CHARLOTTE – Charlotte City Council will hold a public hearing for Northwood Development’s plans to redevelop 455 acres on Johnston Road, known as Ballantyne Reimagined, on March 16.
Councilman Ed Driggs held a District 7 town hall meeting Feb. 8 at The Ballantyne hotel to explain how the city is reviewing the proposal. City and state staff also explained transportation projects and Charlotte’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan.
The project seeks to redevelop the hotel’s golf course into a more vibrant community with 400,000 square feet of office space, 300,000 square feet of restaurants, 2,300 residential units and 200 new hotel rooms. It will also have a 100 acres of open space with walking and bike trails, green space and an amphitheater.
Driggs described the project as an exciting opportunity for the area but one that also brings challenges, namely traffic.
That was the biggest concern expressed among residents at the town hall.
One Ardrey Kell Road resident was skeptical of the ability of live-work-play concepts like Waverly and Rea Farms in keeping traffic within their respective developments. He sees worsening traffic heading to work.
Dave Pettine, rezoning program manager for the city, said Ballantyne Reimagined will provide a little more balance among uses, noting the city is employing new strategies for better traffic mitigation and considering more modes of transportation.
One resident encouraged the city to pause and solve issues like school overcrowding before moving forward with redevelopment projects. Another said the city should hold off on approving the project until pending city and state road work is completed.
“Trying to prevent any further change is not an option,” Driggs said. “We can’t stand still. So what we need to do is accommodate growth and progress in a more deliberate fashion.”
Driggs said Charlotte’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan, which is under development, will give city leaders a new basis of how the overall traffic picture will be affected by rezoning petitions.
“Because of the economic consequences of trying to impose a moratorium, it’s not something we can realistically,” he said. “People are coming here, housing prices go up if the housing stock is not increased and we’re struggling with affordable housing issues. The intent is to find balance.”
John Barton, president of Northwood Office, said his firm is spending over $90 million in infrastructure improvements to the surrounding area, including work at more than 21 intersections. The traffic study for the project is at least 1,300 pages.
“We are being very deliberate about what we’re doing because we have 17,000 people here every day at Ballantyne Corporate Park that pay us rent, and we have to make sure they get in and out of the park efficiently,” Barton said. “We’re headquartered here. We live and breathe it every day. Traffic is a huge huge focus of ours. It’s one of the reasons we delayed the filing back in March because we had to get it right.”
Pettine explained the multiple phases of the project during the town hall.
The first phase consists of 300,000 square feet of commercial uses, 200 new hotel rooms and 1,000 multi-family units, including 80 workforce or affordable housing units.
Phase two will include 400,000 square feet of office units, 1,000 multi-family units including 80 workforce or affordable housing units and 300 single-family units.
Pettine said the city also is thinking about long-term development on the west side of Johnston Road.
“It can only be really activated by a major transportation event,” Pettine said. “That could be delivery of bus rapid transit, delivery of light rail or significant technological improvements that could enhance the overall infrastructure network.”
This third phase would add 800,000 square feet of office, 50,000 square feet of commercial and 1,500 multi-family units including 10% of those being workforce and affordable housing units.
Pettine said a priority of city staff is ensuring interconnectedness of the project’s internal street network to keep vehicles off main thoroughfares like Johnston Road and Ballantyne Commons Parkway.
City and state transportation departments, as well as the Charlotte Area Transit System, are reviewing plans.
“We’re not just looking at roads and existing/future network, we’re also looking at what types of other modes of transportation can we provide out here to move folks around through buses, through potential delivery of light rail long term,” he said.