Friday, November 30, 2007

biddleville nc

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Biddleville is the oldest surviving predominantly African-American neighborhood in Charlotte, North Carolina. It is located two miles west of Uptown and Interstate 77 along Beatties Ford Road. Biddleville is home to Johnson C. Smith University, a historically black college once called the Biddle Institute, that was formed shortly after the Civil War to educate aspiring black preachers and teachers[1]. Biddleville arose as a supporting community of the Institute and was distinctly separate from Charlotte until it was annexed by the city in the early 1900s[2].

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Nov 13, 2007 (The Charlotte Observer - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- BVDRF | charts | news | PowerRating -- Neighbors of Belvedere Homes always envisioned more for their westside community than the business park planned on the site of the former public housing project.

Now, so do the developers.

The Charlotte Mecklenburg Development Corp. has purchased three old buildings on Rozzelles Ferry Road in front of the Stewart Creek Business Park tract to renovate for commercial and retail businesses.

Initially, the developers expected to demolish the buildings, said CMDC President Bob Sweeney. "But after talking to the neighborhood folks and Neighboring Concepts (an architectural, community planning and development firm), we determined they are very useable buildings."

The project got fresh support recently from the Urban Land Institute, an influential education and research organization.

Its Charlotte arm worked with CMDC through an internal group called the Partnership Forum to craft development recommendations, including The Next Big Thing idea of reusing the old structures as part of a commercial and retail services center.

CMDC believes it has space to add about 19,300 square feet of new buildings to the 19,800 square feet of existing structures, which include the landmark Belvedere Theater.

In addition, the planning collaborative envisions saving all the old oak trees on the 23-acre Belvedere Homes site -- another key wish of neighbors -- and creating a greenway on the flood plain along Stewart Creek.

That would give business park workers and neighborhood residents a walking and biking route to uptown or nearby Martin Luther King Park, Sweeney said.

Copier services, phone stores, storage facilities, shipping services and similar business likely would be attracted to the center to primarily serve tenants in the business park, he said.

Neighborhood services most likely would be provided nearby at West Trade Street and Bruns Avenue, where Neighboring Concepts plans a mixed-use project that could include residences, offices and shops, said partner Chris Ogunrinde.

The developers are doing a marketing study to determine the best combination of uses to serve the neighborhood, he said.

People in the nearby Smallwood, Biddleville and Seversville seem pleased with the direction of the planned redevelopment.

Lawyer and neighborhood leader Charles Jones calls it "a positive evolution of the community we invested in."

Jones, who has lived on West Trade Street for 60 years, said, "You couldn't drag me out with a team of Clydesdale horses."

Revitalization already is taking hold there. Several homes are being renovated, and developers are planning infill projects.

Belvedere Homes was so dilapidated and crime ridden that the housing authority won a grant in 2004 to demolish it.

Neighbors were delighted to see it go, Jones said, but they wanted to make sure they were included in discussions about the site's future.

As it turned out, "I was impressed with the collaborative process we were able to set up though the city, the chamber and the CMDC," he said. "We have assurances they will come back to the neighborhood to share and update us on progress."

Sweeney said CMDC will spend slightly more than budgeted to renovate the buildings in Stewart Creek Business Park, but it has arranged additional debt with Wachovia Corp. to cover the expense.

CMDC is a public-private partnership that includes the Charlotte Chamber, the city and the county. The governments are investing $950,000 each to help cover redevelopment costs of about $3.8 million.

The business park tentatively would have 14 tracts available for roughly 135,500 square feet of light industrial buildings.

Sweeney said the actual number of sites could be more or less depending on how purchasers want to develop the property. CMDC is asking $100,000 an acre. NAI Southern Real Estate is handling sales and marketing.

The city's economic development staff helped with a rezoning that was approved last month and is working with CMDC to complete purchased of land from the housing authority, which has agreed to sell it for the appraised price of just over $1 million.

A.C. Shull, program manager for special projects in the city economic development department, said the City Council is expected to take the final step to approve the city's investment Nov. 26.

The city then would purchase the land from the housing authority and transfer it to CMDC by the end of this month.

Sweeney said the developers plan to start rehabilitating the old buildings and begin work on the business park early next year.

It would resemble an earlier, slightly larger CMDC project: Wilkinson Boulevard Business Center on Wilkinson Boulevard between Steele Creek Road and Morris Field Drive.

But with an average size of about 12,500 square feet, buildings would be about half the size of those on Wilkinson Boulevard.

They also would be less industrial looking and include more brick to blend with the neighborhood and buffer it from heavy industrial development, Sweeney said.

When completed, planners estimate Stewart Creek Business Park could generate more than 125 jobs for the neighborhood.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Development Corp.

The Charlotte Chamber, the city and the county formed this nonprofit community development partnership in 1997 to change the environment in blighted corridors through real estate development.Officials believe it's unique in the nation in using low overhead, a volunteer board and chamber guidance to create a catalyst for commercial development.

The partnership finances its activities through the sale of properties, private donations, city/county grants and loans, private bank loans and federal funds leveraging.

Its projects include Wilkinson Park Business Center and City West Commons, a shopping center at West Boulevard and Remount Road in west Charlotte. The Belvedere Homes site redevelopment will be its third project.

Partnership Forum

Crosland LLC Chairman and CEO Todd Mansfield, also national Urban Land Institute chairman, mentored a ULI Charlotte Partnership Forum that examined the Belvedere Homes redevelopment plan, interviewed stakeholders and made recommendations on how developers might proceed.

Members of the team were selected from the Charlotte District Council's 200-member Young Leaders Group.

The Partnership Forum said in its project report that "the collective input" from the neighborhood and other participants inspired it to recommend a commercial/retail center and industrial services on the former 23-acre site of the Belvedere Homes public housing project.

"The site's boundaries are purposefully integrated into the surrounding neighborhoods, pulling people in whether on foot, bicycle or in automobiles, while respectfully diverting heavier traffic elsewhere," the report said. Doug Smith


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