Aug 7, 2023 - Development

Developer preparing to build mixed-use “NoDa Village” on Johnston YMCA site

NoDa Johnston YMCA

The Johnston YMCA in Charlotte's NoDa neighborhood. Photo: Alexandria Sands/Axios

More details are emerging about the future of the Johnston YMCA. As suspected, the NoDa property will eventually be home to apartments and retail.

  • Republic Metropolitan filed permits with both the city and county recently for a project called “NoDa Village.”

Why it matters: Eyes have been on the prominent Johnston Y site for years as development reshaped the surrounding neighborhood. In an area that’s rapidly changing, many NoDa residents had hoped to get a say in how the beloved Johnston Y — the decades-old community institution in the heart of the neighborhood — was redeveloped. At one point the Y even indicated they’d be able to.

Now it looks like plans are advancing without much community input.

Details: The development proposal calls for 455 multi-family units, retail and “central greenspace” on the 5.78-acre site, according to filings.

  • Reached by phone, Republic’s senior vice president of development Adam McMichael told Axios they’re excited about the project but declined to comment further. He added that they’ll follow zoning code.
  • The YMCA is not speaking on matters beyond the closure.

Context: Republic first branched into Charlotte a few years ago when it entered a partnership with The Spectrum Cos., city and state on Charlotte Gateway Station, a future mixed-use development and Amtrak train station at West Trade and Graham streets, where multiple transit line will intersect.

  • Republic’s portfolio also includes projects in Richmond, Atlanta, Philadelphia, San Jose and San Francisco.

Flashback: Sometimes development projects call for rezonings, which require the builder to communicate and sometimes negotiate with neighbors. But in 2019, the Johnston Y’s land was rezoned as part of a mass city rezoning to TOD-NC (transit-oriented development neighborhood center). The developer can move forward without interacting with the community or elected officials.

  • Chad Maupin, vice president of the NoDa Neighborhood and Business Association, says his organization advocated to change the proposed zoning when the sweeping rezoning happened. In the past it’s also urged the YMCA to pursue a historic landmark designation to help preserve the 70-year-old structure, but the Y never applied.
  • “The actual YMCA building itself has a beautiful historic facade that really anchors the neighborhood,” he says. “It also speaks to the history of the neighborhood, the collaboration between the mill houses, where the mill workers lived, and places like the churches and the YMCA, where they were able to spend their recreational time or their time away from work.”

Between the lines: The regulations in the TOD-NC are designed to promote multi-storied buildings with activated street frontage. Developments are supposed to be dense but shouldn’t disrupt the single-family neighborhoods nearby.

  • Buildings are allowed to reach up to 75 feet. They can alternatively be 100 feet in exchange for adding affordable housing or more open space.
  • It’s also encouraged that buildings in the TOD-NC are rehabbed and reused to preserve the character of established neighborhoods.

What they’re saying: NoDa NBA representatives tell Axios they have reached out to Republic but have not heard back.

Neighbors say they feel blindsided by the YMCA of Greater Charlotte’s decision to sell the property, the association’s president Krysten Reilly said. That’s partly because decades ago, the Johnston Y parcel was given to the YMCA by the North Charlotte Community in a land swap.

  • “We have a problem in our neighborhood with a lot of things being privatized, and that doesn’t help build the community nor does it help share resources,” Reilly says.
  • The community, she adds, is losing resources without the Y, which will close by the end of the year.

The NBA has made several requests for the future of the site, in a letter Reilly says was shared with Republic. They include:

  • Preserving the expansive lawn as community space and concentrating most of the development to the rear of the property.
  • The preservation of trees, particularly the tall willow oak out front.
  • Incorporating some community feature, such as a public art gallery or meeting area, for example.
  • Preserving the front facade of the Johnston — or adapting the entire building.

Catch up quick: The Y has no plans to maintain a presence in NoDa. The sale revealed some shaky finances within the organization, which won’t be cured by the single real estate deal, as the Observer reported.

  • The Y’s revenue fell more than 28% from 2019 to 2021, and membership is down about 25% since 2019.
Johnston YMCA NoDa
The Johnston YMCA in Charlotte’s NoDa neighborhood. Photo: Alexandria Sands/Axios
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