Wake County residents will have a new place to go starting Monday to do business with the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles.
The DMV has converted part of an old Kmart into a retail office for handling vehicle registrations, titles and plates as well as driver’s licenses. The office, at 4121 New Bern Ave., near New Hope Road, opens at 8 a.m. Monday.
It replaces the license plate office at DMV’s former headquarters in Raleigh. The headquarters moved to Rocky Mount last fall, leaving buildings with asbestos and fire safety problems that the state determined were too expensive to fix.
The DMV needed a new home for the local license plate office as well, and leased the old garden center in the former Kmart in the Wilders Grove Shopping Center. The move means the last DMV employees have left the former headquarters complex on the corner of New Bern and Tarboro Street.
The new office will also handle driver’s licenses, making it only the third one-stop DMV shop in the state, after ones in Greenville and Huntersville. DMV Commissioner Torre Jessup said that’s a result of the DMV’s historic organization in which the state-run driver’s license offices are separate from the license plate agencies, which are nearly all run by contractors.
Putting them together makes sense for customers, Jessup said during a ceremony at the new office Friday.
“When a person moves here from wherever they are in the country, what we know is that you can’t register that vehicle until you’ve got a license,” Jessup said. “Now they can do it under one roof. That’s the beauty of this.”
Eric Boyette, the state secretary of Transportation, said DMV has long wanted to offer vehicle registration and driver’s license services together.
“We’ve been after this for years, to have both services side by side,” Boyette said. “We’re looking at how do we do more of that in the future.”
The loss of the DMV headquarters was a blow to Southeast Raleigh, a historically African-American part of town where the office provided jobs and drew visitors. Residents also feared the permanent loss of the license plate agency, said state Rep. James Roberson, whose district includes the new office.
“You can imagine the disappointment, understandably so, among the citizens when that location was closed down,” Robertson said. “Well, three miles up the street, we’re back. I think it’s important for members of the Southeast Raleigh community as well as the eastern Wake corridor.”
The new Raleigh East office is one of six license plate offices in Wake County, where car and truck owners can get a new tag or have their vehicle titled and registered.
The new driver’s license office next door becomes the seventh in Wake after ones in North Raleigh, West Raleigh, Cary, Fuquay-Varina, Garner and Wendell. With 14 driver’s license examiners stations, the Raleigh East office is the second largest in the state, Jessup said.
To reduce crowding during the COVID-19 pandemic, DMV still requires that people make an appointment before coming to a driver’s license office. For more information or to make an appointment, go to www.ncdot.gov/dmv/. Each office takes appointments up to 45 days in advance, so new spots open up most mornings.
No appointment is needed to visit a DMV license plate agency, including the Raleigh East office. Both offices will initially be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, though the hours there and at other DMV offices soon may be expanded to include Saturdays.