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Huntersville leaders expected to vote on Birkdale Village tonight

The stage at Birkdale / Staff photo

March 20. By TL Bernthal. The vote tonight on plans for office space and a parking deck at Birkdale Village will surely be split, but the final outcome is not apparent.

Mayor Melinda Bales may need to cast a tie-breaking vote. On Friday afternoon she announced plans to seek a second term.

The vocal public opinion from the Greens at Birkdale Village neighbors had been against the project until the last meeting March 6 when four supporters of the project spoke up.

The plan

What’s on the block for tonight’s vote is Class A office space and a supporting parking deck that would be built first. If approved, NAP would market the office space for six months or so to get lease commitments for at least half the space before starting that building.

The office building and retail would be 175,000 square feet: Six stories with 150,000 square feet of offices over retail.

The plans show the 450 spaces will be added above the existing two-story garage adjacent to the green. The first story will remain  public parking and the second for the existing multi-family.

A 125-room, seven-story, boutique hotel and 350 multifamily units apartments were removed from the original plan. Because of current tenants / leases, there is no room for a hotel.

What was a $200 million to $250 million project is now an $80 million to $90 million project.

The Planning Board, during a second review Feb. 28, did not approve the plans.

The supporters

“It seems we’ve gotten caught up in a whirlwind of negativity and against advancements. I hate to see this happen to Birkdale. I hate to see it stagnate and our property values go down,” Steven Hines, a resident, told the town board March 6. “I hate to see us lose the benefits of the taxes the office building and businesses would bring into the city. Huntersville needs to move forward, not backward, and I hope that we say yes to the development.”

Three other residents echoed praise for Birkdale Village and the North American Properties’ plan.

“I am very lucky to be a homeowner right next to Birkdale Village,” Taylor Judge said. “I’ve seen the equity of my home almost double in nearly two-and-a-half years. The updates at Birkdale have played a big part in that.

“I am in favor of the other updates planned and have friends who live in Charlotte that are dying to move to the area,” she said. “They are attracted to the high-end restaurants, shopping and events. … I’m in favor of the change, which is going to improve my quality of life.”

Sheila Wilson agreed.

“I’m here tonight in support of the continued development of Birkdale Village,” Wilson said. “I don’t want this area to be passed by. I want to see continued growth and prosperity. I want my property value to continue to be strengthened and sustained by the vitality and the viability of the Village.

She described herself as a super user of the Village space, retail, restaurants, services, events. She touted the greenspace by the stage that  is packed with families and little kids playing; people just enjoying the sun or watching a game on the big screen.

“I’ve skated on the ice rink, sampled local restaurants at last fall’s charity event, cheered for Santa lighting the tree, enjoyed many summer evenings listening to bands under the oaks.”

Wilson said it just makes sense  to allow continued change like NAP is proposing.

“I lead economic development programs across the country for a Fortune 10 company as a government affairs director.,” Wilson said.  “I see firsthand the direct, indirect, and induced impacts of money invested in communities. Why on Earth are we making it so hard to do in our own back yard?

“I look forward to seeing the village continue to evolve and would certainly hope this board would support those efforts. The little development that time forgot is not a good look for the village, and it’s not a good look for Huntersville.”

Lesley Williams  attended “because I felt the necessity to try and balance the voices you’re hearing.”

“Thanks to this investment, finally we have public restrooms and baby changing facilities, a proper green where we can sit and enjoy local artists and events, kid-sized tables and chairs,” she said.

“Reduced street parking means less traffic in the center, which makes it safer for pedestrians and families with children. Cars in a community development like Birkdale belong in a parking deck. We are excited by an influx of different and exciting tenants, better aesthetics, landscaping and more.

“Finally, we hear of new tenants choosing south Lake Norman instead of always reading about Southpark, South End, Southland. But to attract those good tenants and keep them here, the commercial environment [must] support them. That means when apartment tenants are out during the day, office tenants pick up their coffee from Starbucks, frequent the restaurants, hold business lunches, run errands for that birthday gift, slip out to exercise at the barre.

“To continue to be successful, retail dollars need to be constant, not just evenings, weekends and holidays,” Wilson said.

The critics

Critics bemoan the larger picture of Sam Furr Road ingress and egress shortfalls that push Birkdale Village visitors onto the streets in the surrounding neighborhood, parking concerns, the esthetics for the proposed structures and the need for Class A office space, disproportionate size/height of the project, a disruption to the quality of life, whether the plans comply with the town’s 2040 Community Plan and a disrespect for the village concept and village residents.

They also ask when the fountain will return, when the brewery will open in one of two empty structures on the green, why Williams Sonoma is painted.

The least the town board should do, critics say, is to reject the plan until the $20 million first phase of North American Properties changes to Birkdale are complete.