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Mecklenburg County approves $38.5M in incentives for Atrium Health's medical school plans

Atrium Health plans to build Charlotte's first medical school.
Atrium Health plans to build Charlotte's first medical school.

Mecklenburg County commissioners voted 6-2 Tuesday to reimburse Atrium Health $38.5 million in property taxes for what it's calling an "innovation district" and medical school in Dilworth.

Atrium is partnering with Wake Forest Baptist Health for Charlotte’s first medical school, which could open by 2024. It also wants to develop adjacent land for medical research facilities, offices and residential units.

The county’s economic development director, Peter Zeiler, said Atrium hopes to bring a training center for advanced surgical procedures, known as IRCAD.

The county tax dollars would reimburse Atrium for infrastructure such as a new parking deck, sidewalks and water and sewer lines.

Commissioner Mark Jerrell, who voted for the project, said it will change Charlotte.

“This isn’t, 'Let’s make a deal,'” he said. “This is critical to the future of our community.”

Commissioner Susan Rodriguez-McDowell said she supports the medical school and "innovation district" but proposed reimbursing Atrium for $22 million instead of $38.5 million. Commissioner Elaine Powell supported her motion, but it failed.

“Another point that I want to bring up is that our state has just approved a budget that brings the corporate tax rate to zero over a few short years,” Rodriguez-McDowell said. “Have those numbers been factored into this project?”

Rodriguez-McDowell then said she assumed the lower corporate tax rate had not been included because the state budget was approved last month. She said she believes that will make the development more profitable for Atrium and its partners.

As part of the agreement, Atrium said it will donate 14 acres of land to Inlivian, Charlotte’s housing authority, for the development of affordable housing.

Commissioner Ella Scarborough did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.

The Charlotte City Council approved $36 million in incentives for the project last month.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.