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atlrvr

Armchair Developer/Planner

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After leaving the airport yesterday, I saw a billboard that showed a large Coke bottle as part of the skyline, and it looked pretty good...really filled in the middle of the skyline. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.

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In a broader sense I think this touches on a major missing piece to a successful urban fabric in Charlotte. We don't have a large central square or walkable district with storefront retail and cafes to wander around. There are small hints in in our older urban neighborhoods but nothing substantial. In the vein of Portland or Austin, similar sized cities to us . I would love that.

I really think Central Ave. is the best candidate in Charlotte for this 'walkable district' idea. I think of stretches like Adams Morgan or Georgetown in D.C. and think Central Ave. could eventually turn into that 10-15 years down the road. Outside of Uptown, at least. You'll have the streetcar, along with an already significant stretch of bars/restaurants/retail. As the retail continues to stretch beyond just the blocks around Plaza/Central, I can envision about a mile-long stretch of walkable entertainment/retail district.

Also, in regards to the 'central square' concept discussed above...I think that concept would be great for the area near Tryon & Sugar Creek. That Asian Corner Mall would be a great spot for something like that (tons of space on that ugly, unmaintained parking lot). It would be even more attractive once the light-rail is complete. It's only about 1/8 mile from the light-rail stop, which is only 4 or 5 stops from uptown...not to mention easy access to I-85.

Also, I don't know the details behind it, but that concrete supply plant right across the street from it (Sugar Creek) is an absolutely HUGE piece of land, with an amazing straight-shot view of uptown. The light rail will be running right beside it (literally). Just seems like that land has to be very attractive piece of property, and could be much better served by someone other than a concrete plant. I don't know the details of that company or their plans, but it just seems like a waste to me.

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...Also, in regards to the 'central square' concept discussed above...I think that concept would be great for the area near Tryon & Sugar Creek. That Asian Corner Mall would be a great spot for something like that (tons of space on that ugly, unmaintained parking lot). It would be even more attractive once the light-rail is complete. It's only about 1/8 mile from the light-rail stop, which is only 4 or 5 stops from uptown...not to mention easy access to I-85.

Just to note: On New Year's Day, noon thirtyish, Asian Corners was absolutely packed, and the Compare store in the same strip was packed as well. Parts of it are economically vibrant, unlike Eastway Crossing.

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I really think Central Ave. is the best candidate in Charlotte for this 'walkable district' idea. I think of stretches like Adams Morgan or Georgetown in D.C. and think Central Ave. could eventually turn into that 10-15 years down the road. Outside of Uptown, at least. You'll have the streetcar, along with an already significant stretch of bars/restaurants/retail. As the retail continues to stretch beyond just the blocks around Plaza/Central, I can envision about a mile-long stretch of walkable entertainment/retail district.

You know, I had never really thought about it but you're right. I think Central is definitely the best opportunity for something like Adams Morgan. If the streetcar gets anything resembling construction funding, I would expect the stretch from Hawthorn to the Plaza to rocket forward in development, especially in housing. And because there's already a well establish urban street from between Thomas and the Plaza, it seems reasonable to expect that would grow west toward uptown.

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I submit my plans for the CVS/Family Dollar Land, Its very rough (did this in around an hour), but I think the dimensions all work pretty well for a bunch of 500-5,000 sq foot shops and restaurants. I would make it kinda like a new urbanist town center, but with higher quality of materials, and I'd get neighborhood input on each space to give it more of a distinct separate feel. Everything would have more of a storefront feel.

• 6 artist studios

• doctors office

• 100k of retail

• 50 condos fronting central avenue.

• 150 market price apartments

• Centralized Greenspace

• New Van Landingham Park on what was highway outparcel.

• A grid based Town center, with new road called Chatham Pl, that brings back memories of the original streetcar suburb, Chatham Estates, that became plaza midwood.

• Commonwealth extended to link to Central Avenue, Gordon St extended to link to commonwealth.

• 16 foot sidewalks along central and gordon,

• 100 on street parking spaces

• 300 decked parking spaces.

• Grocery Store, whether it is Trader Joes, Food Co-Op, or Maybe a new mulitstory Harris Teeter Flagship resembling that of adams morgan.

• Bank of America

• Book store.

• the backside of the central avenue facing buildings have a 30ft+/- space behind it for sidewalk/patio/planting strip.

• the pecan facing building has a central courtyard for patio space/outdoor entertainment space.

