An ambitious plan to redevelop two city blocks uptown ran into skepticism from Charlotte City Council at a meeting Monday, with some council members wondering how much public money will be required and whether the plan includes enough affordable housing.
The linchpin of the plan is a replacement for the Main Library at North College Street and East Sixth Street. The library has issued a request for qualifications from developers for a $77 million replacement library, which would total up to 100,000 square feet. The library would be smaller, taller and more technology-focused.
Carrying out the redevelopment plan would require coordination between the city, county, library system, Charlotte Housing Authority and Bank of America, all of which own property in the area. Mecklenburg County commissioners were generally supportive when they heard the plan in March,
The two-block area is bounded by Sixth, Eighth, College and Tryon streets. The hope is that the redevelopment will bolster efforts to bring more growth to North Tryon Street. Plans are underway nearby to overhaul Discovery Place and the Carolina Theatre as well.
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“(The blocks) are significantly underdeveloped,” said Beth Hardin, vice chancellor for business affairs at UNC Charlotte and an adviser for the plan. “This is an extraordinary opportunity.”
The first steps in the complex property reshuffling that would be required have started to fall into place. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Central Division is planning to move out of the building they lease from Bank of America at the corner of Seventh and College streets, which will free the bank up to start redeveloping that land. The Central Division would move to a nearby site across from Elmwood Cemetery, where Sixth Street wraps around to Fifth Street.
The ambitious plan also calls for renovating McGlohon Theater, building hundreds of new apartments (both market-rate and affordable), renovating CHA’s Hall House (currently vacant) into a boutique hotel, developing new residential and office towers, adding shops and restaurants and building new parking garages with hundreds of new spaces.
Although funding wasn’t discussed, the plan would require a mix of public and private financing, the request for which could come in the fall.
Despite the complexity, members of the advisory committee that’s been looking at the plan emphasized they believe local governments and private property owners can pull it off – if they can work together.
“We have gone through the numbers. It is possible to do this,” said Hardin. “To optimize the redevelopment of these two blocks, we’ll need to blur the property lines.”
Some council members were concerned and skeptical about the need for public money.
“I have a real problem with blurring property lines,” said City Council member Patsy Kinsey. “I don’t know what the (money) ask is...Moving ahead without us having an opportunity to consider it and vote on it is dangerous.”
Other council members were also uneasy.
“What I’m used to is we have these conversations in committee,” said council member LaWana Mayfield. She said the timeline “causes me a little heartburn.”
Mayfield also said she wanted to see the affordable housing targeted to lower income people than those making 50 to 80 percent of the area’s median income, called for in the conceptual plan.
“I need there to be a more aggressive stance,” said Mayfield.
The library has been at 310 North Tryon Street since 1903. The building was replaced in the 1950s and expanded and renovated in 1989. The current library lacks technology infrastructure and meeting space, and is outdated, officials said.