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City, feds to swap courthouse for land

Calling it a catalyst for transit-related development, the U.S. General Services Administration is giving 3.2 acres of federally owned land near Time Warner Cable Arena to the city of Charlotte in exchange for ownership of the Jonas Federal Courthouse, which the government currently leases from the city.

The property, a surface parking lot at 501 E. Trade St., is between North Caldwell and North Davidson streets. It is within walking distance of uptown’s planned Gateway Station, a $211 million project that proposes commuter rail, streetcar, taxi, and Amtrak and Greyhound services in a centralized location on West Trade and Graham streets. Late last month, the U.S. Department of Transportation said it would provide $25 million for track and safety improvements at the station.

The GSA says the parcel is prime for transit-oriented development because it is near the Gold Line streetcar and LYNX Blue Line light rail that is being extended to the University area in north Charlotte.

The federal government plans to renovate the courthouse and add an annex, said GSA Administrator Denise Turner Roth. She did not provide a timetable, and said that the deal had not yet been finalized. The courthouse is adjacent to the proposed Gateway Station.

Charlotte Center City Partners Chief Executive Michael Smith, in attendance at Wednesday’s announcement at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, lauded the news of a property swap.

“This will provide great dividends for years to come” in Charlotte’s urban core, he said, by providing mixed-use opportunities along East Trade Street.

Mayor Dan Clodfelter agrees.

“This partnership between GSA and the city of Charlotte allows for the realization of the Gateway Station, our vision for a multimodal transportation center,” Clodfelter said in a written statement. “This exchange will support our city’s economic development goals by fostering growth along transit lines and expanding the impact of other investments at federal levels.”

Construction on Gateway Station, however, has long been plagued by funding issues. The N.C. Department of Transportation began acquiring property for the development in 1998 and owns about 27 acres at the site. The complex, which is part of the city’s  2030 transit corridor system plan, also calls for commercial, office and retail space and a 600-vehicle parking deck.

The GSA says the exchange with Charlotte is part of its recent launch of a program to better align its building, leasing and relocation plans with the economic-development goals of local communities.

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