• Developer speaks on 15-year First Ward project

    By: Linzi Sheldon


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Developer Daniel Levine showed Eyewitness News firsthand how he plans to transform 8 ½ blocks of uptown Charlotte into what he calls the First Ward Urban Village.

    It's a 15-year project that will cost more than $700 million and includes city and county tax dollars.

    "People aren't going to recognize this part of the city," Levine said. "It'll be that significant, that impactful."

    Levine said he first began buying properties in the First Ward more than 30 years ago, never imagining it would eventually become a center for apartments, condos and retail.

    The plan includes making the parking lot beside the former Dixie's restaurant and bar, as well as the open lot beside it, completely flat. Levine said he will fill it in, raising Brevard Street by about 9 feet at its lowest point.

    He plans to replace the lots with a 4 ½-acre park with an interactive fountain, an arbor pool, and an open green area the size of a football field.

    Eventually, the First Ward Urban Village will have six to seven parking decks, though in the first phase he plans to provide 1,500 spaces, with 1,335 of the spaces public.

    The long-term project will also include condos, apartments, hotel rooms and retail along a new street along the Blue Line that he plans to build in the first phase.

    "We've got to find a way to deliver more retail, we've got to deliver more activities," Levine said. "We've got to fill out the urban offering, if you will."

    Brevard Street will get wide sidewalks, like those on Tryon Street, and the new street will look similar to the Levine Avenue of the Arts.

    Levine will receive about $11.3 million from Mecklenburg County for the park and up to $23.7 million from the city for public parking. He will receive it as part of a tax increment grant, which basically amounts to a 45 percent rebate on property taxes he pays in the first 10 years.

    Marguerite Suppa, who owns the Villa Francesca pizzeria across the street, is ecstatic.

    "(It'll) bring tons of people in here, in and out, probably all day long," she said.

    But some people dread the construction.

    "It can get to be a real eyesore," Don Merchant said.

    Eric Ross said another park is the last thing the county needs to be paying for.

    "I don't see no point in that, to be honest with you," he said. "I think it's a waste of money."

    Levine believes the development will provide much more in value and taxes, though, down the road.

    "Their return on investment is significant," he said.

    Construction for the first phase is expected to start in late summer or early fall.

    It will be finished in about 16 months.

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