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Return Of The Corner Store? Raleigh Officials Discuss Zoning Law Change

City officials in Raleigh are discussing language changes to zoning laws that could bring back corner stores in some areas, and help combat food deserts.

Currently, zoning laws don't allow for new corner stores to open in residential areas. But altering the text to residential zoning codes could permit that to happen.

The wording change would potentially help revive the Peacox Community Market, for one. The former family-run corner store on Levister Court in Raleigh is looking to relaunch and sell an array of corner store items, on top of offering fresh produce, and health and wellness programming.

Raleigh City Council Member Jonathan Melton says the idea behind proposed zoning laws is to help residents access services without having to drive long distances.

"The idea is trying to create this '15-Minutes City' to reduce car dependency, put goods and services closer to people, allowing small scale, neighborhood retail back into our community," said Melton referring to an urban planning concept where residents can access essentials within 15 minutes either on foot or by bike.

"These are things that used to exist. And if you go to some of our oldest neighborhoods like Boylan Heights, or Oakwood, there are already corner stores, because they predate changes and zoning laws. And they're some of our most beloved, treasured amenities that are really supported by the neighborhood. And now you can't build these types of services in residential areas. And so we're looking at changing that," says Melton.

Raleigh City Council has authorized staff to explore re-working zoning law language in higher-density neighborhoods to allow this change, Melton said. The re-written language would then go back to city officials for approval, before being submitted for public comment.

Building a corner store market would help combat food deserts in areas like southeast Raleigh, but it is not a "silver bullet," Melton says.

"I think it will certainly help. And then once the zoning has changed, if we allow it, then we've got to look at how can we incentivize community members to step forward and say, 'Let me open something in a neighborhood that needs access to good food.'"

Peacox Community Market will hold an in-person neighborhood meeting from 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 16 at the Chavis Community Center in Raleigh to discuss the corner store revitalization project. Attendance priority will be given to residents who live within a 500-foot radius of the store and masks are required.

Copyright 2021 North Carolina Public Radio

Naomi Prioleau joined WUNC in January 2017 as their Greensboro Bureau reporter.
Laura Pellicer is a producer with The State of Things (hyperlink), a show that explores North Carolina through conversation. Laura was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, a city she considers arrestingly beautiful, if not a little dysfunctional. She worked as a researcher for CBC Montreal and also contributed to their programming as an investigative journalist, social media reporter, and special projects planner. Her work has been nominated for two Canadian RTDNA Awards. Laura loves looking into how cities work, pursuing stories about indigenous rights, and finding fresh voices to share with listeners. Laura is enamored with her new home in North Carolina—notably the lush forests, and the waves where she plans on moonlighting as a mediocre surfer.