• It cannot be seen on the plan but sunnyside avenue would be connected to commonwealth as well, further reclaiming the grid.

doc009.jpg

edit: updated picture

Edited by nibletodell

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That's an interesting mix of retailers and plan, I guess a good town center for the Plaza Midwood neighborhood. I wonder though, what do you propose for the current Harris Teeter site if you're going to relocate the current store?

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That's an interesting mix of retailers and plan, I guess a good town center for the Plaza Midwood neighborhood. I wonder though, what do you propose for the current Harris Teeter site if you're going to relocate the current store?

Good question, another more urban development hopefully. It seems to me Plaza Midwood needs a good hardware store, that could possibly go over there. I realize my Town Center idea kind of screws up the vibe of Plaza Midwood, however I would try my hardest to make it vibe with the surrounding neighborhood. This would not be your typical new urbanist development, it would definately be different!

Edited by nibletodell

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Good question, another more urban development hopefully. It seems to me Plaza Midwood needs a good hardware store, that could possibly go over there. I realize my Town Center idea kind of screws up the funky vibe of Plaza Midwood, however I would try my hardest to make it FUNKY. This would not be your typical new urbanist development, it would definately be different!

I'm nit-picking, but... "Funky" is how white people dance, and who Marky Mark used to hang out with... Not a good word to use if you want any real 'cred'. :thumbsup:

Edited by The Escapists

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I'm nit-picking, but... "Funky" is how white people dance, and who Marky Mark used to hang out with... Not a good word to use if you want any real 'cred'. :thumbsup:

HAHA, Indeed, How about It would do its best to vibe with the characteristics of the surrounding neighborhood.

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I'd really like to see a bunch of small business incubators spring up around town to support entrepreneurs who have strong talents, but limited financial resources. Some examples:

1. A culinary incubator: A small warehouse (maybe in South End) that is fitted with approx. 10 commerical quality cook stations (range, fridge, "pantry") Stations could be rented out by the month, possibly even split into morning/evening shifts. This would be a place for caterers to work out of, or aspiring chefs to test out recipes, or teachers to offer private cooking classes, etc.

Possibly it could even be fitted with donations from appliance manufactures, and used as demonstration space to sell stoves/etc.

2. Microbrew incubator: Several brew tanks set up and can be rented out to aspiring micro-brewers, that could test ideas, and ultimately start their business there until it got big enough to get their own location.

3. Artist incubator: Already several of these around, but space for artist to create and sell their works.

4. Fashion incubator: Sewing and sketching workstations that could be rented, as well as all the fabrics that can be imagined, all provided at a set monthly cost. Weekend sidewalk sample sales, with the incubator owner taking a share of the sales. (great use for the Virginia Paper Co building)

the ideas are limitless, but to the best of my knowledge, these places are in short supply in Charlotte.

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I'd really like to see a bunch of small business incubators spring up around town to support entrepreneurs who have strong talents, but limited financial resources. Some examples:

1. A culinary incubator: A small warehouse (maybe in South End) that is fitted with approx. 10 commerical quality cook stations (range, fridge, "pantry") Stations could be rented out by the month, possibly even split into morning/evening shifts. This would be a place for caterers to work out of, or aspiring chefs to test out recipes, or teachers to offer private cooking classes, etc.

Possibly it could even be fitted with donations from appliance manufactures, and used as demonstration space to sell stoves/etc.

2. Microbrew incubator: Several brew tanks set up and can be rented out to aspiring micro-brewers, that could test ideas, and ultimately start their business there until it got big enough to get their own location.

3. Artist incubator: Already several of these around, but space for artist to create and sell their works.

4. Fashion incubator: Sewing and sketching workstations that could be rented, as well as all the fabrics that can be imagined, all provided at a set monthly cost. Weekend sidewalk sample sales, with the incubator owner taking a share of the sales. (great use for the Virginia Paper Co building)

the ideas are limitless, but to the best of my knowledge, these places are in short supply in Charlotte.

If the fashion incubator could somehow be tied to the legacy of the textile industry (e.g. through a small scale production facility) there is a significant amount of state money floating around to fund such an entity (e.g. the Golden Leaf foundation, although they would much rather see the incubator in Cabarrus county given their mission to serve "distressed communities"). With the right talent and showcase potential this could really flourish.

