Downtown
 Downtown Huntersville in 2030

In 2030 Huntersville’s Downtown will be a thriving, mixed-use town center with a variety of housing types (single-family, townhomes, live-work, and apartments), retail establishments, restaurants, offices, civic and recreational uses. The historic character of Downtown Huntersville will be preserved and enhanced through the integration of new with existing development, reflecting the highest quality architecture, resulting in a revitalized Downtown that is uniquely Huntersville. The Downtown street grid will be characterized by a well-connected network accommodating all modes of transportation (vehicular, pedestrian and non-motorized), including bus public transit and trains. The streetscape and public spaces will include attractive lighting, street trees and well-designed signage providing a safe, pleasant experience for visitors and residents alike. Public events, outdoor markets and art displays will activate the Downtown area, creating a true “destination” experience and focal point for the Town of Huntersville.


FOCUS AREA: DOWNTOWN

1.0 HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT

Up until the completion of I-77 through Huntersville in the late 1960’s, Downtown Huntersville had been the residential, civic, and commercial center of the community. This status was appropriate for a town that had reached a population of only 1,538 residents by 1970 (see Table DT-1). Some of Huntersville’s oldest and most historic commercial buildings and residential structures are located in the Downtown, including those which served the community as it evolved from its early history as an agricultural farming community to a mill village in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During this time, the land use pattern established in the Downtown remained largely unchanged.

Figure DT-1
Downtown Huntersville

Main Street - 1959

However, beginning in the early 1970’s the prominence of the Downtown began to wane with the introduction of commercial development at the new Gilead Road/ I-77 interchange. That shift was greatly accelerated with the completion of the Sam Furr/I-77 interchange and subsequent adjacent commercial and residential development in the mid 1990’s, along with the population explosion that same decade.

While Downtown Huntersville still remains the main civic hub of the community as home to Town Hall, the Police Station, post office, churches and Huntersville Elementary School, it has long been replaced as the residential and commercial core of the community.

Table DT-1
Huntersville Population (1960-2010)
 Year  Population
 1960 1,004
1970
1,538
1980
 1,294
 1990 3,014
 2000  24,960
2010
45,000 +/- (est.)
 
The boundaries of Downtown Huntersville
are generally framed by Gilead Road and Commerce Drive to the west, Huntersville-Concord Road at Vermillion subdivision to
the east, NC 115 and Main Street to the
north, and NC 115 and Mount
Holly-Huntersville Road to the south.
This area comprises approximately
710 acres (see Figure DT-2).

Figure DT-2
Downtown Boundaries

Downtown Huntersville
Click here to view larger map.

In addition to its location at the geographic center of Huntersville, Downtown is also located at the crossroads of several important thoroughfares, including Gilead Road and NC 115, as well as the Norfolk Southern rail line, which is the planned location of the Charlotte Area Transit System’s (CATS) North Corridor commuter rail line. Additionally, given the renewed market interest in mixed-use walkable centers, Downtown Huntersville is well-positioned for redevelopment and restoration to a more central role in the community.

In 1996, Downtown saw its first significant new construction since the beginning of decline in the 1970’s. A new Town Hall and Police Station were constructed in the center of Downtown. Both structures were of neo-classical colonial design and represented the beginning of the Downtown’s renaissance as the civic hub for Huntersville. 2010 marked the next important milestone in the redevelopment of the Downtown, with completion of the “Huntersville Town Center” project.

Built by the Town of Huntersville, Town Center (see Figure DT-3), located at the intersection of NC 115 and Gilead Road, consists of a 48,000 square foot three-story structure, along with an adjoining 297 space parking deck. The first two floors of this building will serve as the first satellite location for Discovery Place – Discovery Place Kids, a children’s museum intended to serve ages seven and under. The third floor of this building will provide office space for the Town of Huntersville. Related infrastructure improvements included reconstruction and the addition of lanes to the NC 115, Gilead Road and Huntersville-Concord Road intersection, the burying of overhead utility lines and placement of new pedestrian traffic control signals traffic signal mast arms.

The Town Center project also calls for the construction of a similar multi-story building to be built by the private sector fronting on NC 115. Once completed, Town Center will serve as anchor for the anticipated redevelopment of the historic core of Downtown Huntersville.

Figure DT-3
Town Center (June 2010)



2.0 PREVIOUS PLANS AND STUDIES

A number of plans completed since 1996 have focused on redevelopment of Huntersville’s historic Downtown and serve as the foundation for recommendations contained in the Huntersville 2030 Community Plan.

