Local residents got a window Tuesday night into the development plan that would reshape a major swath of land west of Charlotte Douglas International Airport, carving a new employment, shopping and residential district out of a largely wooded, quiet corner of Mecklenburg County.
Charlotte-based development firms Lincoln Harris and Crescent Communities held their first community meeting for the new development, outlining the plans and answering residents’ concerns. Charlotte City Council is expected to hold a public hearing on the plans in July and vote on them in September.
Crescent and Lincoln Harris have also put a website with more information for interested parties to look at online: www.riverdistrictinfo.com.
“We are aware that it’s a big change,” said Jeff Brown, a land use attorney representing the developers.
Plans for “River District,” as the development is tentatively known, would be on a scale similar to Ballantyne. Covering more than 1,300 acres between the airport and upper Lake Wylie, the development would include up to 4,000 apartments and houses, 500,000 square feet of shops and restaurants and eight million square feet of office space. The plans also call for hotels and hundreds of acres of green space and parks.
The development would take decades to fully build out. For example, Ballantyne was first announced 25 years ago in 1991, and development firm Bissell is still building there.
At Tuesday’s meeting – attended by about 170 people – residents got an overview of the master plan for the area and broke out into smaller groups to discuss the development. Many of their concerns centered around the issues that usually affect rezoning requests: Traffic, congestion, how schools will handle the increased number of students and how the development will change the area as they know it.
Rhett Crocker of LandDesign, which is helping create the master plan, said the developers plan to address those issues. Doing the project through one master plan rather than piecemeal allows the chance to “really start thinking about how we lay the framework.”
“There’s not many pieces of land left like this,” said Crocker.
The plans call for creating a road network with multiple connections and ways through the site in order to alleviate congestion and help prevent bottlenecks. Crocker said the developers have also been talking with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to figure out how best to include educational facilities and meet the needs of an increased number of students the development will bring.
At least 40 percent of the total land – about 520 acres – would be set aside for open space, and the River District would include a public waterfront on the river. Lincoln Harris and Crescent have pledged to avoid steep slopes that are vulnerable to erosion and provide wider buffers between development and streams in order to minimize the impact on water quality.
Crescent, which was created as a subsidiary to manage Duke Power’s tens of thousands of riverfront acres, owns the majority of the land, nearly 1,000 acres. The rest is under contract or controlled by the companies, which are two of the most prominent and active firms in Charlotte development.