"The NASCAR building in our backyard": Why neighbors are against a new Charlotte tower

Office building planned at Third Street and Baldwin Avenue.
Office building planned at Third Street and Baldwin Avenue.

Residents at Charlotte City Council on Monday said they are opposed to plans by NAI Southern to build an office tower and hotel in the midtown area of Charlotte, outside uptown, where they fear the increased height, traffic and density will hurt existing neighborhoods.

The building would be 20 stories tall, up to 299 feet, according to plans filed with the city. It would be built on a 3.4-acre site between Third and Fourth streets, at the intersection with Baldwin Avenue. The plans also call for 16,800 square feet of ground-floor shops and restaurants, as well as a 240-room hotel on the Fourth Street side of the site.

The tower would be one of the tallest buildings outside uptown, and with 512,000 square feet of office space, it could create a big draw for more employers. While the developers said the site is perfect for more density and an "exciting" building, nearby residents said it's just too big.

"There's this funny space between Third and Fourth streets," said land use attorney Collin Brown, representing the developers. The area isn't really Cherry or Elizabeth, putting it in a "no-man's land" where more height and density is appropriate, he said. The site is within 500 feet of the Gold Line streetcar as well.

"We're going to have to accommodate development," especially in areas near transit lines, he said. The developers would install a new stoplight at Third Street and Baldwin Avenue, along with more pedestrian connections.

"We've tried to be bold and transformational for the area," he said. That's attracted some opposition, he acknowledged. "One of the goals here was to create an inspiring development, to do something people would love. ... You may hear oh, it sticks out like a sore thumb."

The number of vehicle trips per day at the site would more than double, city planning staff estimates, jumping from 3,160 now to almost 8,600.

"I'm a little concerned about these traffic numbers," said council member Ed Driggs. He questioned whether the height is really necessary to make the project viable.

"We've got to have the height to get the views and attract the caliber of tenant we're planning for," said developer Caldwell Rose.

Sylvia Bittle-Patton, a Cherry resident, said the development doesn't fit with existing plans for the area and is too tall.

"We are now going to 299 feet high," she said. "That's not reasonable or in the public's interest. ... It's also going to set a precedent for proliferation. It's a slippery slope."

One neighbor said she was opposed to the building because it would be "the height of the NASCAR building in our backyards." Another said the streetcar is too slow to be a reliable method of transportation, and that it shouldn't be counted on to draw development like the Blue Line.

"Whether you like it or not, the streetcar is here," said council member Justin Harlow, who said the renderings are "fantastic," though he is concerned about the height. Other council members said they're conflicted.

"This is one I'm struggling with," said council member Julie Eiselt. "We don't have a plan. ... I'm completely frustrated that we don't know what we want our city to look like."

LaWana Mayfield said she's concerned the development doesn't fit with the area.

"I don't think we're on the same page," she said. "I'm concerned, within that mile of uptown, what's it going to look like? ... Charlotte doesn't all need to look like uptown."

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041