dubone

Cap over Belk Freeway (277)

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Agree with that, but hate to use the easy excuses - Levine has hindered development north, as has the homeless center, and the "hemming in"/"river-effect" of the interstate has not quite done it's job yet.  In retrospect, the BLE/Northline might have been better to have done first, from an economic standpoint.  Digressing, but south Charlotte already has Dillworth, Ballantyne, Southpark, etc.  Back to the cap aspect of this though, seems like most of the "northern" piece of 277 is above grade, not below, seems that way anyway, so not really going to "cap" it.

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As much as I like to dream about a cap and the new development it would support, its real low on my list of real-life wants for the city. If we can give just about every crossing the Tryon st. treatment, with bike lanes and wider sidewalks, or if thats not possible then a protected separated path like South blvd, I would be perfectly happy. The parcels that directly meet 277 and brookshire will be built on eventually, lessening the perceived "gap" to just the distance of the crossing itself, and blocking views of the highway in most places. Underpasses would need addressing too. Maybe a new crossing or two will need to be built, like the Euclid to Davidson one I remember seeing proposed.

 

As much as I usually support road diets and the like, I would rather keep 277/Brookshire and mitigate their impact on pedestrians in various ways, rather than consider eliminating either one.

Edited by nonillogical
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Given maintenance costs, I think it is better to eliminate one of the sections, given the <2 mile diameter, all of it is not needed, not to mention the costs of crossing/capping when not at grade.

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I don't understand the argument for getting rid of either piece of 277.  It's an exceptionally easy way for me to get from the west side to the east on a normal day.  When there is a major event or Panthers game downtown it's a nightmare without 277 - Stonewall and Morehead don't suffice.  Parts of Stonewall are often closed during events.

 

As the downtown population continues to grow 277 will become more and more important.

Edited by Vassago

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I don't understand the argument for getting rid other either pieces of 277.  It's an exceptionally easy way for me to get from the west side to the east on a normal day.  When there is a major event or Panthers game downtown it's a nightmare without 277 - Stonewall and Morehead don't suffice.  Parts of Stonewall are often closed during events.

 

As the downtown population continues to grow 277 will become more and more important.

I agree. 277 is very useful and now that we have it, we should be viewing it as an asset rather than planning on "starting over" for a large swath of land again. The neighborhoods that were there are gone forever, and I don't know if I'm that confident in what developers will do with a series of 8-16 "blank slate" blocks.

 

Besides, I think the idea of removing either half will get exactly zero play in Charlotte outside of a forum like this.

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I couldn't imagine how bad traffic would be on Brookshire in the morning if it was the only Interstate link. As it is now, traffic from Brookshire to I-77NB is backed up between 7:30-9 almost every morning - if you're into fenderbenders, go hang out here and wait.

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I would eliminate Brookshire completely, using 11th-12th pairs, and selling all the land for eventual development.  That land should be worth $2-$5mm per acre based on proximity to Tryon and yield $75-$100mm in total.  The city could then use the proceeds to help pay for a cap on John Belk and to significantly upgrade the John Belk/I-77 interchange to handle the increased volume.

 

I personally don't see the need for a park to be on the cap, especially if it would be cheaper to subsize a developer using the air-rights to be developed with high-rises.

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I would eliminate Brookshire completely, using 11th-12th pairs, and selling all the land for eventual development.  That land should be worth $2-$5mm per acre based on proximity to Tryon and yield $75-$100mm in total.  The city could then use the proceeds to help pay for a cap on John Belk and to significantly upgrade the John Belk/I-77 interchange to handle the increased volume.

 

I personally don't see the need for a park to be on the cap, especially if it would be cheaper to subsize a developer using the air-rights to be developed with high-rises.

