Developer says soccer fields, baseball diamond would stay at Pearl Street Park

A proposal by Pappas Properties to renovate Pearl Street Park would remove a soccer field and baseball diamond used by youth sports leagues.
A proposal by Pappas Properties to renovate Pearl Street Park would remove a soccer field and baseball diamond used by youth sports leagues. sharrison@charlotteobserver.com

In response to concerns from two youth sports leagues, developer Peter A. Pappas said his plans to improve Pearl Street Park would keep the baseball diamond and soccer fields that are part of the park today.

Pappas Properties has proposed building apartments, retail, offices and a hotel on the site of the Greater Charlotte Regional Realtors Association property off Kenilworth Avenue, adjacent to the park.

As part of the project, Pappas has asked the city and the county for $4.7 million in exchange for building streets inside and near the development; for moving water and sewer lines; building a greenway near the project; and making what had been deemed improvements to the park.

In a proposal sent to the city, one part of the proposed park improvements included adding new grass and removing the lights. And a rendering of the project showed only green space at the park – no soccer fields or baseball diamond.

That worried the Myers Park Trinity Little League and the Charlotte Junior Soccer Foundation, which paid for the fields and lights two decades ago.

“We built those fields,” said Kip Kiser, a board member of the Myers Park Trinity Little League and Charlotte Junior Soccer Foundation Inc. “We paid for those lights. We brought the dirt in, and we have done a lot of stuff. We clean that park up all the time.”

Pappas said Wednesday the youth sports leagues shouldn’t be alarmed.

“We are focused on not having our development or the construction interrupt the use of the fields,” he said.

Pappas added Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation will decide the long-term future of Pearl Park, and that his plan is to make improvements while his development is being built. That would save money, he said.

In the proposal to the city, Pappas Properties said it would spend $460,000 to remove “old pavement and field lighting” and to install new grass and green space in the park. The company would then be reimbursed by the county.

Pappas said the proposal to remove the lights was done “purely for discussion purposes.”

The project also calls for spending $230,000 on new landscaping and an entrance for the park at Kenilworth Avenue and Pearl Park Way. Also, Pappas Properties would spend $207,000 building a new parking lot for the park.

The county would reimburse Pappas Properties for those park-related expenses as well.

A rendering of the development, and the park, shows green space where the baseball diamond and soccer fields are today.

Jim Garges, the county’s director of parks and recreation, said the current proposal calls for green space instead of the diamond and soccer fields. But he said the idea is only a “concept” and hasn’t been approved.

He said the county would like to improve Pearl Street Park, but it isn’t on a long-term plan.

Twenty years ago, the Little League and soccer foundation paid to build the diamond and field on county-owned land. The area of the park with the diamond and the fields is open to the public, though the two organizations have dibs on using the space.

The leagues use the green space as a baseball diamond in the spring and summer. The same space is now being used as soccer fields.

The developer’s proposal would also extend Pearl Park Way from Kenilworth Avenue to Baxter Street in Dilworth.

Instead of running the new road on the edge of the park, under the plan the street would be pushed onto existing park property. Under the proposal, that would create a “remnant” of land that would be sold to Pappas Properties by Mecklenburg County. The land would be used for the development, with an office building proposed for the site.

Rick Rayburn, president of the Charlotte Junior Soccer Foundation, said he’s concerned about the new road being built on the park.

“It would be very close to home plate,” he said. “We can’t afford to lose the park space.”

Pappas said his company is working with the city and county to find the best way to improve the park and build infrastructure.

“Any good collaborative planning process looks at the logical places where roads can be built and where open spaces can be coordinated,” he said. “There may be the need for adjustments to accomplish that.”

Currently, parking is at an asphalt lot off of Kenilworth. Under the plan, that would be converted into green space with trees lining the avenue.

That would be more attractive than the asphalt lots there today. It could also move the parking out of a flood plain. But Rayburn and Kiser said a proposal to build a 40-space lot at the north end of the park can’t handle the amount of cars that come for games on Saturdays.

Pappas said he wants to have the best project possible.

“I’m a native Charlottean,” he said. “I am a big supporter of green space.”

The City Council’s economic development committee is scheduled to discuss the proposal for the second time Nov. 19.

At-large council member Michael Barnes, who chairs the committee, said Tuesday there is resistance on the committee for using tax dollars to help subsidize the project, which he said would be built in one of the most affluent areas of the city.

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs