CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Mecklenburg County commissioners voted and chose BK Partners to develop Brooklyn Village. Brooklyn, which was located where the Government Center now stands, was destroyed in the 60s.
"We're standing on Brooklyn, that's where these homes were, the churches, were all of that was right here," said Commissioner Vilma Leake.
Leake supports BK Partners' plan. She spoke during the commissioners meeting before they voted on one of three firms that submitted a proposal to develop the area currently owned by the county where Marshall Park and Walton Plaza are located.
Staff and the county manager recommended commissioners vote to become partners with BK Partners because the developer was committed to developing the property to include affordable housing and to use a percentage of minority or women-owned businesses to build it.
Some commissioners voted against the partnership because they were concerned there wasn't enough open space dedicated to a park in the proposed Brooklyn Village plan. Currently, BK Partners plan has 1.9 acres of land to be used as a park.
County Manager Dena Diorio told commissioners that the original Brooklyn neighborhood never had a park and commissioners were committed to having affordable housing. She said once a partner was selected, the staff could negotiate changes to the presented plans after there is a community process.
Some commissioners like Pat Cotham argued they wanted more park space, saying even if the neighborhood of the 60s didn't have a park that doesn't mean there shouldn't be one now. Rick Winiker, a lawyer and member of the Greenway Advisory Council, held up a sign throughout the meeting saying "Keep at Least 5 Acres."
"Right now, Marshall Park isn't used very much, but we're talking about plan for 20 years from now and once that space is gone, it's gone forever," Winiker said.
After the vote, Vilma Leake talked about what she remembers of Brooklyn. She said she realizes that exact neighborhood is not coming back, but she voted in favor of working with BK Partners because of their dedication to honoring the past.
"That's what I'm praying for - that before I leave this world that that spirit would be there, and that's what this is about," Leake said. "It's not about parks. It's not about people. It's about the spirit."
Commissioners also went to Pearl Street Park. Parents from a couple of athletic leagues are very concerned about parking since the property next door owned by the Charlotte Regional Realtor Association will be developed.
"Really and truly we want to contribute and make our park better. I have kids that play in these leagues," said Maren Brisson-Kuester, president of the Charlotte Regional Realtor Association.
Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Director Jim Garges walked commissioners through the Pearl Street Park development proposal at the park. Right now, they would like to put a connector street that would have on-street parking and would lead to a larger parking lot behind the park if some land that is owned privately is swapped.
Currently, there is some asphalt in front of the park but that is in a flood plain and cannot be developed. The parks department would like to make that green space.
If the plan were to be approved by the county and surrounding partners, soccer and baseball seasons would be affected in 2017 and 2018.
Commissioners did not take action on Pearl Street Park but were updated by staff about the status of the proposal to make the park bigger.