New entertainment district could reshape a big chunk of University City, bring ‘golf’

New entertainment district could reshape a big chunk of University City, bring ‘golf’

CHARLOTTE, NC (Ely Portillo/The Charlotte Observer) - A new entertainment district could bring eating, drinking and an outdoor "golf entertainment venue" to University City, according to plans presented Monday.

The outdoor golf venue is rumored to be Topgolf, though the developer scrupulously avoided saying the name. A site plan showed a Topgolf-style venue at the site, featuring target holes on a driving range. Charlotte City Council held a hearing on the plan, which would allow up to 80,000 square feet of indoor space for an eating and drinking establishment, along with the golf range.

The entertainment district would be located near Ikea Boulevard, just south of University City Boulevard, backing up to Interstate 85. That's near the University City light rail station, where the Blue Line extension is expected to start carrying passengers to and from uptown by March 2018. The property was rezoned to be an auto mall with five dealerships in 2015 – a plan that drew criticism from people who said that wasn't a good use for vacant land in a fast-growing, transit-oriented part of the city.

"A big, critical item for this area has been the light rail," said Jay Priester of Cambridge Properties, which is partnering with Arden Group in the redevelopment. "The first lead on the project is the golf driving range entertainment venue."

The first, 14-acre phase is a small part of the total 56-acre site, and Priester said future mixed-use development is planned on that land.

"Our goal is to create a very pedestrian-friendly redevelopment," he said. "The golf venue has a lot of corporate events...Charlotte employees can hop on the light rail uptown and get up here."

The site plan specifies that the plan would include "golfing games of skill whereby individuals hit golf balls from the building as shown on the schematic site plan onto an adjacent outdoor field." Buildings could be up to 80 feet tall, and nets up to 180 feet high would surround the site to prevent golf balls from straying.

Charlotte planning staff are recommending approval of the rezoning request.

Topgolf's opened its first Charlotte location in Steele Creek earlier this year. Previous plans for Topgolf's second Charlotte location fell through this summer, following fierce opposition from neighbors at the site on I-85 and West Mallard Creek Church Road. An unmarked cemetery for slaves was also discovered on a portion of the site adjacent to Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church.

A nearby resident said he's still skeptical of the plan.

"Since this is not transit-oriented, it's not what we should be building in this area," Bradley Dilks told City Council, which is expected to vote on the plan at an upcoming meeting. Council members were supportive at Monday's hearing.

"It seems like a different, unique-type venue that's something we don't have in University City," said Greg Phipps, who represents the area.