dubone

Cap over Belk Freeway (277)

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A cap park would be a good addition to the city. It would be a great way to bring together currently isolated sections together. I just hope those who make the final decision don't get blinded by dollar signs and cover all the available land with hotels and condos and nix the park. Would not exactly be a shocker.

Edited by voyager12

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I actually kinda hope they don't do a park, at least not totally. There will be two parks close by, the Green basically next door to it, and the new 3rd ward park. You only need so many, especially with a downtown as small as ours. If there is going to be another park, let it be further down south end for the residences down that way.

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^ Yeah, agreed. The connectivity and erasing a mental and physical barrier is more important in this instance then a park. Crossing 277 right now is just scary! So just getting from Stonewall to Morehead without ever realizing your crossing a freeway would do so much, whether it be a park, smaller buildings with storefronts, or high rises with air rights.

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I don't think it would be possible to build highrises on the cap itself, but on the diagram in the Observer I'd rather see a large development than open space on the Goodyear site. That land needs a higher use.

O, and also demo the Observer building. That's one of the most un-urban buildings uptown.

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Funny how capping Brookshire never comes up. It is trenched in First Ward and would be an easier and lest costly fix (less area to actually cover) than the Belk.

I know no one wants me to say the following, but another idea would be to build a parking structure over the freeway. Minneapolis did this over I-394 downtown and the garage's ingress and egress are from the freeway.

Another idea is that we could have our big mega shopping complex there. Little known fact is that part of the Prudential Center and all of Copley Plaza in Boston's Back Bay are built directly over the Mass Pike (I-90).

As for a park, I have to disagree with those who say another so close to Third Ward is a bad idea. The actual amount of acreage that could be created is staggering. This could be our only possibility of having a really large park uptown. Including a couple of surface lots currently in existence, nearly 20 acres of parkland could opened up.

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Ideally, I would like to see a mixture of affordable and market rate housing and retail interspersed with greenspace. I don't think we need more hotels there.

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http://www.charlotteobserver.com/breaking/story/128383.html

I went to the charette and must say that I was quite impressed with the two plans, granted they both are ambitious. After seeing the plans detailed, I am very much for the cap that creates a boulevard rather than a park, but either plans would resolve the major issues in the area. Frankly, the cap park plan has always seemed a bit redundant with the plans for 3rd Ward Park, so it is hard to imagine justifying that price tag for a similar stated purpose and only be 3 blocks away from it.

I will describe the Boulevard Cap a little more than the Observer did. The original notions of a development cap meant just putting a deck over a block or two of Belk Freeway, and having a building actually over the freeway as it exists today. What the consultants came up with was obviously much more ambitious, but allows for more intense reuse of the land adjacent to the freeway. The key to the plan is that instead of having the collector-distributor exits alongside the freeway, you'd make the freeway itself purely for through traffic. There would instead be one set of entrance and exit ramps just southeast Davidson/Euclid, and another set just northwest of Church Street.

The cap itself would only cover the main lanes of the existing freeway with the land on top being used for this new boulevard which acts as the freeway's collector/distributor street for local traffic. So if you are coming from the airport and going to Davidson Street, you'd take the single exit before Mint and then drive on the Boulevard on top of the freeway and then turn left at the Davidson Street intersection. It would make the area easier to navigate, it would eliminate the need for the cap to hold up a building, but it frees up the right of way used by the freeway berm, the collector-distributor lanes and the loop exits. The allows for the buildings to have total access to that land so they can build as tall as they want without needing to build foundations over the freeway. It also creates a major address, allowing those parcels to be more valuable.

As an example of the land it would free up, Ghazi's parcel at Morehead and Tryon could expand from .8 acres to 2 acres, and he'd have the full rights to the land (not just air rights), so he can build whatever building he wants to on those 2 acres, and it would have street frontage on 4 sides instead of 3 (or 2 in his current setup). Another example would be that the loop exit at Church would no longer be needed, so not only would the city have the flexibility to fix Church Street's lanes for amenities like bike lanes, they'd also free up the full block (including the land over the collector street), or 3.5 acres of prime real estate. Between the Observer building and the new boulevard, a new parcel is created that is 3 acres.

