University City

Autumnwood neighborhood in University City improves thanks to city grant

The entrances to the Autumnwood neighborhood near UNC Charlotte have new landscaping and a fresh look, thanks to community volunteers and help from the city of Charlotte.

The new landscaping sets the stage for additional changes coming to the neighborhood. City and county officials have announced a community meeting at 6 p.m. Aug. 26 at Newell Presbyterian Church, at Rocky River Road West and Old Concord Road.

The meeting will cover streetscaping, including pedestrian and bike improvements, on Rocky River Road West near the new location of Newell Elementary School.

The landscaping around two of the neighborhood’s entry signs has been transformed with handsome new stonework and a fresh carpet of mulch. Renovated landscape plantings will be added this fall, according to John Neilson, president of the Autumnwood Neighborhood.

Autumnwood obtained support for the beautification project through the Charlotte Neighborhood Business Services Department’s Neighborhood Matching Grant Program, Neilson said.

Neilson applied for the grant on behalf of the neighborhood. He and fellow Autumnwood residents Kathi and Carson Carroll gathered signatures on a support petition. They also worked with Atalie Zimmerman, the program manager for Neighborhood Matching Grants.

The need was obvious, Neilson said.

“The old landscaping at Blue Rock Drive had a rotting wall and declining vegetation, and the one at Autumnwood Lane had a rotting wall and no landscaping.”

Metrolina Landscape Co. is doing the design and installation work. Construction of the planters was completed in early August, and new landscape plantings will be added this fall.

Once the improvements are in place, the neighborhood will be responsible for maintenance.

The cost of the project overall was about $16,700; the community paid half, and half came from the city grant.

The new landscaping may become a landmark along two pedestrian projects planned for Autumnwood in the months ahead. A city project will add improved sidewalks to the south through the Autumnwood neighborhood, linking Blue Rock Drive at Rockland Drive to North Tryon Street via Owen Boulevard and other streets.

A second, separate Mecklenburg County greenway project, running north along Toby Creek, will link the neighborhood directly to UNCC via a bike and pedestrian trail.

The two projects will meet near Autumnwood’s just-completed beautification project at Blue Lake Drive.

Though both the sidewalk project and the greenway have been approved and funded by the city and county, respectively, both have been subject to delay, particularly the greenway. Neilson and other Autumnwood residents are eager to see tangible progress on both projects.

Gwen Cook, Mecklenburg County greenway planner, said she hopes construction can begin on the greenway in spring 2015. Cary Chereshkoff, project engineer for the city sidewalk project, also anticipates a spring 2015 start for that project.

In a notice to residents, Chereshkoff, who is organizing the streetscaping meeting, said the new Rocky River Road West project will provide turn lanes for new developments, as well as sidewalk and bike lanes the length of the project, from North Tryon to Batavia Lane.