The N.C. Department of Transportation has paid one of the largest eminent domain settlements in the agency’s history to a shopping center that was essentially cut off from a major thoroughfare in Charlotte.
The Independence Shopping Center, one of a series of businesses that have been crippled by the Independence Boulevard expressway project, has secured a $22.5 million payment from the state, according to Stephanie H. Autry of Cranfill, Sumner & Hartzog in Raleigh.
She and law partner George B. Autry Jr. defended the center, which encompasses 18 acres and had more than 40 tenants, against an eminent domain action in which the DOT offered to pay it $16.8 million. That was the higher of two different appraisals that the state had on the property. The other was about $14 million, Stephanie Autry said.
The high appraisal was based on the center losing its value as a retail center and becoming more of an industrial space because of the expressway project, while the low appraisal found that the property’s use was unchanged.
The state’s highest offer was still a far cry from the $27 million value that the center’s appraiser had placed on the land. Because of the project, the center lost four of its five access points onto Independence Boulevard and both of its accesses to Idlewild Road, which intersects with Independence.
The DOT also took several stand-alone businesses on the center’s land to make way for the road widening, including a McDonald’s restaurant. The project already has caused many of the anchor tenants to leave, including a T.J. Maxx. Now, the owner plans to demolish the center and redevelop the land.
Once the DOT had agreed to go with the higher appraisal, it became a matter of convincing the agency to bring the dollar amount up a little closer to the center’s appraisal. After the deal was reached on June 28, Stephanie Autry said, DOT officials told her that it was the largest settlement the agency had ever paid in an eminent domain action. The center has been owned by Independence Shopping Center Charlotte NC LP since 2002, according to Mecklenburg County’s website.
This case, she added, illustrates “the consequences of making a public policy decision to change an entire vibrant business corridor, not just for the property owners but for the DOT and their pocketbook as well.”
The DOT’s attorney, James M. Stanley Jr., a special deputy attorney general in Raleigh, referred an interview request to the DOT. The agency did not provide comment by press time.