In the coming years, West Sugar Creek Road will get new “mobility hubs,” where people can safely transition from one mode of transit — such as walking, biking or scooter — to another form, like bus, light rail or microtransit.
As part of the project, the city of Charlotte will also fill gaps in the sidewalks to make a continuous 3.5-mile stretch and establish a new multi-use path for pedestrians and cyclists along Sugaw Creek Park.
Why it matters: The West Sugar Creek corridor is a historically disadvantaged and underinvested area with high levels of poverty and crime. Although there is high foot traffic, the design of the corridor mainly accommodates vehicles that zip by at fast speeds, while pedestrians are restricted to narrow sidewalks and poorly lit areas.
- City leaders say this project will improve access to jobs and housing, creating new economic opportunities for residents in neighborhoods such as Hidden Valley and Derita.
What’s happening: The City of Charlotte is getting $12 million in federal funding to put toward improvements along West Sugar Creek Road, which are estimated will cost $24 million.
- The grant comes from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s RAISE (Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity) program, which was expanded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
There will be three locations along West Sugar Creek Road:
- The Sugar Creek light rail station, building on what’s already there.
- The Derita hub, where Mallard Creek Road ends.
- The Merlane hub, near Sugaw Creek Recreation Center (Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation is a partner in the project.)
Yes, but: West Sugar Creek does not have a direct bus line as frequent as say Route 9 along Central Avenue. The Hidden Valley route only covers a limited area. However, CATS has set a goal to establish a new route connecting the Derita and Hidden Valley communities to the Sugar Creek light rail station.
What they’re saying: “We’ve heard loud and clear from the community, from Hidden Valley and other adjacent neighborhoods that the Sugaw Creek Recreation Center isn’t as utilized as it could be,” Monica Holmes, Corridors of Opportunity program manager, tells Axios, “because people don’t feel safe crossing the street.”
Zoom out: West Sugar Creek is one of six corridors the City of Charlotte is investing in as part of its Corridors of Opportunity project, a $67.5-million effort to invest in underfunded areas. That dollar figure doesn’t include private investments or other funding sources, including the federal government.
Zoom in: For West Sugar Creek, the goal is to turn the car-oriented strip into a place people can safely walk between their homes and businesses.
- The city has helped establish a Sugar Creek Business Association and is installing cameras at businesses to give law enforcement more crime data as part of its recently launched Safe Biz CLT program. Plus, street lights on Reagan and Equipment Drive are getting upgrades.
- The city recently purchased motels on Reagan Drive, across from the Hidden Valley neighborhood, in an attempt to cut down on crime. The city is seeking a developer to demolish and rebuild for-sale affordable housing on the land. Although, skeptics are wary of who will benefit from the plans.
- Private investment is accompanying the city’s, Holmes notes. The McDonald’s, for instance, was recently renovated. “We feel like things are happening there,” Holmes says.
The intrigue: Although West Sugar Creek has historically been last to see investment, the mobility hubs will be some of the first in Charlotte.
- It will also be one of the first places to get smart lighting. The new technology from Duke Energy, another partner in the project, has the capability to turn automatically brighter as people walk by or be controlled from afar.
What’s next: The entire West Sugar Creek project is estimated to be complete by 2028. The city still has work to do on contracting, engineering, real estate acquisition and utility relocation before breaking ground.