Politics & Government

Mecklenburg County’s plan for a huge redevelopment in uptown will erase this park

Mecklenburg County commissioners heard Tuesday that plans are moving forward for Brooklyn Village, the $683 million development that’s supposed to drastically change a chunk of uptown, but it could be a while before there’s any dirt moving on the site.

And when a commissioner asked whether there’s any chance of revisiting the development agreement to increase the amount of park space — which will be reduced by more than half when Marshall Park is demolished — he was told the answer is no.

The redevelopment plan has been in the works for years. It covers much of Second Ward, which was once home to the African-American neighborhood of Brooklyn. In the 1960s and 70s, Charlotte tore down the neighborhood, which was home to more than 1,000 families, under the federal urban renewal program.

In its place went the Government Center, courthouse, jail and other municipal buildings that occupy most of Second Ward today. The quarter is often the quietest in uptown, with few shops, little housing and negligible street life outside of occasional major events held uptown.

“Every time I see this I get excited and then I become sad,” said commissioner Vilma Leake. “As we sit here, we’re sitting in Brooklyn Village right now, where our people were uprooted...This is where our churches were...This is where our grocery stores were.”

Vilma Leake mug.jpg
Vilma Leake Mecklenburg County

The redevelopment plan is from BK Partners, a partnership led by New York-based Peebles Corp., to buy 17 acres from the county in multiple phases. The land includes the Bob Walton Plaza south of Stonewall Street (across from the Mecklenburg Aquatic Center); the shuttered Board of Education building; and Marshall Park between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Third Street.

The county solicited developers in the fall of 2015, and selected BK Partners in June 2016. Since then, the developers and county staff have been working on due diligence, testing soil, developing a master plan and design, negotiating and agreeing to contracts and designing the project.

Ultimately, the master plan calls for Brooklyn Village to include at least 1,243 apartments and condominiums (114 of them set aside for lower-income residents), 252,000 square feet of shops and restaurants, 712,400 square feet of office space and 280 hotel rooms. The plans also call for a 1.6-acre park, which will replace the 5.5-acre Marshall Park.

Commissioner Trevor Fuller asked if the park has been designed. County staff said the county will have the chance to review the final design.

“Many were critical of our decision to do this project because of the involvement of Marshall Park,” he said. Fuller said he thought the commission would have the chance to look and decide if it wants more park space. “Is there still space for this decision about whether it’s 2.5 acres, or four acres, or five?”

County staff said no.

“You approved the master redevelopment agreement in July,” County Manager Dena Diorio told him. “That would have been the time for you to make any of those changes.”

Mecklenburg County

The project would be built in three phases, with phase one built first on the southern part of the site along Stonewall Street. But it could still be several years before construction actually begins, and a decade before the plan is complete.

The city, county and Charlotte Housing Authority must formalize a set of agreements on how to build Brooklyn Village. Once those are approved by each body, BK Partners will have 90 days to submit its plan for phase one. The city will then examine the plans through the rezoning process and consider whether to approve them.

After approval, the developers will have 18 months to close on the land purchase, and another 36 months to build phase one. The next phases would then be built over following years, with the same time conditions for closing each land purchase and building each phase.

The project didn’t win universal praise. Commissioner Mark Jerrell said Brooklyn Village doesn’t do enough to honor the displaced residents of Brooklyn.

“I’m not warm and fuzzy about this project,” said Jerrell. “We are taking a site that was of historical significance...We’re replacing that culture and history, bringing in people that will not look like those people...I don’t see where this aligns with the goals of this board.”

Commissioner Pat Cotham said the board should have done more to save Marshall Park’s acreage.

“I’m bitter about it, but it passed this board,” said Cotham. “I was furious about losing Marshall Park...The day they cut those trees down, I don’t know what I’ll do.”