Developers recently met with about 20 Dilworth residents to discuss a proposed mixed-use project at the corner of Kenilworth Avenue and Morehead Street.
The project is proposing up to a 15,000-square-foot pharmacy with an interior drive-thru and up to 380 rental units at a maximum height of 100 feet, according to Forestar Group’s preliminary plans.
The property involved is diagonally across from the site of a controversial rezoning request for a drive-thru Walgreens that was rejected by the Charlotte City Council.
Forestar is a real estate company based in Austin.
“They want to get our feedback and make sure that what they’re doing is going to be congruent with the neighborhood and make sense for the neighborhood,” Cynthia Schwartz, co-chair of Dilworth’s Land Use Committee told residents before the presentation.
Developers want to combine two plots of land originally intended for separate projects.
One plot, the Planet 5 property, which overlooks Kenilworth, has approved zoning for up to 155,000 square feet of commercial floor or 155 units. Current zoning says 22,000 square feet of that property may be for retail use and the maximum height is 140 feet. That property was last rezoned in 2008.
The second plot, the McAlpine property, which borders the Planet 5 property along Morehead Street, is allowed up to 250 multifamily units and 10,000 square feet of supportive services under current zoning. The project is allowed a maximum height of 100 feet. That property was last rezoned in 2011.
Forestar purchased the McAlpine tract in 2012 and purchased the Planet 5 tract earlier this year, said K&L Gates lawyer Collin Brown, who is representing Forestar.
Under current zonings for both properties, Brown said developers could construct up to 383 residential units and 22,000 square feet of retail space.
“But we think there’s a better opportunity,” Brown said. “This intersection is really kind of the gateway from Dilworth into Midtown.”
Brown said Forestar plans to request a zoning change to allow a single building between the two tracts, a drive-thru and alternative architecture.
After the presentation at Byron’s South End on Sept. 10, Dilworth resident John Fryday said he wants to see possible traffic issues fully vetted, especially in the context of other upcoming development in the vicinity.
He said that in May, Crescent Communities announced plans for a seven-story luxury apartment building and street-level retail beside the Little Sugar Creek Greenway in Dilworth, just down Morehead Street.
Officials with Charlotte-based Crescent said the project will include about 300 apartments on a 2.3-acre site they bought at East Morehead Street and Harding Place, across from Carolinas Medical Center.
That project –like the one being proposed by Forestar – plans to use Harding Place as a secondary entrance and exit.
Even without those two developments, Fryday said the intersection of Kenilworth and Morehead already sees considerable daily backups.
“The traffic issues for that entire block are becoming apparent,” Fryday said. “There’s going to be a lot of pressure right there.”
Other residents questioned the need for another pharmacy in the area and wondered what kind of precedent a drive-thru would set for the rest of Dilworth.
Fryday also said he is disappointed the project doesn’t seem to consider pedestrians.
“It just seems a shame on that nice street to have no pedestrian-oriented activity or function or visual,” said Fryday.
Dilworth resident Lenn Long called the development “vanilla architecture.”
“There’s nothing that stands out to me that makes it either an eyesore or an architectural gem for the neighborhood,” he said.
Still, residents said there are some benefits to the project. For instance, the property would finally address the long-abandoned building on the Planet 5 Tract. And the rental units would better serve those workers and visitors at Carolinas Medical Center.
Brown emphasized that the development company wants to work closely with the community to alleviate any concerns before the project goes before city council. The project may go before a rezoning hearing as early as December, he said.
“As with all developments, the devil is in the details and we realize that,” he said. “That’s why we wanted to start this dialogue.”
In November 2012, a controversial zoning request to build a Walgreens drug store and office building in Dilworth was rejected by Charlotte City Council. The decision came after weeks of aggressive campaigning from neighbors to reject the proposal.
Developer Lincoln Harris had wanted to build a Walgreens and a two-story office building on two acres at East Morehead Street and Kenilworth Avenue, diagonally from the proposed Forestar development. Much to the consternation of residents, Lincoln Harris would have demolished several buildings, some of which were built at the turn of the century, had they been approved.
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