Development

Charlotte is taking the next step to guide development along transit centers

Blue Line extension spurs development but is it walkable?

Construction along the Blue Line extension in the University City area is nearing completion and development is following. In some cases new gas stations and storage facilities are appearing.
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Construction along the Blue Line extension in the University City area is nearing completion and development is following. In some cases new gas stations and storage facilities are appearing.

In a move officials say is necessary to ensure future development near transit centers aligns with regulations passed this year, the city of Charlotte has requested to rezone nearly 2,000 acres along the light rail.

The city filed a petition last month to rezone around 1,915 acres, or about 2,640 parcels, to align with the new Transit-Oriented Development regulations adopted by City Council in April. The rules cover everything from the design of a building to open space requirements.

City Council is expected to hold a public hearing in October on the rezoning petition, and will vote on it in November, according to a city website.

The request comes as the city is seeing an influx of development along the Blue Line: more than 12,000 new housing units, over 3 million square feet of office and commercial space, and more than $2 billion in private investment have been added since the first Transit-Oriented zoning districts were adopted in 2003, according to a city economic analysis.

We’ve got this $1.2 billion investment in our community in the form of a rail system that’s just extended all the way to the university,” said assistant city manager and planning director Taiwo Jaiyeoba. “The best thing you can do for your community is to continue to enhance the value of your investment.”

The policy also restricts the height of buildings, but developers can receive “bonus height” for projects if they meet public goals such as affordable housing or environmental sustainability.

Under the bonus system, at least 10% of the units must be affordable on each floor above the maximum height. Developers can also pay a per-square-foot fee in lieu of building affordable housing, which would go toward the city’s Housing Trust Fund.

The city’s goal is to create walkable, urban neighborhoods, with everything from restaurants and shops to housing and offices within a mile or so from transit stations.

About 770 acres along the light rail are zoned for transit-oriented development, the city has said, which is just 28% of the more than 2,700 acres it considers appropriate for such development.

Aligning the land around the light rail to meet the new regulations is necessary to ensure that the development that occurs fits with those goals, Jaiyeoba said. Most of the land included in the rezoning is privately-owned, but aligning the parcels with the new zoning districts would mean property owners would have to comply with the requirements for new development.

The Transit-Oriented Development regulations are the first piece of the city’s overhaul of policies that guide how the city grows. The city’s zoning codes were written more than 20 years ago.

Jaiyeoba said the city has been meeting with property owners since the Transit-Oriented Development rules were approved.

If we’re going to rezone it, we want them to be aware what the impact for them is but also what the potential for that parcel could be in the future,” he said.

For a look at the parcels being rezoned, go to this city website.

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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.
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