Bringing a Multifamily Development to a Small Site in Raleigh

When the opportunity arose to purchase prime real estate in the Wakefield area of Raleigh, NC, commercial real estate firm Brown Investments jumped at the chance.

Their vision was to use the 5-acre lot to develop two 76-unit multifamily buildings with easy access to the surrounding shops, dining, and movie theater. But developing a substantial project on a relatively small site brought unique challenges.

That’s where Bohler came in.

Brown Investments brought Bohler on as the lead site civil engineer and trusted partner to bring the multifamily development known as Wakefield Station to life. Recognizing that the site was originally part of a masterplan completed in 1995, the Bohler team combed through 30-year-old permitting documents to trace its history. The documents were poorly scanned, making it difficult to research zoning requirements and understand overall stormwater management plan.

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“Reviewing the documents was a tedious process,” says Will Swaringen, Project Manager in Bohler’s Raleigh office. “But we were able to gather enough historic information to help the client understand the complexities of the site and maximize the small parcel to accommodate a multifamily development.”

Managing Stormwater

Through its research, the Bohler team determined that the site’s existing stormwater drainage system had only partial capacity to accommodate the proposed development. Jurisdictional requirements indicated that additional stormwater control measures were needed. This posed a challenge because aboveground stormwater ponds consume useable space, which is not ideal on a small lot.

Leaning on its extensive experience with constrained sites, Bohler recommended using an underground detention system beneath the parking lot. This solution met the stormwater requirements without impacting the site’s usable space.

“We developed a plan to install corrugated metal pipe detention vaults under the parking lot,” Will explains. “The vaults have capacity to hold tens of thousands of cubic feet of water. With this approach, we met the stormwater requirements without sacrificing valuable buildable space.”

We were able to gather enough historic information to help the client understand the complexities of the site and maximize the small parcel.

— Will Swaringen, Project Manager

Designing for Grade Change

Another challenge the team encountered was a 30-foot grade change across the site. To make effective use of the lot, Bohler and the project architect proposed a split-level design for the apartment buildings — with one building four levels and the other five. The solution maximizes the use of the available land, works harmoniously with the site topography, and saves the client extensive earthwork costs, Will says.

The steep slope also made designing an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible route for pedestrians around the buildings and to all building entrances challenging. To accommodate the elevation change and achieve ADA compliance without a lot of switchbacks, Bohler proposed a split-level retaining wall to create a gradual slope across the site and down to the existing road.

With two tiered retaining walls securing the earth as opposed to just one, construction is more manageable, Will says. “Having two retaining walls means that the foundations don’t need to be as large,” he explains. “Not only does it make construction easier, but it also saves the client money.”

Achieving the Vision

From researching the site’s history to developing innovative stormwater and grading solutions, Bohler has collaborated closely with Brown Investments to navigate the complexities associated with developing a substantial project on a small lot. Thanks to the team’s diligence, Wakefield Station is set to open Early 2024.

“The topography and small lot made this project challenging, but it wasn’t anything we couldn’t handle here at Bohler,” Will says. “We’re used to developing creative solutions. I am excited to see the client’s vision come to life and have tenants move in. Housing is always a necessity, so this is something that will definitely benefit the community.”

This project was challenging, but it wasn’t anything we couldn’t handle here at Bohler. We’re used to developing creative solutions.

— Will Swaringen, Project Manager

76 Units
5 acres

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