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Buildings may reach over I-277

Closed-door talks will involve a possible highway cap.

By Clay Barbour
cbarbour@charlotteobserver.com

City leaders began this week considering an ambitious plan for Uptown redevelopment that could result in the creation of a massive highway cap stretching across Interstate 277.

On Monday, Aug. 11, officials are taking part in a series of closed-door sessions intended to iron out a plan for redeveloping a prime piece of Uptown real estate.

One of the more provocative ideas leaders will discuss this week is the creation of a highway cap, essentially a large bridge that would connect uptown with South End. The land could be used for anything, from a hotel to a park to shops and restaurants.

“This particular stretch of freeway is perfect for getting a cap,” says assistant city manager Jim Schumacher. “The highway is down in a trench, which makes it easier to build across.”

The recent redesign of I-277 has left about 12 acres of available land just off the highway. The five parcels sit in an area next to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and just a few blocks from Bank of America Stadium and Time Warner Cable Arena.

Already three parcels are under contract. Officials expect the others to follow quickly.

The meetings will be between several city council members, engineering consultants, local business leaders and key city staffers. Officials are expected Thursday (Aug. 14) to announce their findings.

Carving the land out of the highway cost about $26 million. The city paid $21 million. The state paid the rest.

Schumacher said selling all five parcels should net more than $60 million for the city, about $20 million of which will go toward the construction of the hall.

Several cities have built highway caps with varying degrees of success. Seattle created one of the earliest when it built a park and convention center that covered three city blocks and stretched across Interstate 5.

More recently, Columbus, Ohio, spent about $7 million to build a 1-acre cap over Interstate 670. .

Not all caps work exactly as planned. Phoenix's Margaret T. Hance Park, built atop I-10, is home to parades and festivals. It's also a popular hangout for the homeless.

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