There was a proposal for eliminating Brookshire and using the 11th-12th pair option for boulevardization.  There are many problems with the concept of doing this and the resultant cost would likely be higher than any revenue gained on the sale of the newly created blocks.  There is actually only about 15-16 acres that could be redeveloped if Brookshire was eliminated and expecting 5 million dollars per acre for any of the land is likely a stretch.  If I remember correctly, there is land just to the north of those parcels with future LRT frontage selling for about 1 million dollars per acre and even the land surrounding the ballpark is only worth about 2 million per acre for some of the parcels. 1-2 million is more likely, and the closer to the eastern and western extremis of the hypothetical demolition area would likely be even less than 1 million per acre.  Assuming the city could sell all this land even at 2 million per acre would yield a figure closer to $30 million which likely wouldn't be able to cover the cost of demolition, much less subsidize a $300 million cap over John Belk.  Furthermore, much of the traffic from Brookshire would be forced onto 11th and 12th streets requiring they have lanes added which would cost millions.  And even if the city did demolish Brookshire it would only provide a development corridor to the CSX tracks which is about 2 blocks north of Brookshire, then it would be stopped by the all the rail and industrial activities in that area. 

 

On a separate note, selling air rights over the John Belk Cap for high rise construction is unfeasible.  Considering the cap will more of less be an excessively wide bridge, there would be no way to effectively construct the support structure necessary for a high rise.  High rises require a foundation that is ~20-30 feet deep in most cases, not including the pilings that are driven deep into the earth. Selling air rights would not be workable in this area without the wholesale elimination of John Belk.

 

Both freeways should be kept.  I would eventually like to see a cap over John Belk, a mini cap between Caldwell and Davidson over Brookshire, and maybe a properly elevated freeway on pilings rather than on a berm as is currently the case for most of the rest of Brookshire.  However all these ideas including destroying the freeways are just too expensive for their marginal-to-[potentially] negative ROI.  With the challenges of acquiring funding for more useful projects, all these ideas should be shelved indefinitely.  Furthermore, what kind of message would that send if we are always crying for more transportation dollars, and then destroying some of the transportation infrastructure that we do have?

Edited by cltbwimob
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just a few minor quibbles....but the last land trade around 3rd ward park was in 2011 (before the park broke ground and bottom of the commercial real estate cycle) and it was $2.9MM/acre out of foreclosure....current South End land for stick-built apartments is selling for $2mm an acre.

 

I'm not suggesting this is something that happens now anyway.

 

also, there are plenty of examples of skyscrapers built directly on top of interstates.....there is one in Atlanta over GA 400 in Buckhead, and several completed and planned over I-90 in Boston's Back Bay.

 

Again, not a near term solution, but the city leasing the air-rights for free, and some tax abatements to off-set the costs of deep caissons/decking needed to support a high-rise is still more cost effective than building a park and accomplishes (I would argue improves, relative to greenspace) connectivity between Uptown/South End.

 

While there is not enough demand now for either project to make financial sense, long range planning shouldn't dismiss the ideas.

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^^^Understood. I got the ballpark land values from city records a couple of months ago, however the records were somewhat hard to decipher so I may have misstated the value. The value of the land around the ballpark is not as important to my point as the land just to the north of Brookshire that was listed for sale approximately 2 months ago at a price of just over 1 million per acre. This land has a much more direct correlation to the price one would expect from the newly created parcels to be sold. This is not to quibble with your quibbles as much as it is just to clarify the info I was presenting. At any rate it doesn't change the fact that destroying a freeway with money that could be used on more appropriate transportation/ infrastructure needs doesn't make sense and will not make sense in the future, especially as the city continues to grow. Charlotte just doesn't possess an extensive grid or transit system to mitigate the massive traffic cf that such moves would cause.

As far as high rises built over freeways, I have seen the one in Atlanta; it is a pretty cool building. But it was not simply thrown on top of a freeway cap. The underlying structure had to be in place. My understanding of your comment led me to believe you were suggesting building the cap first and then trying to place a high rise atop the cap which is why I say it won't work. But I may have misunderstood your argument.

Edited by cltbwimob

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I think a great example of this opportunity is what Columbus, OH did with their cap of a similar innercity interstate I670. They placed a retail strip cap on both sides of their downtown mainstreet (High Street) to connect downtown proper with a growing, young, and very residential area referred to as Short North. Google the pictures to get a sense.

 

I see so many similarities between Tryon connecting uptown and Southend. Why does this have to be  completely public investment. Couldn't the city potentialy sell the development rights to the cap similar to developers selling Air Rights?