• DPZ-Vermillion Master Plan (1996)
As part of the master planning process for the Vermillion neighborhood, its designer, Duany Plater-Zyberk (DPZ) and Company extended their study area to encompass the Downtown core.

• North Carolina Downtown Development Association –
NCDDA (1997)
The NCDDA study focused on
Implementing the “Main Street Approach”
in the Downtown as defined by the
National Main Street Center and
Main Street North Carolina programs.

• ColeJenest and Stone Gilead Road Streetscape Plan (1999)
In 1999, ColeJenest and Stone was hired by the Town to study the Gilead Road corridor and made recommendations for streetscape improvements.

• DPZ-Anchor Mill Master Plan (1999)
Following purchase of the Anchor Mill site by the Town, a development team that included DPZ, conducted a design charrette with focus on the Anchor Mill site and its redevelopment as a transit oriented development.

• NLC/Hyett Palma (2000)
The National League of Cities (NLC), in conjunction with Hyett Palma performed the “America Downtown: New Thinking, New Life” pilot study program providing recommendations to revitalize Downtown.

• Narmour Wright (2004)
Preceding preparation of the “Downtown Master Plan”, the architecture firm of Narmour Wright was commissioned by the Town to complete a space needs analysis of all Town buildings.

• Downtown Master Plan (2006)
A master plan was adopted providing detailed recommendations for the physical redevelopment of Downtown including an implementation program (Map DT-1).

• Gilead Road/US-21 Transportation and Land Use Vision Small Area Plan (2006)
This plan offered street improvement recommendations for a small western portion of the Downtown area.

• East Huntersville Area Development Plan (2007)
This plan includes recommendations for a series of development initiatives and public improvements for land east of Church Street and the north/south rail corridor, adjacent to the Downtown (Map DT-2).

• Estimated Development Potential for Transit Corridors & Activity Centers 2008-2035 (2009)
The Noell Consulting Group prepared a market analysis of the development potential within a quarter mile at all the proposed CATS rail transit stations including Downtown Huntersville.

Map DT-1 is a composite map of the Downtown Master Plan (2006), Gilead Road/US-21 Transportation and Land Use Small Area Plan (2006) and East Huntersville Area Development Plan (2007); illustrating land use and street improvement recommendations for the Downtown.

Map DT-1
Long-range plans for Downtown Area

Click here to view larger map.

Map DT-2
East Huntersville Small Area Plan

Click here to view larger map.

• North Line Station Area Value
Analysis: 2010 – 2035 (2011)
This analysis was an update of the 2009
study by the Noell Consulting Group of
the development potential within half a
mile of proposed stations along the
North Corridor rail line.

3.0 CURRENT ZONING

Huntersville’s Zoning Ordinance is a “Form-based” or “Design-based” land development code focused on the quality of design and placement of buildings, rather than on the segregation of land uses by zoning district. For example, allowed uses in several zoning districts found within the Downtown range from single-family homes to a variety of commercial uses and hotels.

This provides a mixture of uses in the Downtown which gives land owners greater flexibility in developing and redeveloping their property, consistent with the recommendations outlined in the “Downtown Master Plan” and “East Huntersville Area Development Plan.”

This added flexibility also encourages development/redevelopment by not requiring property owners to complete the rezoning process to accommodate a particular type of land use that is allowed “by right.”

The zoning designations encompassing the Downtown (see Map DT-3) are a combination of Town Center (TC), Neighborhood Residential (NR), Neighborhood Center (NC), Highway Commercial (HC), General Residential (GR), and Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND-O).

Map DT-3
Downtown Zoning

Click here to view larger map.

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. Outlined below are “Policy” and “Action” items intended to guide revitalization of Downtown Huntersville through 2030.

4.2 Revitalization and 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.

Rosedale Apartments developed at approximately 15 units/acre


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.

Figure DT-4 Example of a building type allowed downtown

Click here to view larger image.

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.

Town Center Sidewalk on Gilead Road



Underground utility line construction in progress



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.

5.0 DOWNTOWN POLICY &
ACTION ITEMS

Policy DT- 1: Downtown Development
Continue to use the Downtown Master Plan, Gilead Road/US-21 Transportation and Land Use Vision Small Area Plan and East Huntersville Area Development Plan to guide future development in Downtown.

Action DT-1.1: Development Plans Planning Board will review Downtown Master Plan, Gilead Road/US-21 Transportation and Land Use Vision Small Area Plan and East Huntersville Area Development Plan and recommend updates for consideration by the Town Board.

