HUNTERSVILLE – A proposal to breathe new life into a central piece of the Birkdale community, including the addition of a multi-building retail venture and potential new connection to N.C. 73, is destined for continued town board discussion next week.

At the board’s March 4 session, a public hearing began on a rezoning request from Birkdale Real Estate Investors, LLC related to a new vision for the southern portion of Birkdale, an expansive mixed-used retail, residential and recreational development off N.C. 73 just west of Interstate 77.

The zoning change on 19.5 acres in the southeast quadrant of the N.C. 73/Birkdale Commons Parkway intersection is the first step of a proposed construction and renovation project to repurpose parcels for business use and apply a complete makeover to the Birkdale Golf Club.

The rezoning to Highway Commercial - Conditional District would lay the foundation for a master plan that features three new commercial buildings, two apartment buildings, a 140-room hotel with conference hosting capabilities, a three-story parking garage and a completely renovated golf clubhouse to the 20-plus-year-old golf course community.

Upgrades to the golf course, including the installation of new greens and possible course layout realignments, are also part of the plans.

Intersection unknowns

The proposed major artery for the project would be a new road cutting diagonally through the property from N.C. 73 to Birkdale Commons Parkway. The road would align with the Lindholm Road intersection at N.C. 73 on the north side of the highway.

Five of the proposed new buildings would front the interior side of the new road, which would follow a path directly in front of a proposed apartment building adjacent to the golf course and the renovated clubhouse before connecting to Birkdale Commons Parkway.

At the public hearing, developers highlighted the new connection – and the prospects of a full-movement intersection at that intersection when the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) widens N.C. 73 – as vital to their vision for the multi-use sight.

What is unknown is how NCDOT planners view the intersection. The current proposal for N.C. 73 does not call for left turns (or straight-through traffic) at the Birkdale Commons Parkway intersection, but preliminary presentations have included left turns off Lindholm onto N.C. 73.

By tying into the Lindholm alignment, developers are seeking a full-movement intersection at that location, which would enhance access off the highway to the proposed developments and the golf course.

“It’s safe to say the plans for N.C. 73 will have a direct impact on these plans,” David Peete, senior planner for Huntersville, said in providing a summary of the situation.

Since the NCDOT’s views about a full movement Lindholm intersection are not known, there are related uncertainties tied to the Birkdale plans. Those unknowns led to the March 4 decision to continue the public hearing until the March 18 town board meeting, but a final answer from NCDOT is not required before the rezoning request proceeds to the next stage of town review.

The item is scheduled for planning board discussion on March 26 and, as of now, is expected to be back for town board consideration in April.

What’s proposed

The preliminary outline of projects for the site include a commercial building facing N.C. 73 at the new Lindholm intersection. Two more commercial buildings – envisioned as retail shops or offices – would front the northern side of the new road and be adjacent to a 140-room hotel. The hotel would require a height variance from the town, but it is not expected to exceed six stories.

An apartment building is planned along Birkdale Commons Parkway, on the north side of the intersection with the new street, and a larger apartment building, complete with a swimming pool and adjacent to the parking deck, is planned in the area near where the current golf course driving range is located.

The plan, as proposed, would include just over 68,000 square feet of new commercial space and 210 apartments, in addition to the hotel and renovated clubhouse.

Trent Gustafson, speaking for the development group, said in addition to the commercial buildings, apartments and hotel, the project would involve about $1 million in upgrades to the golf course.

During public comments about the project, most speakers identified themselves as Birkdale residents. General response to the plan, especially the extensive golf course and clubhouse improvements many residents have anticipated since the course was acquired in foreclosure proceedings by the Toronto-based Romspen company in 2015, was positive. But some speakers pointed out concerns with the proposal.

Several mentioned pedestrian access across – or below – N.C. 73 as a priority, and suggested developers could play a role in making sure a safe way to walk from one part of Birkdale to the other was part of the highway improvement plans. A pedestrian culvert   beneath the highway appears to be the likely scenario, although town officials acknowledged NCDOT plans have not been finalized.

Other speakers questioned the need the more apartments in Huntersville and at least one expressed concern about the additional traffic the commercial buildings and hotel could bring to Birkdale Commons Parkway.

Although there’s no guarantee more information from NCDOT will be available when the public hearing continues March 18, more details about traffic flow related to the Birkdale plans are expected to be part of the discussion.

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