Earlier, this year, historically Black Shaw University petitioned the Raleigh City Council to rezone 27 acres of its downtown campus, requesting that its property be redesignated as a “Mixed Business District.”
Some alumni of the university adamantly opposed the plan. They formed a group called Save Our Shaw that sought to block the plan. The proposal called for historic buildings Estey Hall, Tupper Memorial Hall, Leonard Hall, and Tyler Hall to the removed if they are damaged or destroyed to more than 50 percent of their respective total replacement costs. The proposal also included a change that would allow the existing heights of buildings to increase from 12 t0 30 stories, structures that would dwarf historic buildings on the Shaw campus, according to opponents of the plan.
Save Our Shaw held a Citizens United Against Gentrification Rally on June 10, ahead of the city council’s vote on the matter. Rally participants marched around the perimeter of Shaw’s campus, demanding that city leaders and university administration prioritize the needs of the students, the community, and other stakeholders, over profit-driven development schemes.
“We advocate for alternative solutions to gentrification and support efforts to preserve the university’s history and its surrounding area. Shaw is not just a physical space, but a cultural and historical landmark that should be protected and respected,” said Eugene Myrick, of Save Our Shaw.
But on June 20, the Raleigh City Council voted 5-3 in favor of approving Shaw University’s application for rezoning. The university agreed to save the historic buildings mentioned above and to limit the height of new construction in close proximity of the historic sites.
Shaw University President Dr. Paulette Dillard said: “The ShawU District – owned and controlled by the university – envisions and reimagines the campus and its facilities to model a new era of HBCU innovation, collaboration, and entrepreneurship for students. By leveraging our legacy and maximizing our potential, Shaw University will empower and equip new generations of learners and leaders, while deepening our roots and securing our future as an anchor in downtown Raleigh.”
Dr. Dillard added that “this outcome reflects a recognition of the university’s commitment to education and retaining and attracting new students – and the importance of progress, innovation, and growth. We look forward to continuing our mission of providing a quality education for our students while fostering positive relationships with our neighbors and the city of Raleigh.”