Bridges at Mint Hill mall waits for road plans

Work could resume at the stalled Bridges at Mint Hill site as early as the end of the year.

That’s the news Mint Hill Mayor Ted Biggers said he heard from developers who own the 215-acre property off Lawyers Road near Interstate 485. Late last month, town commissioners passed a resolution requesting help getting $1.5 million in federal and state funding for related road improvements on Lawyers Road. The resolution – which will be sent to N.C. General Assembly and N.C. Department of Transportation officials in Raleigh – was brought to commissioners at the request of the local N.C. Department of Transportation as the agency continues to work with developers to plan for the project, Town Manager Brian Welch said. The plans aren’t yet complete and town officials don’t know how much money will be needed because the project hasn’t gone out to bid, he said.

The town won’t be responsible for funding any of the improvements, Welch said, noting the resolution doesn’t mean developers don’t expect to pay for most of the road changes themselves.

According to the resolution, commissioners are requesting help in securing $650,000 in federal Highway Safety Improvement Program funds, $600,000 from the state’s economic development fund and $250,000 from the state’s contingency fund.

“The Town of Mint Hill is committed to the construction of this project for road/street improvements necessary for public safety, efficient transportation systems and commercial development,” the resolution states.

The property is owned by Charlotte’s Childress Klein and the Dallas-based Howard Hughes Corporation, a spin-off company of Chicago-based General Growth Properties which filed for bankruptcy in 2009. When the project was first announced, developers planned an open-air, 1.3 million-square-foot shopping complex with a five-story hotel; movie theater; three anchor department stores, including Belk; and two combination vehicle-pedestrian bridges across Goose Creek. Only grading work was done at the site before work stopped in 2008.

“Developers have indicated to us, while they’re grateful the state (may be) willing to spend this money, it’s only a small part of what they will spend on road improvements related to the project,” he said. Road improvement plans are about 90 percent complete and officials are waiting on additional traffic counts and environmental studies, Welch said.

Though developers said previously they would present a revamped mall plan to town commissioners in the fall, that meeting never took place. And the town hasn’t yet received a request to appear on a future board agenda, Welch said.

Representatives from Childress Klein and Howard Hughes didn’t return calls for comment by press time. Childress Klein’s Chris Thomas said previously the mall likely will be built in phases.

“I hope (the resolution request) signals they may be close to knowing exactly what road improvements may be needed,” Biggers said. “The town has expressed our frustration because we constantly get hounded with questions from the public … I get tired of answering those questions. You keep reassuring people that this is going to happen  … and you don’t want to be the one they come to if it doesn’t happen.”

Biggers said he met recently with officials from Howard Hughes and Belk to get an update on the project. Groundbreaking could happen by late 2013 or early 2014, Biggers said.

“My opinion is that Belk is still 100 percent with this project,” he said. “This type of retail is coming back slower than the discount retailers. They do not want to get this capacity built out there until the demand for this type of retail is out there.

But, it’s my belief they may get started a little bit earlier than what they were telling us. I think they see the value of getting things started.”

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2 Responses

  1. Do we really want Mint Hill to be like Mooresville? Better think about road improvements first and goodbye to a small town feel.

  2. I’m STRONGLY in favor of commercial development but someone seriously needs to study the traffic at Christmas time in and around Carolina Place Mall. This is what we’re going to get without multiple lanes being added to I-485 and without major expansion to all local roads within a few miles of the new mall site (once the mall exit gets log jammed, commuters are going to be dumping off like crazy onto the side roads looking for alternative escape routes). Seriously, where is the money going to come from to do this development without negatively impacting the quality of life for those living in the surrounding neighborhoods and possibly even home values.

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