Work on one-way North Tryon Street project to start

Homeless men gather at North Tryon Street near Dalton Avenue, which is just outside the area that will soon be a one-way road. Seven blocks between 23rd and 30th streets are involving in the project.
Homeless men gather at North Tryon Street near Dalton Avenue, which is just outside the area that will soon be a one-way road. Seven blocks between 23rd and 30th streets are involving in the project. mhames@charlotteobserver.com

An idea born nearly a decade ago to make North Tryon Street one-way from West 23rd to West 30th streets is launching in the next few weeks, with crews poised to move utility lines in advance of two years’ worth of roadwork.

When finished, the North Tryon Street Business Corridor project – from Dalton Avenue to West 30th Street – will have completely transformed a stretch of highly traveled inner city road that is considered ripe for revitalization. The estimated cost is between $9.5 million and $13 million.

Traffic headed south into uptown will be rerouted for seven blocks to an underused section of Church Street, while traffic headed out of uptown will stay on North Tryon. Creating one-way traffic patterns will ease congestion, while allowing space for bike lanes, broader sidewalks and planting strips, officials said.

Not included within the project area is the most highly debated section of North Tryon – the six blocks south of Dalton Avenue where homeless men congregate daily after exiting the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte and/or visiting the nearby Urban Ministry Center.

For that reason, the North End Partners has muted enthusiasm for the plan. The group, made up of North Tryon business and property owners, says the area from Dalton Avenue south to 12th Street is the worst-looking and the most dangerous, with narrow traffic lanes and sidewalks and utility poles too close to the road.

Mark Middlesworth, who heads North End Partners, says his group would prefer the city reconsider a 2001 recommendation that called for removing the 12th Street ramp to create a decorative gateway into uptown on North Tryon.

“Our opinion is that any progress in the North End is welcome and at least a start,” said Middlesworth, who questions whether the project will boost redevelopment.

“It will be a beautification effort that will be a welcome change. More lighting and better sidewalks never hurt property values, as far as I can remember. The only thing that will bring in developers is to create a new gateway.”

Patsy Kinsey, who represents the area on the City Council, is more optimistic, believing the business corridor project will boost the appeal of the area. “It’s going to make a huge difference,” she said. “I like the plan, because we can’t widen the streets as they are now. But this is a way to add bike lanes, wider sidewalks and plant some trees. That will change the look of North Tryon.”

Tom Warshauer of the city’s Neighborhood & Business Services has been part of the planning team for the North Tryon Street Business Corridor project, and he calls it “a game changer.”

The idea was born during the recession, he says, when city leaders pegged North Tryon Street as an area poised for revitalization – once the economy improved and the nearby light rail project was complete.

“We knew we needed to set North Tryon up for a future when redevelopment interest would resurface,” he said. “North Tryon is the last road (into uptown) that doesn’t look like you’re coming into Charlotte. Our other commuter roads into uptown are more tree-lined and generous for cars.”

Tom Russell, manager of the project, says moving the utility lines will take a year. Construction on the next phase will begin in late 2017.

The city is nearly finished with the necessary real estate acquisition. Only two buildings had to be purchased for removal: a rental house on Sylvania Avenue and a photography studio in a warehouse on North Tryon Street. Neither was of historic value, Russell says.

As for those who question the project’s potential to push revitalization, he points out that diverting traffic to Church Street will double the options for redevelopment.

“I see this area as the last frontier for a developer,” Russell says. “South End has been developed, along with areas east and west of uptown, but this area has remained the same a long time. We’re creating two main streets into uptown, with the area in between as potentially the most valuable. I see that as enticement for developers.”

North Tryon corridor plan

  • Add street tree planting while protecting and incorporating existing trees.
  • Add decorative lighting on both sides of the street.
  • Reduce driveway cuts for possible shared driveway options.
  • Reduce the number and size of driveway openings.
  • Create bicycle lanes.