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Imagine a backyard for uptown over I-277

Building a cap over freeway that would link center city to South End is just one idea considered in a study.

By Julia Oliver
joliver@charlotteobserver.com

City and county staff members met with a group of consultants Monday to begin private discussions about possible uptown redevelopment that could include building a cap over Interstate 277.

The cap would be similar to a wide bridge with buildings and open space, according to city plans for the area. It would connect uptown to South End. A plan approved by the City Council in 2000 envisions most of the cap as a park. A Second Ward Neighborhood Plan approved in 2002 shows the park extending from Stonewall Street to East Morehead Street. It stretches from Church Street at its western edge to just beyond the light-rail line.

The consultants are studying the Belk Freeway corridor as a training exercise, so the company is not charging for its services, said Assistant City Manager Jim Schumacher. The consulting company, HNTB, brings expertise in several subjects, including highways, urban design, traffic, development and computer graphics, he said. The cap is only one idea being considered in the study, he said.

Barry Moose, the N.C. Department of Transportation engineer who heads the Charlotte-area division, said the idea of a cap was “intriguing” to him. But he said that if it were aimed at economic development, he would expect the city to pay for it.

“I would not support a lot of state funding for that when we have so many congestion issues around the state,” Moose said.

City staff has said that no city money has been set aside to build it.

The consulting group plans to present its findings Thursday to City Council members and others. That presentation will be held at 2p.m. in Room 267 of the Government Center, 600 E. Fourth St.

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