This article was originally published by The Charlotte Observer on February 6, 2017.

Will this development northeast of Charlotte become the next Birkdale?

With a growing population, the completed Interstate 485 loop and a market looking for walkable, mixed-use developments, MPV Properties is betting that the time is right for a new “town center”-style project that would straddle the line along northeast Mecklenburg and Cabarrus counties.

The new development, to be called Farmington, would resemble centers such as Baxter Village in Fort Mill and Birkdale Village that mix shops, restaurants, offices and residences. It’s located on the north side of Rocky River Road, just east of I-485.

“We’ve been working on it for about a decade,” said managing partner James Merrifield, sitting in the company’s new offices overlooking the Blue Line light rail on South Boulevard. “There’s a lot of quality housing in Harrisburg. The population’s built up, and there’s more of a need for services.”

It’s the latest in a wave of new developments that are growing on Charlotte’s periphery. While new projects in uptown and its close-in, surrounding neighborhoods attract a lot of attention, there’s plenty of development along the recently completed I-485 loop. And unlike earlier, single-use suburban subdivisions, office parks or shopping centers, the new wave of developments plan to mix different uses together, with an emphasis on walkability.

Along the southeast edge of the city, three developments are taking shape at the I-485/Providence Road interchange. At Waverly, the farthest along, a Whole Foods is set to open this spring, anchoring hundreds of new apartments, houses, shops and restaurants. Riverbend Village, located at I-485 and N.C. 16, will include hundreds of residence and a new headquarters for Corning Optical.

The 180-acre Farmington tract sits partly in Mecklenburg and partly in Cabarrus County. Though zoned for commercial and residential development, MPV Properties is updating those plans to reflect a new, more integrated layout and mix of uses, and recently filed a rezoning petition in Mecklenburg that Charlotte City Council will hear and vote on in the coming months.

And the biggest new mixed-use development being planned, the River District near I-485 and West Boulevard, is expected to transform 1,400 acres and add millions of square feet of office space, thousands of residences, 1,000 hotel rooms and 500,000 square feet of shops and restaurants.

The Farmington development would include hundreds of new residences, along with shops, a movie theater, offices, restaurants and a hotel. Here are some of the key numbers:

  • 300 townhouses.
  • 275 apartments.
  • 120 units of “active senior” housing. This would be an age-restricted, for-sale housing targeting people looking to retire and move to a smaller house.
  • A 120-room hotel.
  • A 14-screen movie theater.
  • A total of 200,000 square feet of retail space.
  • A total of 160,000 square feet of office space, including medical offices.

“Growth out along Rocky River Road, for three to five years, had virtually stopped,” said managing partner Steve Vermillion. “It’s really kicked back in.”

MPV Properties is partnering with the Blumenthal family and Crosland on the Farmington development. Part of the project will include an extension of Plaza Road through the site to Caldwell Road, a new street that will be called Farmington Ridge Parkway.

Farmington master plan

The site is laid out with a “village center” that would include a pedestrian walkway with green space flanked by two-story buildings with shops and restaurants on the ground floor and offices on the second floor. The site would include walking trails and a greenway connection, as well as bike lanes on Farmington Ridge Parkway.

MPV Properties’ other current developments include Redstone in Indian Land, S.C. The company has tenants including a movie theater, shops and restaurants that will total 310,000 square feet of commercial space, meant to attract business from the fast-growing area just southeast of Charlotte.

Merrifield didn’t give a timeline for the development on Rocky River Road, but predicted it would move rapidly once MPV Properties obtains the necessary approvals.

“We think it will come to life quickly,” said Merrifield.


By Ely Portillo

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