Charlotte sells Cherry land for affordable housing

Baxter Street Rendering - Developed by Laurel Street

The Charlotte Observer, Steve Harrison, November 30, 2014

The city of Charlotte has agreed to sell 2.2 acres of city-owned land in Cherry to a developer who has pledged to build 30 affordable rental housing units.

The City Council voted 10-1 Monday to sell the property to Baxter Street Affordable LLC, with the hope that it will help keep the historically African-American neighborhood near uptown affordable. The neighborhood, just south of Kings Drive, is rapidly gentrifying.

Some council members questioned whether the city was selling the property too cheaply, at $500,000, or about $227,000 per acre.

Some small lots in Cherry – about one-tenth of an acre – have recently sold for about $150,000. Those lots didn’t have any deed restrictions requiring low-income housing.

Developer Stoney Sellars also sold 5.7 acres in Cherry in May to Virgate LLC for $3 million, or about $526,000 per acre.

Council member Ed Driggs, who voted against the sale, said he questioned the city’s contention that “$500,000 is some sort of fair-market value.”

The developer has 40 years to pay off the loan, with no interest. Driggs said those terms also mean the city is not getting a fair-market price for the land.

Baxter Street Affordable Housing is part of Laurel Street Residential, an affordable housing developer led by Dionne Nelson and John Crosland Jr.

To build the 30 apartments, the group said it will request money from the city’s Housing Trust Fund. The group said it hopes to have the apartments finished by 2017.

The apartments will be targeted for families earning roughly $38,500, which is 60 percent of the area’s median income.

Council member Patsy Kinsey, who represents Cherry, also supported the sale.

“The Cherry community is facing significant gentrification pressure,” she said.

Sylvia Bittle-Patton, a community activist who spoke at Monday’s meeting, said the Cherry neighborhood supported the sale. “We recognize the need for affordable housing if we are to mitigate the impact of recent rezonings,” she said.

Bittle-Patton was referring to the council’s decision this spring to rezone land for Virgate. Bittle-Patton and other Cherry leaders opposed that decision.

Virgate has said it will partner with homebuilder Saussy Burbank to build 43 homes in Cherry with prices topping $600,000.

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