Along the Blue Line extension, new developments are taking shape

The Blue Line light rail extension isn’t just a line on a map anymore: Stations are rising out of the ground, workers are laying down tracks and new train cars are arriving. Now, long-anticipated new developments are materializing alongside the track.

Plans have been announced for 1,900 apartments, new stores and office space along the northern leg of the Blue Line, which is set to open in 2017. Many of the new developments are racing to match that opening date so they can take advantage of an expected influx of new residents and commuters on the line that will connect uptown to UNC Charlotte.

The new rail line – a 9.3 mile, $1.2 billion project – is expected to trigger a development boom similar to the surge of new building that followed the Blue Line in South End. The first segment of the light rail opened in 2007, and since then, thousands of new apartments have sprung up, along with office buildings and, of course, breweries.

With construction underway on some projects and others set to start soon, here’s an updated look at what’s planned around the Blue Line’s new stations.

▪ Ninth Street: The only new stop inside the Interstate 277 loop has seen the most intense development so far. Levine Properties and Mecklenburg County recently opened First Ward Park, next to UNC Charlotte’s uptown building adjacent to the light rail.

Now, Levine Properties is building a 1,420-space parking deck and 264-unit apartment building at 10th and Brevard streets. Following the resolution of a dispute over funding with UNC Charlotte, which is paying for part of the parking deck, Levine says construction is back on track to be fully underway again in March. Levine will work on the parking deck first, with the apartments following as the deck rises.

The company is searching for a tenant to anchor a planned 20-story office tower adjacent to UNC Charlotte uptown, and is planning to build two Hilton-branded hotels next to the park. Levine Properties is also selling a city block-sized parcel of land at Ninth Street and the light rail for future development.

▪ Parkwood: Between the Ninth Street and Parkwood stations, White Point Partners and Atlanta-based Paces Properties are planning to convert the defunct Highland Park mill on North Brevard Street at 16th Street into space for loft offices, restaurants and a food hall offering gourmet food from local vendors. Charlotte City Council has scheduled a rezoning hearing on the plan in February.

Ohio-based apartment developer NRP Group has a rezoning request to build a 351-unit apartment building on a 3.5-acre parcel bounded by Caldwell, Brevard, 21st streets and Parkwood Avenue. That plan is also up for a February hearing at City Council.

And Charlotte-based infill developer Beauxwright is building a 48-unit apartment complex called 300 Optimist Park, at Parkwood Avenue and 17th Street.

▪ 25th Street: Atlanta-based Wood Partners is planning to build 260 new apartments at 25th and Brevard streets, and is awaiting a rezoning decision from City Council. The site is directly across the street from the planned light rail station.

Nearby, Charlotte-based developer Faison has filed a request to rezone a site at 26th and North Davidson streets that’s currently home to the CenterStage@NoDa event venue and a gravel parking lot out back. Faison said in an application it might preserve and reuse the structures on site. The company hasn’t said exactly what it plans to do on the site, but Faison’s other development plans underway include an apartment building with ground-level retail on Seventh Street in Elizabeth.

At North Davidson and 26th streets, Charlotte-based Southern Apartment Group is planning a 250-unit apartment building. The company is in the design phase and will break ground this summer.

▪ 36th Street: Charlotte-based developer Crescent Communities is breaking ground next week on a new apartment building at the light rail line and 36th Street. The development will include 344 apartments and 7,500 square feet of ground-level retail. Crescent has hired a broker to market an adjacent parcel for commercial development, which could include 28,000 square feet of shops and restaurants, as well as a hotel.

But Crescent dropped earlier plans to build a major mixed-use development on a 25-acre site on West Craighead Street that could have included up to 450 residential units. A spokeswoman said, “During due diligence Crescent determined that this specific property was not the right fit for this proposed development plan.”

▪ Tom Hunter: Carolina States Regional Center is planning to build a 376-unit apartment complex at North Tryon Street and Orchard Trace Lane, just north of the planned Tom Hunter station. The developer won zoning approval from Charlotte City Council last year, along with an adjacent 22-acre parcel for a future phase of the development.

▪ University City Boulevard: McKinney Holdings is marketing 62 acres of wooded land near the station for a major mixed-use development. A conceptual master plan calls for a grocery store, other shops, offices, a hotel and apartments at the site, which would be called University City Gateway.

Dave McKinney said the company has received two written offers for parts of the property in the last 30 days, and that valuations are rising for the land.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo