$11.5 million pedestrian bridge will connect South End and uptown, with a bank’s help

U.S. Bank will help fund the construction of a pedestrian bridge over Interstate 277, Center City Partners said Wednesday, as local leaders look to connect uptown with South End.

As the lead sponsor, the bank will contribute $1 million to the estimated $11.5 million bridge, which will cross the interstate between South College Street and South Boulevard. There are also local and state funds for the project — the city will pay $3.1 million, the N.C. Department of Transportation is kicking in $3.3 million and Mecklenburg County will contribute $3.1 million.

Charlotte Center City Partners had been looking to raise another $1.5 million from private groups, nonprofits and grants.

Local leaders formally unveiled the public-private partnership for the bridge at a press conference Wednesday at the Charlotte Powerhouse Studio on Camden Road.

The bridge will close the gap in the rail trail, which ends just before the I-277 overpass and picks up again a few blocks into uptown.

“Bridging the gap between uptown and South End will provide additional connectivity for residents, workers and guests, while further knitting together two of our great urban neighborhoods,” Michael Smith, president and CEO of Center City Partners, said in a statement.

Design work is expected to start this year, with construction beginning by summer 2021. The bridge was cut from the Blue Line’s plans prior to its opening in 2007 to save money. The trail runs for miles along the light rail, but pedestrians and cyclists have to get on a bridge with heavy car traffic over I-277 to get into uptown.

The bridge was among the goals laid out in the South End Vision Plan, which was adopted by City Council in 2018.

Council member Larken Egleston said it will allow younger employees who live in South End to more easily commute into uptown without a car.

“That gap — getting across 277 — it created such a problem for folks that it really limited who could use it, how they could use it, where they could get on it,” he said. “And this connection being made I think will just exponentially grow the number of users (of the rail trail).”

The consultant team will be led by engineering firm Thomas & Hutton’s Charlotte office. The team also includes SBP, a structural engineering company headquartered in Germany that has worked on projects such as New York’s One World Trade Center.

Integra Architecture, CMW Design Strategies and Airboat Studio are also involved with the project.

South End movement

The bridge plans mark a key public investment for Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank, which is expanding its presence in Charlotte, where it employs around 800 people. The bank has said it expects to open 10 branches in the area by the end of 2020. The first branch will be open in the fall at 201 S. Tryon St in the space that formerly housed Dean & Deluca.

Tim Welsh, vice chairman of consumer and business banking at U.S. Bank, said the bank was looking to invest in Charlotte as it grows its footprint in the city.

“Now that we’re bringing our branches to Charlotte, we were looking to take a step up,” he said. “And this seemed like the perfect opportunity.”

The announcement also comes as the light rail and other amenities attract major corporations to South End.

Just under 600,000 square feet of office space were under development in South End and midtown in the first quarter of 2019, according to a report from real estate services firm JLL.

Work started last month on LendingTree’s new headquarters, part of a pair of 11-story buildings at South Tryon Street at Carson Boulevard. Lowe’s announced in June it will put a 2,000-employee global technology hub in a new 23-story tower in South End.

And financial services company Dimensional Fund Advisors opened its East Coast headquarters in a nine-story building this year.


An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of a U.S. Bank executive. It is Tim Welsh.
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Danielle Chemtob covers economic growth and development for the Observer. She’s a 2018 graduate of the journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill and a California transplant.