Charlotte’s North Tryon Street Visioning Process Begins

The process to create a vision plan focused on the redevelopment of the North Tryon Street area in Uptown Charlotte will begin this week. Charlotte Center City Partners and the Foundation For The Carolinas, leading organizers for the North Tryon Vision Plan, worked with the City of Charlotte Planning Department and a Steering Committee to choose a consultant to lead the process. Today, the committee formally announced MIG, Inc., as the lead planning and design consultant. Initial site tours and interviews with the planning team and other North Tryon area stakeholders are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, August 18 and 19.

The primary goal of the Vision plan is to re-energize the North Tryon area of Uptown, capitalizing on existing amenities and organizations to leverage an innovative, proactive and coordinated development strategy. The plan will address the area’s urban design and infrastructure needs and formulate ideas and strategies to create a shared vision that will catalyze development and bring new life to the area.

“North Tryon Street is such a vital part of our Uptown,” said Michael Smith, President and CEO of Charlotte Center City Partners. “This area is home to more than 10,000 residents and 30,000 employees, and several of our most valuable cultural and arts organizations are located here. This plan will help us unlock the potential that is already here and focus our efforts on a shared vision with dedicated partners.”

Nineteen organizations from the public, private, education and non-profit sectors have signed on as investors for the plan. Each organization has a vested interest in seeing renewed energy and excitement in the North Tryon street corridor.

“MIG has successfully led major planning efforts for cities and cultural districts throughout North America,” said Michael Marsicano, President and CEO of Foundation For The Carolinas. “We have great confidence in the firm’s ability to work with our citizens in crafting a rich vision for North Tryon, and to foster partnerships with civic institutions, businesses and other stakeholders.”

The North Tryon Vision planning process will include community engagement. Those who are interested in participating in the process and staying up-to-date are encouraged to visit www.northtryon.org and sign up for updates.  The plan is scheduled to be completed in May 2015.

North Tryon focus of $400K Charlotte study

Charettes and visioning, boosters and buzzwords, Charlotte Center City Partners and consultants, Chapel Hill and NCAA investigations — some things just go together. This week, all of the above, except the Chapel Hill-NCAA pairing, take aim at the North Tryon Street corridor, hoping to pump life into a moribund section of uptown.

Center City Partners and Foundation For The Carolinas are leading 19 companies and organizations paying for a study of how to revive the North Tryon Street area. MIG Inc.,a California firm three years removed from completing the $750,000 study of center city Charlotte known as the 2020 Vision Plan, will lead the new study, with an assist from New York international architecture and landscape design firm Snøhetta and economic analyst HR&A Advisors. Price tag: $415,000.

On Monday and Tuesday, the consultants and representatives from the organizations involved will meet and tour the district. The 19 local groups participating include both city and county government, the library, Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, the Arts & Science CouncilBank of America, Grubb Properties, Levine Properties, Novare, Skookum and the UNC Charlotte Foundation. As those names indicate, there is both public and private money invested in the study. (The earlier $750,000 for the 2020 Vision Plan was equally divided among the city and county and Center City Partners, which derives 90 percent of its $4.5 million annual budget from a dedicated tax district.)

The study is expected to be finished by next summer and will address ways to recruit more shops, restaurants and real estate investments. North Tryon, as defined in the study, encompasses parts of the First and Fourth Ward neighborhoods, spanning North Poplar Street to the west, North Caldwell Street to the east and running north-south from 13th Street to Fifth Street.

“This is an area that’s not meeting its potential,” Center City Partners CEO Michael Smith told me. “This one is a particularly unique place. It’s 40-plus blocks. We’re excited about what this quadrant of our center city can become.”

Smith listed assets that, with the study and public and private investments, he believes can build momentum for North Tryon: the main library, the light-rail line extension under construction, Discovery Place and the UNC Charlotte uptown campus. About 10,000 people live in the North Tryon district, and 30,000 work in the area, according to Center City Partners data.

Other projects in the works include SkyHouse, a 24-story, 336-unit apartment building opening next year. Foundation For The Carolinas also plans to use the remnants of the Carolina Theatre, acquired from the city for $1, for a renovated theater and a 12- to 15-story tower above, likely offices or a hotel.

“ We’ve made North Tryon our home— we want to do everything we can to help spawn development in the North Tryon area,” Laura Smith, foundation executive vice president, told me. “We needed to grab a consulting firm that could help us articulate that vision. Ultimately, MIG was selected because they know this community (from working on the 2020 Vision Plan). And the consultants they brought to town, they really impressed us.”

The foundation anticipates an update later this year on raising money for the $25 million targeted to overhaul the theater site. Bank of America has already pledged $5 million and, in the spring, the foundation had reached $8 million overall.

Among the challenges: spurring Levine Properties, owners of 23 acres in First Ward, to get going on a public-private collaboration that, in technical terms, seems to be eternally delayed. Deadlines come and go, plans are revised, clauses are tweaked and, inevitably, something else must be determined before construction can start. Maybe, finally, this will be the time principalDaniel Levine moves ahead, but, based on the past 20 years of stops and stops (yes, you read that correctly), don’t bet on it.

Chris Beynon, a principal at MIG who also worked on the 2020 Plan, told me Sunday that, while the consultants will build on the broader guidelines of the uptown study, they will also consider how attitudes and Charlotte have changed in the past three years. Romare Bearden Park and BB&T BallPark, for example, have opened not far from where the North Tryon district begins.

“We’re setting the stage this week,” Beynon said. “ We don’t have any preconceived notions.”