Carmen Cauthen is a lifelong activist for racial justice and a servant-leader in the African-American community in Raleigh. Her roots in the community go deep and wide. Her work with children and parents, always as a volunteer, spans her entire adult life. She’s been a missionary—a quiet, determined force—in a multitude of faith-based, school and community projects to advance racial equality. She was the founder of the NAACP chapter at N.C. State University. As co-founder of the Wake Housing Justice Coalition, she’s helped change the conversation about affordable housing in Raleigh to focus it on helping those in the greatest need. 

Below are excerpts from an editorial by Carmen Cauthen published in a recent edition of the Carolinian Newspaper.


Urgent SE Raleigh Issue

We are on notice from the City of Raleigh. If you haven’t had the opportunity to drive through Southeast Raleigh and notice the change in the place – you need to do so.

Houses are being either torn down and rebuilt with a more modern feel and white people are moving in. The people who had lived there before have sold out (either the original owners, the heirs or the landlords) for money that won’t purchase land anywhere else in Raleigh. Many of the folk who grew up here have had to move away due to that type of pressure.

And it isn’t just the housing, it’s the signs that tell people to slow down because kids live there (did you raise kids in the neighborhoods without the signs?); it’s the sudden feeling, as people who aren’t Black move in, that you aren’t welcome in the neighborhood that you were in first.; it’s the speed bumps and the roundabouts that are popping up everywhere that although they slow traffic down, they can be hard to navigate. Finally (although not all) it’s the addressing of things that have been issues for southeast Raleigh for(ever) that weren’t addressed – like flooding, dumping of waste, safety issues, slow transportation in the bus system, home-lessness, substance abuse, mental health issues and others.

What’s the Notice?

The notice is the New Bern Avenue Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). It’s coming. They aren’t just putting a dedicated bus lane down the middle of New Bern Avenue, they are planning to upzone 744 parcels of land and change the text of the comprehensive plan and unified development plan to make sure that if something that is one story is destroyed, at least 3-5 stories will replace it. (That is literally the definition of upzone – read this from The Motley Fool: “Touted as the silver bullet for affordable housing by some — and the death of family-oriented communities by NIMBYs (“not in my backyard”) — upzoning is a heated housing topic. Many cities across the U.S. are struggling with the implementation of upzoning and how to effectively expand housing supply, particularly in unaffordable and low-supply markets.

I believe that many of the things that we see happening to our city are based on the desire to make us a “Destination.” In 2015, the City of Raleigh Planning Department – under the direction of then Planning Director, Mitchell Silver, hosted a “Big Idea” forum and invited people to spend 3 days talking about what folks wanted to see in the city. I don’t know many people who look like me that were part of that plan. In fact, I didn’t know that this had occurred until the public hearing regarding the Downtown South re-zoning in December of 2020 when Bonner Gaylord intimated that there had been lying and misinformation given out to citizens. He mentioned the Big Idea plan and it was the first that I had heard of it.

So, I looked for it and found one news article about it with a link to the plan. The link was broken. I asked the Planning department if they could find it and send it to me.

The link led to the plan that the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau commissioned that was rolled out in 2018 called Destination 2028. There are many links in the executive summary of the Destination 2028 plan but there are some that you may have heard about. -Need for a large stadium -Need for an expanded convention center -Need for a hotel that has 400 rooms -Need for major attractions The plan came out in 2018 but the idea took root in 2015. We have heard talk of a stadium since 2016 culminating in the Downtown South plan and there are several other stadiums in the area. February 2023, the Wake County commissioners discussed enlarging the convention center across to where the Red Hat Amphitheatre is now, adding a new hotel alongside and connected to (The Omni 500 room hotel) and moving the Red Hat Amphitheatre 1 block south, further into the old and demolished 4th Ward (which was destroyed to build the Dawson – McDowell Connector) Citizens should hear about all of this at one time and see how it will affect us. The New Bern Avenue BRT is just one other facet. This transportation plan has 3 other corridors and the next one they are working on is Western Boulevard and will affect Method.

Carmen Cauthen

Southeast Raleigh Community Engagement

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