Jan 18, 2024 - Culture

See 3 potential designs for this future Uptown park

Imagine an abundant garden in the heart of Uptown. Or a nest of bronze trees molded from Charlotte’s canopy. Or a spire so tall it draws eyes to the tippy-top of the city’s identifying skyscrapers.

  • One of these ideas could be the new gathering place for Uptown employees on their lunch breaks, or what tourists remember from visiting the city, or where civic leaders hold events.
  • Walter Hood, a renowned architect and Charlotte native, has come up with the designs for a long-neglected pocket park that’s getting a makeover.

Catch up quick: Charlotte Center City Partners and the McColl Park Committee are rebuilding the neglected public square, formerly known as Polk Park, at Trade and Tryon. It will be renamed after retired Bank of America chairman and CEO Hugh McColl.

Why it matters: The reinvigoration of this historic node aims to inject vibrancy into Uptown.

The latest: Axios sat down with Hood Thursday to discuss his ideas. Later in the day, Hood and park project leaders held an event to collect feedback on the designs from community members.

Below are the three designs, courtesy of Charlotte Center City Partners.

  • Of note: All three incorporate an 8-inch pool that could be drained for events. The water’s reflection aims to make the 0.3-acre park feel larger.
  • The final design will be selected on a TBD date. It’s possible it will combine elements from multiple concepts.

Crown Datum

This design features a thin, 200-foot-tall spire that would entice people to look upward. Below, the spire would appear downward in the reflection of a shallow pool.

  • Hood says placing the water in the middle makes it so people have to move around the center, like how certain places were designed in Rome. “The space is always changing,” Hood says. “Versus, when you don’t do it, people come in and see the space always the same way.”
  • Also part of the design is a crown-like sculpture that acts as a pavilion.

Floating Nest

It’s a metaphor for the hornet’s nest, a symbol of Charlotte. Hood says this design would require casting several different trees from different local communities in bronze. They would scan the bark, like how Roman artists used to use clay to cast trees.

More than 100 hollow trunks would then be suspended in the air, strung together with Carolina-blue fabric, a nod to Charlotte’s textile past. Each about 15 feet long, the trunks would support each other.

  • Hood says they could incorporate carvings into the trunks.
  • There would also be a water wall.

Verdant Crown

A green garden would stand out amid Uptown’s gray buildings in this design. The highlight would be an overarching, aluminum foam-shaped crown with seeds inside. Plants and vines would sprout from the crown like a Chia Pet, Hood says. Uptowners could stroll through pathways.

What’s next: Organizers hope to start construction later this year so they can open the revamped park by June 2025 for McColl’s 90th birthday. For now, Polk Park remains closed.

By the numbers: A group of civic leaders is fundraising $10 million for the project. That includes $7 million for the construction and $3 million for an endowment to maintain the park. The city spent $350,000 demolishing Polk Park’s features last year.

The bottom line: Hood says each design honors McColl’s spirit in a way. McColl has shaped modern Charlotte. Notably, in this location, he led the construction of the iconic Bank of America Corporate Center.

  • Hood says all designs promote inclusion to honor McColl’s work in diversity. He’s also trying to reflect McColl’s ingenuity by creating something never done before.

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