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Consultant: Streetcar could spark Charlotte development

The second phase of Charlotte’s streetcar project could generate 1.1 million square feet of new development by 2035, and up to $2.4 million in new property taxes, according to a consultant hired by the city.

The firm Bay Area Economics, which was hired by the city to do a streetcar economic impact study four years ago, returned to the City Council’s economic development committee Wednesday with an updated report. City Manager Ron Carlee has said that the biggest development opportunities for the streetcar – now called the CityLynx Gold Line – would occur when the city builds later phases, along Beatties Ford Road and Central Avenue.

The city is building a 1.5-mile streetcar segment from Time Warner Cable Arena to Novant Health Presbyterian Hospital at Elizabeth Avenue and Hawthorne Lane.

Mayor Anthony Foxx and some council members are lobbying to build a second phase, which would be another 2.5 miles. It would connect the arena to Johnson C. Smith University in west Charlotte and extend along Hawthorne Lane in the Elizabeth neighborhood to Central Avenue.

The final phases would extend the CityLynx Gold Line to the site of the old Eastland Mall in east Charlotte.

The committee voted to send the Gold Line to the full council in a 3-1 vote. But Wednesday’s decision tells little about the streetcar’s ultimate chances of being approved. The three members who voted yes – Democrats James Mitchell, David Howard and LaWana Mayfield – have always supported it. Republican Warren Cooksey voted no. He has been a consistent opponent.

Democrat Patrick Cannon, the mayor pro tem, couldn’t attend the meeting. He has previously voted against the project but said earlier this week that he is “in a better place” with the project after Carlee proposed that the city seek a $63 million federal grant to pay for half of the construction costs.

Carlee wants the full council to vote on his streetcar plan May 28.

Much of the Gold Line route between Johnson C. Smith and Elizabeth is already developed. But the city’s planning director, Debra Campbell, identified some areas near the line that could be improved or developed because of the streetcar.

Most areas are near JCSU, where the streetcar would turn north on Beatties Ford Road. The city has high hopes that areas along Central Avenue – where phase two would end – could also be ripe for new apartments or retail.

The new property taxes could be used to pay for the streetcar’s operating costs under Carlee’s plan, which could be $3.3 million a year. The city would take a portion of the new tax revenue and apply it to the streetcar. The so-called “tax-increment financing” is a common way the city pays for new public-private projects.

The consultant also said the city could increase a special tax rate along property within a quarter-mile of the streetcar. A 2 percent increase could generate $1.6 million annually by 2035. That money could also be used to operate the Gold Line.

Harrison: 704-358-5160
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