‘It’s like be­ing on an is­land’

Street­car con­struc­tion dis­rupts busi­ness, de­vel­op­ment

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Local - BY KRISTI STURGILL [email protected]­lot­teob­server.com

Cus­tomers rarely eat out­side at Hawthorne’s New York Pizza and Bar any­more, man­ager Adam Quigley said.

Street­car con­struc­tion has been go­ing on out­side the restau­rant for more than two years. Beep­ing con­struc­tion ve­hi­cles make it dif­fi­cult to have conversati­ons. Bull­doz­ers fill the air with dust.

Cus­tomers have to walk around a maze of con­struc­tion tape and un­even pave­ment to reach the restau­rant. And Quigley said that for a month, cus­tomers driv­ing to the restau­rant couldn’t ac­cess park­ing be­cause of con­struc­tion.

The Hawthorne Lane bridge, a main route to the restau­rant, has been closed since July 2017.

“It’s like be­ing on an is­land ver­sus be­ing on a penin­sula,” Quigley said.

Hawthorne Lane busi­ness own­ers, in­clud­ing Quigley, said they are tired of the Gold Line con­struc­tion, which be­gan in Fe­bru­ary 2017, ac­cord­ing to Char­lotte Area Trans­porta­tion Sys­tem of­fi­cials. It’s been a fi­nan­cial hit.

And con­struc­tion will con­tinue through late 2020 or early 2021.

Char­lie Adam Chang from Adams 7th Street Mar­ket said he has seen profit de­crease be­tween 30 and 40 per­cent since con­struc­tion started.

Prof­its have gone down by a half at Char­lotte gar­den cen­ter The Royal Gar­dens, ac­cord­ing to owner An­drea Sweet.

To Sweet, it feels like an emer­gency.

“Call 911,” she said. Restau­rants are ex­per­i­ment­ing with other ways to “drum up” busi­ness, Quigley said.

The pizze­ria is ad­ver­tis­ing to con­struc­tion work­ers, schools, Boy Scouts of Amer­ica and hos­pi­tals, he said.

Restau­rants are also part­ner­ing with ex­ter­nal food de­liv­ery ser­vices like Uber Eats, Post­mates and DoorDash. But for most of the busi­nesses, that hasn’t been enough to over­come the loss in profit.

Char­lotte Area Tran­sit Sys­tem knows con­struc­tion has been hard on busi­nesses, ac­cord­ing to an email with CATS Pub­lic and Com­mu­nity Re­la­tions Spe­cial­ist Juliann Shel­don.

CATS has used in-per­son vis­its, meet­ings and emails to keep busi­nesses up to date on con­struc­tion, she said.

GOLD LINE DIS­AP­POINT­MENTS

The $37 mil­lion CATS street­car Gold Line opened on July 14, 2015, promis­ing growth and de­vel­op­ment along Char­lotte’s Elizabeth Av­enue, then-Mayor Dan Clod­fel­ter said at the time.

Rid­er­ship on the Gold Line was ini­tially im­pres­sive. In the first year, the street­car av­er­aged 1,600 rid­ers per week­day, 500 more than CATS had ex­pected, ac­cord­ing to a June 2017 ar­ti­cle from the Observer.

It was a way to con­nect the Hawthorne Lane busi­nesses to Up­town Char­lotte.

But since then, the rid­er­ship has dropped.

Be­tween 2015 and 2018, to­tal rid­er­ship on the Gold Line de­creased by more than 60 per­cent. They av­er­aged a mere 600 rid­ers per week­day, ac­cord­ing to records CATS emailed to the Observer.

Not only is rid­er­ship down, but planned de­vel­op­ment has halted in the Elizabeth Av­enue area.

In July 2015, Grubb Prop­er­ties planned to re­de­velop 12 acres of land around the Gold Line. They were go­ing to build 550 Link Apart­ments: af­ford­able, yet at­trac­tive hous­ing with a rooftop plaza and fire pits.

They planned a theater and a Whole Foods, hop­ing to at­tract mil­len­ni­als. There were go­ing to be 20,000 square feet of ground-level re­tail and nearby of­fices.

But the up­scale Elizabeth Av­enue never showed up. Grubb Prop­er­ties can­celed the plans ear­lier this year, ac­cord­ing to CEO Clay Grubb.

“We do not have any plans to do de­vel­op­ment in the area,” Grubb said in an in­ter­view.

Grubb said his com­pany wants to fo­cus on of­fer­ing af­ford­able hous­ing, and the land near Elizabeth Av­enue was just too ex­pen­sive. Grubb sold most of its land, and now, the only build­ings that Grubb Prop­er­ties owns in the area are at 1523 and 1535 Elizabeth Ave. No­vant Health and Cen­tral Pied­mont Com­mu­nity Col­lege own much of the nearby land.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Con­struc­tion will go on un­til late 2020 or early 2021. The cur­rently 1.5mile Gold Line will ex­tend 2 miles far­ther west and one-half mile far­ther east, ac­cord­ing to CATS.

On June 3, Char­lotte’s street­car will close for 18 months for con­struc­tion.

When the Gold Line re­opens around late 2020, new Siemens street­cars with hy­brid tech­nol­ogy will re­place the cur­rent charm­ing green-and-yel­low wooden street­cars, ac­cord­ing to CATS of­fi­cials. The sta­tion plat­forms will be higher, and the power will be up­dated.

When con­struc­tion is com­plete, CATS plans to start charg­ing a fee equal to the LYNX Light Rail fare, Shel­don said.

CUS­TOMERS HAVE TO WALK AROUND A MAZE OF CON­STRUC­TION TAPE AND UN­EVEN PAVE­MENT TO REACH THE RESTAU­RANT. AND QUIGLEY SAID THAT FOR A MONTH, CUS­TOMERS DRIV­ING TO THE RESTAU­RANT COULDN’T AC­CESS PARK­ING BE­CAUSE OF CON­STRUC­TION.

JULIANN SHEL­DON Char­lotte

CATS will re­place old-fash­ioned street­cars with cars sim­i­lar to the LYNX Light Rail.

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