North Tryon Street to get 'pocket park' before DNC

Credit: The Charlotte Observer

An artist's rendering of planned park in front of the old Carolina Theatre. Work is expected to begin soon and be finished by the start of the Democratic National Convention.


by MARK PRICE / The Charlotte Observer

Posted on July 19, 2012 at 10:20 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 31 at 1:43 PM

City officials have agreed to let the Foundation for the Carolinas proceed with transforming one of Charlotte’s longest-running eyesores into a park before the Democratic National Convention in September.

The small, vacant lot at 230 N. Tryon St. is city-owned property in front of the old Carolina Theatre, which has been dormant for more than 30 years. Since the façade was torn down, patches of weeds, broken asphalt and litter are all that’s left.

Now plans call for adding landscaping, benches, temporary lighting, fencing and up to five outdoor sculptures.

In a memo Wednesday to the City Council, City Manager Curt Walton said city staff will let temporary site improvements move forward without committing to the foundation’s overall proposal to buy the theater for $1 and renovate it.

That part of the plan will be considered Aug. 16 at a meeting of the council’s Economic Development Committee. At least one other proposal for development is also to be considered, submitted by CMP Carolina Theatre LLC.

Walton noted that whichever proposal the city accepts will take several years to implement.

“Instead of having that vacant lot in its current condition for the next few years, a partnership with the (foundation) provides a cost-effective opportunity to improve that lot,” Walton wrote.

The estimated cost of the park is $150,000, which would come from the foundation and community donations.

Foundation officials welcomed the decision to speed up the process on the “pocket park,” which they say would have been impossible to finish otherwise. The site is of particular interest to the foundation because it’s next door to the organization’s new office on North Tryon Street.

Designs are already in progress and work at the site could begin as early as this week, one foundation official said.

A completion date is not nailed down, but the plan is to do the work as quickly as possible, the official said.

The foundation’s full plan for the site has three phases and would include renovating the 85-year-old theater and adding a mid-level office building.

Numerous proposals have been made for the site since the theater closed in 1978, including a museum and more recently a 20-story condo project over a renovated theater.

Foundation plans call for using much of the site for meeting space dedicated to the public sector and nonprofits. The foundation hosted 349 meetings at its adjacent building in April alone; 95 percent were nonprofit sessions.