University City

Experts to recommend strategy for Innovation Corridor

This spring, a panel of national experts will help create recommendations for growth, development and investment in Charlotte’s Innovation Technology Corridor.

The corridor stretches from uptown to UNC Charlotte in University City and was an initiative laid out in the Center City 2020 Vision Plan, said Ed McKinney, assistant director of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department.

Officials hope to link the city’s academic and research assets with public and private investment, with a focus on bringing innovative industries – including bioscience, health care and energy production – to the area, thus creating jobs, McKinney said.

At its Jan. 27 meeting, the Charlotte City Council approved advancing $125,000 for the Urban Land Institute to bring a “Technical Assistance Panel” to Charlotte for a week this spring, to study the area and make recommendations, McKinney said.

Up to eight panel members – consisting of national experts in private development, financial banking, planning, neighborhood economic development and more – will use their combined industry knowledge and what’s worked for other cities to help create priorities for the corridor, McKinney said.

The panel will have a specific focus area within the broader corridor, an area north of uptown and Interstat 277 up to Sugar Creek, McKinney said, calling it the “first piece” of the corridor.

“The mission of this effort is to identify immediate actions that can take place. There’s development interest out there now. We need to be doing things now to take advantage of those opportunities,” he said. The panel recommendations also will include longer-term strategies.

“Part of that will be outside perspective,” McKinney said. Panel members could “see strategies that may not be readily apparent to us … what makes sense with the physical infrastructure out there.”

During the week of April 27-May 2, the panel members will meet with private developers, community stakeholders and the public, McKinney said. While the official schedule has yet to be set, the public will be able to meet with panel members during a kickoff event.

When the week is over, the panel will present its initial findings, McKinney said. A more detailed report with specific recommendations, implementation strategy and next steps will likely come a month or two later, he said.

A number of funding partners will divide the cost of the panel, McKinney said. The city of Charlotte and Mount Vernon Capital/Vision Ventures each will contribute $40,000, and Mecklenburg County will add $10,000. The Foundation for the Carolinas, The Knight Foundation, Center City Partners, the Charlotte Housing Authority, the Charlotte Housing Partnership, the UNC Charlotte Foundation and the Charlotte Chamber each will contribute $5,000.

Before the panel arrives, city staff will work with funding partners to identify key stakeholders and “define the kinds of questions and focus the efforts we want the panel to look at, to know what we want to get out of it,” McKinney said.

Work will also be done on a briefing book before the panel arrives, he said, “so when the experts come into town, they can hit the ground running.”