Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and other property owners are hunting for a company to carry out a major redevelopment on North Tryon Street, to include shops, apartments, offices and a hotel.
Library officials have been talking about how to modernize or replace the Main Library at 6th and North Tryon streets for a decade. Last fall, they picked an architect and are now working on a design. Library chief executive Lee Keesler said the current Main Library, which opened in 1989, needs an update.
“That building was really built to hold books because the print environment was dominant," Keesler said. "Today people want a lot of different things from libraries."
The new library will still have books, but there will also be more technology as well as flexible spaces for meetings and events. Those are all ideas that came out of public meetings to plan the new library, Keesler said.
“And so we've been careful to assure people that we're going to continue to offer content in all the media that we can,” he said.
Keesler compared the concept for the new library to a college student union, which serves as a campus crossroads and meeting place. Keesler said the library project could start construction in two years and be done in five.
Redeveloping the library and the two-block area around it are part of a broader effort to revitalize the northern end of Charlotte's downtown called the North Tryon Vision Plan. Inspired in part by the library's plans, a separate committee formed in 2015 to look at redeveloping an even wider area around the library, said committee co-chair Beth Hardin.
“It appeared to be a great opportunity to reconceptualize the entire block, not just the library itself. … As the project progressed it became apparent that we could do an even better project for the city of Charlotte by considering the entire two-block parcel,” Hardin said.
Those two blocks — between Sixth and Eighth streets — include not only the library, but vacant land, and several historic structures: Duckworth's Taphouse, the McGlohon Theater at Spirit Square and the 12-story Hall House at 8th and Tryon - once known as the Barrington Hotel. Those historic buildings would be saved. Hall House, owned by Charlotte Housing Authority, could become a boutique hotel. There would be shops and restaurants, parking, offices, and about 625 apartments — one-third of which would be various levels of affordability, Hardin said.
“That affordable housing is designed to enable the people who work in largely service industries in and around Uptown Charlotte had the ability to live in the community and to be accessible to their places of work,” Hardin said.
Hardin is a UNC Charlotte vice chancellor. She co-chairs what's known as the 7th & Tryon Committee with Keesler. Other property owners are represented, including the city of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and Bank of America.
This week, the group issued a request for proposals from developers who might be interested in taking on the 7-acre project. Hardin says it could spur more changes uptown.
“These two blocks are the gateway to North Tryon," Hardin said. "And so this project is the catalyst. And it is a tremendous opportunity for a visionary master developer to come in and not only do an exceptional project, made possible because of the cooperation of the five landowners but also to set the stage for the redevelopment of the entire North Tryon Corridor.”
It could be several years before construction begins and 10 years before it's complete. Officials aren't putting a number on the total investment in the two-block project, but Hardin said it's comparable to other large-scale projects uptown right now.
Meanwhile, the 7th & Tryon project won't be the only construction on North Tryon in the next few years. Other projects are already in the works include a big renovation at Discovery Place museum and the Foundation for the Carolinas' renovation of the old Carolina Theatre, which includes a hotel.