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Charlotte’s Park Woodlawn area gets vision for future

By Elisabeth Arriero
earriero@charlotteobserver.com

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Within a couple of weeks, Charlotte officials are expected to approve a plan that will guide development in the Park Woodlawn area for years.

During a presentation at last week’s City Council meeting, Charlotte planner Alberto Gonzalez presented the outline, which has been two years in the making.

The plan applies to a 2,000-acre area bounded by Little Sugar Creek to the east, Tyvola Road to the south, South Boulevard to the west and Dilworth to the north. The area is home to about 12,000 residents and includes subdivisions Madison Park, Selwyn Park and Sedgefield.

The goals are to protect existing neighborhoods, make it easier and safer to walk and bike, address traffic congestion, preserve the area’s tree canopy and allow for a greater mix of uses in the “Activity Center” (identified as the intersection of Park and Woodlawn roads).

“New development will have this plan as a guide and hopefully will be sensitive to the surrounding area,” said Gonzalez.

The plan calls for maintaining low to moderate residential densities in outlying areas, as well as providing opportunities for retail, office and higher-density residential in the Activity Center.

Specific goals include:

•  Supporting the viability of Montford Drive as a destination main street.

•  Creating new local streets in the activity center.

•  Adding new signaled intersections to enhance access and circulation.

•  Implementing design concepts for calming and enhancing Scaleybark Road.

•  Extending bicycle lanes along Woodlawn Road.

•  Eliminating gaps in the sidewalk system.

“I’m glad there’s a blueprint now,” said City Councilman Andy Dulin. “One thing it will do is signal to the residents that the city is not ignoring them.”

Gonzalez said residents started working on the plan about two years ago when city staff realized the area did not have an updated guideline for development.

After a series of public meetings and workshops, city staff took suggestions from residents to create the plan.

“People can have a feeling of ownership of the plan because so many people worked on it,” said Dulin. “That works better for everyone.”

Gonzalez asked residents what they would like to see in the area. Responses included making the area easier to walk and connecting communities.

Marty Doss, president of the Madison Park homeowners association, said one of his biggest qualms is the lack of safe places to cross Park Road.

“Getting around on foot or bike is not that easy in the area at the moment,” Doss said. “The restaurants and businesses along Montford Drive opposite from Madison Park need to be more easily accessible to our community.”

Councilwoman Patsy Kinsey, whose district mostly overlaps the proposed Park Woodlawn area plan, said she frequently has heard residents comment on the difficulty of crossing major thoroughfares such as Park Road.

“It’s just getting people across the street – that’s what the challenge is,” she said. “There’s sort of a mental block there when you have a major thoroughfare like Park and Woodlawn.”

Kinsey said a way to rectify the situation would be to add sidewalks and crosswalks, but as she noted, “You can put crosswalks, but you can’t make people use them. And unfortunately that’s when you have accidents.”

Gonzalez said the plan stresses connectivity for all modes of transportation, from walking to cars.

The plan is expected to go before the Transportation & Planning Committee on May 23 for adoption, said Gonzalez. It will come back to the City Council on June 10 for final approval.

“The Park Road Shopping Center is an icon for Charlotte. This plan only enhances what’s already here,” said Gonzalez. “Great cities are created by great neighborhoods. The more great neighborhoods you have, the better your city is.”

Arriero: 704-804-2637; On Twitter: @earriero
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