Read UNC Charlotte Urban Institute article on project here.
The Charlotte Railyard will be a new neighborhood that heals a gap in the urban fabric of the City of Charlotte. Located just 4 blocks northeast of Uptown, the 210 acre site, with its two light rail stations, will be a model for transit-oriented development while providing a vibrant, safe, and healthy place to live, work, and play.
The development will feature a mix of residential, retail, office, educational, and hotel space, as well as over 26 acres of park space, and a redesign of Tryon Street. Creating a connection between Uptown Charlotte, Lockwood, and the thriving neighborhood of NoDa, the Rail Yard development will include:
- A Maker’s Market, providing work space and housing for Charlotte’s creative class, along with an arts education center;
- A Main Street district housing independent boutiques, restaurants, cafés and a grocery store. This district will provide better connections between the neighborhoods to the east and west of Tryon Street;
- An expanded cultural and recreational district with a large gateway plaza that may be used for neighborhood entertainment;
- Madison Park, a high-density residential neighborhood centered around a large park along Tryon Street;
- Bryant Park, a high-density residential neighborhood situated around another large park, located near the 25th St. light rail station;
- Lockwood South and Optimum Park, residential neighborhoods that connect existing neighborhoods surrounding the site. This area will include a park space that highlights the area’s rail history.
The Charlotte Railyard reflects the City’s Livability Policy with the design and inclusion of:complete streets with wide sidewalks, protected bike lanes, pedestrian wayfinding signage, bicycle share and repair stations, and more that promote the use of active transportation methods and increase the health of residents and visitors of the area;
- Vibrant and activity-filled spaces that promote community engagement so that Charlatans of all ages and abilities can participate in a public life;
- A mix of land uses within a close proximity so that Charlatans can live, work, and play in a neighborhood without the need for an automobile;
- The preservation of a large portion of the natural vegetation of the site, the addition of new trees, the incorporation of rain gardens, and the decreased amount of automobile pollutants will all help improve the environmental health of the area.
With the opportunity to move the storage functions of the existing railyard to the freight yard at the airport, and the Amtrak Terminal to the proposed multi-modal station in uptown, we propose that the significantly decreased train traffic be moved into a tunnel under the site, to open up its neighborhood potential. The architecture of this new development will reflect the area’s industrial history, while reusing many of the existing buildings and materials on the site.
I was tasked with designing six blocks with the Maker’s Village neighborhood. Maker’s Village in the northern section of the development that features existing industrial buildings and a piped stream. Many of the existing buildings along the western boundary of the site, North Tryon Street, were brick structures that could be adapted and reused for the Makerspaces, which typically are in more industrial spaces. The small stream was daylight as a swale. If possible, there was an attempt to maintain as many of the existing vegetation as possible. The existing trees surrounding the area of the swale were maintained and protected by the creation of a linear park that is similar in scale and function as the Commonwealth Avenue Mall in Boston, Massachusetts. Bordering the linear park are new six-story apartments that frame the park along with a row of townhouses and a complex of mews that provide a diverse portfolio of housing for those working in the Maker’s Village. Despite being new construction, they would take cues from the existing buildings in terms of materiality and character, adding to the industrial make up of the neighborhood.
Keeping with the goal of trying to maintain as much of the existing infrastructure as possible, the existing railroad tracks that serviced many of the industrial buildings were kept in place as a remnant of the past within the sidewalks and cross over into the park/swale, where wildflowers help with the storm water management of the site. Some of the existing buildings are in close enough proximity to one another to be connected by new modern atrium that does not try to look original to the buildings. Another building will have a modern mid-rise addition within the original building, providing more leasable space. The existing industrial buildings featured large openings that use to be garage or freight doors which were converted into larger windows or see-through rolling garage doors that maintained the sense and history of place and allowed natural light to filter deep into the makerspaces. The use of the large openings also allowed for those walking by to see into the daily work of those in the makerspaces, providing an interactive street front and a new form of street performance.
A major part of my portion of the design were the mews residences. These are not common to Charlotte so introducing this as a new way to maximize the amount of units per acre seemed fitting. The Mews would reflect the similar aesthetic and materiality as the existing industrial buildings with large windows reflecting the new openings of the makerspaces. With two great parks within close proximity to the mews, the need for front yards were not necessary, so the mews fronted a small street, gated only to vehicular traffic. This was to promote a pedestrian and biker-friendly atmosphere. The mews offer roof decks that give views to Uptown and the rest of the site as well as private gardens behind each mew.