Council QuickiesNews & Opinion

Council Quickies: City Proposes Redevelopment Around Spectrum Center

Notes from Tuesday's meeting: May 31, 2022

Patrick Cannon
City council met on Tuesday night to discuss a bevy of topics. (Photo courtesy of City of Charlotte)

On the Agenda:

  • Action Review: Spectrum Center Development
  • Budget Approval and Other Business Items
  • Gold Line Phase 3 Discussion & Vote

What happened: Charlotte City Council met for a business meeting on Tuesday night, at which they took one big action without much discussion (adopted a new city budget) and had one long discussion that ended without any action (deferring a vote on the Gold Line’s Phase 3).

What’s next: You can expect more info on a big new development at the Spectrum Center during next week’s strategy session, scheduled for Monday, June 6, and possibly even a vote as early as the June 13 business meeting. 

Action Review: Spectrum Center Development

Assistant City Manager Tracy Dodson led a presentation that, at first glances, was on proposed upgrades and renovations to the Spectrum Center, but became a presentation on a whole new big development across the street. 

An independent study found that the arena needs at least $173 million in upgrades and repairs to fulfill the city’s contractual obligations. The lease ends in 2030, so to make that total dollar amount a little more comfortable, the city has now negotiated a 15-year lease extension with the Hornets.

As part of this new lease extension, the Hornets will pay $2 million a year in rent beginning in 2031 and will contribute $1.1 million in annual capital improvements.

The city and the Hornets are also looking to build a new “Performance Center” where the CATS Charlotte Transportation Center is currently located across the street from the arena with a goal of turning Brevard Street into a “festival street” and community gathering place. 

As for the Transit Center, Dodson acknowledged that this idea cannot work without viable connectivity to mass transit. Preliminary plans include a new underground transit center underneath the new Brevard Street Performance Center.

The project would be funded with $215 million from the city’s tourism fund as opposed to the general fund, and by an additional $60 million in naming rights revenue. A preliminary timeline in Dodson’s presentation showed that construction could begin by 2024 with completion coming by 2027. 

A conceptual rendering of the new Production Facility (left) looking northwest on East Trade Street. (Courtesy of City of Charlotte)

The Performance Center would be a mixed-use development anchored by a Hornets practice facility. Their current practice facility at the Spectrum Center is outdated. Ed Driggs wanted to confirm that “Performance Center” did not mean it would be a music venue.

Questions from council members on Tuesday were sent to the Economic Development committee. The first two council members to speak, both committee members, wanted to know specifics around who gets to make the deal regarding naming rights. Dodson said there will be a consulting group brought in but could not provide more detail than that. 

Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt pointed out that tourism funds are also meant to go to other projects such as those involving arts and culture and asked how those projects will get funded if most of the tourism fund is going to be put to the Performance Center project.

Budget vote and other business items

Mayor Vi Lyles stated during Tuesday’s meeting that Southern Comfort Inn on Tuckaseege Road and Queen City Drive has informed the city that it will close on June 30. They provide affordable rents to around 150 Charlotteans, and ownership there took in many neighbors displaced from Lake Arbor in 2019

Lyles said the city will look into how they can help keep Southern Comfort running. “We are struggling here, we are struggling in this community just to keep people in their homes, but when we have these kinds of closures … it is one of the tougher things we have to do.”

The first order of business after council moved into its regular business meeting was a vote on the FY 2023 city budget. You can read our reporting on the budget from the city manager’s presentation on May 2 here or see the full document here

The city approved a motion to sell off 57.5 acres of the 78-acre Eastland Mall site to C4 Development, LLC — a Crosland Southeast affiliate — bringing the site one step closer to redevelopment.

Council approved a motion to place a $226-million bond referendum on the ballot this November 8. The referendum will include $146.2-million in street bonds, $29.8-million in neighborhood improvement bonds, and $50-million in housing bonds.

Council approved the appropriation of $110,000 from NC DOT for installation of a pedestrian hybrid beacon signal and bus shelter relocation at Monroe Road and Ashmore Drive. The city will fund the remainder of the project, which totals out to $155K for planning, design, right-of-way acquisition, and construction.

Phase 3 of the Gold Line

Council then began discussing a vote to appropriate $4.3 million for Phase 3 of the Gold Line, to run from French Street to Rosa Parks Center along Beatties Ford Road and from Hawthorne Lane to Eastland Transit Center along Central Avenue.

The contract would be a “refresh,” said CATS CEO John Lewis, with new initial design services that will “apply lessons learned from the prior projects,” meaning Phases 1 & 2, which faced many challenges in the 15 years between approval and their completion, and which still struggle with delays today. 

Ed Driggs said he believes investing in a network of smaller vehicles and buses could create more reliable connectivity than what he’s seen from the Gold Line thus far.

A CATS CityLYNX Gold Line stop at Johnson C. Smith University on West Trade Street, featuring artwork by George Bates. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

Tariq Bokhari said he is a No on this vote and will continue to be a No on all CATS-related votes until the foundational issues within the organization are addressed, ranging from driver safety to ghost buses to a “pretty damning audit” of CATS as a whole.

Julie Eiselt asked how the city can ensure someone will enforce parking on the Gold Line, which has led to delays. Lewis responded that CATS doesn’t have that authority, to which a frustrated Eiselt said, “I know … but we are one city. We should be able to do this.”

Matt Newton echoed Malcolm Graham’s concerns for their respective constituencies. “This is a matter of trust. There are promises that have been made in east Charlotte and west Charlotte.” He compared the $4-million Phase 3 investment to the $215 million discussed for Spectrum Center at the top of the meeting.

Marcus Jones said he wouldn’t have placed Gold Line Phase 3 on the agenda if he knew there were so many problems, to which Victoria Watlington responded by saying she was concerned that neither CATS nor Jones have answers to questions asked tonight as part of due diligence. “These are not surprise questions.”

Council voted unanimously to defer the vote on Phase 3 until more of those not-so-surprise questions could be answered and the meeting was adjourned.

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