by Morgan Smith
Developers who want to build a five-story, 109-room hotel near the heart of SouthPark made their pitch to area residents and business leaders Monday, April 30, about why the project is right for the area.
But area businesses and residents worry the development will endanger the safety of kids and seniors who live in the area.
The proposal, which calls for five stories plus two additional levels of underground parking, would sit on 0.65 acres of land, currently vacant, at 6026 Park South Drive. The land is situated between The Ivey, an adult day-care center, and Brighton Gardens Assisted Living. Developer CN Hotels and property owner K&P Development say SouthPark needs another “mid-to-upscale” hotel, most likely from the Marriot, Hilton or IHG brands, to serve corporate clientele traveling to Charlotte on weekdays, Monday through Thursday.
But not all community members are convinced the hotel is a good idea. Residents and business owners alike are first and foremost concerned about the safety of the area’s children and seniors and the effects of added traffic in the area. Right now, Park South Drive already experiences heavy traffic through business hours. Charlotte Department of Transportation suggests with the addition of the hotel, an estimated 882 cars will be added to the already congested road, residents complained.
“Logically it doesn’t make sense,” H.K. Patel, K&P Development’s agent on the project, said about the number of added cars and trips down Park South Drive compared to the hotels 109 rooms. “If you look at it, something doesn’t seem right there,” he said.
Some residents showed concerns about safety from the back of the site. Zack Strowd, the project’s architect from R4 Architecture based in Charlotte, said adjustments have been made to plans to incorporate a 27-foot undisturbed landscape buffer, required by the city.
“We will do some supplemental planning to try and bulk up that area for screening for the residences,” he said, adding the area will be untouched, with no building or surface improvements required or allowed. The plan also includes a 40-foot setback with a tree barrier at the rear side of the site.
But the safety concerns for area residents don’t end there. Also on the backside of the building is potential for a detention pond area to counteract storm water and rain. The pond would not permanently have water standing in it, Strowd explained, and at this point, is only a precautionary measure put in the plan that could go away depending on the final engineering design. The pond area would be fenced in fully, allowing no access to building occupants or neighborhood kids that could wander onto the site, Strowd said.
“We’re taking the precautions to secure this area if we have to do it,” he added.
But many residents say they would like to see the detention pond fully eliminated from the plan so they can be assured of no accidents, especially with 18 children under the age of 10 currently living directly behind the site.
“We request that there is no surface retention pond whatsoever,” one resident who lives directly behind the site, said. “The main driving goal is we don’t want any accidental drownings of any kind… whatever you can do to ensure the safety of our families – that’s what we’re asking; that’s what we’re requesting.”
Another concern from area residents is the look of the hotel, which will feature brick, stucco, glass and metal panels, and how the building will mesh with the area neighborhoods. One resident complained that the building’s flat roof doesn’t blend with the rest of the neighborhood, which is fitted with majority pitched roofs.
But when asked specifics about the design, Patel and Strowd said developers went with the flat-roof design to keep the height of the building minimal, since residents previously expressed concern of having such a large building in their back yard. But developers say they’re doing everything in their power to make sure the new hotel won’t be a nuisance to the rest of the neighborhood, including installing a brick wall to contain the driveway area all the way back to the trash chorale, which was positioned to coincide as best as possible with the trash chorale at Brighton Gardens, Strowd said. Developers also added extra landscaping on the south side of the site, adjacent to The Ivey and the lowest point of the sloped site, to guard the visible parking deck.
Lynn Ivey, director and founder of The Ivey, suggested developers plant trees at least four inches in diameter instead of two inches to incorporate more mature trees in the landscaping and to further hide the deck.
“We don’t want to be looking at the building at all if we can help it,” Ivey said.
Concerns about blasting on the site were mentioned, although developers have not had seismic tests on the site as of the April 30 meeting. Patel said he would keep residents in the know on the issue, and has presented the concern to the corporate office.
Charlotte City Council will review the proposal Tuesday, May 14, in a pubic hearing at the Government Center, 600 E. 4th St. Community members encourage residents to contact council members with any concerns. Find more information about the proposal at http://charmeck.org/city/charlotte/planning/Rezoning/RezoningPetitions/2012_Petitions/Pages/2012-040.aspx.