Meck County approves funding for Innovation District near new med school

CHARLOTTE — Mecklenburg County leaders approved funding for Atrium Health’s Innovation District on Tuesday night.

Atrium officials want to surround the new medical school being built near uptown with health care, research and technology companies, as well as housing.

The county voted 6-2 to reimburse 90% of new property taxes over 15 years for a total of $38 million.

Commissioner Susan Rodriguez-McDowell proposed giving only 50% but her effort failed.

The tax breaks will go toward infrastructure improvements, including an 800-space parking deck. Some commissioners disagreed with whether using public funds for a parking deck is a good move.

“This community is in an affordable housing and health care crisis,” Rodriguez-McDowell said. “Parking for a private entity is not a priority.”

“There’s parking decks all over this city, and I haven’t seen a sign yet carried by any member of this board saying you shouldn’t be here, because you drive everywhere we go,” Commissioner Vilma Leake said. “Where would we park here if we didn’t have a parking deck downstairs or across the street?”

Chairman George Dunlap said the county owes an apology to Atrium and CEO Gene Woods for the way he was treated at the first meeting. That’s when this project was aggressively questioned.

Vice Chair Elaine Powell rejected any notion that Atrium was being villainized. Rodriguez-McDowell said she does not think her line of questioning was rude.

(WATCH BELOW: Mecklenburg County commissioners appear skeptical of Atrium tax breaks)