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A Green Light for Progress on Charlotte’s Northern Blue Line: Our Multi-Family Contribution

Hannah Hanlon

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With a little over 800,000 residents, Charlotte is North Carolina’s largest city, one of the biggest in the southeast and the 17th-biggest in the US. Until just recently however, the growing city suffered from a lack of connectivity between neighborhoods and a decided lack of public transportation city-wide. Fortunately, due to a forward-thinking city government and continuity throughout 20+ years of planning, the city opened its first light rail line in 2007 and hasn’t looked back.  

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The first line to come to completion – the  LYNX Blue South Line – transformed the southern half of the city. Gold and Silver lines radiating like bicycle spokes from Charlotte’s core are also in the works. And finally, the newly completed LYNX Blue North Line is poised to do the same for travelers moving between the city’s center and UNC’s Charlotte campus in the northeast corner.

Corcoran Ota is proud to have been a part of bringing the North Line’s promise to life, with construction of our first Charlotte rail line project: V&3, a 338 unit, multi-family development just stops from the UNC campus.

Formerly called “Gateway” (because of its proximity to the University’s threshold), the project recently gained a stylized moniker combining roman numerals (“V” for 5) and Arabic numbers (3), signifying the building’s position at the “8th” stop on the Northern Blue Line. (Five plus three, get it?) This transportation feature also shaped the development’s form and functional elements. “It’s a TOD; a ‘transit-oriented development’, which dictates a number of things, but most significantly how much parking we will give the development,” notes principal architect Dean Ota. “A lot of times in zoning they’ll say, ‘You shall have at least this much parking.’ In a TOD development, they say ‘You shall not have more than this much parking’ to encourage people to take the train. It’s a great thing for the city, one I wish others would take more notice of.” (We’re looking at you, Atlanta.)

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Like another COG transit-oriented property currently in construction, our multi-family project on Atlanta’s Beltline the Charlotte site also features some “tremendous topography,” this time in a couple interesting ways. First, the site slopes; which “Isn’t a huge issue with a plot of land this large,” says Ota. But more uniquely, V&3 has a public boulevard running directly through its middle, something COG architects had to consider when planning the buildings. “The boulevard was built by the property’s ownership and then dedicated to the city after the fact,” says Ota. “So, it had to be designed in conjunction with our work. In some ways, we had to lay the boulevard out, too.” The solution sets a number of both several-story and shorter residential blocks around the boulevard’s curve, allowing the street feel to vary, rising, falling and creating interest for pedestrians.

The project is in the construction phase now, rising up among other new developments rounding out the LYNX Blue Line on Charlotte’s North side. Completion is set for early 2019. “Charlotte is expecting a repeat success on this side of the rail corridor,” says Ota. “And so far, there seems to be every indication that they will do the same, just as well as they did on the South line.”

Light rail, beltline, and other pedestrian and transit-centric developments are transforming mid-to-large tier cities all over the U.S. We’ll follow the trend via our own projects over time, including this one. Stay tuned!