Development

Developer offers to buy, transform Second Ward High gym site uptown

Phyllis Baxter, who graduated in 1964 raises her hands after the benediction at the Second Ward marker ceremony programme Saturday afternoon September 4, 2004 in uptown Charlotte, N.C. Alumni of the segregated Second Ward High School gathered at the historic maker at Metro School to reflect on their years at the school.
Phyllis Baxter, who graduated in 1964 raises her hands after the benediction at the Second Ward marker ceremony programme Saturday afternoon September 4, 2004 in uptown Charlotte, N.C. Alumni of the segregated Second Ward High School gathered at the historic maker at Metro School to reflect on their years at the school. CHARLOTTE OBSERVER

A development group competing to win the rights to redevelop a big swath of Second Ward uptown is sweetening its bid, offering to buy an additional 5 acres from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

BK Partners, joint venture of national developer Peebles Corp. and Charlotte-based developer Conformity Corp., said Tuesday that it has made an unsolicited, $5.6 million offer for the site of the former Second Ward High gym. The site is located between Stonewall Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, bordered by the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center and the Metro School.

BK Partners is one of three groups that have made offers on an adjacent 17 acres of publicly owned land, comprising the Bob Walton Plaza property on Stonewall Street and the Marshall Park and former CMS Board of Education building between MLK and Third Street. Mecklenburg County commissioners held a meeting last week to consider the competing proposals, each of which seeks to transform the quiet corner of Second Ward into a vibrant, mixed-use development.

But the former Second Ward High gym property wasn’t included in the county’s original redevelopment proposals, even though the other two groups also included some of the CMS land in their plans.

The land is strategically located between the northern and southern county parcels. Now, Peebles and Conformity are offering to buy the property and incorporate it into their design. The company would build an “Entrepreneurship Institute” on the site, modeled after the Academy of Hospitality and Tourism that Peebles’ company participated in at Washington, D.C.

“Our team has had its eye on the school property from Day One, and we’re ready to close on the site as soon as CMS is willing to part with it,” Monte Ritchey, president of Conformity, said in a statement. The institute on the site would teach hospitality skills and business practices.

The area was once home to Brooklyn, an African-American neighborhood that was demolished in the 1960s and 70s as part of the “urban renewal” wave that swept the U.S. More than 1,000 black families were displaced.

The property is currently targeted for redevelopment as part of a separate county plan to create a connection to the aquatic center and a history museum in conjunction with the Second Ward High alumni association. Ritchey said the developers would work with the alumni group and support their plans.

The other plans are from Crescent Communities and a partnership of CitiSculpt and Akridge Invested. County staff scored BK Partners’ offer highest. County commissioners will consider the proposals further and vote at a later date, though a meeting hasn’t been set.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo

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