Then consider all the issues of connectivity across the freeway. The Church, Tryon, College, South, and Davidson would all cross the freeway, but there would be room enough for proper sidewalk widths, bike lanes, etc. The gap in development that creates a major psychological divide would be reduced down to just the width of a boulevard, with no impediment to full development of the new parcels on either side. On Tryon Street, between Hill and Morehead, we'd have 8-8.5 acres of developable land where currently there is only .8. Then consider that a new east-west corridor is added to the surface streets, for improvement of connectivity and reducing burden on Morehead and Stonewall. Then consider that the boulevard would have a very wide median, making it a greenway connection, helping connect Little Sugar Creek Greenway to the greenway by the stadium which eventually connects to Irwin Creek Greenway.

Altogether it is quite ambitious, and perhaps it is impractical in the end. But I think the idea would resolve a great deal of issues that are present with Belk Freeway, and reconnect the urban fabric between Uptown, SouthEnd, and Dilworth.

I do hope that they work proactively and apply the extra money they are getting from the Stonewall land sales (already it is $20m over what was already allocated with 2 more parcels yet to be sold) to this project, regardless of what plan they go with.

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Sounds like an awesome but expensive vision. Can't imagine that the folks at Camden Grandview, or Royal Court, would be very happy about it. Altough Royal Court might be just beyond the eastern edge of the cap.

One other question - how would they handle crossing the light rail line? Would the LRT cross this new freeway cap/boulevard at grade, or would the cap rise above the light rail as well as the freeway?

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Royal Court would be spared being blocked as they are east of Davidson St/Euclid. Camden Grandview actually could be affected by the land already up for sale as a result of the South/Caldwell/Belk revision. In fact, I almost think Camden should buy that land themselves and redevelop it themselves so that they can control what goes up there!

No doubt $200-300m is very expensive, and perhaps that makes this project a non-starter. Consider, though, that it opens up between 21 and 35 acres for sale (the consultants said 35, but I think they were double counting land already freed up by the current interchange project, and my analysis shows only 21 acres). The Stonewall parcels closest to the CBD sold for $5.25m/ac and $6.25m/ac respectively. It seems that land Tryon, College, and Church addresses might go for even more. At ~$6.5m/ac, 21 acres gets $135m. It comes close to paying for the park option, and nets about half of the option for the boulevard from land sales alone. If you consider the taxes paid on the land reverted to the private sector, it might come closer to feasibility for the Boulevard cap. You might also find traditional road funds available for the construction of the road itself, such as inclusion of some budget in road bonds. In the longer term, maybe even inclusion on the STIP for NCDOT funds. All in all, it is a long shot, but to my eye, it is worth the effort.

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Interesting.

My main question would be what type of boulevard plan did they have? Traffic connectivity from South End to downtown isn't really the problem, although I see the merits of this collector plan. You can look to Chicago for examples of how this can work.

What I'm wondering about is what are they going to do to make the area more pedistrian friendly? I know you mentioned bike lanes and sidewalks. I think that there should be a lot of emphasis on traffic calming and pedistrian access to really make the cap worthwhile.

The price tag is awfully steep though. I wonder if we could see a public / private investment to get this going? Ghazi would more than double the value of his land if this works out.

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Interesting.

The price tag is awfully steep though. I wonder if we could see a public / private investment to get this going? Ghazi would more than double the value of his land if this works out.

The price is incredibly expensive, but how much income could they generate by selling off these new parcels in an ultra-cool new project? Would the cost of the parcels pay for the project? If so, it seems to be a no-brainer. Does anyone have any background in engineering to answer the question about whether you can build a skycraper on a "cap" space?

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Seems like this plan gets drummed up again every 2-3 years. I think it was first proposed right after I-277 was finished. It never goes anywhere but it does make for a nice news article for them to ponder over for a few days/weeks.

I think two things are going to doom the plan again this time. First, property is going to be re-evaluated this year for taxation purposes and I think people are going to be absolutely shocked over what that means to their taxes. Second, there are almost 8000 foreclosures in Mecklenburg with the vast majority being right in Charlotte. That is going to kill the idea of Tif financing.

