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June 2001
Be Involved...Stay Involved!
By John Paul Galles
     The bad news is that not all of those issues will be resolved before June 5th. The good news is, that regardless of the vote, a great many of those concerns will have to be addressed eventually anyway, if Charlotte is to continue to grow to meet the needs of its citizens.
      One such issue being debated is the exact location of the uptown arena. The site proposed by City Council is the area bordered by Mint, Graham, Second and Fourth Streets. However, the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners has recommended the arena be built on the site bordered by the railroad tracks, Graham and Fourth Streets with a 15-acre park in front of it (on the city’s proposed arena site).
     Having been asked for their input, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission voted 4-3 in favor of the County’s proposal. However, Mayor Pat McCrory said that the new lease with the Hornets determines that the arena goes where City Council wants it.  There has been some conjecture as to whether the County’s proposed site would involve moving an underground facility of Duke Energy and city staffers add that placing the arena near the tracks would require more time and money before arena development could begin in order to meet the October 2003 opening deadline.
     Most people agree that creating green space in our center city is incredibly important to making it attractive and accommodating to local residents as well as to visitors. With Marshall Park on the south side of our uptown community, a new park in the Third Ward would be a welcome addition to the glass, steel and concrete of new center city development and very accessible to future trolley riders. By comparison, building the arena next to a parking garage, next to Panther Stadium, without a park, sounds like typical piecemeal urban development.
     To quote from our Mayor, “One lesson we have learned from Ericsson Stadium is that we don’t want people walking out of a facility, going to their car and leaving.  We want to keep that energy. Not just two hours at the facility and go home.” To be sure, having an attractive park creates space for people to comfortably explore and enjoy uptown, its restaurants, shops and other activities, before and after events at either facility.
     How much time and money would it cost to consider this alternate site plan with space for a new park? How can we examine these choices and still make progress on a new arena that meets the October 2003 deadline?
     The county’s proposal appears to be worth considering carefully, however difficult it may be to investigate and answer all the necessary questions within the agreed upon timeline of the Hornets. It is incumbent upon both city and the county officials involved to maintain the integrity of a unified plan, because in the final analysis that is really what we are voting on — the intelligent compromise of many different interests working together for the benefit of all of us. Being involved, and staying involved, as important issues like these need to be explored — that will be the true momentum behind the decade of progress to come.
John Paul Galles is the publisher of Greater Charlotte Biz.
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