Business

Controversial new development plan approved for University City

Orange and blue flags mark the location of unmarked slave graves just outside the cemetery behind Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church on June 27, 2017.
Orange and blue flags mark the location of unmarked slave graves just outside the cemetery behind Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church on June 27, 2017. akormann@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte City Council on Monday approved a developer’s plan to build hundreds of apartments, new shops and restaurants in University City, despite objections from nearby residents that it would add to congestion.

The unanimous vote followed months of wrangling over the development, time in which an unmarked slave cemetery was discovered on a portion of the site at West Mallard Creek Church Road and Interstate 85. The 66-acre site is now approved for up to 395 apartments and 160,000 square feet of shops and restaurants – but Topgolf, initially planned to be the main anchor tenant, pulled out amid the fight over the development.

Neighbors were upset by the plan, despite concessions from the developer to reduce the height of planned apartment buildings and increase the size of a buffer between the development and existing single-family neighborhoods. A group of nearby residents who opposed the plan from the beginning tried before the meeting to get City Council members to defer the vote, but council didn’t consider that step.

“We are also still extremely concerned with the traffic issues,” wrote Linda Majchrzak in a message to City Council before the vote.

“This has been a rezoning petition that has been particularly contentious,” said council member Greg Phipps, who represents the area and voted for the plan. “I regret … that we were not able to come up with a consensus that would get community support.”

The developers, Charter Properties and Browder Real Estate Group, were originally planning to bring Charlotte’s second Topgolf to the location, but the company announced in July that it was no longer considering the site. Neighbors had objected to possible noise and light pollution from the golf entertainment facility. Topgolf is now rumored to be considering another site in University City, a proposed entertainment district at University City Boulevard and I-85.

During the rezoning process, a slave cemetery with unmarked graves was identified on part of the property adjoining Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church. The developers have said they’re committed to commemorating those graves. Phipps said the developers have agreed to study the development area if there’s evidence of graves found on other parts of the site, though neighbors said they worry the development will disturb graves that haven’t been discovered. The rezoning plan approved Monday also prevents any Topgolf-like facility on the site in the future.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo

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