Imagining a trail of parks through South End

Fact No. 1: A sidewalk runs beside the light rail tracks through South End, from Morehead Street to a little north of the Scaleybark Station.

Fact. No. 2: South End, which grew up from what had been an industrial sector of the city (nearby Dilworth and Wilmore neighborhoods notwithstanding), does not have a park.

Add those facts. Thus was born the idea for a Rail Trail, a 3.3-mile trail featuring a series of better-designed nodes along today’s workmanlike sidewalk.

The effort stemmed from workshops more than a year ago sponsored by Historic South End and addressing a variety of needed improvements in the area, such as higher design standards for new development and nurturing “authentic neighborhood retail.”  The idea to develop a linear park along what’s now a sidewalk beside the Lynx Blue Line light rail was part of the Center City 2020 Vision Plan (click here to download the PDF). So when the idea emerged during the South End workshops to plan and develop a new system of parks and public spaces in the area, Charlotte Center City Partners, which includes Historic South End, hired three architect-designers and told them, in essence: Imagine.

The three – David Furman of Centro CityWorks, Terry Shook of Shook Kelley and Richard Petersheim of LandDesign – have come up with a series of sketches and concept ideas for improving the experience of walking down that rail-side walk. Ideas include:

  • A small plaza with tables across Camden Road from the famous Price’s Chicken Coop fried chicken takeout spot.

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AFTER

  • A park overlooking I-277, with benches and shelters from which to view the uptown skyline.

  • Instead of hiding a large Duke Energy substation with a fence, illuminate it with colors at night, creating an artistic light display.

The ideas – presented at a South End neighborhood meeting last month, as well as at other venues in recent weeks – are just that for now: ideas. There’s no money, no timeline, not even a master plan. “The Rail Trail will be built over time. There will be a variety of funding strategies,” says material handed out at the April meeting by CCCP.

The strategy is to lay out a plan and find partners from among property owners, the private sector and local governments. “Each ‘intervention’ on the Rail Trail will include different funding partners and a different timeline,” says the CCCP material.

Other before and after views, below

  • Transform the view of the parking lot behind the former Pewter Rose restaurant into a walkway to help pedestrians get to the shops and restaurants that front on South Boulevard.

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AFTER

  • An unattractive back end of the Arlington development, built before the Lynx service began, turns its parking deck toward the light rail tracks. It could be redesigned into a small park for passersby.

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AFTER