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Parents, Coaches, Former players and Supporters of Charlotte Jr Soccer Foundation & Myers Park Trinity Little League:

We are fighting for the preservation of Pearle Street Park for our children and we need your help.   The proposed development coupled with the park redevelopment plan will make the field very difficult for our children to use.

Charlotte Jr Soccer Foundation & Myers Park Trinity Little League ask you to please email a message of concern to all of our 9 County Commissioners. If this deal is not structured properly and the parking problem not solved, the result will be an irreplaceable loss of active and healthy public play space for our children at Pearle Street Park.

Pappas Properties is scheduled to submit their official request to develop land directly adjacent to the field at a June meeting of the County Commissioners.  If the request follows the original Pappas proposal, then it will be a two-phased approach.  This two-phased approach is a disaster for the youth sports activities provided by MPTLL and CJrSF, a bad deal for the County, and for us as citizens.  A background summary, pictures, and links at the end of this letter provide more information about the development project.

Park & Rec senior staff and the Park & Rec Council support the park redevelopment plan, with some contingencies. We hope their recommendations will call for an all-in-one approach, not the two-phased approach outlined by the developer. We know that neither recommendation will include a solution to the critical and bizarre parking problem created by the park plan and the development.

Children have been the primary users of Pearle Street Park since the 1940’s when it was deeded to the city for a playground by Thompsons Children’s Home.  Further, our parents, coaches and benefactors built and paid for the athletic field, the irrigation system, and installed the field lights.  CJSF and MPTLL have been the main caretakers of this park for more than 25 years, and have spent and continue to spend considerable amounts of time, sweat, and money to maintain and improve the playing fields.  

CJSF and MPTLL are strongly opposed to the original version of the Pappas Proposal and request that you email the County Commissioners and voice your opposition because of any or all of the following reasons:

  1. The sale of precious park land to a developer and the use of park land to create a cut through street through children’s playing fields in an under-parked City seems inappropriate and unsafe.  Charlotte consistently ranks at the bottom nationally in terms of our Parks – total numbers, users proximity to available parks, etc.   We need more park space and more playing fields in Charlotte--not less.
  2. Children’s playing fields can only be safely utilized where there is adequate dedicated parking in the park near the field as there is now. The design for the redevelopment of the Park does not provide for ANY dedicated parking in the park or even nearby.
  3. Stimulating “development” by concentrating more dense housing units on the edge of a playground seems like an invitation to traffic and overcrowding, and will compound the future inadequacy of playing fields for a growing population.
  4. The County has done much to create a Greenway and passive recreation facilities for adults; we have no reason to take a children’s playing field space ---developed and maintained by our leagues--- to convert it to an extension of the Greenway.
  5. A requirement that County tax funds must be spent to attempt to fix a mess created by the Pappas development.

MPTLL & CJSF believe in a collaborative effort.  Debby Wallace, Rick Rayburn, Kip Kiser and Rich Little, have attended many meetings with our partner, Mecklenburg County Park & Rec.  In those meetings we have expressed deep concern about our children’s programs.  We also documented the serious deficiency of field space for children’s play in Charlotte, especially in the central part of town that we serve and most of you live. More field space is needed-not less.

While there have been improvements to the original park plan directly related to our meetings, we don’t know exactly what P&R senior management will recommend to the County Commission in June.

We also know that unless ALL of a series of complicated political and economic transactions, including Federal agency approvals and the allocation of County funding (currently in Phase 2), are in place prior to Pappas Properties taking possession of the park land, our children basically lose the utility of the active recreation space at Pearle Street Park for wholesome organized play.  Pappas Properties would then be the only beneficiary while everyone else deals with a road through Pearl Street Park and the demolition of current parking.

We need your help.  County Commissioners will listen to you.  Please send all 9 Commissioners your message today.  A series of meetings will take place over the next two weeks that will determine whether or not our CHILDREN will still be able to play soccer, softball and baseball at Pearle Street Park.  If you have any questions, or want additional detail, feel free to contact CJrSF or MPTLL.

Thank you in advance for your support.

Myers Park Trinity Little League             Charlotte Jr Soccer Foundation

 

Please find below:
List of County Commissioners with phone numbers and email addresses


Background information on Pappas Properties project and Pearle Street Park Redevelopment Plan

Mecklenburg County Commissioners

Jim Puckett – District 1
980 314-2876

Vilma Leake – District 2
704 336-2472

George Dunlap – District 3
704 336-2472

Dumont Clarke – District 4
704 996-6126

Matthew Ridenhour – District 5
704 336-2472

Bill James – District 6
704 336-2472

Pat Cotham – At Large
704 336-2472

Trevor Fuller – At Large
704 336-2472

Ella Scarborough – At Large
980 314-2879

Background:

Pappas Properties is purchasing the building and land currently owned by the Charlotte Board of Realtors, located on the corner of Greenwood Cliff and Kenilworth Ave.  This property is next to Pearl Street Park.   Descriptions of the Pappas Properties project can be found in the links below.