Action DT-1.2: Downtown Business Association Support
Town to provide informational support should a Downtown business association be formed.

Action DT-1.3: Transit Oriented Development - Residential
As rezoning requests for TOD-R are proposed in Downtown, analyze for compliance with TOD-R standards established in the Zoning Ordinance and ensure the location is appropriate so as not to conflict with historic sections of Downtown.

Policy DT-2: Architectural Design Standards
Promote high quality architectural design standards for new development and redevelopment projects in the Downtown.

Action DT-2.1: Building Height Standards
The Planning Board shall review building height standards and make recommendations to the Town Board as needed.

Action DT-2.2: Integration of New/Old Development
The Planning Department should modify the “Design Guidebook” offering recommendations and guidance on integrating “new” and “old” development in Downtown.

Action DT-2.3: Pedestrian Streetscape and Way-Finding Plan Planning Department develop uniform pedestrian streetscape and way-finding signage guideline plan for Downtown for Town Board consideration by 2012.

Action DT-2.4: Building Façade Guidelines
Consider preparing guidelines for building facades, including the appropriate mix of solid walls and windows, awnings and other exterior building enhancements, particularly those extending into the public realm (i.e. sidewalk area) while being mindful not to discourage investment.

Policy DT-3: Capital Investments Install roads, sidewalks, bikeways, greenways and utility infrastructure necessary to support development and redevelopment within the Downtown, consistent with the future land use plan for the Downtown.

Action DT-3.1: Road and Streetscape Plan
Prepare road and streetscape plan for the Downtown area, which complements and is consistent with streetscape in front of Town Center project. Plan should include recommended street sections, lighting, landscaping and street furniture.

Action DT-3.2: Capital Investment/Implementation Plan Prepare strategic capital investment and implementation plan identifying required infrastructure improvements in the Downtown to accommodate future growth and development. Plan should include phasing of improvements to support development as it occurs.

Action DT-3.3: Underground Utilities
Bury overhead utility lines in the Downtown area as funding becomes available and as utilities are upgraded.

Action DT-3.4: Entrance Features Create entrance features (e.g. monuments) identifying boundaries of Downtown. Entrance features should be of uniform design and be coordinated with Downtown pedestrian and way-finding signage.

Action DT-3.5: Rail Station Design Finalize design and associated site improvements for Downtown rail station and parking area(s) in preparation for North Corridor Commuter rail line.

Action DT-3.6: Wi-Fi Service Encourage creation of Wi-Fi “hot zone” for Downtown area.

Policy DT-4: Multi-Modal Transportation System
Support creation of multi-modal integrated Downtown transportation system addressing automobile, bus, rail, pedestrian and bicycle mobility.

Action DT-4.1: Multi-Modal Transportation Plan
Prepare multi-modal integrated transportation plan for Downtown which accommodates all modes of transit, maximizes public and private resources and is consistent with Federal and State “complete streets” policies in order to enhance funding opportunities. The Plan should include a capital element and be designed for phased implementation by either public or private entities.

Policy DT-5: Parking
Continue to use “Downtown Parking Study” completed in 2006 to address future parking needs attributed to anticipated future development and growth in Downtown.

Action DT-5.1: Parking Master Plan Utilizing “Downtown Parking Study”, prepare a “Downtown Parking Master Plan.” This Master Plan should employ such innovative techniques and strategies such as shared parking, the use of private spaces and time of day demand pricing to establish a parking system that will ensure a healthy and vital Downtown.

Policy DT-6: Parks and Recreation Continue to enhance parks and recreation opportunities in the Downtown, consistent with the “Downtown Master Plan,” “East Huntersville Area Development Plan,” “Parks & Recreation Master Plan” and “Greenway and Bikeway Master Plan.”

Action DT-6.1: Parks, Greenways and Open Space
Identify suitable locations for and develop public parks, greenways and open space in the Downtown, consistent with “Downtown Master Plan,” “East Huntersville Area Development Plan,” “Parks & Recreation Master Plan” and “Greenway and Bikeway Master Plan,” in conjunction with new development proposals.

Action DT-6.2: Community Arts and Recreation
Encourage community programming (i.e. festivals, fairs, holiday celebrations) in the Downtown.

Action DT-6.3: Community Gathering Space
Consider creation of a community gathering space in the Downtown.

Action DT-6.4: Greenway Trails Implement greenway trail system identified in the Town of Huntersville “Greenway & Bikeway Master Plan.”