base, underutilized Downtown parcels should be transformed into a mix of housing types. Currently there are three Townhome developments planned or under construction for a total of 30 units. We must continue on that path by allowing for a mix of dense housing types such as Apartment blocks within our core. Once again, the possibilities are endless and will set us apart from any other Wake County Downtown.
The Town will be conducting a Downtown Plan soon which like the Blueprint Plan will help guide development.
Wendell published a Transportation plan in 2016 and a Pedestrian Plan in 2017 which both can be viewed here https://www.townofwendell.com/departments/planning/transportation.
Those plans contain a multitude of roadway and infrastructure improvements. More importantly though, Wendell has an innovative Golf Cart program where residents are able to ditch the car on non-state routes for neighborhood trips.
Contrary to the beliefs of many, continued development will only help our traffic problems. As each development commences, that’s more opportunity for commercial development to take place which means less driving. Each development must also construct their portion of new connections that are in the Transportation Plan.
While there are a few intersections that need immediate attention, large scale road widening is not necessary for Wendell to thrive. The only road widening necessary in my view is Wendell Falls Pkwy from Martin Pond Rd to Jake May Drive where the future Wendell circulator will be.
Instead focus should be on connectivity in forms of multi-use paths, ensuring Go Triangle expands bus access, ensuring there are no golf-cart dead zones, and facilitating mixed-use nodes where residents are not forced to leave for basic needs.
Currently there are two areas where residents commonly use golf carts – Wendell Falls and Downtown Wendell. Due to state regulations, golf carts are not allowed on Wendell Falls Pkwy, thus there is no way to get between the two in anything other than a car. It is imperative to ensure that a system of pathways is implemented to facilitate golf cart travel between Wendell Falls, Downtown Wendell, and the Wake Tech district. Greenways are planned but may only facilitate bike and ped movements.
Despite the beliefs of many, Dense Mixed-Use development is the only way to save Wendell from becoming a typical car-choked traffic filled suburb. While the Wendell Blueprint plan lays the framework for that, it must be followed when analyzing future developments.
This will allow area residents to not have to travel by car for every need, and more importantly add a diversity of housing types and increase affordability. As gas prices continue to rise, housing prices continue to rise, and as society becomes more climate aware, more and more people want to live the lifestyle of not needing a car for every trip.
Do Everything Possible to Attract Business
One of the main complaints in recent Public Hearings was that Wendell has no good jobs. While that is true, town officials can not just snap their fingers and bring jobs. There are things that can be done though such as offering incentives, having the infrastructure such as a dedicated Business Park in place, and having the households, infrastructure, and commercial activity in place to sustain the needs of larger businesses.
Wendell is just getting to the point where you could consider that the households and commercial activity is in place. There is a dedicated space within Wendell Falls for a corporate HQ and an Innovation District planned in the Blueprint Plan. The addition of Wake Tech and the build up of the surrounding area should help land Wendell the jobs it hopes for.
Do Not Cave to the Anti-Density Crowd
Perhaps the worst thing Wendell could do is caving to the anti-density crowd. If we do that, we will end up with a bunch of low-mid density residential sprawl where everyone sits in traffic daily to go to work, go shop and more. While they may present compelling cases, they are usually built on fear of change more than anything. Unfortunately they are usually the vocal minority and can inflict a great deal of pressure on town officials.
Wendell only gets one chance to build itself toward a sustainable, livable future where people from all walks of life can live, work, play, and thrive.
For more information on what’s coming to the Wendell Falls, ideas to make Wendell Falls a better place, information about Wendell and more please visit https://philveasley.com/wendell/ and www.townofwendell.com.
Opinions and insights are my own and are not representative of my employer or any organization.