Paseos and Other Beautiful Things: A Vision for First Ward

By David Mildenberg

Charlotte’s First Ward on North Tryon Street is among the less glittery parts of the center city, sporting an interesting mix of uses, ranging from gleaming new apartments to an auto repair/convenience store to an old hotel turned into a public housing site.

Over the next two decades, city leaders hope to transform a 60-acre section of the area into a community jewel. Like most efforts in downtown Charlotte in the last five years, this one is being led by “the Michaels”: Michael Smith, CEO of Center City Partners, and Michael Marsicano, CEO of Foundation for the Carolinas.

In a November presentation to the Charlotte City Council, Smith emphasized the goal of creating “an extraordinary place,” on par with lively, densely populated neighborhoods in Barcelona, Boston and London. Those are among the cities planners have visited as they developed the North Tryon Vision Plan, which covers 6thStreet to the Interstate 277 Loop, and from Poplar Street on the west to Caldwell Street on the east.

This vision has a decent chance of materializing, in part because much of the land is already owned or controlled by the city, county and state and houses the public library, Discovery Place, McColl Arts Center, the Hal Marshall county services building, the new First Ward Park and UNC Charlotte’s center-city campus building. The Mecklenburg County commission approved the project’s broad outline in November, though what that means financially is unclear.

Developer Daniel Levine’s company owns much of the land not held by government. Levine is an heir to the Charlotte discount retailing clan who has used much of his downtown acreage for surface parking lots for many years.

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