CHARLOTTE — The City Council this week approved a rezoning request to build townhomes near uptown, as well as agreeing to upgrades at Time Warner Cable Arena and continued funding of the Gold Line streetcar. In addition, the council voted to sell a 3.8-acre city-owned tract to Charlotte development company Northwood Ravin, despite having been offered a higher bid for the property.
First on the agenda was Meeting Street Homes & Communities’ request to rezone less than half an acre of vacant property on the west side of Kenilworth Avenue between East Boulevard and Buchanan Street. The company wants to develop eight attached townhomes at the site, which is zoned multifamily residential, allowing up to 22 dwelling units per acre. According to the site plans, the townhomes will not exceed three stories, or 45 feet in height. Meeting Street Homes sought a rezoning to conditional mixed-use development district.
The city’s zoning committee had voted 4-1 in favor of the petition, with the minority saying the developer’s proposal was too large for the site. The council voted unanimously to approve the rezoning.
It also deferred, at the developer’s request, a decision on Midtown Area Partners II rezoning request for 1.99 acres on the northeast corner of Baxter Street and South Kings Drive and the south side of Luther Street. Midtown wants to construct a 270,000-square-foot building for office, retail, residential or hotel use; up to 4,600 square feet of commercial space at street level; up to eight townhouses; and a parking structure. A decision is slated for July 20.
In other developments, the council awarded a nearly $900,000 contract to Encompass Building Group Inc. for renovations at Time Warner Cable Arena. The Hornets basketball organization will fund the portion of the contract that covers private-suite upgrades out of the $1.8 million it has committed to arena improvements. The city has earmarked $27.5 million for renovations, an amount approved by the City Council in September. Funding comes from the city’s rental-car tax revenue.
Encompass Building Group also will renovate the lounge area at the Backcourt Club and two restrooms on the event level of the arena. The city is paying for that portion of the contract. Construction is slated for completion in the fourth quarter. Republican Councilman Kenny Smith of District 6 voted against awarding the contract.
Renovations include adding 600 seats to the arena’s lower section; repairing and upgrading flooring; modernizing the building’s 50 restrooms; adding more restaurant choices; adding high-definition screens to the scoreboard; upgrading the arena’s 500 television screens; and refurbishing locker rooms.
A 2005 agreement between the city and the Hornets’ NBA franchise predecessor, the Bobcats, gives the proceeds of all events, including rock concerts and Ice Capades shows, to the Hornets. It also calls for the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority to operate the “back of house” operations, which essentially means keep the place up and running.
The council also agreed to spend up to $7.7 million for final design work on the second phase of the Gold Line streetcar. The project will extend the line by 2.5 miles and add 11 stops.
Phase one of the project is slated to begin service July 14. The streetcar will run along East Trade Street from the Charlotte Transit Center in uptown, then along Elizabeth Avenue, turning northeast on Hawthorne Lane and stopping at East Fifth Street in front of the Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center.
The next step will extend the line northwest along West Trade Street from the transit center and onto Beatties Ford Road, ending at French Street. At the other end, it will run northeast along Hawthorne Lane to Sunnyside Avenue.
Funding for the second phase is largely dependent on a federal Small Starts grant, which would cover half of the $150 million it will take to complete the project. The City Council has promised to match the grant to fund the other half.
But whether or not the city is awarded the grant is in the hands of the U.S. Congress. The grant is included in the president’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year, and Congress will determine the final budget for the 2016 budget year, which starts Oct. 1.
If the city receives the Small Starts grant, construction on the second phase of the Gold Line would start in mid-2016 and would be completed by the end of 2019, according to the Charlotte Area Transit System.
Republican Ed Driggs of District 7 and Democrat Councilwoman-at-Large Claire Fallon joined Smith, who called the project divisive, in voting against the funding.
Finally, the council unanimously opted to accept Northwood Ravin’s $14.15 million offer for a 3.8-acre parcel of land in uptown Charlotte. The Charlotte-based apartment developer edged out Bond Cos., which subsequently offered $15.1 million but was disqualified from the running due to missing a 2 p.m. deadline on June 9.
Several council members said they supported Northwood Ravin because the company had submitted its bid in the proper manner.
“No one likes leaving $1 million on the table…but if you have integrity you have to adhere to the rules,” Smith said. Fallon said the issue boiled down to, “What is your word worth?” and that the council had to stand by what it says or “no one will trust us.”
There were four bids in total for the plot south of Caldwell Street and across from the Hilton Garden Inn on Stonewall Street. Northwood Ravin plans for 50,000 square feet of retail and office space, as well as residential units.
The land was one of four parcels the city has been trying to sell for several years to pay off $20 million it borrowed to finance construction on the NASCAR Hall of Fame. One more piece remains for sale, zoned as an urban, mixed-use district that allows the tallest and densest development of the city’s zoning classifications.