Despite coronavirus, Charlotte’s big dreams forge ahead

It’s not all full-blown coronavirus news–at least not in the Queen City. Despite the fact that public transportation is a coronavirus transmitting urban parasite, Charlotte is pressing ahead with a $42 million Blue Line extension to the Ballantyne section of the city:

Three potential light rail stations would be part of a proposed extension of the Blue Line light rail corridor to Ballantyne, which is poised for a 12-year makeover.

The massive redevelopment project, which will add new homes, office and retail space, a public amphitheater and street improvements, is expected to cost taxpayers $42.5 million for infrastructure improvements. Private investment is expected to total $1.5 billion.

Transportation plans for the area include new toll lanes on Interstate 485, the potential widening of U.S. 521, two new east-west roads and street improvements that will include 6 miles of bike lanes, Charlotte’s economic development director, Tracy Dodson, told City Council on Monday.

Meanwhile, development plans for the former Eastland Mall site–which includes the headquarters and practice facilities for the city’s new Major League Soccer team, are pressing ahead despite calls for a temporary stop to the rezoning process until in-person public hearings can be held:

Assistant city manager Tracy Dodson said the city has been working closely with the planning and legal departments to ensure that all requirements are met for community outreach amid current limitations on in-person gatherings.

“There’s a feeling that I think some of us want to see business go on as usual in this new world,” Dodson said. “The pandemic is at the forefront of our business every day, but there are some projects, such as inching Eastland forward, that we want to stay committed to.”

Sittema said that his firm solicited feedback from residents with a variety of ethnic backgrounds. The city made some rezoning materials, and the presentation that preceded Wednesday’s Q&A session, available in Spanish.

The Charlotte Observer reminds us the city committed $110 million to lure the MLS franchise, but “has not specified how the $110 million in public dollars for MLS will be split across Eastland, upgrades to Bank of America Stadium, and an entertainment district linking uptown and the Gateway District.” Look, there’s still going to be a world out there once the coronavirus has subsided. The question is what kind of world will it be, and will it fit the dreams of urban planners?

Sam Hieb / Contributing Editor

Sam Hieb is freelance journalist from Greensboro, North Carolina. He is a contributing editor for Carolina Journal and for Piedmont Publius, a blog that focuses on political a...

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