IMO generating funding for the artist incubator would be tough in the current climate (e.g. with the Arts and Science council soaking up all the artistic oxygen with their new high end playground on South Tryon) I fear that govt groups and most foundations would dismiss it too touchy-feely and without potential for financial return within an election cycle. Competition with the critical mass of artistic talent in Asheville also increases the difficulty factor. Perhaps I am too pessimistic, there is a substantial arts community in town but it is currently far too dispersed to create much buzz. Then again, it wouldn't take much to get this started, If more foot traffic can be generated in the Southend and some existing warehouse space can be obtained inexpensively then this could happen (almost) organically.

The microbrew and culinary incubators are outstanding ideas! They really have the potential to give Charlotte that sense of place / local signature (other than NASCAR) that it so desperately needs. Perhaps these could be within the same facility, along with some packaging and pasteurizing equipment. There are tons of potential linkages to institutions who would benefit from this (and thus provide funding). I see potential linkages with 1) Johnson and Wales putting their students to work. 2) Providing visibility to the dozens of local food organizations popping up around town (same building as one of the farmers markets? Cooking classes specializing on seasonal local food?) 3) HT could offer small amounts of shelf space for a small set of promising products and 4) some of the new restaurants with a proported local food preference could provide tap space (Dandelion market, the Liberty etc.) for the beers. This seems like a project that CCCP would see merit in and thus could serve as a financial enabler.

Given the volume of business travel that occurs here, growing cultural diversity, the reasonably high number of high income households in town and the dilution of the young family demographic Charlotte could really blossom into a good food town. This incubator could be just the thing to get that kick started.

Anyway enough rambling. Thanks atlrvr! Its posts like yours which make me enjoy reading this site.

Edited by kermit

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So I've been thinking of where, if RISD did decide to open a campus in Charlotte, it could go. I vaguely remember a portion of the massive train yard between NoDa and Uptown being up for sell, and think that would be a great location. It would help connect the districts and would provide a buffer between the rail yards and the surrounding neighborhoods. Plus, the students could use the grittiness of the rail yard and the direct view of Uptown as inspiration.

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I would love to see a tower built atop the Charlotte Observer. It need not be high-rise. 10-20 stories would be sufficient, but make it significant it it's architecture.

I'd also love for their to be some form of ticker news feed around the building at the current top of it (imagining a tower above) that would incorporate news from Observer, McClatchy national/International feeds and local reporter tweets.

This would particularly of note if they capped the I-277 and made that a gathering place.

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Just had a meeting at Owen's Bagles. Someone desperately needs to redevelop "The Pavilion". It's remarkably underutilized given the location.

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Thinking about Dubone's plan for Plaza Midwood shopping center and also my recent experience going to Modern Fabrics (old American Apparel) on Camden, and failure to find spaces at Starbucks on East, I honestly think its time for the city to start investing in "neighborhood center" parking decks.

 

Conceptually, it would work like this.

 

  • City builds deck on privately owned property (essentially leasing the land for below market rate) to save costs
  • Decks are attractively screened and have ground-floor retail, which is owned and leased-out by the city.
  • City pays for them by issuing bonds (lower cost than the public sector can) and by implementing a very localized TIF district and also a tax-surcharge on all commercial properties < .15 miles (800 feet) from the parking deck.
  • In exchange, properties in the 0.15 mile radius are exempted from parking requirements and significant density bonuses.
  • Parking deck is sold to the owner of the land in 10-15 years at a discount to construction cost, with the city guaranteeing acquisition financing.
  • Parking might be free for first 90 mins, then charges apply.

 

Haven't done precise math, but I think that described model allows for city subsidized parking with minimal NET impact to the city budget/taxpayers. 

 

The city could also find a "patient money" long term investor who would be willing to buy the sites today and receive some lease payments from the city for the land, and then own a below-cost parking deck in the future that should be a cash-cow.  Possibly some of the sites would be big enough that excess land could be developed by "wrapped apartments" like Southborough.

 

A couple of thoughts as far as sites:

 

South End - Camden and Park (lot where the farmers market is)

Dilworth - East Blvd and Scott Ave (the infamous Epicurean site)

Plaza Midwood - The large parking lot on Central at Pecan (reintroducting street grids as well)

NoDa - Sort of already happeining in NoDa at Mercury, but the Johnson YMCA parking lot is a good candidate as well.

