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Charlotte’s light rail doesn’t usually lead to this type of development

South Tryon Street, the site of a future self-storage facility. New apartments adjacent to the light rail are visible in the rear.
South Tryon Street, the site of a future self-storage facility. New apartments adjacent to the light rail are visible in the rear.

Light rail is usually associated with vibrant, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods full of shops, restaurants, and residences – that’s part of the rationale for investing in transit.

And that led some on Charlotte City Council to question on Monday whether a self-storage facility in South End is really the best use for 1.25 acres near the Blue Line’s New Bern Station.

“If we’re going to make massive investments in mass transit,” said council member Julie Eiselt, “I want to make sure we’ll get the most out of that... I don’t think we’re getting the most out of our development.”

The $1.2-billion Blue Line extension to University City is set to open in the spring, and the second leg of the Gold Line streetcar is under construction as well.

After a debate, City Council voted 7 to 4 to approve the project, with Greg Phipps, Vi Lyles, Claire Fallon and Eiselt voting no.

“It’s not an appropriate use for a storage facility when we ought to be able to figure out how to put more people and uses in that area,” said Lyles. “This is just an underutilization of an investment we’ve made.”

The five-story building the developers are planning will total 105,000 square feet of self-storage. The ground floor will have 3,000 square feet of retail space fronting South Tryon Street. The site is just south of Remount Road, and backs up to townhouses under construction near the light rail stop.

The storage facility will be a Bee Safe Storage and Wine Cellar, a Greensboro-based company that’s planning three locations in Charlotte.

“I don’t see how, next to a light-rail stop, that’s something that’s conducive to transit-oriented zoning,” said Phipps.

Council member LaWana Mayfield, who represents the area, said she believes nearby residents are supportive.

“Because of what we’re seeing with new housing development,” she said, “a lot of people are utilizing the storage... A lot of those storage facilities are filled up.”

Council member Dimple Ajmera said the storage units could be useful for people like flight attendants who might store possessions near transit lines they can access quickly.

“I think it’s addressing the community need,” she said.

There’s been a surge of self-storage construction in Charlotte over recent years, as developers race to meet more demand from apartment dwellers waiting longer to buy houses.

“It’s an amenity as we are building a lot of apartments along the light rail,” said Kenny Smith. “This type of use will enhance the investment that we’ve made.”

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo

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