After years of planning, the River District has some concrete first steps.
Developer Crescent Communities announced Monday that it is donating 4.5 acres to build an affordable housing community in the heart of the project, along the Catawba River in western Mecklenburg County. There will be 124 units, with many available to Charlotte’s lowest-income residents.
That will be right next to the first phase of a Novel-branded apartment community, with some 300 units.
Both are expected to break ground in 2020, with people moving into the River District for the first time in 2021. As part of the announcement, Mayor Vi Lyles praised the plans for incorporating affordable housing from the outset.
“Everyone’s going to be included from the very beginning,” she said. “That’s a message to every developer in this city. Make it a part of your plan, not an add-on to what you’re doing.”
This makes what’s already the most ambitious development project in Charlotte even moreso.
The 1,400-acre River District is a joint venture between Crescent Communities and Lincoln Harris and won rezoning approval in 2016.
With plans for massive amounts of office space, retail and housing, it’s been described as “the next Ballantyne.” And like Ballantyne, it will likely take several decades to fully build out.
Ultimately, plans call for about 2,000 houses, 2,500 apartments, 500,000 square feet of retail space, 1,000 hotel rooms and 8 million square feet of office space.
The new apartments are slated for Town Center District 4, just above where the center arrow is pointing on the map above.
The first dirt is just now starting to be moved. Crescent is currently building out a trail system throughout the development, part of the 40 percent of the land that will be kept as green space.
Later this year, Crescent will start building the working farm that will be a visual and practical amenity of the first housing community. One trailhead will be at the farm.
In 2019, the developers will start working on the infrastructure, including extending West Boulevard into the property. Both West and Dixie River Road will have bike lanes and a multi-use path running alongside it to help pedestrians and cyclists.
Then in 2020 comes the apartment piece. Crescent expects that some single-family homes will begin around the same time. No builders have yet been selected.
The affordable housing developers also did Renaissance West.
Laurel Street Residential will develop the affordable housing community at the River District, using the donated land valued at $2 million.
CEO Dionne Nelson told the Agenda that it will be similar in structure to the company’s Renaissance West project off of West Boulevard and Billy Graham Parkway. That project includes both affordable housing and market-rate apartments seamlessly flowing into a larger community.
Of the 124 units at the River District, two dozen of them will be made available to people making less than 30 percent of the area median income.
Half will be for people at 60 percent of the median income, with the rest for families at 80 percent.
Tenants will pay rent based on a percentage of their income, and with the money they’re going to make the community self-sustaining.
“It basically says what this community is about,” Crescent Communities CEO Todd Mansfield told the Agenda when asked why it was important to do this first. “If you defer these things to a later phase, sometimes they never happen.”
The River District announcement is part of a larger private campaign for affordable housing.
The city of Charlotte has been working since late 2016 to increase the number of affordable housing apartments available to low-income families. This November, city voters will weigh in on a $50 million bond to help build more of them.
Also Monday, Wells Fargo announced that it is kicking in $5 million to a parallel fund from private donors to supplement that money. Ultimately, the Foundation for the Carolinas is looking to raise $50 million privately for affordable housing.
Wells Fargo will also be offering $6 million in down-payment assistance to low-income families in Charlotte to buy homes, plus will donate $9 million to community organizations in this space over three years.
The down payment grants will be up to $15,000 — or $17,500 for teachers, police officers and firefighters — and forgivable over five years.