Ballantyne expansion includes proposed greenway

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by Jessica Milicevic / Charlotte Observer

Jessica Milicevic / Charlotte Observer

Posted on June 15, 2011 at 10:17 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Officials at Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation are hoping to build a greenway connector in the Ballantyne Corporate Park as part of the proposed zoning change by Bissell Companies.


Bissell Companies filed a zoning petition with the city to allow for more than 1 million square feet in additional office space, nine buildings, 200 hotel rooms and 600 residential units. The petition was filed in May and will be reviewed by the city of Charlotte at the July 18 City Council meeting.


If approved, the greenway would connect the Four Mile Creek Greenway and Ballantyne Commons Parkway, allowing greenway users to travel farther south into Mecklenburg County.


Gwen Cook, a Park and Recreation planner, said she's had at least a dozen calls over the past two years requesting the connector.


"I know it doesn't sound like a lot of people, but for something like this, it's substantial," she said. "I've had many residents who work in the park call requesting the connector because of the growing density in the area. Many of them would rather walk or bike to work than drive."


Cook said after reviewing the zoning petition that the department has requested a bridge over McAlpine Creek and an additional mile of land for a trail within the corporate park.


The total cost of the connector would be about $1 million. Cook said the department has requested Bissell Companies pay as much $250,000 for the connector. The department hopes to secure a grant with the N.C. Department of Transportation for the remaining amount.


Cook said the department often works with petitioners to fund projects like the connector.
"We do this all the time," said Cook. "We never ask for an amount the petitioner can't provide."


The property the connector would be built on would need to be dedicated to the county in one of two ways. Bissell Companies could choose to fund the project through a greenway easement - a management plan that would allow Bissell Companies to maintain ownership of the property but allow the county to manage and maintain it.


The company also could opt for a Fee Simple Dedication, in which Bissell Companies would give the land to the county to both own and manage.


"Either way would make us happy," said Cook. "Simply put, we need the land and the money to build on it."


She said although she hasn't heard a response from Bissell Companies, she hopes the connector will be approved.


"It's a win-win situation for everyone," said Cook. "It gives Bissell a great amenity to show companies who may relocate there and gives active transportation for those who don't want to drive to work."


Christina Thigpen of Bissell Companies said when the park opened, the company created open spaces similar to the connector. The open spaces cost more than $1 million and featured public fishing ponds and fitness trails.


"While we haven't had the opportunity to speak with Park and Recreation, we look forward to a discussion," said Thigpen. "We are confident that we will be able to satisfy their goals as we share a common interest in creating open spaces for people."


Leigh Myers, a Ballantyne resident, said she uses the Four Mile Creek Greenway twice a week. She said she thinks adding a connector through the corporate park is a great idea and that she would use it.


"I'd like to be able to walk farther down the greenway, especially to get to Ballantyne Commons Parkway," she said. "The greenway is beautiful and I really enjoy using it."


Myers also said the connector would help with traffic congestion in the area.


"Traffic can be awful," she said. "I think it would be nice if people could walk or bike to work instead of driving."


Cook said it is too early in the zoning process to know when the connector might be built. Bissell Companies must first review the department's requests and give approval before the plans and designs can be drawn.
 

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