Monday, November 19, 2007

Why The Northeast Corridor Should Hug North Tryon - Not North Davidson

View towards Uptown over the Intermodal Yards

The Belmont-NoDa (North Davidson area) directly adjacent to the intermodal yards northeast of Uptown is an area currently experiencing rampant infill/brownfield redevelopment (and gentrification in the single-family neighborhoods). As such, CATS's strategy to plan the NE Corridor Light Rail alignment along this area might seem to make much sense at first. However, from a development standpoint, the area where I see the most development potential is on the other side of the railroad switchyard/intermodal facility along North Tryon Street. From the precedent of the South Corridor, ideal scenerios for T.O.D. (transit oriented development) spring from the availability of large, tasty brownfield morsels for developers to assemble, convert and develop easily...and this is exactly the land use fabric that lies along North Tryon Street. I have made a map diagramming the development patterns I'm observing in the city (click on the map below):

Notice all the heavy development (depicted in the map in orange) currently taking place along the South Corridor, which is opening for Light Rail service this week. Notice also that the area of Belmont/Optimist Park to NoDa in the northeast is also experiencing high development activity. Since development is already occuring along the NE Corridor on this side of the tracks, how much sense does it make to reinforce infill development (which will pretty quickly saturate from what I'm observing) with light rail service, while all the brownfield redevelopment potential lies on the North/West side of the tracks (see image below) and could probably use the generative development capacity of the light rail? It seems to me that the NE Corridor alignment needs to get over to North Tryon Street as soon as possible heading north from the 277 loop. This would open up all of North Tryon Street north of the loop for TOD/brownfield & commercial redevelopment.

(Photo: Neighboring Concepts)

If it isn't feasible to get the light rail alignment over to North Tryon before the Intermodal/Switchyard facility, then the next best option is to use the existing 30th Street/Matheson bridge (see image below) to get the light rail over the tracks and on to N. Tryon (of course, you will have to put a signal on the bridge to allow the vehicles to cross the traffic lanes). This would create ideal TOD potential on either side of Little Sugar Creek north of the bridge. I actually see a potential to land on either side of the creek, depending on development scenarios (option one - land on the west side of the creek to get more directly to N. Tryon; option two - passing closer to NoDa by landing on the east side of the creek, heading thence to 36th street and from there on to N. Tryon). Notice that there is already a flyover being proposed for getting the alignment over to N. Tryon across Sugar Creek Road, so this would immediately remove that issue. Utilizing the existing 30th Street bridge could potentially save CATS headaches up the line and tons of money, while at the same time enhancing the redevelopment capacity of North Tryon! The TOD site might also help contribute to the greenway trail expansion along the Little Sugar Creek greenway, a huge plus for the Carolina Thread Trail effort.

Image of the 30th Street Flyover Proposal, Looking North

(photo: Neighboring Concepts)


Brandi said...

Sooo...what do you think it will take to convince the city to move the NE line to N. Tryon? Petitions or whatever?

Camp Urbanist said...

That's a good question. You know I feel like an was in our phase of the project with Glatting Jackson (the lead consultants) when we could have made this recommendation for alignments, but we missed out. I didn't at that time map out the city's brownfields to notice the development patterns depicted on the map. Since that phase concluded, I'm not sure it is in the new project team's task (which we are not a member in unfortunately) to change alignments.

I'm planning to keep glued to the public process. I'm hoping I can make a case to CATS (as a concerned citizen) that we can save money in flyover construction with my (southern) N. Tryon alignment proposal.