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I think a great example of this opportunity is what Columbus, OH did with their cap of a similar innercity interstate I670. They placed a retail strip cap on both sides of their downtown mainstreet (High Street) to connect downtown proper with a growing, young, and very residential area referred to as Short North. Google the pictures to get a sense.

 

I see so many similarities between Tryon connecting uptown and Southend. Why does this have to be  completely public investment. Couldn't the city potentialy sell the development rights to the cap similar to developers selling Air Rights?

Ya - Somewhere earlier in this thread someone posted images of the Columbus cap.  

 

In all honesty I think that kind of solution might be more appropriate for Uptown/Elizabeth type cap only because the South Tryon plan is a little more grand in matching with the cultural campus and making a sort of Millennium Park of sorts that better matches the vibe of that one particular area.

 

As for the air rights/public investment question - I do believe that is what is proposed or at least was in the past with Ghazi at one point.  Though no matter how great a sell on the private side you will still need public investment do to the location (highway) and planned use (public space).

 

At least that's my understanding.

Edited by Urbanity

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Nice piece on freeway cap parks along with a review of construction costs for them (roughly $15-20 million per acre). They also offer some case studies (more of a review of landscape design) of cap parks in Dallas, Seattle and Philadelphia.

I really wish the city was more active on this project. A cap would certainly make Southend and Uptown feel more connected, and by not having firm plans for a cap the  approaching Crescent, Observer and Pappas midtown projects have really lost an opportunity to create connectivity to a cap park.

https://www.theurbanist.org/2015/12/08/lidding-i-5-in-downtown-seattle-cost-estimates-and-three-case-studies/?utm_content=buffer77963&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Edited by kermit
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The problem with the whole idea is that the highway will remain with the congestion and the construction of the park would just make it a more expensive operation. Somehow making it into a boulevard while reconnecting the streets would be my option. It would be expensive and take a long time, but that's what it takes to fix one of Charlotte's greatest mistakes. In the long run, it would open up the most land for redevelopment.

Placing a park over it just makes the infrastructure more expensive in the first place, because all your doing is hiding the highway.

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Honestly, while I know there is huge value in having an urban circulator for car traffic, I'd love to see the portion of 277 from the Independence off-ramp all the way up to Brookshire Freeway turned into a formal urban boulevard. It would keep the Southwestern portion for all the crucial highway connections, and the SouthEnd side is the part that's way more easily capped anyhow. The north side would benefit from not being physically cut off from uptown anymore; it would help North End a lot too. It would be cheaper, easier, and still open up a ton of land for development.

Actually, I think capping the south side's 277, and converting the north side's 277 into a boulevard, is exactly what the ULI's study suggested for the whole thing anyway.

Edited by SgtCampsalot

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Great post, @cltbwimob. I think that removing/capping freeways makes a lot more sense in places like San Francisco and Philadelphia, where you have freeways physically dividing dense and potentially well-connected neighborhoods. If you want to see a freeway that's legitimately damaging the urban fabric, look no further than the Vine St. Expressway in Philly.

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No need to decide right now what to do with Brookshire. Development will move that way in the next decade, the oldest section of 277 will be closer to needing replacement, and personal VMT will continue to fall.

Edited by southslider

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6 hours ago, cltbwimob said:

I will honestly never understand this fetish with razing/boulevardizing Brookshire or John Belk.  The benefits from doing so would be marginal at best, and the costs associated would be so high, that the return on investment, in every sense, would almost certainly be negative.

People often cite the choking effect (i.e. the freeway chokes off the neighborhoods around uptown). In the case of John Belk, if you look at Midtown, Southend, and Elizabeth, none seem to be short on investment and development.  That begs the question, has the choking effect of John Belk really been such a problem that it should be addressed with the outlay of  potentially hundreds of millions of dollars of public money to raze/boulevardize it-money that could be used to benefit areas with real needs?  The answer of course is no.

