Key property owners creating plan for future ‘urban center’

A plan approved last year by Charlotte City Council seeks to reshape University City’s North Tryon Street into a vibrant, light-rail-focused urban destination, with University Place as its town center. The plan acknowledges, however, that businesses will drive much of the change. Now six key property owners and University City Partners are taking the next step.

The group has begun crafting a collective vision for the transformation of their properties, all of which lie within a short walk of the J.W. Clay Boulevard Transit Station.

Owners of retail land, university and hospital all involved

Participants include the UNC Charlotte Foundation, Carolinas HealthCare System University, Cambridge Partners (owner of the Mallard Pointe Shopping center across from campus), and three owners of University Place retail space: Aegon USA Realty Advisors, Casto and Tricor.

Heading up the process is Tobe Holmes, who recently joined University City Partners after serving as director for several years of Charlotte’s most successful transit-oriented urban center, Historic South End.

Holmes says that the essence of this planning process “is to bring together all of those property owners, and also the public sector (through University City Partners), to start building a concept of what the area looks like in the future and how these shopping centers will connect to the hospital and university, and of course the light-rail line, to create a synergy among all of them.”

Study to look at mile-wide circle around Clay Station

The focus of the study is a half-mile district around the future J.W. Clay Boulevard transit station and 800-car parking deck for transit riders. Clay Boulevard is the main North Tryon Street entrance to University Place as well as a growing access point to the university campus and its Charlotte Research Institute.

Planners envision a community that blends retail, residential and office uses.

Planners envision a community that blends retail, residential and office uses.

The city’s 2015 Transit Station Area Plans Update identifies University Place as “University City’s town center” of the future – “the hub of economic, entertainment and community activity within University City.” The city plan envisions retail streets such as J.M. Keynes Drive being lined with multi-story, multi-use buildings with street-level shopping and dining, parking tucked out of view and safe ways for pedestrians and cyclists to move easily throughout the community.

But how do private businesses make and profit from the changes envisioned in those plans, such as transforming the current car-centric shopping centers to walkable urban villages that blend a variety of uses? What is the best timetable for phasing in specific private development and public investment such as new streets, green space and a library? How can private developers, the university and hospital work together for maximum mutual benefit?

Work expected to start within the month

The newly begun planning process will seek to craft that collective vision and provide crucial answers, Holmes says. The first step has begun – choosing a planning consultant. The group hopes to make that selection from a half-dozen candidates within a few weeks, Holmes said.

The bulk of the planning and visioning process should be done by late September and completed by November, he said. The group’s goal is to come away with a vision for the next decade or more that benefits all members and provides a clear, detailed action plan.

A significant part of this plan is a residential, retail and office market analysis. “If we don’t know what to expect, we can’t get realistic about what we can build there,” Holmes says.”

18 Comments

  1. Thrilled that this is finally moving forward! I’m looking forward to the transformation of this area.

  2. I have been a resident of the University area for 18 years. I am one of those rare individuals that moved North to get to Charlotte, being a native of Georgia. In Georgia I was known for having progressive and exciting visions regarding city planning. I served on chamber committees and was a board member for the Downtown Merchants Association in Gainesville, GA. I helped bring the Main Street program to that city. Here in the University area I have served as a church president, HOA president of a community for 13 years thus far and I am a member of the Derita Business Association. I would like to be a part of this urban center plan and have any possible opportunity to contribute what I believe to be a number of worthwhile ideas.

    • Thank you for your interest! Please consider getting involved in our ongoing planning meetings so we can receive and use your feedback. Here is a link to sign up for planning meeting notifications. We look forward to seeing you!

  3. My friends and I would like to see nice shops like in the shopping areas at Rea Road and Audry Kell. Boutique and gift shops, reasonably price stores but not all the TJMaxx, Marshall’s, etc. The area is looking bad and very low income and it is not.

    • Thank you for your interest! Please consider getting involved in our ongoing planning meetings so we can receive and use your feedback. Here is a link to sign up for planning meeting notifications. We look forward to seeing you!

  4. Is there any way to sign up for updates on this work? I would like to receive information on the work as it progresses.

    • Hi Tom! We publish regular updates here and on our Facebook page, and we have a bi-monthly newsletter. You can subscribe to it by clicking on the Receive Up to Date News > Subscribe button to the right of the blog. And last but not least, you can sign up for notifications directly from CATS.

  5. I agree with Paula completely. Attention to upscale enterprises is essential. The University City area is flush with discount and super discount stores. More than enough. We also need good eateries that are not “chains” or fast food. Independent restaurant owners with creative chefs are needed here. Driving all the way to uptown to dine? We should be able to dine in University City. We have a culinary college and CPPC right here in Charlotte. They’re graduating some chefs, right?

    • I definitely agree with John and Paula ! I would love to see upscale shopping and dining by the boardwalk that is reminiscent of Northcross Commons Shopping Center in Huntersville, The Arboretum in South Charlotte, or Blakeney in South Charlotte. NO MORE DISCOUNT STORES Such As Big Lots, Burlington’s Coat Factory, Etc. It makes the area look very low income when it’s not

      • Thank you for your interest! Please consider getting involved in our ongoing planning meetings so we can receive and use your feedback. Here is a link to sign up for planning meeting notifications. We look forward to seeing you!

      • Thanks for the feedback, John. Sorry for the delay in responding with more than a general reply. First, we will be something those other places cannot be – a transit-driven urban center. There is a lot of development interest and activity along North Tryon already, and the trains won’t start running until August 2017. Did you see that Verbatim just signed a lease to move its offices to within 800 feet of the McCullough Drive transit stop? The retailers involved with University City Partners also realize that there is great potential, but that change takes time. It has been a decade since light rail started to South Charlotte. Much of the initial South End development came long before light rail. But take a look at the apartments under way in NoDa at the 36th Street Station. And another mixed-use development is beginning between Tom Hunter Road and the I-85 entrance ramp on North Tryon. And that is just the start. Rich

    • Thank you for your interest! Please consider getting involved in our ongoing planning meetings so we can receive and use your feedback. Here is a link to sign up for planning meeting notifications. We look forward to seeing you!

  6. Glad to see this. These studies often yield more talk than actual results, but I’m cautiously optimistic light rail will make a positive change in development patterns in the areas immediately surrounding the campus on N. Tryon.

  7. As all the big box retailers move to ikea Blvd need to tear down and rebuild to something more like Birkdale village.. Shops with housing above and use parking decks instead of massive lots. Hope they tear down the old talbots/old navy and build a nice apartment complex with retail on the bottom.

    • Thank you for your interest! Please consider getting involved in our ongoing planning meetings so we can receive and use your feedback. Here is a link to sign up for planning meeting notifications. We look forward to seeing you!

  8. The area between N. Tryon, with the University Hospital and the two entrances to the UNCC campus and W. WT Harris Blvd., with J.W. Clay dissecting the two major thoroughfares and University Place is dull, not attractive, and not cohesive, Too much emphasis on motor vehicles to get around. Urban planners and creative architects need to get together to make this area more vibrant and exciting.

    • Thank you for your comment! This is why we encourage our residents and business commuters to be involved in planning meetings so we can receive and use your feedback. Here is a link to sign up for planning meeting notifications. We look forward to seeing you!

    • Hi Tom, Thanks for the feedback. I own a condo at University Place and am eager to see the many ideas in plans turned into reality, just like you. It will be a slow process. UNC Charlotte architects and urban planners have been very actively involved with University City Partners to imagine how this area can be a dynamic walkable district. Time will tell, but there are some bright minds working on this, and companies such as the retail owners around University Place also betting big on the future. Rich


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