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All of these areas already have reduced parking requirements with PED, TOD or MUDD zoning. Still,parking decks would b a better use of bonds than streetcar. West Trade even has a City-subsidized deck at Mosaic.

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Thinking about Dubone's plan for Plaza Midwood shopping center and also my recent experience going to Modern Fabrics (old American Apparel) on Camden, and failure to find spaces at Starbucks on East, I honestly think its time for the city to start investing in "neighborhood center" parking decks.

 

Conceptually, it would work like this.

 

  • City builds deck on privately owned property (essentially leasing the land for below market rate) to save costs
  • Decks are attractively screened and have ground-floor retail, which is owned and leased-out by the city.
  • City pays for them by issuing bonds (lower cost than the public sector can) and by implementing a very localized TIF district and also a tax-surcharge on all commercial properties < .15 miles (800 feet) from the parking deck.
  • In exchange, properties in the 0.15 mile radius are exempted from parking requirements and significant density bonuses.
  • Parking deck is sold to the owner of the land in 10-15 years at a discount to construction cost, with the city guaranteeing acquisition financing.
  • Parking might be free for first 90 mins, then charges apply.

 

Haven't done precise math, but I think that described model allows for city subsidized parking with minimal NET impact to the city budget/taxpayers. 

 

The city could also find a "patient money" long term investor who would be willing to buy the sites today and receive some lease payments from the city for the land, and then own a below-cost parking deck in the future that should be a cash-cow.  Possibly some of the sites would be big enough that excess land could be developed by "wrapped apartments" like Southborough.

 

A couple of thoughts as far as sites:

 

South End - Camden and Park (lot where the farmers market is)

Dilworth - East Blvd and Scott Ave (the infamous Epicurean site)

Plaza Midwood - The large parking lot on Central at Pecan (reintroducting street grids as well)

NoDa - Sort of already happeining in NoDa at Mercury, but the Johnson YMCA parking lot is a good candidate as well.

And Elizabeth behind Jack's.  There is one CMU building back there that would not to come down, bu then it fits.

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I would like to see a neighborhood center/parking deck that is more than a single use structure.  Miami is building vertical multi-use civic centers that are also parking decks:

 

http://archpaper.com/news/articles.asp?id=4553

http://www.dezeen.com/2010/04/19/1111-lincoln-road-by-herzon-de-meuron/

http://www.mnn.com/green-tech/research-innovations/blogs/the-simple-charms-of-the-mixed-use-parking-garage

 

 

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I've been thinking about this a lot lately with all of the development in Uptown, South End, Central, and NoDa: given the projected growth rate in Charlotte and the number of apartments coming online in the next year, does anybody else think that the center city market is becoming oversaturated? In some ways this is a commentary on the apartment market in general, but I also wonder whether Charlotte will be able to sustain the kind of growth it is currently experiencing without some big economic development announcements.

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^ I agree that lots of product is coming online very quickly -- and Southend in particular has the look of possible disaster (much like the overbuilding that occurred in University City in the late 1990s / early 2000s). However, most projections suggest that metro Charlotte will add around 40,000 people per year over the next decade. If you assume that just 10% of those folks are young professionals who would like to live in an increasingly fashionable urban environment then we are looking at the absorption of 2,000-3,000 units per year from migration alone (which is roughly the number of new units we will see this year)

 

My impression (although I don't have data to support it) is that the rate of multi-family growth outside of the areas you mention is much slower, perhaps below the replacement rate for the many poorly aging units. The overall decay of the suburban multi-family stock may encourage folks to move into the newer units in the intown submarkets. Throw in the possibility of higher gas prices (Israel bombing Iran?) and improved transit accessibility and we may be looking at an acceleration of the paradigm shift in urban vs. suburban

 

As always, its just my .02 cents. I certainly don't have a flawless track record in projecting real estate cycles and what I said above sounds a lot like someone saying "its different this time."

Edited by kermit
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Given that rental occupancy rates are so sodding high, I have to think there's still plenty of room for growth. It's not like they're overbuilding unoccupied condos that are just being bought up by investors, these units are actually being lived in by people.

 

(having said that, for those rental rates they're filled with people that are eventually going to look at buying options, of which there are precious few...)

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(having said that, for those rental rates they're filled with people that are eventually going to look at buying options, of which there are precious few...)

 

I would agree with your statement (personally) based on one little addition "...People that are eventually going to look at AFFORDABLE buying options, of which there are precious few...)"

Edited by Urbanity

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