Residents weigh in on final stages of Blue Line extension, including art projects



Brad Dilks was looking ahead at 2017 when he purchased his University-area home two years ago. His house is a walk or short bike ride away from the intersection of Tom Hunter Road and North Tryon Street, the future site of a light-rail station on the planned Blue Line extension.

With construction scheduled to begin in the fall, CATS is wrapping up the planning stage of the addition to Charlotte's mass transit system. In a public meeting at Sugaw Creek Presbyterian Church last week, more than 100 residents of Charlotte's northeast corridor gathered to take a look at the most recent draft of the proposal, ask questions and offer comments.

For Dilks, who has been actively involved in the planning process, this was another opportunity to learn about what his neighborhood will look like in a few years. "This is the second public meeting about the light rail I've come to," he said. "I came today to get a better feel of what's going on with the project." He's already planning to commute on the train to his Uptown office and believes that anything that gets people out of their cars is good for Charlotte. "I'll save between $100 and $200 a month in parking and gas, and although I don't think we'll get rid of our cars completely, I definitely see the possibility of having my family downsize to just one car instead of two," he said.


Still, the savings are not what most excite him about the light-rail extension. For Dilks, the best part about this project is the development he hopes it will bring to a part of town he feels has been neglected for too long. "I think this will have a huge impact on the northeast corridor, much greater than the impact it's had in the south, where development and growth have always existed."

The 9.3 miles of rail will include 11 stations and extend from Ninth Street in Uptown through the NoDa and University areas.

For the members of the NoDa Neighborhood Association's Vision Committee, the prospect of having a light-rail station in the heart of their neighborhood is exciting. "We are thrilled about the line," said Brett Rice, a NoDa resident of two years.

Kenneth Lin, a realtor who has lived in the neighborhood for six years, wants to make sure that the light-rail plan recognizes NoDa's eclectic fabric while being economically stable. "We understand that the train will bring more people to our neighborhood and want to make sure that the project includes green space and pedestrian-friendly areas. Parking is also a big concern for us."

Aside from having the opportunity to look at detailed maps of the planned stations, meeting attendees were also able to get a sneak peak at the future artworks that will appear along the light-rail line. CATS has commissioned a mix of local and national artists to enhance each station, their surrounding roads and bridges, and even the unsightly light-rail equipment, with art.

"Each station will have a work of art that's specific to that neighborhood," said Kati Stegall, a representative from the transit department. "It gives people ownership over their transit stop, makes them feel safe and welcome and improves their quality of life."

City Council member at-large Beth Pickering attended the meeting and was pleasantly surprised at the large turnout. "This is exactly the kind of community involvement City Council wants to see," she said. "I am sure that the Blue Line Extension will be just as successful as the existing light-rail line. If I had a magic wand, I'd put light rail everywhere."

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