CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A massive addition of offices, homes and hotel rooms in Ballantyne gets a preliminary hearing this week before the City Council on a major piece of the project: roads.
Bissell Companies has offered to spend $11 million to ease traffic congestion caused by the expansion of its Ballantyne Corporate Park. But it hopes to recoup those costs from the higher property tax receipts the city would collect from the improvements.
The company plans to add 1 million square feet of office space, 600 residential units and 200 hotel rooms. Ned Curran, the company's president, said the project would add up to 4,000 jobs.
"We've had over one million square feet of leasing prospects looking to relocate here," he said. "It's attracting companies from other parts of the country... and we are just trying to play to that demand."
With added jobs, Bissell and Ballantyne residents both expect added congestion. Curran said the company wants to improve the roadways before expanding the office park.
The biggest addition: a bridge over Interstate 485 that would link two sections of Community House Road. The company hopes the $8.5 million project - which needs the approval of the city, county and state - would give drivers an alternative route to the outerbelt.
"It's not a secret that congestion on Johnston Road to get onto 485 is terrible," said Curran. "By giving people an alternate route to the interstate, we hope to ease some of that concern."
But some residents of Ballantyne, where traffic is already a major problem, don't think that will be the case.
"I walk in the corporate park. It's gorgeous. It's great what they've done for the neighborhood. But as someone who has lived here since 2003, I've seen the traffic get worse and worse," said an area resident who asked to remain nameless. "And although I applaud them for wanting to build that bridge, they're only going to make it even more congested on (North Community House)."
Not everyone shares those worries. Vic Giroux, who relocated his butcher shop to the office park two years ago, applauds Bissell's plans. "As a business owner, I'm all about expanding," he said. "I'm all for more traffic."
On July 18, the City Council will hold a formal public hearing on the road work. Construction would begin immediately upon city approval, with expected completion in 2014. Park expansion would follow in 2015 and continue for 10 years.
On Monday, the company will ask the council for what's called a Synthetic Tax Increment Financing. If approved, the measure would allow Bissell to recoup its road-improvement costs from city property taxes. If property values don't rise, the company doesn't get paid.
"I think it's great that they are figuring out some way to get the money to fund (construction) without having to rely on a higher being, being Raleigh," said Ballantyne resident Jim Siekman. "And if you've got to improve the roads to make us all happy and give us paychecks, so be it."
City councilman Warren Cooksey, who represents Ballantyne, said Bissell is helping the city out by stretching the repayment over 15 years. It would start in 2015.
Cooksey said he can't comment on how he will vote on the expansion and road-financing proposal until he hears the formal presentation during the rezoning hearing in July.