A proposed Mint Hill development could bring a right-in/right-out only entrance to the Mint Hill Library and additional library access from Lawyers Road.
The proposal is among several road changes Florida-based Stiles Corporation is suggesting as part of a planned mixed use development – called Mint Hill Commons – on about 54 acres bordered by Matthews-Mint Hill and Lawyers roads. The 65,000-square-foot retail shopping center development on 13 acres at the front of the site, across from Jimmie’s Restaurant, would be anchored by an unnamed 49,098 square-foot grocery store. The remaining acreage is slated for single-family houses or townhouses, to be built in a second phase.
A public information meeting hosted by the company at the Mint Hill Library Thursday, March 7, drew about 50 area residents, including Town Commissioner Tina Ross. Developers who want to build a non-residential project adjacent to a residential area are required by the town’s Unified Development Ordinance to host a public meeting early in the process. A traffic study is being conducted for the project, which touches Farmwood East.
Stiles expects to file formal plans with the town by the end of March. The company would need commissioner approval to include a drive-thru pharmacy for the grocery store because drive-thrus aren’t allowed in the downtown overlay district.
If approved, construction could begin as early as the fall and the retail portion of the project could be complete within a year.
Residents expressed concerns March 7 about the road changes, traffic implications, effect on wildlife and more. But the main question on everyone’s mind seemed to be: “Who is the mystery grocer?”
That was the one question Scott McClaren, Stiles’ senior vice president of real estate investment, said he couldn’t answer yet. A check of the Stiles website shows the company has done extensive work with Publix.
“I don’t think it’s any secret who is entering this marketing and who we’ve been working (with) for 25 years,” he said. “But at this point, we’re not able to disclose that name. We will before the project moves too far along, but we can’t say just yet. I can tell you they’re very excited about this area. They early on identified Mint Hill as an area they really liked.”
According to preliminary plans, the retail project also would include four other retail/office buildings ranging from 2,800 square feet to 6,500 square feet. The proposed pharmacy drive-thru would be sandwiched between the 2,800-square-foot building and the grocery store to make it not visible from N.C. 51, McClaren said. Plans also show a 1/5 acre, or about 7,000-square-foot, pocket park featuring trees and benches near Matthews-Mint Hill Road in between the retail buildings. A six-acre wooded area toward the back of the site will be undisturbed, according to the proposal. Stiles doesn’t know yet how a 1.19-acre parcel at the intersection of Matthews-Mint Hill Road and Hawthorne Drive will be developed, but the firm wants to maintain control of the land, McClaren said.
Access to the retail center would be possible two ways off Matthews-Mint Hill Road and through one driveway off Lawyers Road, according to the proposal. Draft plans show the extension of the existing Brighton Park Drive and Evans Road, with a concrete median installed in front of the Evans Road entry, forcing a right-in/right-out only into the Mint Hill Library. The proposal also calls for the construction of a rear driveway to give library patrons and shoppers access to Lawyers Road.
Though some residents questioned how the change would affect library visitors, Stiles officials said the median is part of a state long-term plan for the road. State officials show the change coming no sooner than 2030, they said.
All road changes would have to be approved by the N.C. Department of Transportation and an easement agreement would need to be approved to add an additional access point to the library.
“We think that might be something that’s dictated whether we’re there or not. That’s part of our proposals because we think it’ll be required (by NCDOT),” McClaren said. “As we saw at the meeting, there’s already a concern with safety now from residents.”
Many residents who attended the meeting live in the adjacent Farmwood East subdivison and were concerned about what would be built in their backyards. Current draft plans show residential housing, not retail, would border their neighborhood. Stiles hasn’t yet decided if they’ll sell the acreage to a builder or partner with one to develop the neighborhood themselves, McClaren said.
“Clearly there were a lot of inquiries from Farmwood East residents as there should be,” he said. “The old plan of a major power center on a sleepy corridor is not what’s being proposed.”
The residential portion can’t be built until a moratorium on development in the Goose Creek watershed is lifted – something Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities officials say could happen with a state vote as early as May.
“We’ve had some very good inquiries (from builders), but there’s no rush from our perspective on that,” McClaren said.
What do you think?
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