May 30, 2023 - Development

One of Plaza Midwood’s rare surface lots could become a 10-story mixed-use tower

Levine Properties rezone approximately 0.94 acres located at the southeast intersection of Commonwealth Avenue and The Plaza, north of East Independence Boulevard Photo: Alexandria Sands/Axios

Levine Properties is planning an up to 150-foot-tall residential and commercial tower on a crumbling parking lot near the heart of Plaza Midwood.

Why it matters: The proposed building, which would be 10 stories on the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and The Plaza, is expected to be one of many high-density developments to come to the area just behind Central Avenue’s main strip, where the new Silver Line light rail could one day run.

Yes, but: This project could be the tallest building in Plaza Midwood, and it would set a precedent for future developments in the area. Developer Daniel Levine must balance the high density with preserving the character of one of Charlotte’s most rapidly changing neighborhoods.

Driving the news: To pursue the project, Charlotte-based Levine Properties must first rezone the land at 2100 Commonwealth Ave.

  • The City of Charlotte Zoning Committee had a discussion slated for Tuesday night, but Levine Properties requested they defer it, according to the agenda.

Details: The tower is a “pedestrian-focused” design, with up to 175 residences and 12,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor. The site is just under an acre, between Undercurrent Coffee and The Julien apartments, the latter of which is also one of Levine Properties’ investments.

  • The Charlotte Fire Department Credit Union would return to the property with a drive-thru. The old credit union building was torn down around 2019.
parking lot
Photo: Alexandria Sands/Axios

Zoom out: By the late 2030s, a new light rail, the Silver Line, will transverse through center city toward Union County, closely following Independence Boulevard. (Although, there is currently no secure funding source for the transit line.)

  • Levine Properties, which has a history of developing Plaza Midwood, anticipates the area along the light rail corridor to densify, attorney Collin Brown told council during an April meeting. Nearby, construction is underway on Crosland Southeast’s Commonwealth, the 12-acre mixed-use project that will be about seven stories at its tallest point.
  • Brown said the tower project, called “The Julien Phase 2,” would support the city’s multi-modal investments, including the nearby Gold Line streetcar, bus routes and bike lanes.  Levine Properties has offered to contribute to a future rail trail behind its properties.

“To have more dynamic transit-oriented development, we need great flexibility,” Brown told city council as he defended the requested height. He suggested too-strict building regulations lead to boring apartment buildings that look “like everything else.”

The other side: Neighbors and city planning staff are concerned about the scale of the structure, as well as its impacts on the infrastructure.

  • The proposed residences and businesses would add an estimated 1,700 cars to the roads daily. Plus, the project takes away one of the few remaining public parking lots in Plaza Midwood.
  • Levine Properties’ site plans call for at least one parking space per unit and some business spaces.

Of note: The developer previously envisioned the tower to be 12 stories. “We have adjusted our plans down, from 12 to 10 stories, in an effort to work with the neighborhood,” Levine Properties spokesperson Colleen Brannan tells Axios.

  • Brannan did not have further information to share on whether reducing the number of floors would affect the 150-foot height, the number of units or the amount of commercial space.

Flashback: As of 2018, Levine Properties is leasing the corner lot from the credit union for $1.3 million through 2048, according to county records. The prominent family has deep roots in Plaza Midwood: Leon Levine opened the first Family Dollar on Central Avenue in 1959.

What’s next: Levine Properties is continuing to work with neighbors and the city to “find a middle ground,” Brannan says.

Representatives from Plaza Midwood Merchants Association, Commonwealth Morningside Neighborhood Association and Plaza Midwood Neighborhood Association voiced opposition to the plans at the April hearing.

  • City planning staff is recommending council reject the rezoning because of the drive-thru and the height.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to reflect the deferral.

Levine Properties rezone approximately 0.94 acres located at the southeast intersection of Commonwealth Avenue and The Plaza, north of East Independence Boulevard Photo: Alexandria Sands/Axios
Photo: Alexandria Sands/Axios
Levine Properties rezone approximately 0.94 acres located at the southeast intersection of Commonwealth Avenue and The Plaza, north of East Independence Boulevard Photo: Alexandria Sands/Axios
Photo: Alexandria Sands/Axios
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