A plan to build a new Top Golf entertainment facility and hundreds of apartments drew opposition from some neighbors in northeast Charlotte on Monday, the latest in a string of dense developments in Charlotte’s suburbs that have stirred up fears of traffic and changing neighborhood character.
Charter Properties and Browder Group Real Estate are behind the plans to build a major new development at the West Mallard Creek Church Road and I-85 intersection. The 66 acres are vacant and mostly wooded. Charlotte City Council will vote on the proposal at a later meeting, likely next month.
While some neighbors expressed their opposition to the project Monday, other residents held signs urging city council to support the plan. Charlotte city planning staff are recommending approval, as are some local companies. New roads, including some in the planned development, will help distribute traffic and relieve congestion on overloaded arterial roads, some say.
“Creating connectivity that will allow more traffic flow is critical,” said Darlene Heater, executive director of University City Partners. She said the dense project will help University City “start to transition from a suburban, auto-centric area...This is a very good mixed-use development.”
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The development is the latest in a series of “suburban mixed-use” plans that developers are pursuing around Charlotte’s fringes. Instead of building low-density single-family subdivisions, developers are seeking to build houses, apartments, shops, restaurants and office space on the same site, betting that more people will want to live in walkable, denser environments.
Not all neighbors are convinced.
“There’s a lot of concern for the character of the neighborhood that’s going to be affected,” said Linda Majchrzak, who lives nearby. She said she’s skeptical residents of the new apartments will actually walk to work or other destinations.
“Good luck to you,” she said. “Cross that road, walk that distance on a nice hot Charlotte day when it’s 98 degrees and 98 percent humidity.”
She’s also concerned about the impact of Top Golf on its neighbors.
“It is going to be open until midnight most nights and 2 a.m. on weekends,” she said. “We are going to see that Top Golf facility...lit up brighter than a Christmas tree at night.”
A Top Golf official said they can install lights that will cut down on glare and orient them toward the highway to minimize the impact on the neighborhood.
“It’s not going to be intrusive to the neighborhood,” said Tanner Micheli, Top Golf’s senior real estate development manager.
Other large mixed-use developments with more apartments, shops and restaurants are also planned nearby. Majchrak said the cumulative impact will be overwhelming.
“There doesn’t seem to be any coordination,” she said. “You’re allowing developers to decide what is best for us and our established neighborhoods.”
While developers tout such projects as Waverly on Providence Road, just south of Interstate 485, as likely to cut down on congestion and sprawl in the long term, neighbors are often skeptical and worry about more cars on the road.
The Charter/Browder project would include 395 apartments along with shops, dining and the Top Golf facility. The facility had been indicated on planning documents, including renderings, and the developers confirmed it Monday during the hearing. Top Golf – which offers golf-related games, eating and drinking – is opening its first Charlotte location in Steele Creek in June.
City planners estimate the development would generate about 22,900 vehicle trips per day, a big increase from the 7,170 that could be created under the land’s current zoning for single-family detached houses on large lots. The empty land now creates virtually no traffic.
In community meetings prior to Monday’s hearing, residents have expressed concern over the project’s density. Some said they don’t support the idea of bringing apartments to the area, while others worry about increasing traffic and congestion. The developers have said the apartments would rent for an average of about $1,200 a month.