Charlotte uptown boosters announce in-depth study to revitalize North Tryon

08/18/2014 10:09 AM

08/18/2014 11:05 AM

An effort to revitalize North Tryon Street, backed by some of the city’s most powerful institutions, moved forward Monday with the hiring of a California-based urban planning firm to lead a $415,000 study of the corridor.

Charlotte Center City Partners and the Foundation for the Carolinas said MIG Inc., a Berkeley, Calif.-based firm with an office in Raleigh, will craft what the organizations are calling a “vision plan” for North Tryon.

The goal, the groups said in a statement, is to re-energize North Tryon by addressing its urban design and infrastructure needs. The area the groups have been focusing on includes First Ward and Fourth Ward neighborhoods, as well as the Main Library, McGlohon Theater, Discovery Place and the vacant Carolina Theatre.

“North Tryon Street is such a vital part of our uptown,” said Michael Smith, CEO of Center City Partners, noting that it is home to more than 10,000 residents and 30,000 employees.

He and other backers of the planning effort have noted that North Tryon, which helped spark uptown’s rebirth decades ago, has in some ways been eclipsed by South Tryon.

The $159 million Levine Cultural Campus has injected new energy into South Tryon since it was unveiled in 2010. Workers from the 48-story Duke Energy Center share the street with artists and museum patrons headed to the Bechtler, the Gantt, Knight Theater or the Mint.

North Tryon, meanwhile, has seen a growing number of homeless people congregating on benches, which Smith has suggested is affecting efforts to attract new business uptown. Center City Partners asked the city to temporarily remove benches near The Square at Trade and Tryon streets, but the city earlier this month said it was tabling that proposal to focus on building a “consensus strategy” for dealing with the homeless.

Smith said improving North Tryon overall will alleviate problems with the homeless.

“Our struggle with homelessness in this area is about imbalance,” he said. “If we are able to create a thoughtful vision that is attractive to private developers, we will have more residents, more workers, more customers and more balance.”

Nineteen organizations, including the city of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and Bank of America, are collectively paying for the study.

With the hiring of MIG as lead planning and design consultant, the effort shifts toward looking for specific solutions. Design and architecture firm Snohetta will also work on the project. Site tours and interviews with the planning team and other officials were slated for Monday, with more to be held Tuesday. The plan is slated for completion next May.

“MIG has successfully led major planning efforts for cities and cultural districts throughout North America,” said Michael Marsicano, CEO of the Foundation for the Carolinas. “We have great confidence in the firm’s ability to work with our citizens in crafting a rich vision for North Tryon.”

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