Will opening of Blue Line Extension bring development boom to northeast Charlotte?

Light rail northeast corridor opens soon
Updated: Mar. 9, 2018 at 3:43 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - In exactly one week, the Blue Line Extension will open to the public and connect uptown to the campus of UNC Charlotte.

The extension cost around $1.1. million dollars and will operate 9.3 miles from uptown, through NoDa, and end on the UNCC campus.

City and county leaders are hoping the northeast corridor sees similar economic development to what the SouthEnd area has experienced over the past decade.

"It won't be a copycat," said Michael Smith, President and CEO of Charlotte Center City Partners. "It will be a game-changer for sure."

Smith has long been involved in the SouthEnd growth and says lessons can be learned from that development.

"I think some of the Blue Line to the south surprised local developers and investors about how trans-formative it would be. We are not going to be surprised by it in the north," said Smith. "We need to be thinking about design standards, we need to be thinking about the values of our community for the next 20 years. Do we want to preserve space for affordable housing? Those are the things we have to be thinking about."

However, the campus of UNCC will help draw that development north while development around the university will be able to move south.

"Any hotels that are along the BLE are now convention center hotels because you have a direct connect," said Smith. "Any housing along there can be considered student housing."

David Walters is a Professor Emeritus of Architecture and used to teach at UNCC. He has been involved in SouthEnd development for decades and is currently working with developers that want to grow north of the city.

"I think we will see less over development. I think if you look in the review mirror there was a lot to be learned from Southend," said Walters. "SouthEnd happened so fast and we went by a simple formula. We had no larger vision."

Walters believes we will see similar development like apartment complexes and multi-use office buildings.

"Building five-story apartment buildings out of timber is still the fastest and cheapest way for developers to make money," said Walters. "There is no filter system that the city or the development industry has to generate above average quality."

However, Walters believes that is changing.

"It is not just the city trying to push developers towards a better vision. There are some developers that are eager to do that themselves," said Walters.

The Blue Line Extension opens March 16.

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