Mecklenburg County commissioners gave positive reviews Tuesday to an ambitious vision to reshape Charlotte’s North Tryon Street, a long-neglected corridor on which the county owns key pieces.
The transformation could take 25 years to fully unfold, CEO Michael Smith of Charlotte Center City Partners told the board. It might also take county money to help build the costly underground parking the plan envisions.
“These are big aspirations,” Smith said. “In order to fulfill this plan there will have to be public participation.”
The plan is less a blueprint than a vision of what North Tryon could become. It would build on projects that are leading development interest north of the Square, including the extension of light rail to UNC Charlotte, the opening of First Ward Park and the upcoming renovation of the old Carolina Theatre.
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The mix of new housing, retail and office space aims to meld old architecture with new structures, open up more public spaces such as street-side “parklets” and offer innovative technologies, lighting and public art.
“We’re building Charlotte’s living room,” commissioner Ella Scarborough said of the vision. Commissioners are expected to vote on whether to approve the plan at their Sept. 20 meeting.
The county owns Spirit Square and the sprawling Hal Marshall Center and is a major funder of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library, all within the plan’s 60-acre footprint. Levine Properties is building an “urban village,” including a hotel and housing, on the 31 acres it owns.
More than 20 entities, from Bank of America to the Dunhill Hotel, collaborated in crafting the vision. “What we really bring to the table is that everybody is on the same page,” county manager Dena Diorio told commissioners.
If conflict develops in the future, it could center on parking. The vision insists that it needs to be underground, possibly at two sites, as an unobtrusive alternative to surface lots. But underground is also bedrock, and excavation is expensive.
Commissioner George Dunlap noted that Levine opted not to build parking under First Ward Park. Smith said the company found it hard to finance.
That’s likely to be a discussion for future years. For now, board chair Trevor Fuller called the vision “potentially transformative.”
As Charlotte grows, he said, “We’ll either be a place that’s ascendant or we’ll be middling, which is fine. But I think we’ll reach for the stars.”