Major improvements could be in store for the University City area if voters approve the nearly $146 million in city bonds, local business and community leaders say.
Citywide, voters will decide whether to approve general obligation bonds for $110.96 million for public/transportation improvements; $15 million for housing diversity; and $20 million for neighborhood improvements for projects outlined in the city’s Community Investment Plan.
Darlene Heater, executive director of University City Partners, said a number of University City-specific projects would receive bond money. Among them:
• Two new bridges over Interstate 85 to help ease traffic and create better pedestrian and bicycle connectivity;
• Area connections to the 26-mile Cross-Charlotte Trail;
• Improved access to the Blue Line Extension and its nine stations;
• Neighborhood projects such as sidewalk and bike lane improvements for the Prosperity Hucks and Highland Creek areas.
“We’ve never seen the type of investment with University City that the city is doing through the Community Investment (Plan),” she said.
But Heater has been surprised at the confusion and general lack of knowledge that University City voters have about the bond money’s benefits.
Heater is a member of the steering committee for Vote Yes for City Bonds, an advocacy group backed by the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce and area businesses; numerous elected officials – including City Council member Greg Phipps, who represents much of the University area – and organizations such as the Black Political Caucus of Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
A week before Election Day, Adam Bernstein – a senior vice president with Carolina Public Relations and member of Vote Yes for City Bonds – said the group had not seen any organized opposition to the bond issues.
The bonds will appear as three separate items at the end of the ballot and are not part of the proposed increase in county sales tax, officials say. Approving the city bond package would not mean a tax increase, and voting against it would not bring a tax decrease, Bernstein said.
Crescent Communities CEO Todd Mansfield said he favors the city bonds, noting that “significant population growth is projected for Charlotte, and infrastructure is needed to accommodate that growth.”
Over the years, Crescent Communities has developed and sold several multi-tenant buildings in University Research Park, Mansfield said. It owns an apartment community and student housing development near the entry to UNC Charlotte.
Expected growth will continue in University City, and the area will need the infrastructure improvements the bonds would pay for.
“The bonds will lead to investments in neighborhoods, such as the Prosperity Village area, to create livable, walkable communities,” Mansfield said.
John Kindbom is manager/broker-in-charge of the University region for Allen Tate Realtors, as well as a University City resident and bond advocate. He also has been surprised at how little conversation there’s been in the area about the bonds, particularly among homeowners.
“People aren’t talking a lot about it, which means it hasn’t been a top-of-mind issue,” Kindbom said, adding that the bonds can only benefit the area.
“Home values are always relevant. When you have good, solid connectivity in an area, with good access to other areas, that helps increase and create value for homeowners directly,” he said. “By having access, that’s going to help our businesses, too.”