CHARLOTTE – A vision for the revitalization of the North Tryon Street corridor is beginning to take shape: a dense, walkable mixed-use urban neighborhood.
The revitalization is being led by Charlotte Center City Partners, whose board of directors gathered in workspace at the C3 Lab in South End for its quarterly meeting Thursday afternoon.
Although the board also discussed the future of South End and the city’s fight against homelessness, the bulk of the discussion revolved around revitalizing the North Tryon corridor.
“What if we did the 21st century version of what we did in the First Ward?” said Michael Smith, CEO of CCCP. “What if there was a denser version of that? What would that look like?”
Smith said revitalizing the North Tryon corridor should “knit together” the First and Fourth wards.
Smith also emphasized the importance of the neighborhood’s “emotional connectedness,” which he said was the biggest lesson he took away from a recent trip to Portland, Oregon. He said he was impressed by Portland’s emphasis on local business and its ability to pack so many uses into small spaces.
Cheryl Myers, senior vice president of planning and development at CCCP, presented recommendations from planning and design company MIG Inc., which was hired by a group of more than 20 investors committed to the revitalization of the North Tryon corridor. The group is led by CCCP, the Foundation for the Carolinas and the city.
As part of its study, MIG has identified key sites along North Tryon Street that could be developed or improved. Those sites included the Hal Marshall Center and the Carolina Theatre, which Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners Chairman Trevor Fuller referred to as the two “bookends” of the corridor.
He emphasized the potential of the Hal Marshall Center because of its location and size, and pointed out that the county’s Land Use and Environmental Services Agency, which currently occupies the building, is scheduled to move out within the next year.
The Foundation for the Carolinas has plans to renovate the Carolina Theatre and is talks with a developer to build a $60 million hotel on top of it. The Foundation has secured $26.8 million of the $31.3 million it will cost to renovate the theater.
Michael Marsicano, CEO of the Foundation, said renovations could begin as early as the first quarter of next year, and would be completed in 2018. The Foundation asked the county to contribute $3.7 million towards the renovation of the theater last month.
MIG has recommended dividing the Hal Marshall Center property into quadrants, each separated by walkable alleyways lined with restaurants and retail stores.
“The smaller blocks will help create a more intimate neighborhood feel,” Myers said. “We hope to create a neighborhood where you can find something unexpected on every block.”
MIG has also recommended that the outside of Discovery Place be renovated to allow people walking down the street to see what’s going on inside, as well as adding a second-story terrace to the building.
The board also talked about redeveloping the library on North Tryon Street, turning it into a more modern facility that would allow for a variety of uses. Myers used as an example a library in New Zealand that was surrounded by a park-like gathering area and continued the public space inside, devoting the entire first floor to it.
“The point is you want to – even in your library – create other types of uses,” she said.
Also brought up at the meeting was the possibility of building a public school in Fourth Ward to encourage more families to live uptown, and tying retail into the long term vision for the corridor.
Board member Robert Cummings, chief technology officer and managing director at Falfurrias Capital Partners, said ground-level soft-good retailers, such as clothing and linens stores, would bring in more residential development.
“That’s what’s missing from my life as an uptown resident,” he said.