Shaw University alumni divided over plans to update campus, build high-rise towersFeb 28, 2023
RALEIGH, N.C. — Shaw University, founded in downtown Raleigh in 1865, is known as the first historically Black university in the South.
On Tuesday, the school cleared the first hurdle toward the future, a plan to redevelop parts of its historic campus. The city of Raleigh's planning commission voted 7 to 1 to approve a rezoning of the 27-acre campus to allow for taller towers.
The redevelopment plan, which calls for numerous changes is facing opposition from some Shaw alumni.
Shaw alumni, staff and students packed the planning commission meeting. Some were in opposition to the rezoning while others wore red shirts showing support for the project, which the university is calling the "Shaw U District."
The rezoning will allow Shaw to work with developers to build towers up to 30 stories tall on the bulk of its campus between South Wilmington and South Person streets.
Currently, the university doesn't have a master plan for what the Shaw U District would look like.
The lack of a master plan was a concern for Nicole Bennett, the lone member of the planning commission to vote "no" in Tuesday's rezoning meeting.
"Without seeing the plan, it’s hard for me to say it’s in the interest of the community in which the university sits," said Bennett.
Paulette Dillard, Shaw University's president, is in favor of the changes, saying redeveloping parts of the property will allow the university to make money off the development and build a more modern campus for students.
"Shaw has to do these kind of things in order to be able to attract the best and the brightest to our campus," she said.
"Our students at Shaw can have the same amenities surrounding them that you see at N.C. State ... being developed around [William Peace University] ... we now have that opportunity for Shaw and its surrounding communities," Dillard said.
Dillard promised to protect the history of the campus, but Eugene Myrick, leader of the "Save Our Shaw" campaign is not so sure.
"The campus will go away," he said. "There’s no other way to explain it. 1We don’t think we need a rezoning. We need better management."
The rezoning would require Shaw to preserve and protect four historic buildings from damage done by any new development.
That promise is not enough for Pete Chamberlin, great, great grandson of one of the university founders.
"I’m just concerned that things are going to happen and only a select few are going to benefit, and the school itself and the core of what it was founded on is going to be at risk," he said.
The planning commission's recommendation to approve the rezoning will now go on to Raleigh City Council to consider.
A Shaw alumnus and the leader of an anti-rezoning group called "Save Our Shaw" said the group will carry their fight to city council.
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