I guess we will see. If they do indeed have $300M to throw around, I would rather they spend it on expanding the transit system.

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The price is incredibly expensive, but how much income could they generate by selling off these new parcels in an ultra-cool new project? Would the cost of the parcels pay for the project? If so, it seems to be a no-brainer. Does anyone have any background in engineering to answer the question about whether you can build a skycraper on a "cap" space?

HNTB's engineers were there to answer these questions. With the Blvd cap concept their would not be any need to design a cap to support a skyscraper because it would only have to support the Blvd itself. Buildings and highrises would be built along that Blvd with nothing but dirt underneath. This would be where the current collector roads are and the NCDOT ROW. If parcels were to encroach onto the cap they would have to know ahead of time what type of building was going on top top so they could design the cap to support it. Really, according to the engineers, anything is possible, the question is cost.

Seems like this plan gets drummed up again every 2-3 years. I think it was first proposed right after I-277 was finished. It never goes anywhere but it does make for a nice news article for them to ponder over for a few days/weeks.

I think two things are going to doom the plan again this time. First, property is going to be re-evaluated this year for taxation purposes and I think people are going to be absolutely shocked over what that means to their taxes. Second, there are almost 8000 foreclosures in Mecklenburg with the vast majority being right in Charlotte. That is going to kill the idea of Tif financing.

I guess we will see. If they do indeed have $300M to throw around, I would rather they spend it on expanding the transit system.

It is expensive for sure. What does make it feasible is that it would help pay for itself. $ from the freed up land would only be available if this was done so its not like this is taking money from one project and throwing it at another. This wouldn't pay for 100% of the project of course, but new taxes from the land would also help.

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.....

It is expensive for sure. What does make it feasible is that it would help pay for itself. .

That is the part I don't understand. Sounds like the land can be sold, and is being sold, by the city without this cap. The cap itself is an independent project that won't change the amount of money they will get for the land itself.

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No doubt the design of 277 is tragic. People in Charlotte obviously recognized this from early in after it was built. The 2010 Plan basically created the initial momentum for discussing this. That plan included a development cap and a major park cap.

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At the time, there were much more pressing needs in the city as it still needed transit, parks, housing, museums, and other things to drive the fundamentals.

We all know why it came back up. Charlotte needed to figure out how to fix the streets around the Nascar Hall of Fame and a way to pay for it. So suddenly, there was a political will to figure out how to free up the land swallowed up by the Belk interchanges that were very wrongly designed for their context. At the same time, the city was looking for ways to improve other pedestrian connectivity across Belk after the cancellation of the enhancements to the light rail bridge. From there, the people in the city brought back up the long term ideas of the cap, and HNTB offered to bring in experts pro bono to flesh out the ideas.

The reason this constantly comes up is that everyone agrees that 277 is poorly designed and there are significant needs for mitigating its negative impact on the urban fabric, but obviously the cost of fixing the problems has caused it to not yet happen. What is different now is that they have land values and development momentum enough to fund much of it through the land sales and new taxes generated.

Part of why this city rarely reaches for big ideas or innovative ideas, despite having the wealth to do them, is that there is too quick of a negative reaction to big ideas. The whole point of this charette is to dream big in how to create an iconic new area and flip a very negative drain on the urban fabric and make it a positive.

The freeway repels development, and contains uptown development inside of the 'loop'. With this idea, it creates a draw for development TO the freeway, or rather its new amenities overtop of the freeway, which then allow for seemless continuation of urban development into the area of SouthEnd that is zoned UMUD and is currently very underutilized.

Part of the energy felt by people that were there about the idea is that they had lots of renderings that helped you picture it. Of course it is just an idea, and can fizzle out tomorrow if no one wants to do it. But I think that these ideas have so much merit and the potential for partial self-funding, that it is worth putting into Charlotte's 2020 plan and making tangeable political steps to fill the funding gap.

Some people are so extreme about the negative impacts of 277, that they call for 'erasing' the entire freeway, which would obviously never be allowed by the feds that paid for most of it, but also would have the potential to cost half a billion to a billion dollars to build out the surface street infrastructure to carry the through traffic. This plan keeps the existing freeway infrastructure for through traffic (which is significant since our city is designed in a hub and spoke model), but creates a very tenable option for rebuilding the urban fabric that the freeway destroyed.

