Pineville looks for right balance

The new Cook-Out at the Park 51 shopping center is an example of how Pineville leaders hope to move the town forward.

Before, the space stood as a sea of black pavement for over-projected traffic in the shopping center anchored by Black Lion. But instead of looking for a vacant lot, developers of Cook-Out took advantage of an underutilized and poorly designed space. Now, the restaurant is a flagship in the lot and features aesthetic and design standards more in line with the town’s historical characteristics.

“My big push is proper land development,” Travis Morgan, the town’s planner, said, adding the new Cook-Out’s brick, dine-in structure is unlike any of the restaurant chain’s other facilities. The new restaurant also faces Park Road, with the parking lot tucked behind the building, away from the street front. “You want to emphasize the building and de-emphasize the car. The person, the building and the business are more important than the cars.”

There’s still room for new development in Pineville, Morgan said, and town leaders have the groundwork and plans in place to support growth in the town. But while both commercial and residential development are important,

Morgan said leaders are working to encourage more residential growth to help create more of a balance. It’s no secret the town’s commercial properties outweigh its residential – the town’s 3.6 square miles consist of about 7,500 residents, according to the 2010 census, and roughly has about 8 million square feet of retail space.

Morgan said the town’s limits are pretty set in stone for now, though there are still significant portions of undeveloped areas on the west side of town. Currently zoned for industrial use, much of the vacant land could be used for new neighborhoods or mixed-use living in the future.

“Our goal right now is to increase our residents. We have a huge population that travel and work here,” Morgan said. “We are trying to have a liveable and workable community. We are trying to balance the mix and give a wide range of housing options.”

Morgan said there is a difference in how the town focuses on development in terms of commercial and residential, and development versus redevelopment. In terms of commercial property, Morgan said there are plenty of opportunities throughout the town to make use of underutilized space, much like Cook-Out and Aldi have done in the Black Lion parking lot. Town leaders have worked over the past several years to implement sidewalks in commercial districts, street trees and landscaping to help ensure the public infrastructure is already in place for new businesses to come to the area and to help keep current businesses in town.

“People want that walkable community,” Morgan said.

And when it comes to residential development, there are some opportunities to build mixed-use neighborhoods that will encompass all economic development for the town.

New communities like McCullough, Carolina Village and Parkway Crossing will all eventually have commercial components built into the neighborhoods, but currently the spaces haven’t been built yet or are not being actively utilized.

“The main thing we are focusing on as far as residential is making sure we have high quality residential development – I don’t necessarily mean size, but I mean the materials and character to sustain long-term,” Morgan said, adding the town also wants to see more balance with apartments, condos, townhomes and single-family homes. Currently, the town has majority apartment homes. “Basically, we put architectural requirements in place to safeguard our historical legacy, but also to offer something that is not so cookie-cutter or generic.”

And with commercial redevelopments with areas like Cone Mill or other vacant storefronts, Morgan said the town is seeking and encouraging long-term sustainable development, as well.

“You can encourage all the development you want, but we want it to have long-term sustainable growth,” Morgan said.

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