Development

New Charlotte Douglas area development plan: Build commercial, industrial, hotel rooms around airport

Dixie River Road, part of the area which will be part of the new River District just west of Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
Dixie River Road, part of the area which will be part of the new River District just west of Charlotte Douglas International Airport. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

A new plan to develop the thousands of excess acres of mostly vacant land around Charlotte Douglas International Airport calls for millions of square feet of shops, office space, industrial uses, warehouses more than 1,100 hotel rooms – but not residences.

That’s the early conclusion of a study meant to guide development of the land, much of which Charlotte’s airport bought to remove houses that were suffering from excessive noise under aircraft flight paths.

Airport staff presented an early version of the study to Charlotte City Council on Monday night. The plan is expected to be finalized in the coming months, with City Council voting in January 2017.

In October 2015, Charlotte City Council authorized the airport to spend $900,000 to hire a consultant to study the area and come up with a plan to develop the airport’s holdings and surrounding private property. MXD Development was brought on to craft the master plan, led by the airport’s development director, Stuart Hair.

Large tracts of undeveloped land surround Charlotte Douglas, especially to the north and west. Much of it is under noisy airplane approach and departure paths, making the area attractive for industrial, warehouses, logistics and other businesses.

The airport’s ownership of more than 5,000 acres extends north to Interstate 85, east to Billy Graham Parkway, south past West Boulevard and Byrum Drive and west past Interstate 485. The study now is focused on about 2,000 acres the airport has acquired over the past 20 years for noise mitigation. They’re considered “prime for redevelopment,” Aviation Director Brent Cagle said.

But one thing that won’t be built on the property: Houses and apartments.

“Once we purchase those properties, a key is they are not put back into residential use,” said Cagle. “We’re not currently utilizing those properties...at least some of those properties are not going to be needed for our core business development.”

Since the study was authorized, however, private sector development has already been advancing rapidly. Last month, Charlotte City Council approved the River District, a mixed-use development by Crescent Communities and Lincoln Harris that will transform almost 1,400 acres of vacant and wooded land south and west of the airport over the next 30 years. The development is set to bring millions of square feet of offices, shops, restaurants and hotels, along with 4,500 new houses and apartments.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo

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