Silver Line Light Rail Update and MoRA Area Stations

We seen a handful of updates recently about the long awaited Silver Line, a transportation project that would transform southeast Charlotte between Independence Boulevard and Monroe Road. LYNX completed a transit study of the Silver Line and the southeast corridor and they have made great progress with setting forth a vision of a huge transportation project.

What is the Silver Line?

The Silver Line is a short-term and long-term plan to improve transit options and accessibility between Uptown and Matthews. The short-term is a rapid transit bus plan with park and rides down the corridor, including near Conference Drive and Sardis Road North. This plan will help ease congestion until the long-term plan is viable.

What are the long-term plans?

The long-term plan is a light-rail system stretching from Uptown down to CPCC Levine just past 485. The rail will hug Independence Boulevard, then connect to Monroe Road off of Village Lake. The rail will push along behind the Woodberry Forest neighborhood, then between some apartments and condos. There are 13 planned stops, with the hope to connect to the existing blue line and a future rail line to the airport. Specifically in the MoRA area, we have four proposed stations: Sharon Amity and Independence Boulevard, Conference Boulevard and Independence Boulevard, Village Lake and Monroe Road, and Galleria Boulevard and Monroe Road.

While preliminary, the more specific of the plans include replacing the shopping center behind Meridian Place with a station, and putting a station in or around residential property on Village Lake, just off of Monroe Road.

What will this do to the area?

Silver Line Projected Path

We have seen the huge developmental impact the light-rail has had on South End and other parts of Charlotte, and would expect to see a similar result in southeast Charlotte. The rail system would connect residential and commercial, and plans have included 7 to 10 miles of adjacent pedestrian and cycling paths that would connect to the McAlpine Creek Greenway, additional parks, and additional planned trails. The expectation is the rail will remove access to side streets from Independence Boulevard, making the expressway feel more like a major highway. No more turning from Independence to Ashmore Drive. It should also limit traffic to existing exits, along with a revamped E W.T. Harris/Village Lake intersection and a bridge at Sharon Forest.

Rail stations would become locations for more and better development, such as mixed-use development, pedestrian-friendly shopping, and higher density residential space.

In summary, current plans to improve Independence Boulevard and a future light-rail system would dramatically improve transportation and accessibility in the corridor. It would allow for higher density development, and make the corridor more friendly to pedestrians. Residents would be less reliant on their vehicles to get around. It would become the biggest project for our area in the last 50 years.

What are the next steps?

As you may have heard, the Silver Line still needs funding. Federal funding isn’t available until projects are much further through the process, so this is no different or far behind other transportation initiatives. The hope is CATS can soon start an environmental impact study, which has been described as “lengthy.” They have begun working with rezoning to secure space for the rail system. According to prior coverage of the Silver Line, the project would cost at least $1 billion. There is still plenty of work to be done before anyone breaks ground on the rail system, but there appears to be a sizable push to get this project progressing. The light-rail is still listed as 15 to 20 years until implementation, but we are hopeful an emphasis on transportation speeds up this plan.

For more information, and to stay on top of the Silver Line, visit and bookmark the CATS page for the rail system: http://charlottenc.gov/cats/transit-planning/Pages/silver-line.aspx

MoRA needs YOUR help! VOLUNTEER with us on important community projects. Can’t volunteer? DONATE to help make our public art dream a reality. Even a $20 tax-deductible donation will help give the neighborhood a beautiful, defining sculpture that residents can be proud of.

Volunteer for MoRA and Make an Impact in Your Community

Are you looking for a fun volunteer gig? MoRA is an all volunteer group with big plans for the Monroe Road corridor that are only limited by our manpower. We have already seen a dramatic change in our area and know that we can bring more improvements to the community with more dedicated volunteers. Our only requirement is enthusiasm to improve your neighborhood!

What would a volunteer do? There are countless ways to improve our area, from organizing events, writing about our local news, reaching out to neighbors and local businesses, looking for grants, working on social media, organizing with developers, and following area rezoning. If you are good with a video camera, we could use more video of our area. Do you want the Silver Line here ASAP? You can be a key contact with CATS and the city. Do you have more money than time? We will take your donations.

