The Plan To Spur Development In Northern Uptown

Nov 20, 2015

The big players in Charlotte’s development presented their new plan for the northern end of uptown Thursday night. The North Tryon plan has been a year and a half in the making, with big business, local government, the arts and charitable organizations all playing a role.

The southern half of uptown is already highly developed, with skyscrapers, restaurants, and museums.  

“If you stand on 6th Street and you turn around and look north, there’s just not a lot of development there,” says Foundation For The Carolinas vice president Laura Smith. “It’s really an opportunity for us to say, what do we want North Tryon to look like? How do we want that to be different from south? What’s missing in our uptown and how can we bring some of that to Charlotte?”

The Foundation For The Carolinas is among the big players behind the plan. The idea, simply put, is to spur cool, walk-able development in northern uptown.

Daniel Iacofano of consulting firm MIG says forget about blank walls and huge buildings.

“We’re not envisioning a series of closed-box office towers that are more common within the rest of uptown Charlotte,” he says.

Instead, think: a range of building sizes or spaces even within one block, with maybe a startup company, a restaurant and an art gallery all setting up shop. Iacofano says the key is having inviting public spaces at street level.

That’ll encourage people to wander around and check out the arts and cultural attractions already there, like Discovery Place, the McColl Center, and the library.

The plan also includes a mix of housing, including affordable units. It does not call for groups serving the homeless just north of uptown to move elsewhere.

Several people who attended the presentation and live or work uptown say it all sounds great. But Will Haden grew up in Charlotte and has heard big plans before.

“Then the 2000, dot-com bubble hit, and so then nothing happened,” he says. “Then we had another plan I think somewhere in the 2000s, and then the 2008 Great Recession hit. So now we’re on our third revision of the plan for the same property, and in the past 20 years not much has happened in this part of uptown.”

Haden hopes this time is different. Supporters say one reason it could be is that the major landowners in northern uptown are in on it.  

Another key will be local government support. No one’s ready to get specific about what that is or how much it would cost taxpayers, but here’s what it could look like: helping build underground parking decks, selling county land with strings attached for how it’s developed, or creating public-private partnerships.

Cheryl Myers is senior vice president of Charlotte Center City Partners.

“This is just the beginning, by the way,” she says. “The heavy lifting begins once this plan is considered by city council and county commission.”

Myers says that could happen next year.