Aug 21, 2023 - Development

Neglected Uptown park hasn’t reopened since demolition

polk park

Photo: Alexandria Sands/Axios

The corner of Trade and Tryon still looks like a demolition zone, and there’s no date yet to reopen the long-neglected public square.

  • In a controversial move, the city began razing Polk Park starting in May to clear the way for a revamped park. Green fences still wrap around the 0.3-acre site — once known for its broken fountain.

Although the deconstruction is complete, the space is still closed off to the public. It is supposed to reopen temporarily while a new park is designed. For now, the city is “working through the logistics” to install temporary artificial turf. That new surface may be a few months out, a city spokesperson told Axios.

  • “To avoid confusion, we do not want to open and close the space multiple times,” the spokesperson said. “It is our intent to open the park in the near future.”
  • Charlotte Center City Partners, a leader of the park makeover, is planning to share an update on the interim use for the park in the coming days.

Why it matters: Some frequenters of Uptown are worried the city has now erased more of its history, only for the park to remain neglected. The three-decade-old park is in a high-foot-traffic area. It’s where bankers from the Bank of America Corporate Center and other Uptown employees pause for lunch breaks or a moment between business meetings.

  • The park, built in 1991, was named after commander Thomas Polk and is where his home used to be. The intersection was significant to Charlotte’s evolution in the 18th century, a place where trade routes intersected and the Mecklenburg Resolves were purportedly produced and signed by Polk.
  • Despite its visible location, the park became obsolete over the years. The city didn’t keep up with landscaping and lighting.

Context: Business and civic leaders plan to turn the city-owned park into an urban, community gathering place that complements the hustle of the surrounding area. They’re aiming for a summer 2025 finish.

  • The Hugh McColl Park Coalition is raising $10 million for the project. It will rename the park after McColl, the former Bank of America chairman and CEO.
  • The city put $350,000 toward the demolition.

Yes, but: The Cultural Landscape Foundation believes the park should have been rehabilitated instead of torn down, which was the original plan pre-pandemic. The foundation’s president says it was likely eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Well-known landscape architect Angela Danadjieva designed the park. It’s her only known commission in the South, according to the foundation.

  • Adding to the controversy, when Charlotte City Council voted in March to revitalize the park, it outlined in the partnership framework that the public should be asked for input before the demolition. The community engagement process has not started.
  • “In the next few days, we will share the process and dates for community engagement as well as the interim use for the McColl Park space,” Charlotte Center City Partners said in a statement. “Our goal is for the community and stakeholders to participate and share their input.”
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