June 2017 Luncheon – Cross Charlotte Trail √¢‚Äù‚Ç¨ Creating Economic and Community Value
Submitted by Amy Massey, Kimley-Horn
On June 13, CREW Charlotte hosted a panel of experts who provided an overview of the Cross Charlotte Trail (XCLT) in Mecklenburg County, and an understanding of its importance to our local commercial real estate industry. Moderated by Beth Poovey of LandDesign, panelists Vivian Coleman of the Charlotte Department of Transportation, Elizabeth McMillan of Crescent Communities, and Kyle Vangel of HR&A Advisors discussed how greenways benefit our communities and attract business by creating recreational opportunities, transportation alternatives, and return on investment√¢‚Äù‚Ç¨ both public and private.
The story begins back in 2006 when Little Sugar Creek was buried by a series of surface parking lots in the Midtown area.
Coleman provided an overview of how the Cross Charlotte Trail came about. She said the County took the initial lead in trail development, and then the City got involved to help speed up the XCLT’s development. The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has also been involved. The plan is to complete 30 miles of trail from Pineville, through Uptown to UNC Charlotte, and ending near the Cabarrus County line√¢‚Äù‚Ç¨ within the next decade or so. Coleman reviewed the various types, widths, and uses of greenways; along with some of the challenges and constraints, including separation from motorized vehicles for safety and seamless connectivity. The priorities placed on certain sections is based on balancing factors such as filling existing gaps and leveraging hot development areas, while more difficult/expensive sections√¢‚Äù‚Ç¨ like the segment spanning the I-277/Independence Boulevard weaver area√¢‚Äù‚Ç¨ will come later.
Vangel explored the impact of greenways on economic development. Beyond joy, health, and public safety, the value of greenways can be quantified in terms of increased property value and in property tax value. In fact, value was a key criterion in deciding the ultimate alignment of the Trail. Its alignment traverses neighborhoods ranging from affluent areas near Uptown to more challenged areas like Lockwood and Sugar Creek. Mr. Vangel suggested that with increasing values, the potential for gentrification can be minimized by putting proactive policies in place with a goal to preserve and create affordable housing along the way. Overall, the fiscal impact of the trail could be as high as $12.9 million annually between 6,000 new residential units, 4 million square feet of new commercial development space, and a 5% increase in property value.
McMillian explained how Crescent Communities views view greenways, in that they actually seek out properties along/near the Trail alignment when locating their sites. She used the Crescent Dilworth as a prime example of their capitalizing on the greenway as the ‘front door,’ including an image of a bicycle and mention of its accessibility to the greenway in its marketing brochure. Not only is the greenway a major asset for attracting their tenants, but the development has realized a 15% rent premium due to its proximity to the greenway. McMillan and Coleman discussed the importance of the City, County, NCDOT, property owners, and developers working together√¢‚Äù‚Ç¨ sharing and working through design and construction scheduling, property needs, and costs.
The panel established that the Cross Charlotte Trail has a powerful impact on our communities and businesses on many levels. In the end, it will be important in not only providing recreational opportunities, but also in spurring development, increasing property and tax values, and connecting people and places across Mecklenburg County√¢‚Äù‚Ç¨ all in a socially equitable manner. It’s also helping Charlotte compete with other growing cities on a national scale.