by Eric Frazier
Courtesy of The Charlotte Observer

With construction booming in Charlotte’s South End, city leaders on Tuesday called the area a model for the kind of smart growth that transit projects can spur in struggling neighborhoods east, west and north of uptown.

At a news conference on a street corner near the Lynx light-rail line, officials from Center City Partners joined several City Council members for a bus tour of the area’s new projects, which include 11 residential developments announced or under way. Officials project the South End’s population will roughly double as it adds a projected 3,500 residents by the end of 2015.

Officials with Center City Partners said they’ll soon install 20 benches, 13 bike racks and 34 solar-powered, Internet-connected waste and recycling containers to further enhance the area’s livability.

Center City Partners President Michael Smith said the coming of the Lynx Blue Line six years ago sparked the transformation of the formerly industrial area.

“This is about forward-looking investment in transportation and infrastructure,” he said. “We’re excited to share the progress this district is seeing.”

With preparations under way to extend the Lynx line north 9.2 miles to UNC Charlotte, hopes have been raised that South End’s successes might be replicated northeast of the city.

City Manager Ron Carlee on Monday proposed a $126 million streetcar line extension running from Johnson C. Smith University to Hawthorne Lane in the Elizabeth neighborhood.

City Council members James Mitchell, LaWana Mayfield and John Autry said they believe Carlee’s proposed CityLynx Gold Line extension can bring South End-style redevelopment to west and east Charlotte.

“The concerns and questions people have concerning the Gold Line are the same concerns and questions they had about light rail,” Mayfield said. “A number of (council) members and the community didn’t think light rail would be a good investment. But today, look what has happened.”

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