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Development along Stonewall is great and all, but what about the pedestrians?

On Jan. 6, officials broke ground on the newest and most complete megaproject to hit Charlotte during this development upswing. Serving as a new gateway to uptown, Crescent Stonewall Station will fill an otherwise resident-free area with nearly 500 apartment units, and center city’s first Whole Foods.

This project marks the first step towards a complete redevelopment of the Stonewall corridor that started in 2006 when the city repurposed the I-277 interchange and freed up developable land.

Joshua Komer

Next year, the city will put 5 more acres of land along Stonewall on the market, and Lincoln Harris recently went under contract to purchase the Charlotte Observer building and its associated land near Bank of America Stadium.

Between the projects announced by Crescent, Proffitt Dixon, Trinity Partners and Northwood Ravin — not even including the Charlotte Observer land — we can expect the following:

– 1,250 residential units

– 700-900 hotel rooms

– More than 100,000 square feet of shops and restaurants, including uptown’s first full-size grocery store

– 1,000,000+ square feet of office space.

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Through every announcement, and in every article published about Stonewall, there has been a one item absent from the conversation: What will the city and the associated developers do to promote connectivity and boost pedestrian activity?

From a development perspective, this dramatic shift from nothing to something seems to be in line with what was laid out in the city’s 2020 Vision Plan: mixed uses, density and creating a robust experience for residents.

“Stonewall Street will be a main connection between Second and Third Wards,” the 2020 Vision Plan reads. “It should be a lush, beautiful roadway for autos as well as recreational walking, strolling and cycling, similar to Queens Road in Myers Park.”

I spent some time walking along Stonewall recently and, as it stands, Stonewall is a six-lane road with narrow sidewalks and planter strips. With cars whizzing by at high speeds, there is a certain unsteadiness when you are walking just feet from the street. Basically, it’s Charlotte’s current idea of pedestrian friendliness. (Read: Could definitely be friendlier.)

Here’s what I think the area needs:

– A road diet, bringing Stonewall down to 4 lanes

– A wide, landscaped median/pedestrian refuge

– Widened sidewalks

– Dedicated bike lanes.

– A 14-20 foot wide “pedestrian zone,” complete with landscaping, tree wells and, most importantly, benches, trashcans — the kind of things you would expect to see on Tryon.

Outside of the immediate Tryon Street area, the city’s model for pedestrian infrastructure is lacking, providing insufficient room for robust pedestrian activity.

This corridor represents a tremendous opportunity that cannot be messed up. We have the opportunity to create a 1-mile-long “pedestrian-friendly utopia” from scratch, an opportunity that doesn’t present itself often in the urban world.

The question we have to ask ourselves is: What is the city doing to make sure that Stonewall gets the treatment that this new “pedestrian utopia” deserves?

Photo: Joshua Komer/Charlotte Observer. Graphic: Clayton Sealey