Our exciting Art@thePoint campaign is looking for key coordinators for a limited (3-month) time commitment — someone to be a liaison with artist Leslie Scott to coordinate the community workshops; someone with marketing experience to help coordinate our messaging and communication; and someone to oversee our community outreach campaign — all come with a great recommendation and could look good on a resume.

MoRA has countless ways you can contribute to make our part of town a better and closer community. Email us at info@moraclt.org with your name, phone number, and what you’d like to do or contribute. We will do our best to get you the perfect volunteer opportunity.

MoRA needs YOUR help! VOLUNTEER with us on important community projects. Can’t volunteer? DONATE to help make our public art dream a reality. Even a $20 tax-deductible donation will help give the neighborhood a beautiful, defining sculpture that residents can be proud of.

Monroe-Idlewild Development: Why You Should Attend Wednesday’s Meeting

We learned a month ago that some exciting development is coming to the Monroe Road and Idlewild Road intersection. MoRA representatives met with the developers over a month ago, and have since met with the Charlotte Area Transit System and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department. There are a lot of moving parts and we have tried to get an idea on how it will shake out.

 

For any new development on Monroe Road, we generally ask the following questions:
• Is what is proposed an appropriate gateway statement for our area?
• Is it welcoming to access by bikes and pedestrians?
• Can it function as a community gathering spot?
• Does it offer mixed-use as guided by city plans?
• Will it be able to shift to accommodate the Silver Line along Independence as that is built?
• Is it complementary to nearby properties?
• Is this the highest and best use of the site?

We love the plan to bring another grocery store to our area. The Monroe-Idlewild intersection is severely underserved, especially when it comes to grocery stores. The current buildings have fallen into disrepair and are in desperate need of replacement. Plans for the Silver Line suggest possibly putting a light rail station within walking distance of this area, and new commercial property could turn our area into a destination than simply a pass-through. The prominent intersection has a lot of potential, but early plans appear very suburban. City planning suggests our area should have mixed-use, like what we see at Meridian Place and the proposed Oakhurst Square one mile away.

Wednesday’s community meeting (hosted by the petitioner/developer and mandated by the rezoning process) is the time to be sure new construction includes things that are important for you and for the neighborhood. Do you think the plans have enough green space and walkable areas? Might this be a community gathering place that will be enhanced by a potential light rail station? Are designs appealing and materials high quality? Will Monroe Road have creative building frontage – or a view of parking lots? Should there be a mix of commercial and residential?

Voice your thoughts 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday December 14 at the Independence Library, and ensure that new construction is in line with your vision of the area.

MoRA needs YOUR help! VOLUNTEER with us on important community projects. Can’t volunteer? DONATE to help make our public art dream a reality. Even a $20 tax-deductible donation will help give the neighborhood a beautiful, defining sculpture that residents can be proud of.

Spotlight on The Southern Gourmet

“We looked everywhere — and found this perfect space.”

The Southern Gourmet’s Crystal and Randy Provance outgrew their NoDa catering business about ten years ago. “We looked everywhere – and found this perfect space,” Crystal says of her catering shop on Monroe Road, in the Greylyn Business Park.  It’s where they also have a lunch café that serves gourmet salads, sandwiches, burgers and paninis in a style described as “Southern meets gourmet.”

They’ve been a thriving catering business, serving 100+ people a day everything from boxed lunches to cookouts to dinner parties – they even grew during the recession.  So when in 2014 they decided to add an event venue to their list of offerings and the space next door became available, things really fell into place.  Southern Garden Events is a banquet space with a garden motif for weddings, cocktail parties, and other gatherings for those who want an outdoor feel without the outdoor weather.

While they cater throughout Charlotte, Crystal says that “the town of Matthews has totally embraced us,” and she even led the Matthews Chamber of Commerce as president in 2013 and served on its board for four years.  She’s a big supporter of small businesses, particularly throughout the MoRA area.

