A group of business and civic leaders has asked the Charlotte City Council to approve a privately funded initiative to revitalize and rename Thomas Polk Park uptown to honor one of the city’s modern pioneers: Philanthropist and former Bank of America Chairman and CEO Hugh McColl Jr.
Located at the very heart of Charlotte, the 1/3-acre park at Trade and Tryon streets was built in 1991 and has become obsolete with limited gathering space, poor lighting, outdated landscaping, and a hard-to-maintain fountain.
The “Hugh McColl Park” Coalition wants to transform the city-owned park into a celebrated public space that welcomes all – and the group is well on its way to a $10 million fundraising goal to pay for the rehabilitation.
“It’s hard to think of anyone who has done more for this city than Hugh McColl,” said Malcomb Coley, Charlotte managing partner for EY, who co-chairs the Hugh McColl Park Coalition. “It is particularly appropriate that the park is across the street from the Bank of America Corporate Center where Mr. McColl not only transformed the banking industry but also jumpstarted the revitalization of Uptown that continues today.”
McColl retired from the Bank in 2001 and has partnered with others to launch investment firms McColl Partners, Falfurrias Capital Partners and most recently Bright Hope Capital, which funds Black-owned businesses to help create wealth in communities of color. Over his career, McColl led development across many uptown locations, championed affordable housing, funded scholarships and college programs, helped bring the Carolina Panthers to Charlotte, and is a longtime supporter of the arts. He is known for quietly mentoring others and working behind the scenes to connect people and back projects.
The Hugh McColl Park Coalition includes a number of prominent Charlotteans who worked with McColl on various projects and issues. Among them: Cyndee Patterson, former city councilwoman and co-chair of the park effort; Kieth Cockrell, president of Bank of America Charlotte; Harvey Gantt, former Charlotte mayor; Michael Marsicano, former president and CEO of Foundation For The Carolinas; Loy McKeithen, former partner at McGuireWoods; Rolfe Neill, former publisher of The Charlotte Observer; and Michael Smith, president and CEO of Charlotte Center City Partners.
The coalition’s proposal calls for demolition of the current park and installation of temporary turf to activate the park while design and fundraising are underway. The city’s contribution to the project would be the demolition of the park at an estimated cost of $350,000.
The Center City 2020 Vision Plan called for renovation of the park to reinforce the significance of the public space to Charlotte. In 2019, the city sought public input as to what kinds of uses people wanted to see in the park.
The proposal calls for Hugh McColl Park to better reflect the character of adjacent properties and the “public square” it occupies. The coalition envisions a functional, flexible and elegantly crafted urban park that celebrates Charlotte’s history.
In partnership with the Hugh McColl Park Coalition, Charlotte Center City Partners would manage the design- and construction-related activities for the project and facilitate engagement with the community, including residents, adjacent landowners, business leaders, historic and other interest groups, donors and other stakeholders. Foundation For The Carolinas will be responsible for managing the funds raised on behalf of the coalition and donors.
“This location really should represent Charlotte’s premier public space,” said co-chair Patterson. “We want to create a place to bring people together. The project offers the perfect opportunity to showcase our cultural renaissance and to acknowledge the unparalleled leadership of Hugh McColl. It’s a win-win!”