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In development drama: Apartments in Elizabeth getting push back from neighbors

A plan to build apartments and shops on a prominent site in Elizabeth is drawing pushback from neighbors, who said they’re not opposed to redevelopment but worry about the proposal’s density and what they see as inadequate parking.

And some Charlotte City Council members said they’re against the plan, expressing strong reservations about the proposed building’s design and density.

Development firm Faison is planning to build 123 apartments and 15,000 square feet of shops and restaurants on a parcel that’s currently home to Jackalope Jacks and other eateries. Retail, including an outdoor plaza and dining, would be at the corner of East Seventh Street and North Caswell Road. The building would be 60 feet tall.

“It’s way too high. It’s too intense. And I would like to know what the architect’s inspiration was for the design elements of this project. It’s too long,” said Patsy Kinsey, drawing applause from local residents who came out to oppose the project. “I’m sorry, I can’t go for that. It’s not right.”

“I’m nowhere near raising my hand to support this,” said Kinsey, who lives in the neighborhood and represents the area.

Council member Claire Fallon was blunt in stating her dislike of the proposed design: “Can we find some architects in this town that don’t design buildings to look like a factory or a barracks?”

The developers presented their plans at Monday’s meeting. City staff is recommending approval, and council will vote on the proposal at a later meeting, likely next month. Work could start on the site about a year after approval. A 91-unit apartment building is under construction on the other side of Seventh Street.

Jason McArthur, one of the project’s developers, said the buildings on the 1.7-acre site now are “grossly underutilized.”

“This is truly a mixed-use project,” said McArthur. “That’s a rarity in Charlotte. … The neighborhood has wanted this site when it’s developed to be a draw.”

Faison has been under contract to buy the site for 16 months. Executives said they negotiated many points with neighbors, but couldn’t reach final agreement on some.

“We didn’t want to go to the point where we felt we were compromising the building to meet some of the requirements the neighbors would like,” said Faison executive Chris Branch.

Melanie Sizemore of the Elizabeth Community Association said the neighborhood and developers have worked well together, but couldn’t resolve all their outstanding issues.

“There are two critical issues to the community: Density and parking,” she said. “We are not opposed to the density. We are opposed to density without the facilities to accommodate it. … We’re not afraid of density, we just want the proper facilities.”

She said the number of proposed parking spaces is inadequate to serve the building and will add to congestion in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Sizemore said the neighborhood did like the proposed uses on the site, however, and is willing to continue talking with the developers. “A mixed-use development is what we envisioned here.”

Neighbor Pam Patterson said the plan would set a bad precedent for future developments seeking approval.

“It opens the door to future bad and worse development,” she said.

John Carmichael, a lawyer representing the developers, said Faison has hired a consultant to study traffic patterns and is looking at the issue.

“It sounds like you may have some more work to do,” said Mayor Jennifer Roberts.

Photo: BHM Architects/Charlotte Observer