It was a terrible loss when Randy unexpectedly passed away a year ago.  Not only was Crystal shocked and grief-stricken at the loss of her husband, but Randy had been her business partner who handled the financial side of the operation.  Crystal admits that she couldn’t have carried the business forward without her longtime employees – her work family, who also loved Randy – stepping in to take on additional responsibilities as she found her way.

MoRA’s Kathy Hill and Crystal Provance of The Southern Gourmet

The Southern Gourmet sources their menu items locally, and supports sustainability.  See for yourself by stopping in for lunch — and trying their mac and cheese cupcake (?!) or one of their new sandwiches:

  • chicken caprese club
  • texas ruben
  • strawberry turkey brie panini

While you’re there, ask to see their catering menus, or visit their garden-themed banquet venue right next door.

MoRA needs YOUR help! VOLUNTEER with us on important community projects. Can’t volunteer? DONATE to help make our public art dream a reality. Even a $20 tax-deductible donation will help give the neighborhood a beautiful, defining sculpture that residents can be proud of.

MoRA’s 2nd Annual Holiday Festival and Tree Lighting

You’re invited to celebrate the season at MoRA’s 2nd Annual Holiday Fest.

Join friends and neighbors in this community tree lighting, raffle prizes from local businesses, caroling, holiday parade, food, music, beer, and more. The newest member of our community is a 15 foot Hemlock provided by Matt Bartell of Bartels Construction Solutions, LLC. The tree’s new home is at the corner of McAlpine Station Drive and Monroe Road, thanks to the generosity of Daniel Levine of Levine Properties.  As MoRA grows in popularity and attractiveness, so will our new Holiday tree, lighting up the night throughout the month of December.

planting-holiday-treeFood, drink, music, and fun abounds around the tree this year!  Beer from Olde Mecklenburg Brewery and wine, hot chocolate and apple cider will keep all comers warm for just $2 per ticket. City Barbeque, which is opening in the MoRA corridor in March 2017 will provide the food. At just $5 per plate, it’s a fabulous price to sample their menu. Community Culinary School of Charlotte is providing dessert.

For just a dollar a ticket, you can purchase the opportunity to win all sorts of items from local MoRA businesses: Wild Birds Unlimited, Munchee’s Popcorn, New Zealand Cafe, Charlotte Swim Academy, Hawthorne’s Pizza, Deep Sea Fish Market, Harris Teeter, Russell’s Pub & Grill, Pizza Hut, Deep Sea Fish Market, Ted’s Restaurant, Queen City Yoga, and more. The raffle is just one new addition to the Holiday Fest this year.

MoRA remembers not all folks have everything they need at holiday time, so please bring a bag with boxed or canned goods for a local food pantry donation. Bring a bag – get 10 raffle tickets!

The fun doesn’t end there:  Come dressed as your favorite holiday character, be it a reindeer, elf, snowman, Mrs. Claus… and then parade around the tree in costume by twinkly lights.  Don’t forget to dress up your pet, as well!  There will be a craft table to make a holiday hat if you don’t bring your own.

And finally, the East Meck HS Choir will lead us in caroling, to get us all into the spirit of the season.

 

Tree lighting: 6:00 pm

Caroling: 6:30 pm

Parade: 7:00 pm

Raffle Winners announced: 7:30

Food, drink, music, and fun from 5:00pm – 8:00pm

 

Let’s celebrate the season together.  See you Saturday night!

 

Hef’s Bar and Grill – Leaving Montford Drive and Finding a Home in MoRA

img_2757Hef’s Bar & Grill has the look and feel of a sports bar when you first walk in. There are 27 big-screen televisions that can show nine games at once.  The menu will quickly tell you that this is a “for real” restaurant – with lots of options. Co-owner Andy Gao said his restaurant “focuses on good food and service.”

Hef’s Bar & Grill was a Montford Drive staple for 4 years, and became a go-to sports bars in one of Charlotte’s trendiest food spots. Co-owners and partners Andy Gao and Danny Zhou did not have the space they wanted near Barclay Downs and Myers Park, and decided to look for more room when their lease expired. Like many businesses and residents that end up in MoRA, they found that locations near Uptown cost too much and offered too little room to suit their needs.

img_2759Two years ago, Hef’s opened in the Monroe Road corridor after scouting around all of Charlotte. Andy and Danny were convinced that there will be dramatic growth in the area in the near future. “Now this is home!” They replaced the previously-closed O’Charley’s next to the Galleria Shopping Center Walmart with their sports bar.

