Charettes and visioning, boosters and buzzwords, Charlotte Center City Partners and consultants, Chapel Hill and NCAA investigations — some things just go together. This week, all of the above, except the Chapel Hill-NCAA pairing, take aim at the North Tryon Street corridor, hoping to pump life into a moribund section of uptown.
Center City Partners and Foundation For The Carolinas are leading 19 companies and organizations paying for a study of how to revive the North Tryon Street area. MIG Inc.,a California firm three years removed from completing the $750,000 study of center city Charlotte known as the 2020 Vision Plan, will lead the new study, with an assist from New York international architecture and landscape design firm Snøhetta and economic analyst HR&A Advisors. Price tag: $415,000.
On Monday and Tuesday, the consultants and representatives from the organizations involved will meet and tour the district. The 19 local groups participating include both city and county government, the library, Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, the Arts & Science Council, Bank of America, Grubb Properties, Levine Properties, Novare, Skookum and the UNC Charlotte Foundation. As those names indicate, there is both public and private money invested in the study. (The earlier $750,000 for the 2020 Vision Plan was equally divided among the city and county and Center City Partners, which derives 90 percent of its $4.5 million annual budget from a dedicated tax district.)
The study is expected to be finished by next summer and will address ways to recruit more shops, restaurants and real estate investments. North Tryon, as defined in the study, encompasses parts of the First and Fourth Ward neighborhoods, spanning North Poplar Street to the west, North Caldwell Street to the east and running north-south from 13th Street to Fifth Street.
“This is an area that’s not meeting its potential,” Center City Partners CEO Michael Smith told me. “This one is a particularly unique place. It’s 40-plus blocks. We’re excited about what this quadrant of our center city can become.”
Smith listed assets that, with the study and public and private investments, he believes can build momentum for North Tryon: the main library, the light-rail line extension under construction, Discovery Place and the UNC Charlotte uptown campus. About 10,000 people live in the North Tryon district, and 30,000 work in the area, according to Center City Partners data.
Other projects in the works include SkyHouse, a 24-story, 336-unit apartment building opening next year. Foundation For The Carolinas also plans to use the remnants of the Carolina Theatre, acquired from the city for $1, for a renovated theater and a 12- to 15-story tower above, likely offices or a hotel.
“ We’ve made North Tryon our home— we want to do everything we can to help spawn development in the North Tryon area,” Laura Smith, foundation executive vice president, told me. “We needed to grab a consulting firm that could help us articulate that vision. Ultimately, MIG was selected because they know this community (from working on the 2020 Vision Plan). And the consultants they brought to town, they really impressed us.”
The foundation anticipates an update later this year on raising money for the $25 million targeted to overhaul the theater site. Bank of America has already pledged $5 million and, in the spring, the foundation had reached $8 million overall.
Among the challenges: spurring Levine Properties, owners of 23 acres in First Ward, to get going on a public-private collaboration that, in technical terms, seems to be eternally delayed. Deadlines come and go, plans are revised, clauses are tweaked and, inevitably, something else must be determined before construction can start. Maybe, finally, this will be the time principalDaniel Levine moves ahead, but, based on the past 20 years of stops and stops (yes, you read that correctly), don’t bet on it.
Chris Beynon, a principal at MIG who also worked on the 2020 Plan, told me Sunday that, while the consultants will build on the broader guidelines of the uptown study, they will also consider how attitudes and Charlotte have changed in the past three years. Romare Bearden Park and BB&T BallPark, for example, have opened not far from where the North Tryon district begins.
“We’re setting the stage this week,” Beynon said. “ We don’t have any preconceived notions.”