Development

Will a controversial tower outside uptown be built? We might not know for a while.

A rendering of the planned office tower at Third Street and Baldwin Avenue.
A rendering of the planned office tower at Third Street and Baldwin Avenue.

A plan to rezone a site in Charlotte's midtown area for a 20-story office tower will have to wait at least another month for approval.

The rezoning petition from NAI Southern Real Estate would allow one of the tallest buildings outside uptown and extend the city's skyline east of the Interstate 277 loop. But neighbors who spoke at a Charlotte City Council hearing last month were strongly opposed to the project, which they say is too tall and would bring congestion.

City Council had been expected to vote on the plan at their meeting Monday. The agenda for that meeting, however, shows NAI Southern is requesting the vote be deferred until June 18.

Collin Brown, the land use attorney handling the petition, said the deferral will allow "some time to have further conversations with the community." Deferring a rezoning decision isn't uncommon, and a half-dozen other petitioners are also requesting more time.

NAI Southern's plans call for a building up to 299 feet tall, to be built on a 3.4-acre site between Third and Fourth streets, at the intersection with Baldwin Avenue. The plans also include 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.

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A rendering of the ground floor of the planned office tower at Third Street and Baldwin Avenue. Courtesy NAI Southern

The land, within 500 feet of the Gold Line streetcar, is currently occupied by one- and two-story commercial buildings and surface parking.

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. The developer has agreed to various upgrades including new traffic signals, crosswalks, extended turn lanes and other road upgrades to compensate.

They've also agreed to pay $50,000 for traffic calming and pedestrian improvements in the Cherry neighborhood and $200,000 for upgrades at the Cherry Neighborhood Park.

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At a hearing last month, neighbors said they think the tower would be wrong in that spot.

"It's going to set a precedent for proliferation. It's a slippery slope," said Sylvia Bittle-Patton, a Cherry resident. "The height, the mass, the scale are inappropriate for the area."

The danger of change was echoed by other speakers at the City Council hearing. "I'm fearful that this 299-foot-tall building...will be the beginning of more 300-foot-plus buildings, and before you know it, Cherry and Elizabeth will be the Midtown that Atlanta sees today," said another speaker who lives nearby.

"I'm all for bringing business to Charlotte, but there are plenty of places uptown for this."

At the hearing, Brown told City Council that the area is appropriate for dense development because of its proximity to the streetcar. A shorter building wouldn't work because the developer wants to attract a high-end tenant with height and views.

"We're going to have to accommodate development," especially in areas near transit lines, he said.

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