Now that the big idea is on the table, our community and our leaders can start to figure out how to make it reality. One option is to cut the length of the tunnel in half from 2600' to 1300' by only going between Church and the rail line. They'd still free up 15 acres, which at the $6m/ac number would draw 90m, but the price tag could arguably be cut in half. Not nearly as exciting an idea as the new boulevard would be only three blocks long, but might make a starting point at least alow the CBD district (generally between Church and the rail line now) continue south. That might be a starting point to allow the key section to be built this decade.

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That is the part I don't understand. Sounds like the land can be sold, and is being sold, by the city without this cap. The cap itself is an independent project that won't change the amount of money they will get for the land itself.

Here is the land in addition to the Stonewall parcels that are already being auctioned off. This is ~22.5 acres of right of way which current contains the exit ramps (all would be replaced by one set NW of Church and another set SE of Davidson), berms, Hill Street (which would be replaced by the actual boulevard directly over the travel lanes of 277), and the collector/distributor lanes of 277 (to be replaced by the boulevard over 277).

Without the change in design, only tiny portions of this land could be sold. That is what the consultants are referring to when they say that the construction could be partially funded by the sale of the right of way the new design frees up.

post-670-1218812549_thumb.jpg

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If you look at that map that dubone posted and examine the part that is the John Belk Freeway. Basically this is from Independence at 3 oclock, clockwise down to the football stadium that is at 7-8 oclock, you can see how much land was devoted to this relatively new part of the highway. I lived here before that section was built and remember the outcry from the literally 100s of property owners in this zone who were basically sued in the courts so their land could be condemned and taken from them. There were a lot of controversies that went with that as it hit some rather significant business owners, home owners, and others. They had to accept the fact their homes and lively hoods were going to be taken from them regardless of what they wanted.

Now if the the city decided they want to put some of this back, I wonder if any of these people or their heirs might have some legal and/or moral claims to any of this.

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I would guess that by now the claim is gone and titles are clear, but that is an excellent question, and one I'm not sure how it would go. Does anyone know if land the state takes over through eminent domain if the land must go back to original owners if the right of way is no longer needed?

If true, that might kill the plans outright. I bet, though, that enough time has passed that they wouldn't likely try to get it back. But I certainly wouldn't know the law for that.

The tragedy of 277 is that they didn't build it in a compact and urban way in the first place, had they done that, they might have not cause the damage to the community that it has done. Now we're left with only expensive options to fix the mess.

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I think it was 3 events. The construction of the John Belk freeway, the earlier nasty urban renewal of the 2nd ward ah la Brasilia including the rather sterile Stonewall St. and the construction of the Bank of America stadium. All of these literally removed square miles of what could be considered great streetscapes. Places that would no doubt be big artsy stroll districts if they existed today.

I am not convinced the city has the wherewithal to fix it by throwing 100s of millions of dollars at the problem. The above demonstrates how often they get it wrong and there are other examples like this that we have talked about before too. I still think their best bet is to instead look towards the north and the eventual removal of the very troublesome and ugly Brookshire freeway. They could remove those bridges and direct all the traffic onto the John Belk Freeway. This would cost far less and it would open up a rather large area that still has a lot of potential to be restored and redeveloped.

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The boulevard option is a neat idea, and it seems like it could potentially be feasible factoring in the sale of new land, plus a potential TIF or MSD district. In the O article, they describe a gathering space near BofA Stadium. Is there any potential for additional 'park land' in that concept--like a wide grassy blvd median with trees, benches and such? I'd be concerned that the blvd concept is too development focused and seems to de-empahsize the gathering space over to the side (where, arguably, fewer people would travel on foot), rather than in the primary travel corridor between South End and Uptown where is would see more activity as a destination and casual use.

The concepts reveal a delicate balancing act. The whole idea is to re-create connectivity where it was lost and create a large public gathering space (IIRC), but you also will likely need as many potential developable blocks to help finance it (hence the blvd idea). The more ambitous the plan, the more land is needed for development to finance it (presumably). Do you deminish the intent of the original concept plan by pursuing more development to help pay for a more ambitious plan? I dunno. In either case, the desire for increased connectivity--both physically and psychologically--is certainly a laudable goal, but I wonder if this area is calling out for more development, or a more central public space?

