University City

North Mecklenburg: I-485 construction ensnarls historic road name

Residents and business owners from northern Mecklenburg County voiced their concerns regarding Interstate 485 construction in that area at a community meeting this month with leaders of the N.C. Department of Transportation and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department.

More than 170 attended the meeting inside Oehler’s Mallard Creek BBQ Barn on Ridge Road Dec. 12 to discuss issues that have arisen from the final leg of the I-485 project.

Scheduled to be finished by Dec. 12, 2014, the $139 million project is the final 5.7-mile stretch needed to complete the I-485 Charlotte outer loop. The remaining northern Mecklenburg section will run west of N.C. 115 to west of I-85, and connect I-77 and I-85.

Main concerns at the meeting stemmed from worry over recent road name changes. Prosperity Church Road was recently changed to Loganville Drive – a decision that many business owners at the meeting said caused confusion for their customers.

“Our whole shopping center was given a new road with one week’s notice to roll with it,” said Amber Baldwin, store manager of PostNet Shoppes at Highland Creek. “Nobody knows where this road is. It’s not on Yahoo Maps. It’s not on MapQuest. It’s not on TomTom. If people can’t find our businesses using their GPS, what can we do?”

Baldwin said her store and 48 other mailbox holders in the plaza were forced to pay the added expenses that come with business address changes, only to find that the new addresses don’t show up in any mapping, GPS, or search engines.

“Who’s responsible for telling those companies that this road exists so people know where we are?” she asked Charlotte-Mecklenburg planners and N.C. DOT leaders at the meeting.

Others, like Donnie Oehler, president of the Mallard Creek Community Organization, the group that helped arrange the meeting, argued that renaming the road took away from its historical importance.

“It’s been Prosperity Church Road for 200 years,” said Oehler, who has led a campaign to have any new or renamed roads given names honoring those from the community.

One name, Henry Hunter Road, was proposed by a local historian who trolled through research about graves in nearby Prosperity Presbyterian Church’s 225-year-old cemetery. Henry Hunter, a Revolutionary hero, is buried in the cemetery.

Other proposed names, like Robert Helms and Craven Thomas roads, were suggested to honor those families displaced by the I-485 project.

“Mr. Thomas’ and Mr. Helms’ beautiful farms were plowed under,” said Marleen Alexander, a seventh-generation Alexander living in the area. Alexander helped research the suggested road names along with Oehler.

“We just wanted people from the community. Let’s not name them after people in the DOT,” she said. Original names for roads had listed personnel associated with the I-485 project.

Those at the meeting were asked to fill out comment slips to select their name choices.

“We are in transition right now,” said N.C. DOT representative Scott Cole, who thanked the crowd for their patience with the project. “485 is an expensive road. It’s a major undertaking, and it just takes time to get it right. We are doing our best to get it right.”