Imagine this: A new city neighborhood to replace a rail yard
This is an exercise in imagination.
Imagine that the large rail yard spreading between North Tryon Street and North Brevard Street, covering 210 acres and separating the two streets for a dozen blocks, magically went away. What should go on that land? That’s the challenge a UNC Charlotte urban design professor gave to her class. What follows are how they answered the question.
To be clear, Norfolk Southern is not moving the railyard. This isn’t about something expected to happen any time soon. Instead, it’s about imagining possibilities for Charlotte’s future. And sometimes this kind of exercise in envisioning can spark the imagination and lead to projects that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
Deb Ryan – who also chairs the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission – invited several dozen local officials, planners and interested others to a presentation by her students in the Master of Urban Design program in early December at the Trolley Powerhouse Studio, now owned by the city, on Camden Road.
Among the audience were Charlotte City Manager Marcus Jones, Interim Planning Director Ed McKinney, newly elected City Council member Larken Egleston, urban design program manager Grant Meacci of the city’s Planning Department, and Richard Petersheim, a partner at the planning firm Land Design.
The assignment was purely conjecture, Ryan emphasized: What if the operations of the North Tryon rail yard moved elsewhere? “What if we took that big scar in the fabric of the community and turned it into a neighborhood?” The idea is not limited to Charlotte. Cities around the world have been redeveloping, or drawing up plans to redevelop, rail yards that are no longer used. Examples include Hudson Yards in New York, the Sacramento Rail Yard, and Potomac Yard in Alexandria, Va.
The students delivered. They dubbed their neighborhood “The Railyard,” and designed a series of parks, streets, stores, workplaces and homes for an estimated 20,000 people.
Sitting six blocks northeast of uptown, and on the west edge of two light rail stations (Parkwood Avenue and 25th Street) along the soon-to-open Blue Line Extension, the neighborhood they designed would offer:
- 26 acres of parks and open spaces, including rain gardens – specifically designed to capture storm water run off and let plants and soil filter pollutants.
- 390,000 square feet of cultural and institutional space.
- 170,000 square feet of office space.
- 71,000 square feet of “creative space.”
- 68,000 square feet of retail space.
- 5,900 parking spaces.
Among the interesting proposals is a “woonerf” – a Dutch term for a street that shares space among all transportation modes (cars, bicycles, skates, etc.) with pedestrians the priority.
- Adaptively reusing older industrial buildings along North Tryon Street as maker space, for small manufacturers, artisans or other creative uses.
- A “mews,” a series of small residences fronting a pedestrian passage used as a gathering space.
- “Park Avenue,” a linear park stretching across the site – following today’s rail beds – providing green space bike paths, recreation and pedestrian paths.
- “Madison Park,” not named for the Charlotte neighborhood near Park Road Shopping Center but for a proposed park on the south side of East 23rd Street, modeled on the Pearl District Park in Portland, Ore., and Madison Square Park in New York City.
- “Railyard Park,” dedicated to the area’s rail history, featuring reclaimed shipping containers that can be moved around as pop-up shops.
- A Main Street area with ground-floor retail, including a two-story grocery, and condos and townhomes above.
- “Bryant Park,” modeled on midtown Manhattan’s Bryant Park, with high-end housing adjacent.
View the following images. And imagine.