Mecklenburg County commissioners approved a plan Tuesday night that could lead the way for a major revitalization of North Tryon Street and the surrounding area into a lively center for new residents, shops and cultural venues.
Michael Smith, CEO of Charlotte Center City Partners, said the the North Tryon Vision Plan offers a major opportunity for Charlotte that will likely play out over 20 or more years as existing government buildings and surface parking lots along North Tryon are redeveloped.
“For a city that’s 250 years old, to have all this underutilized land two blocks from (Trade and Tryon),” said Smith, is “really unprecedented.”
“The intention for this is to be intense mixed-use,” said Smith.
The “vision plan” isn’t a set blueprint for exactly what will happen in the area over the coming decades, and it doesn’t commit the county, city or private developers to build or fund any specific projects. Instead, it’s an ambitious look at what could be on the 60 acres, and an examination of what it might take to get there. More than 20 entities, from Bank of America to the Dunhill Hotel, collaborated in crafting the plan, which took about 18 months.
The county will have to be a major participant in the plan: Mecklenburg owns large sites, including Spirit Square and the sprawling Hal Marshall Center, and is the major funder of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library at Sixth and Tryon streets. The vision also calls for public underground parking, which would require costly excavation into hard bedrock. Some commissioners balked at that.
“If the development hinges on that being done by Mecklenburg County, I’d double-check that assumption before we got terribly far down the road,” said commissioner Jim Puckett.
The county would have to sell some of the sites it owns to private developers to bring the vision about, something Mecklenburg officials have indicated they’re open to considering. Mecklenburg is moving its staff out of the Hal Marshall site to other buildings, a process which should be finished next year.
While South Tryon Street has grown rapidly over the past decade, North Tryon Street has lagged. Much of the development on South Tryon Street has been in the form of large, block-sized buildings: The Duke Energy Center, Knight Theater, the Bechtler Museum.
The vision for North Tryon Street and the surrounding area is on a different scale. It calls for pedestrian passageways and smaller streets bisecting large blocks and creating a pedestrian-friendly zone full of shops, restaurants and other appealing features at street level. Smith said the blocks will be smaller than people are used to seeing uptown.
Although North Tryon hasn’t grown as quickly as the southern side of uptown, development is accelerating. Crews are finishing up the second SkyHouse tower, a project that’s expected to bring about 1,000 new residents. Next door, developers are planning to start work next year on 10 Tryon, an office building anchored by a grocery store. First Ward Park is now open, and the Carolina Theatre is planning a major renovation with a new hotel tower.
The Blue Line light-rail extension is set to open next summer.
“The neighborhood is changing,” said Smith.
Want to see more about the North Tryon Vision Plan? Go to NorthTryon.org.