Charlotte’s construction boom isn’t just in the center city. SouthPark is going through a massive period of building, as well.
More than a dozen projects are proposed or underway in the SouthPark area. When they’re all done, they could add more than 3,300 new apartments and townhomes, enough new office space to fill 1 Bank of America Center and enough new retail space to fill a mid-size mall.
Safe to say, things are changing fast.
Hoping to gain a seat at the development table, neighborhood groups on both sides of Fairview and Sharon roads have banded together into the SouthPark Association of Neighborhoods.
Membership has grown to 27 neighborhoods so far, and the group could get as large as 50.
Their basic mission is to make sure everyone living in SouthPark has a handle on what’s going on — and to work with developers and city planners from the beginning when possible to make sure new projects help move this part of Charlotte forward.
“We realized that neighborhoods don’t really have a lot of power,” said Hilary Greenberg, chairperson of the association and an economic development consultant. “It’s not confrontational in any way; it’s about making sure that everybody’s got a seat at the table and that we all have equal power.”
SPAN, as it’s referred to, grew out of a city-commissioned study in spring 2016 that examined how SouthPark could fix some of its core problems — like congestion and lack of green space. One finding was that there was no singular, influential voice representing SouthPark.
A business group quickly emerged called the SouthPark Coalition, made up of some of the larger companies that call the neighborhood home — like Lincoln Harris and National Gypsum. SPAN then came together to represent the homeowner side (the group also has a seat on the coalition).
The first step was to get people together to discuss rezoning plans filed for the area. The city mails notices to people directly around a potential site, but it often doesn’t reach everybody who would be interested. Also, by the time developers hold these community meetings, a lot of decisions have already been made.
SPAN gives developers someone to reach out to at the very beginning to bounce ideas off of and to get feedback. There have been some small successes so far:
- More pedestrian access as Phillips Place gets redeveloped to include a link to Whole Foods.
- A pedestrian connection from the new LendingTree facility to the neighboring Specialty Shops.
- Parklets at the Hazel apartment project on Barclay Downs Drive.
- Public art at the new Marriott.
The association is also deeply invested in the $10 million package the city of Charlotte has promised for improvements. A list of possibilities is expected to be released in late January. Only a few will be covered by the $10 million, and the rest will go into a “playbook” for the future, Greenberg said.
“The conversation has changed dramatically just in the past year,” Greenberg said.