Providence Road is about to get a big dose of new traffic just south of Interstate 485, a consequence of two major new developments poised to bring offices, shops, a school, a Whole Foods, parks and hundreds of houses and apartments to the southeast edge of Charlotte.
Construction is underway on the Waverly development, a joint venture of Childress Klein and Crosland Southeast on almost 90 acres east of Providence and Ardrey Kell roads. And Charlotte City Council is set to vote on Lincoln Harris’ 194-acre redevelopment of the defunct Charlotte Golf Links course next month.
Some nearby residents are concerned about traffic, which city staff says will increase substantially: The new developments will together generate more than 50,000 additional vehicle trips per day on stretches of road that are often already congested. Still, developers and planners contend the mixed-use design will create shorter trips and less congestion than the same amount of growth would if it were spread out. And everyone agrees that it’s just a matter of time before the land is developed.
“Let’s not kid ourselves – it’s a lot of traffic,” said Mike Davis, development services division manager for the Charlotte Department of Transportation. “The question is, always, what’s the alternative?”
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Beyond south Charlotte
The traffic worries aren’t limited to south Charlotte. As development picks up around the city’s outerbelt, more interchanges are likely to suffer from traffic. Earlier this month, a developer announced plans to revive a major mixed-use development at Brookshire Boulevard and I-485 that had languished during the recession.
Riverbend would bring the same mix of shops, offices and apartments as Golf Links and Waverly. Residents nearby have contacted City Council members to voice their concerns about the increased load on Brookshire Boulevard.
And other interchanges are seeing rapid growth as well: Charlotte Premium Outlets opening at Steele Creek Road and I-485, and Bryton’s expansion near Interstate 77 and I-485 in Huntersville are just two examples.
No matter what: more traffic
To help lessen the impact in southeast Charlotte, the developers are building a slate of improvements, including widening two-lane Ardrey Kell Road to four lanes between Tom Short Road and Providence Road, and adding more signals and turn-lane space on Providence. The developments will also have their own internal street networks and connections to adjoining neighborhoods, which should take some of the load off main roads.
Still, there’s no way around the fact that a lot more cars will be on the road.
“We already have crowding on Ardrey Kell,” said Charlotte City Council member Ed Driggs, who represents the area. “All the way past 485 toward uptown, (Providence) backs up. It’s hard to get in and out. You can only imagine what adding Waverly and Golf Links is going to do.”
Possible delay for improvements
The growth comes as Charlotte faces a budget crunch because of falling property values under Mecklenburg County’s revaluation and the loss of the business privilege license tax revenue the state repealed. And Charlotte could be up against an even bigger hit, under a plan from the state legislature to redistribute sales tax revenue to rural counties. In total, the city could lose 7 percent to 11 percent of its general fund revenue.
Many of the roads that will be impacted by the Golf Links and Waverly developments are state roads, including Providence. That means another level of possible delays for residents waiting for improvements.
Peter B. Pappas, a partner with Waverly co-developer Crosland Southeast, said Waverly’s developers are spending about $3 million on various road improvements, including part of an eventual extension of Ardrey Kell Road to Tilley Morris Road (the first phase will be built along Waverly’s southern border).
Pappas said development won’t end with Waverly. “Our 88 acres is unlocking about another 500 acres adjacent to it,” said Pappas.
Chris Thomas, a partner with Waverly co-developer Childress Klein, said the intensification of development around Providence Road could help reduce congestion in the long run. That’s because more people will be able to live and work in one place, rather than commuting uptown or to Ballantyne, after the creation of “a more meaningful employment center at this interchange.”
‘Eye-popping’ number of new trips
Davis said that even though the expected high number of new vehicle trips is eye-popping (the Golf Links development alone is expected to generate 32,000 a day), more of those trips will be short and local. The mix of offices, retail and houses means some people won’t have to drive as far as they would if Golf Links were developed into a purely residential subdivision, which it’s currently zoned for.
“Those same trips are going to exist. They’re just going to be driving over a longer distance,” said Davis. “The amount of traffic we have shouldn’t scare us nearly as much as the length of the trips.”
Davis said there’s no question the new developments will add to congestion, even with the developers’ additions to nearby roads.
“The impacts of the development are greater than what they’re able to mitigate,” he said. “In a lot of ways, that’s not their fault. It’s the result of a lot of development pressures that have grown up in that area.”
Traffic is, of course, an ever-present companion to rezoning requests, and residents are often miffed at the thought of more cars coming in and gumming up their familiar commute or neighborhood streets. Compared with other rezoning requests, the Golf Links site has been generally well-received. No one signed up to speak against the Golf Links rezoning at a hearing before City Council last week, and there’s been no protest petition from neighbors.
Angela McGahan, president of the Providence Country Club Homeowners Association, said that’s because the developers and city planning staff have taken pains to meet with local residents and lay out their plans.
“We felt very connected,” she said. While the neighborhood just south of Charlotte Golf Links has concerns – especially about traffic on Ardrey Kell, which she called “sort of a paved-over cow path” – McGahan said she believes the impact will be less than if the Golf Links course were developed as a single-family subdivision.
“We’re looking at so much more traffic coming in, even under the best circumstances,” said McGahan.
Like many residents faced with a major rezoning, McGahan said she and her neighbors sometimes wished there weren’t any changes. She recalled their first meeting with developers and the planning department.
“They asked, ‘What would you like to see here?’” said McGahan. “We said, ‘A golf course?’”
Golf Links and Waverly by the numbers
Here’s what the new developments along Providence Road just south of Interstate 485 are poised to bring.
▪ 565,000 square feet of offices and retail. The retail will be anchored by a new Whole Foods supermarket.
▪ A 150-room hotel.
▪ About 560 apartments and houses.
▪ Up to 700,000 square feet of office space and 250,000 square feet of retail.
▪ Up to 1,000 housing units, including 500 multifamily units and 300 age-restricted units.
▪ Up to 250,000 square feet of recreational facilities.
▪ At least 33 acres of open space, including required buffers and a 3-acre park at the center of the development.
▪ A possible Charlotte-Mecklenburg school with grades K-8. The school could be a science and technology magnet school, Lincoln Harris representatives said. They said they are in talks with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools now.
▪ A possible Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department substation.