Andy says that Fridays are typically their busiest time of the week, except for Carolina Panthers games. Cam Newton sure is good for business.  They are open 7 days a week and serve a large variety of foods and drinks, along with Asian-inspired food.  They insist on having an Asian Sous Chef for all their dishes, but also serve Italian, seafood, salads, sandwiches, burgers, wraps, and a variety of wings.

Hef’s features a happy hour every day from 3:00- 6:30 with 60 cent wings, shrimp, and oysters, along with daily beer and drink specials.

www.hefsbarandgrill.com

704-321-5884

hefsbargrill@hotmail.com

MoRA needs YOUR help! VOLUNTEER with us on important community projects. Can’t volunteer? DONATE to help make our public art dream a reality. Even a $20 tax-deductible donation will help give the neighborhood a beautiful, defining sculpture that residents can be proud of.

MoRA’s First Yoga Studio, Queen City Yoga

 

If you need some to unwind after a contentious election, or just need to get your mind off of the state of the Panthers, try MoRA’s first yoga studio. Yvonne Brown opened Queen City Yoga this fall, hidden in the back McAlpine Business Park.qcyoga1

For those unfamiliar, a typical yoga class combines stretches, poses, and breathing into a surprisingly effective workout. Yoga can also expand from just a physical labor to a mental and spiritual practice as well. You’ve probably seen countless people in workout gear carrying a rolled up yoga mat in Cotswold, South End, or any of the trendy Charlotte neighborhoods. However, you probably haven’t seen that around MoRA.

qcyoga2Now you will. Yvonne Brown, who has been teaching yoga for over 12 years, was determined to add a yoga studio in the underserved Monroe Road corridor. “We are definitely different. We practice integral yoga, which integrates yoga into your life. It’s not just poses you do on the pad. Yoga is much more than breathing, relaxing, and being calm. It’s about leading a better life and actively doing things to make that happen. We ask: how do we do that?”

Queen City Yoga has day and evening classes Monday through Saturday will a few of different teachers. Area residents now how the chance to stretch out and destress at an accessible and convenient yoga studio.

 

MoRA needs YOUR help! VOLUNTEER with us on important community projects. Can’t volunteer? DONATE to help make our public art dream a reality. Even a $20 tax-deductible donation will help give the neighborhood a beautiful, defining sculpture that residents can be proud of.

What Woodberry Forrest, Abbot Glen, and MoRA need to know about Garr church rezoning and Silver Line plans

Development has been shaking up the MoRA area, and we have another big move with rezoning petition No. 2016-141. The plans are to rezone about 41.5 acres directly to the east of Woodberry Forrest, north of Abbot Glen town homes, south of Wallace lane, and extending over to Independence Boulevard. The property currently includes Garr Church, forest, and two abandoned homes.

MoRA met with the petitioner and received a sneak peak of the development plans. What did we learn?

Site Plan Map

Site Plan Map

Developers envision a few phases of gated car storage lots for Independence dealerships, surrounding by wooded buffer zones, landscaping, and small hill barriers. The lots will only be accessible from Wallace Road, are expected to use low lighting, and will not operate overnight. The plans include a right-of-way for the Silver Line behind properties along Summerhill Drive and a few homes on the end of Woodberry Road and Lumarka Drive, connecting further down Village Lake Drive. The space is intended to accommodate light rail, roads, biking trails, and green space.

Current light rail plans show that the city plans to run the Silver Line between Independence Boulevard and Monroe Road, but the project is still unfunded and the exact route is only now becoming somewhat solidified. Additionally, the city is planning a bridge at Sharon Forrest Drive and on reworking the E W.T. Harris Boulevard intersection. Both plans are expected to displace some existing businesses and make new development nearly impossible. This may be the only opportunity in the near future for the Garr Church property that isn’t more apartments.

