4.0 Downtown Policy & Action Items
4.1 Future Development
The Downtown Master Plan (2006), Gilead Road/US-21 Transportation and Land Use Vision Small Area Plan (2006) and East Huntersville Area Development Plan (2007) provide a detailed framework for the revitalization and redevelopment of Downtown Huntersville.
These plans address such issues as the future transportation network, neighborhood preservation, land use and public investment required to achieve the recommendations contained in these plans. Given the relatively recent adoption of these plans, they continue to be relevant today and provide a solid basis for assessing and guiding future development proposals, zoning ordinance amendments, and infrastructure investments.
However, in light of changing economic and market conditions, and the need to keep plans up-to-date, it will be essential for the Town to revisit the policies and recommendations of those plans in the next several years. The following outline are “Policy” and “Action” items intended to guide revitalization of Downtown Huntersville through 2030.
4.2 Revitalization & Redevelopment
Revitalization and development of the Downtown is critical to the continued growth and vitality of Huntersville. A strong Downtown provides unique economic, social and recreational benefits that cannot be replicated elsewhere. As the center of a dynamic community which will continue to experience strong growth trends through 2030, Downtown Huntersville is well positioned for a renaissance that will result in a thriving mixed-use, pedestrian friendly town center.
In order to capitalize on the potential creation of jobs, a future town wide economic development plan should include specific recommendations for Downtown Huntersville (see Economic Development Action ED 1.1).
To promote commercial development Downtown, it is recommended that the private sector join forces to establish a Downtown business association. To that end, the Town can provide informational support to the Downtown business association (DBA) as it would any other business association.
Huntersville’s Zoning Ordinance currently allows a full variety of housing types in the Downtown area including single-family, apartments, townhomes, and live-work units. The number of residential units allowed per acre is not specified. However, generally within half a mile of future transit stations, it is recommended new development meet a minimum residential density of 15 units per area in order to support transit.
Citizen Survey: 73% of the respondents strongly agreed or agreed the town should encourage more mixed use development Downtown.
Transit Oriented Development-Residential (TOD-R) District
The current zoning ordinance establishes a Transit Oriented Development-Residential (TOD-R) District that requires a minimum residential density of 15 units per acre and a maximum of 40 units per acre within half a mile of a designated train station. Although the TOD-R District designation has not yet been applied in the Downtown area, future rezoning requests will likely follow.
4.3 Urban Design
With the adoption of a “Form-based” Zoning Ordinance in 1996, the Town of Huntersville made “design” the primary organizing principle for new development and land planning. The form-based approach to land development recognizes the value of the form, scale and placement of buildings in relation to each other and seeks to create and reinforce a “sense of place.” This sense of place is achieved through the interaction of the built and natural environments with the people who inhabit them. This concept is illustrated by Figure DT-4, taken from Article 4 of the Town’s Zoning Ordinance.
In addition to the design of buildings, attention is given to the relationship of buildings are required to “front” on a public street, with streets designed to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists, along with autos and other forms of motorized transportation.
Citizen Survey: 88% of the respondents strongly agreed or agreed that the town should promote high quality architectural design standards in Downtown. To establish a building mass appropriate for the center of Downtown, the Zoning Ordinance requires a minimum two-story high building fronting on the following roads:
- Gilead Road - From Sherwood Drive to Old Statesville Road (NC 115)
- Huntersville-Concord Road - From Old Statesville Road (NC 115) to Main Street
- Old Statesville Road (NC 115) - From 400 feet north of the intersection of Gilead Road /Huntersville/Huntersville-Concord Road south to Greenway Drive
- Main Street - From Huntersville-Concord Road to Greenway Drive
While the current ordinance allows buildings up to 48 feet high in the Town Center, Neighborhood Center and Highway Commercial zoning districts, consideration should be given to allowing taller buildings as Huntersville plans for its future.
Providing an inviting pedestrian experience requires more than just paying attention to the style of buildings constructed and their relationship to the public realm. It is also essential that the Downtown have inviting public spaces, be well landscaped, have appropriate lighting, and be comfortable for walking and biking. Taken together, these aesthetic considerations will help to ensure the creation of a Downtown that is attractive as well as functional.
4.3 Infrastructure & Capital Facilities
The future growth and vitality of Downtown Huntersville is dependent on many factors, including a thriving economy, a blueprint for growth and the provision of quality government services. However, foundational to this growth is the infrastructure necessary to support it.
A well-connected street grid, utilities adequately sized to accommodate future growth and development and the capital/institutional facilities necessary to serve the Downtown area are all essential to a vibrant Downtown.
Fast Fact: Three transit Stations are proposed in Huntersville: Bryton, Downtown, and Sam Furr. The land area within half a mile of all three proposed transit stops represents less than 3% of Huntersville’s total zoning jurisdiction.
As Downtown Huntersville continues to grow and develop into a compact mixed-use, pedestrian and bicycle oriented town center, its transportation system must be able to adapt and expand to accommodate the anticipated multi-modal travel needs of both current and future residents, workers and visitors. Enhancement of the existing street system to serve the anticipated travel demand must be a high priority between now and 2030. The seamless integration of auto, mass transit, pedestrian, bicycle and other alternative modes of travel will enable the Downtown to operate efficiently as a commercial, residential and civic center. Development of a circulation plan for the Downtown, along with a parking master plan, will be necessary to ensure the efficient and functional travel into and out of the Downtown.
The Downtown Master Plan (2006) and the East Huntersville Plan (2007) recommended a number of road improvements (see Map DT-1) including enhancing Main Street and connecting it to NC 115 with two roundabouts, the extension of Holbrooks Road, and moving Church Street away from the railroad tracks.
As the Town undertakes preparation of a multi-modal integrated transportation system plan, recommendations from the Downtown Plan and East Huntersville Plan should be reviewed and incorporated as appropriate.
In addition to the need for an efficient transportation system to move vehicles into and through Downtown, the provision of sufficient parking Downtown is vital to its success. In 2006, the Huntersville Planning Department completed a “Downtown Parking Study” which inventoried available parking in the Downtown, assessed the need for future parking and offered strategies to accommodate this need. Citizen Survey: 88% of respondents either strongly agreed or agreed that Huntersville should design Downtown for safe and efficient movement of vehicles, pedestrians and bicycles.
4.4 Parks, Recreation & Open Space in Downtown
As Downtown Huntersville continues to develop as a retail, employment and residential center for the community, the demand and need for additional parks, recreation and open space amenities will increase.
A “green” plan for the Downtown should be developed to guide the strategic placement of public spaces which can accommodate passive recreation, along with community and special events (e.g. movies in the park, festivals and outdoor music nights) which serve to activate the Downtown and provide a welcome respite from the urban environment.