Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Devlopers, JCSU want city money for catalyst project

Should the city help Johnson C. Smith University and a private developer with a project on West Trade Street? The council will likely be deciding that question in coming weeks.

Monday night JCSU official Malcolm Graham – a former City Council member whose other hat is to be a state senator – and Mike Griffin of Griffin Brothers showed the council plans for Mosaic Village, which would be student housing subsidized by JCSU, with street-level retail and a parking deck. Griffin said the project has a $4 million financing gap. Coincidentally, that's almost exactly the cost of building the parking deck.

Graham and Griffin didn't ask the council for any specific help, or lay out a specific request. The matter goes to the council's Economic Development committee. Mayor Anthony Foxx noted that the city has a corridor revitalization strategy.

West Trade and Beatties Ford Road have languished as other neighborhoods near uptown began to blossom. But things are afoot. The Wesley Heights neighborhood nearby has had growing numbers of urban pioneers moving in. JCSU's president, Ron Carter, has made a point of trying to better link the school with both its immediate community and the larger Charlotte community. Take a drive up West Trade and you'll see an area ripe for fresh projects – which would raise the tax base and thus, help city and county finances over time. Would this one be the catalyst the area needs? Or money down a sinkhole? Or somewhere in between?

That's what the City Council will have to figure out. Despite the usual crowd of naysayers who object to almost all city spending beyond the bare basics, smart city investments can have a big payoff later. Example: When the city bought the unused rail corridor along South Boulevard. Now it's the Lynx light rail. South End has seen millions of dollars worth of private investment – new building, rehabs, new business. But as always, knowing which investments are "smart" will be tough part.


Anonymous said...

City Fair comes to mind

Anonymous said...

South End has seen millions of dollars worth of private investment – new building, rehabs, new business.

Have you driven down South Blvd lately? Have you seen all of the vacancies, all of the businesses that have closed after being open for 20+ years, all of the vacant lots?

The net effect of the light rail on South Blvd has been a wash, minus the several hundred million dollars that Mecklenburg County taxpayers have been forced to cough up. There's some new development, sure, but it's balanced out by the fact that the rest of South Blvd looks like a war zone.

So let's please STOP talking about how great it is.

Anonymous said...

When saying that South Blvd. looks like a war zone, please separate out the effects of the past 3 years of a bad economy from those caused by the light rail directly. Many parcels along the light rail line are sitting vacant/idle because a developer owns them but either cannot get financing to develop them or because there is not enough of an profit likely in the foreseeable future (ie, short term) to make developing them now worthwhile. 3-4 years from now, perhaps the economy will have improved to the point that development is now viable.

Anonymous said...

Sure why not spend the money. Let's build anything and everything. We should build a giant rollar coaster around the 277 loop. That would be so much fun!

Anonymous said...

The total cost of this region's turnpike projects (multiple BILLIONS for Monroe and Gaston By-Passes) could fund the completion of 485, its widening, and extending light rail to the University Area.

And yet people complain about the waste of a few million on economic development in an area where infrastructure already exists?!

Anonymous said...

JCSU and the private developer can come up with the money for the project if they needed to. Just like everyone else, they will look for the free handout first.

The West trade corridor is seeing positive development just at a much slower rate. We don't need to spend tax dollars to push it along.

Anonymous said...

Last I checked, we live in a political economy. Or a capitalist society with significant governmental influence. If you want a totally free market, then let's toll all highways.

But pragmatically, public sector can stimulate or support private sector actions. And realistically, it takes money to make money.

Surely, we can afford to spend a little in the core (where the return is higher per dollar), when we keep spending plenty around and beyond the outerbelt.