Development

Does Second Ward need a major new park as part of redevelopment?

Photo of Marshall Park for Brooklyn Village story. Mecklenburg County is restarting the search for a developer for the Brooklyn Village project, a multi-use development in uptown.
Photo of Marshall Park for Brooklyn Village story. Mecklenburg County is restarting the search for a developer for the Brooklyn Village project, a multi-use development in uptown. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

A reader emailed me Wednesday with a passionate request: Please find some way to save Marshall Park uptown.

The 5.4-acre park at Third and McDowell streets is part of the publicly owned land in Second Ward uptown that Mecklenburg County is trying to sell for redevelopment. The county is considering three competing bids, all of which include between 1.6 and 1.9 acres of open space, a reduction by almost two thirds. Developers would build a mixed-use community with apartments, condos, offices, shops and hotels in its place.

Marshall Park might be the least-loved uptown park by many in Charlotte, especially urban planners, a park built in a different era. Although it’s been the site of many protests and marches, on a day-to-day basis it’s often nearly empty. The park lacks “edges,” or active uses around its perimeter. Instead, sterile government buildings – including the vacant Board of Education building – ring Marshall Park. There isn’t much reason to go there, urban planners point out.

But the park also has its fans.

“The lovely large shade trees need to remain to give a peaceful setting to the development. I suggest an area too where children could enjoy running in a fountain and have a picnic under the trees,” wrote the reader who emailed me.

The Mecklenburg County Park & Recreation Commission sent a letter to county commissioners asking them to to mandate at least a five-acre park at the new Brooklyn Village development, as the project will be called.

“The Park & Recreation Commission wants to express our strong commitment to the once in a lifetime opportunity to advocate for the best use of land and to implement a Ward Park that the community deserves. We are in unanimous agreement. Brooklyn Village needs a Ward Park with design input from the community,” the letter read.

A five-acre park at Brooklyn Village would be an amount of space comparable to the recently opened First Ward Park and Romare Bearden Park, in Third Ward.

At a hearing last month, county commissioner Pat Cotham said the idea of shrinking the amount of park space uptown by eliminating Marshall Park “just gives me the creeps.”

But any redevelopment plan that requires a five-acre park would reduce the amount of land – and profit – a private developer could build on by almost a third, to about 12 acres. That would make redeveloping the site less appealing, and could make the resulting development less dense.

Such a park is also outside the scope of Mecklenburg’s original request for proposals from developers, and would take extensive renegotiation at this point.

What do you think? Is Marshall Park worth saving, and does Second Ward need a park comparable to those in other wards uptown?

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo

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