As for Brookshire, the argument that it has somehow disconnected Northend from the uptown boom, and the suggestion that Northend would be much more successful without it are both questionable at best. For starters, Brookshire is a considerable distance from the core of the uptown building boom.  In between the freeway and the core of uptown is a lot of underutilized dead space including the Levine wasteland.  Destroying Brookshire and boulevardizing it would do nothing to change the fact that there is still a virtual dead zone north of seventh street.  If there were 40-story towers on one side of Brookshire and pure blight on the other, perhaps you could make the argument that Brookshire had a negative effect, but as it stands right now, to the one side of Brookshire there is a sea of surface parking on one side, and a considerable amount of light industrial dead space on the other.  That's hardly enough evidence to draw any definitive conclusion as to whether or not Brookshire has, because of dis-connectivity, had a negative effect on land usage outside the freeway vis-a-vis inside the freeway.  And Brookshire isn't the only barrier to connectivity here.  A block north of Brookshire is the CSX line, along with the Tryon Yard and Interchange tracks, and just three blocks North of that is the NS Charlotte yard.  The preponderance of railroad infrastructure and activity in this area is a much bigger barrier between uptown and the Northend neighborhoods than Brookshire is.

Additionally, I did some calculations on the amount of land area that could be recovered by razing Brookshire, and best case scenario, the city would be able to recover about ten acres of land, given all the other barriers such as the railroads.  Furthermore, considering that neither freeway is at grade, razing/boulevardizing would be prohibitively expensive because each roadbed would need to be brought to grade before the boulevard could even be constructed.  My extremely rough guess is that $5-$10 would be spent for every $1 revenue through the sale of recovered land.

Finally, on a more philosophical note, how in God's name would we have the standing to continue to beg and plead for transportation dollars, if we are using money we already have to destroy infrastructure we already have?  Resources are scarce, and to use the resources we do have to chase after some marginally better version of center city Charlotte when we have so many other pressing needs is foolhardy at best and a criminal use of taxpayer money at worst.

Totally agree. In the case of John Belk, we already have large mixed-use developments proposed on both sides of the highway that will make the "gap" that one has to cross fairly insignificant, and not much of a deterrent as long as some basic, very doable pedestrian improvements are made to the overpasses and underpasses. At this point, development has already accepted and started to grow around 277, and it would be a big, expensive, and frankly not that sensible task to change that momentum now.

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All very good points, you're right. It would be nice if the city bus parking lots left N Davidson St, but development will need to reach a critical mass for that to happen.

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9 hours ago, nonillogical said:

Totally agree. In the case of John Belk, we already have large mixed-use developments proposed on both sides of the highway that will make the "gap" that one has to cross fairly insignificant, and not much of a deterrent as long as some basic, very doable pedestrian improvements are made to the overpasses and underpasses. At this point, development has already accepted and started to grow around 277, and it would be a big, expensive, and frankly not that sensible task to change that momentum now.

 

Certainly would help to work on the pedestrian connectivity on Brevard and College streets.  It is pretty awful currently.

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On 12/20/2015 at 3:29 AM, cltbwimob said:

And Brookshire isn't the only barrier to connectivity here.  A block north of Brookshire is the CSX line, along with the Tryon Yard and Interchange tracks, and just three blocks North of that is the NS Charlotte yard.  The preponderance of railroad infrastructure and activity in this area is a much bigger barrier between uptown and the Northend neighborhoods than Brookshire is.

Additionally, I did some calculations on the amount of land area that could be recovered by razing Brookshire, and best case scenario, the city would be able to recover about ten acres of land, given all the other barriers such as the railroads.  Furthermore, considering that neither freeway is at grade, razing/boulevardizing would be prohibitively expensive because each roadbed would need to be brought to grade before the boulevard could even be constructed.  My extremely rough guess is that $5-$10 would be spent for every $1 revenue through the sale of recovered land.

I agree that while an interstate is a barrier - it doesn't have to be. South End, Dilworth, Midtown/Elizabeth, and Wesley Heights/5 Points have all managed to work around this problem. I think its more that you have both CSX and NS railroad bridges to deal with and that they are somewhat far apart. The area between those two tracks is a wasteland/no-mans land to which it will be difficult to attract new development.

I don't think "North End's" success lies in these unlikely, big fish type of projects. They just need to figure out how to make their neighborhood special. NoDa used to be a horrible neighborhood, and it didn't rely on Optimist Park, Belmont, and Villa Heights to clean up their act first.

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