Now if the the city decided they want to put some of this back, I wonder if any of these people or their heirs might have some legal and/or moral claims to any of this.

I'm no lawyer, but I can't imagine they would have any claim. That would have been at least 25 years ago, with the land already changing hands from private land owners to NCDOT. If there was any sort of legal claim, it would have likely already occured on the land that NCDOT deeded back to the city near Stonewall for the HOF/Caldwell interchange rebuild (unless that was all city land prior to Belk's construction). The Supreme Court has consistently upheld strong local govt authority in land use cases (e.g., Euclid & Kelo) over the years, such that it is consitutional for governments to take private property for economic development purposes and redevelop it, and this isn't even in the same ballpark. No problems here.

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All the momentum right now is toward the south, because the light rail, the Wachovia complex, SouthEnd's growth and Wilmore's restoration. The North has the trouble of being fragile neighborhoods on the other side of Brookshire, the wasteland of Levine's and the Hal Marshall.

We have to face that there have been HUGE mistakes in Charlotte's past. Some have brought us well to where we are in somewhat of a faustian contract, others have been mistakes on top of mistakes. To me, though, the best way to regrow the urban fabric given our preexisting status of having wiped it out completely, is to carefully woo redevelopment in ways that help. If the NFL stadium and the freeway suck the streetlife out of the area, and it is not economically practical to remove them, then the best way to mitigate it is to invest in new infrastructure to help encourage uses that rebuild the street life.

These proposals seek to do that. To me, they aren't new mistakes because they aren't trying to force something in that the market can't bear, trying to create development interest where there is none. They aren't wiping out an entire neighborhood and hoping it will magically spring to life again like they did in 2nd Ward. Instead, they are creating a street, selling parcels of land, and doing it in a location that attempts to build upon existing momentum with contiguity with an area already revived, and with the zoning that supports urban and pedestrian-supporting designs.

To ChiefJoJo:

I think they added the 'gathering place' as a sort of bonus to the Boulevard Cap plan. They neglected to recognize that this the Observer warehouse parking deck and is not public land for use in this way. I also don't think they properly recognized the 3rd Ward Park has all of those stated goals of being THE gathering place for events downtown that street-closings can't accommodate. The gathering place at Mint and Stonewall would be redundant to that and only a couple blocks away at that. Bottom line, I expect that would be scrapped unless they decided to go with the Cap Park plan, which would be entirely to build a park over the freeway.

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I'm thrilled that they are proposing the Boulevard Plan. I actually had a similar vision...ok, daydream.... several months ago.

My biggest concern would be the LRT crossing, as I don't like the idea of additional vehicle and pedestrian crossings.

Here is a tiny rendering from the Observer.

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Scale would be very important, and I think whatever fronted the park should be in the 5-10 story range, that could step back to a highrise, but this space shouldn't be overpowered.

Think Champs-Elysse (sp?) in Paris or Commonwealth Ave in Boston. Intimate public space for strolling, with great building massing lining it.

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I wondered about the rail crossing, too. I suppose since it is already a bridge, they might just give it the necessary 20' rise or whatever and take the street over the rail. Certainly the developments could accommodate that slope without much issue. It could arguably just be left like a surface crossing because the LRT is already needing to go slow through there anyway.

Part of the reason I am so excited (I think that is obvious at this point) about the Boulevard Plan is that I put some thought into the cap before, but never really even had this idea, and when they pitched it just made perfect sense to me. It solves the problems of trying to build a building on a deck over the freeway, and knowing how strong to make that deck. It puts the deck/bridge back to conventional planning for traffic weight, while the developments can actually be as intense as the market can make them.

I wish the pricetag wasn't as high, but unlike most public projects, the partial self-funding element just makes the whole thing worth pursuing.

http://www.wcnc.com/news/topstories/storie...7.48d47235.html

:whistling:

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The renderings are now available online.

Here are the renderings for the Boulevard Cap plan I have been describing most.

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Here are the renderings for the Park Cap plan:

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