MoRA representatives did not see any major concerns with the rezoning and future development of the area, and feedback from the rezoning petition community meeting held at Garr Church on November 9 was similarly accepting of the proposed plans.

 

5 Things You Need To Know About Upcoming Restaurant City Barbeque

Nothing quite turns heads in the Monroe Road corridor like a new restaurant. Sit down eateries are few and far between in our part of town, and too often have residents driving to another part of town for some decent food. So we were quick to notice construction on the corner of Monroe Road and Galleria Boulevard just behind the large sign for our area’s newest upcoming restaurant.

We reached out to City Barbeque and got the scoop about what’s filling that location. Here’s our top five takeaways. city-bbq-building-in-mora

1. On-site smoked BBQ.

City Barbeque has the normal sampling of BBQ, including turkeys and hams for the holidays, and everything is smoked on-site. If you want the tastiest and freshest BBQ, you must go to a restaurant that smokes their meats themselves. All sides are made by hand in-house.

2. Huge outdoor seating.

The new restaurant will have covered seating for 40 to 50 of your closest friends. Outdoor seatings should be a requirement so patrons can enjoy the Charlotte weather, but few of the nearby restaurants subscribe to that belief. This great outdoor seating should easily make City Barbeque a neighborhood hangout.

pulled-pork-on-new-tray3. February or March Opening.

Weather permitting, the restaurant should open up just in time for spring. The site still has a long way to go but should bring some added focus to the area around south MoRA and north Matthews, next to Deep Sea Fish Market and across from Tony’s Pizza.

4. The area sealed the deal.

City Barbaque opened their first location in Columbus, Ohio in 1999, and have just expanded into North Carolina with a Ballantyne location. Many of the workers at that location advocated for opening another location in our area, noting this is a great area with limited food options. After a little research they started construction.

brisket-outside-with-sides
5. Lots of activities.

A quick look at their blog (yes, this BBQ restaurant has a blog) shows they host fundraisers, BBQ sauce contests, food promotions, and they told MoRA they are considering hosting events to teach others how to expertly smoke meats and what beers pair with which sauces.

MoRA needs YOUR help! VOLUNTEER with us on important community projects. Can’t volunteer? DONATE to help make our public art dream a reality. Even a $20 tax-deductible donation will help give the neighborhood a beautiful, defining sculpture that residents can be proud of.

MoRA impact: Charlotte city bonds on this year’s election ballot

At the end of the very last page general election ballot are three referenda that asks voters for approval of bonds worth $218.44 million.  Approval of these bonds will not result in additional taxes. The following Transportation Bond items, totaling $17.7m, fall within or near the MoRA area:

  • Idlewild/Rama/Monroe intersection improvements. (You’ll find the presentation slides from MoRA’s October 12 “Government Comes to You” workshop here)
  • Monroe Road streetscape (from Briar Creek to N. Sharon Amity Rds)
  • Sidewalk and bikeway improvements
  • Land acquisition and street connections along the Monroe Road side of Independence Boulevard corridor

eastblvdscottaveMonroe Road is a crucial commuter corridor, connecting Matthews and Uptown, and the MoRA area is an important employment sector. The Idlewild/Rama/Monroe is an important intersection, with two schools (McClintock Middle and East Mecklenburg High) and the transit that accompanies them within yards.

Interested in seeing city projects happening near you?  Click on the yellow dots on this map (takes a few seconds to load) and see a description of planned work:  http://charlottenc.gov/Projects/Pages/Map.aspx

These bonds also support improvements to other parts of Charlotte, including the Cross Charlotte Multi-Use Trail, a 26-mile trail that will connect the county’s system of greenways.  The Neighborhood Improvement bonds will connect streets, sidewalks, trails and bike lanes to enhance community assets charlotte1and to link neighborhoods with schools, parks, and transit.  Housing bonds leverage public-private investment dollars to provide affordable housing options for low- and moderate-income households in the Charlotte area.

All of our City Council representatives support these bonds.

For more information on these bonds, go to www.voteyesforbonds.com.