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JCSU plans renovations to historic church

City Council hearings on rezoning requests include grocery store, mixed-use projects

Charlotte City Council members this week heard proposals by Johnson C. Smith University to renovate and expand the historic Mt. Carmel Baptist Church building for classrooms and university offices and a separate plan to bring a new grocery store to the Ballantyne area.

Council members also heard details of a proposal to rezone about 95 acres involving land currently developed with the Metrolina Tradeshow Expo, which is being sold, according to the owner, Linda Wells Pistone.
Pistone said Thursday the property is under contract and the sale should close June 30. She didn’t identify the buyer.

Justin Harlow, a Greenville dentist and vice president of the Biddleville-Smallwood Community Organization, said his neighborhood group supports a plan by Johnson C. Smith University to redevelop the historic Mt. Carmel Baptist Church. The university plans to renovate and expand the building for classrooms and university offices.

Justin Harlow, a Greenville dentist and vice president of the Biddleville-Smallwood Community Organization, said his neighborhood group supports a plan by Johnson C. Smith University to redevelop the historic Mt. Carmel Baptist Church. The university plans to renovate and expand the building for classrooms and university offices.

As part of the university’s project, Johnson C. Smith also would construct an adjacent building of up to 12,000 square feet, along with an accompanying parking lot for its School of Social Work.

Further, school officials would reuse an existing duplex and single-family home for university purposes or to provide housing for university-affiliated faculty and others.

The city’s planning staff recommended approval of the university’s petition, pending clarification of the uses and optional provisions, future parking and dedication of right-of-way.

In a separate request, the planning staff recommended rezoning approval for 13.22 acres at Providence Road West and Johnston Road to allow a mix of office, financial institution, retail, eating/drinking/entertainment establishments and hotel uses on a site being developed in the Ballantyne area, across from Hall Family Farm.

According to a planning staff review, an area in the center of the site between Johnston Road, Ballancroft Parkway and a proposed private street allows up to three buildings.

One building, up to 29,896 square feet, would be for a grocery store.

Keith MacVean, a land-use and zoning consultant with the law firm Moore & Van Allen in Charlotte who is working with the petitioner, HWY 521 Partners LLC, said plans include a Sprouts Farmers Market store.

A Sprouts spokesman told The Mecklenburg Times in an email that the Phoenix, Arizona-based  company hasn’t announced plans to open a store in Charlotte. Sprouts won’t open stores in new states this year, said Diego Romero, the spokesman.

The rezoning petition divides the site into three development areas, A, B and C. The grocery store would be in B.

Buildings within A and C were approved as part of a previous rezoning.

Petition approval by planners was contingent on the resolution of issues related to uses, stormwater facilities and minor transportation notes.

The prohibition of retail uses in prior rezonings largely was based on a lack of vehicular access from Johnston Road, the planners said.

The current applicant has obtained tentative approval from the North Carolina Department of Transportation for vehicular access from Johnston Road and commits to making that connection, they said.

Public hearings on the proposals were held at the council’s meeting Monday night. Council members took no action on the rezoning petitions.

Johnson.C. Smith’s petition seeks to rezone about 1.6 acres on the west side of Beatties Ford Road, north of Mill Road and east of Campus Street in the Biddleville neighborhood.

The current zoning is B-1 (PED), or neighborhood business, pedestrian overlay; R-22MF, or multifamily residential; and R-22MF (PED), or multifamily residential, pedestrian overlay.

Anayochukwu Ezeigbo, Johnson C. Smith’s assistant vice president for business operations, told council members that university officials want to maintain the historic value of Mt. Carmel Baptist and that the project fits into the school’s goal of productive connections to the Charlotte community.

Justin Harlow, a Charlotte dentist and vice president of the Biddleville-Smallwood Community Organization, said the neighborhood group supports the plan.

His group and others are working with the university “to help redefine, reshape the narrative of this neighborhood and Charlotte’s westside,” Harlow told The Mecklenburg Times.

Regarding other rezoning petitions, the planning staff also recommended approval of proposals involving land used as the Metrolina Expo and the reuse of an existing building in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood.

The intention is to “hit reset” on redeveloping the Metrolina Expo site, which once included a planned sports-entertainment facility that never materialized, Collin Brown, a Charlotte attorney representing Pistone, told council members.

The popular flea market at the site would be a permitted use, he said.

The petition seeks rezoning from I-1(CD), or light industrial, conditional, to I-1, or light industrial, for approximately 95.67 acres on the east side of Statesville Road, north of Old Statesville Road.

In recommending approval, planning staff members said the surrounding land uses primarily are industrial/warehouse distribution centers.

The Northeast District Plan supports redevelopment of the area for light industrial or business park uses “to enhance this area as a major employment center,” the planning staff said.

To the east are a speedway, a manufactured housing community, a single-family residential neighborhood and commercial and industrial areas along Old Statesville Road.

The I-1 district is designed to create and protect industrial areas for light manufacturing and the distribution of wholesale products.

Planners said uses permitted in the district, in addition to light manufacturing and distribution, include automotive sales and repair, boat and ship sales and repair, financial institutions up to 70,000 square feet, hotels and motels, manufactured housing sales, offices up to 400,000 square feet, retail establishments, shopping centers, theaters and child care centers.

With the area served by Interstate 77, major highways and railroads, the site is “a great place for future industrial development,” said Tammie Keplinger, rezoning planning manager.

A separate rezoning petition seeks to reuse an existing 14,000-square-foot building with a 2,100-square-foot addition on Central Avenue in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood for a mixed-use project.

Planners said that section of Central Avenue is evolving from a primarily auto-oriented corridor to a more walkable district, especially near The Plaza.

The petition for 1.02 acres on the north side of Central Avenue near the intersection of Landis and Central avenues seeks rezoning from B-1, or neighborhood business, to MUDD-O, or mixed-use development, optional.

The site plan calls for allowing uses that include office, retail, eating/drinking/entertainment establishments and multifamily development.

The petition proposes improvements such as widening the sidewalk along Central Avenue and preservation of existing trees along the street, planners said.

Those commitments will support walkability, they said.

Staff members also recommended rezoning approval for 2.8 acres on the east side of Newell Farm Road near Old Concord Road and Newell Farm to allow a 195-foot cell tower on a vacant site.

The recommendation is contingent on resolving certain issues, including a buffer abutting residential zoning to the rear of the site, planners said.

The planning staff also recommended the approval of a petition to allow all uses permitted in the I-2 general industrial zoning district on 2 acres of vacant land off Wilkinson Boulevard northwest of Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

The land is on the southeast corner at Boyer Street and Withrow Road near Billy Graham Parkway.

However, planners did not recommend approval of a petition that proposed a revised site plan for the proposed Pinehurst Apartments redevelopment on Providence Road across from the Strawberry Hill area.

The revisions would make changes to the setback, treatment of a parking deck and buffer requirements.

Staff members said the proposed site plan for 36 acres on the west side of Providence Road between Cloister Drive and Knob Oak Lane doesn’t mitigate the building mass of five stories and the length of 690 feet along the Providence Road frontage.

Planners also didn’t recommend approval of a petition for a change and site-plan amendment to a vacant site within an office/business development in the University City area to increase the number of hotels allowed from two to three, allow residential dwellings, relocate a street connection and amend development standards from the current zoning.

The change involves 8.64 acres on the west side of Collins Aikman Drive between McCullough Drive and West W.T. Harris Boulevard.

Planners said the rezoning petition by City Center Hotel Inc. lacked design commitments for new uses added to the site and desired pedestrian facilities.

Petitioners or their agents told council members in both cases they were confident they could resolve planners’ concerns.

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