Ballantyne developers reveal details on town center, including more housing and retail

A rendering of the planned development at Ballantyne Corporate Park.
A rendering of the planned development at Ballantyne Corporate Park.

Ballantyne’s town center development project will include more residential units than previously announced, as well as additional retail and entertainment space and a possible grocery store, according to details released this week.

Dubbed “Ballantyne Reimagined,” the 25-acre Northwood Office LLC development between the Ballantyne and Aloft hotels in south Charlotte aims to create a mixed-use “urban, walkable” community that is an economic driver for the area.

“We are developing an activated place beyond the eight-hour workday that brings more options to Ballantyne,” said John Barton, president of Northwood Office, in a statement.

Plans for phase I, which is expected to begin next year, include 1,200 multifamily units, 300,000 square feet of retail and restaurants, an amphitheater and green space. Developers said Monday it could also include a “possible grocery use along North Community House Road.” The project requires a zoning change to become a mixed-use development district, according to the developer.

Phase II calls for 1,000 multifamily units, 300 town homes and 400,000 square feet of office space.

Developers touted the inclusion of affordable housing in the combined 2,200 multi-family apartments. About 175 units, or 8% of those planned, are set aside for households earning 80% of area median income, or about $63,000 for a family of four. Those income thresholds would be guaranteed for 30 years.

“Affordable housing has always been part of our plan. We support efforts to increase affordable housing in Charlotte and felt it important to demonstrate that sentiment with our inclusion of an affordable housing component in Ballantyne Reimagined,” Barton said.

Northwood Investors bought the corporate park in 2017 from local developer the Bissell Cos. for $1.2 billion, the largest transaction in Charlotte real estate history.

Ballantyne has historically lacked many affordable housing options.

Charlotte Housing Authority and Republic Development Group in 2010 abandoned plans to build 86 apartments at Johnson Road and Providence Road West for low-income residents. Questions about how the deal was put together and fierce neighborhood opposition contributed to its demise.

Council member Ed Driggs, whose District 7 includes Ballantyne, disputed a reputation that south Charlotte was opposed to affordable housing projects, but that land costs in the area limited how many units developers could finance.

“It’s not (that they’re) unwelcome, the question is really how do you pay for it?” he said.

Driggs said there are still questions about how the project will affect traffic, the location of a possible light rail extension, and what city support will be requested. Overall, he said he was excited about the project’s potential.

“I think we need to keep investing in order to maintain the sparkle of Ballantyne for it to be as big of a magnet as it has been,” he said.

For advocates like Louise Woods, the need for affordable housing in south Charlotte is not a new fight.

At a 1991 rezoning meeting, Woods, who later became a school board member, submitted a letter signed by advocates urging that a Ballantyne development proposal at the time include “a section of affordable moderate- and low-income housing,” according to an Observer story.

Promises made at the time weren’t kept, Woods says now, and a handful of units at 80% AMI doesn’t address the biggest need: employees who will work service jobs at the proposed developments as restaurant workers, custodians, or in child and senior care facilities.

“That’s where the need is ... for the people this community needs to make (the development) work, yet they cannot live there,” said Woods, now a committee member for CharlotteEAST, a community group working to strengthen the city’s east side.

City estimates show Charlotte needs 24,000 housing units for households earning 50% AMI or below, or $39,500 for a family of four.

A community meeting about the town center project is set for 7 p.m. Aug. 28 at the Ballantyne hotel.

This work was made possible in part by grant funding from Report for America/GroundTruth Project and the Foundation For The Carolinas.

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Lauren Lindstrom is a reporter for the Charlotte Observer covering affordable housing. She previously covered health for The Blade in Toledo, Ohio, where she wrote about the state’s opioid crisis and childhood lead poisoning. Lauren is a Wisconsin native, a Northwestern University graduate and a 2019 Report for America corps member.
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