The developer’s proposal includes running a new road from Pearl Park Way Bridge through the park, in front of the Charlotte Housing Authority and connecting to Baxter Street.  The route of the road would create 2 remnants of the Park that Pappas would then purchase from the County for $1.4 million.  

The road as currently designed runs directly through the left side of the soccer field, the field light poles, and existing backstop on the baseball/softball field.  

The park redevelopment plan calls for removing the existing parking lot that is used by MPTLL and CJrSF, as well as other Park users.  The redevelopment plan does not include any in-Park parking.  There will be limited on-street parking that will be available to the development project next door as well as for Park users.  Debby Wallace has done extensive research on the parking issue.  For more detail, refer to the attached Word document.

Rebuilding the baseball/softball field and the soccer fields will only happen IF the following political and economic transactions take place:

  1. The County and the Charlotte Housing Authority agree on and complete a land swap.  The County gets CHA property that adjoins Pearl Street and the CHA gets Baxter Park, which is on the other side of the CHA building (opposite side of Pearl Street Park).   This transaction requires HUD approval and an agreement on the value of the each piece of property.  Baxter Park is likely more valuable and therefore CHA will have to cut a check to the County, which means that CHA will have to acquire funding from Washington.  
  2. The Charlotte Storm Water Department approves the re-routing of the creek 85 feet closer to the existing basketball court (the meander).
  3. The County secures and then allocates between $2 million and $2.6 million in additional funding that will be needed to complete the redevelopment.  This is the shortfall between the $4 million estimated cost of the Park redevelopment and the $1.4 million that could be received from the sale of the Park remnants to Pappas Properties.

The combination of these three events will create the additional land and funds needed to rebuild the athletic fields.

Links from some of the news coverage:
•    http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/business/article39010803.html
•    http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/article43822404.html
•    http://www.bizjournals.com/charlotte/news/2016/04/14/city-considering-3-9-million-in-support-for-major.html
•    http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article80009637.html.  

The Project rendering below is from Pappas Properties.  Note the absence of the athletic fields and field lights that CJrSF and MPTLL built, paid for and have been maintaining for 25+ years.  The new road that you see coming off of Kenilworth Ave is actually drawn on County Property (i.e. within the Park) and runs directly along the soccer field and through the current baseball/softball backstop.   

The Park rendering below is a version that was created after many modifications coming from meetings between CJrSF, MPTLL and Park & Rec Staff.  Note that this version still does not have adequate parking.  Also note that this version is only possible if all of the pieces of the complex deal come together.

 

Pearle Street Park Redevelopment and the Parking Problem:

We're fighting for the preservation of Pearle Street Park for the children.
We are opposed to the plan as it now stands. Two issues remain: parking and the usability of the park by children.

Parking has been the main issue at every meeting, generating the most concern and questions because ALL parking is to be eliminated. The Chairman of the Park & Rec Council, in recommending the plan in a close vote, included several contingencies including "that the P&R Dept remains committed to looking for additional parking agreements with nearby community partners."
 
Any parking deal with the community partners will not solve the fundamental problem. One hundred (100) spaces right next to the field are being permanently removed from the park. This creates both a number and location problem.

The two possible community partners are Charlotte Housing Authority (CHA) and CMC. The CHA parking lot may provide at best 20 to 30 spots across the street, over 800' from the field.  The CMC lot (125 spaces) is even further away (almost 1/3 mile, over 1700' or over 700 adult steps) from the field and therefore, not appropriate, safe or practical for children's use.

These two satellite parking lots could provide much needed Adult parking for the greenway and special events along Midtown Park or the Greenway. The closest available greenway parking within a park is at Thompson Park/Elizabeth Park on 3rd&4th Streets and Freedom Park, both a good distance away. The Target deck can be used on Charlottetown Drive. The Metropolitan deck is not an official P&R parking option but is the deck of choice for greenway users per social media. Both decks are across Kenilworth Ave from Pearl St Park. The new Pappas project adjacent to Pearle’s children’s athletic field is not encouraging nor planning on having park users access their parking deck.

The Drop Off Zone, at the end of Baxter St cul-de-sac, was suggested as the solution for families with satellite parking. This area is still 500’ from the soccer field and does not allow for visual supervision from car to the field. You would need an adult to be with or meet the child at the drop off point in order to safely escort the child to the field.

The only replacement/new parking that is appropriate for children is on Connector Street, with 10 park-side spaces. Baxter Street has 80 + park-side street spaces, with 20 close enough for families with children. Both would still require an adult escort to the soccer field. The net affect of removing vehicle field-side parking within Pearl and "replacing" it with new park-side street spots is minus 70 spaces.
 
We have asked and asked and finally begged for 60-80 parking spots within the park, close to the soccer field. We must have some field side parking or, at minimum, a drop off zone next to the field in order to use Pearl Street Park safely. Otherwise, the park becomes an attractive nuisance with accessibility across busy roads.

In-the-park parking is standard practice throughout Mecklenburg County. Greenway users have designated parking all along the route as outlined in the Go the Greenway brochure (a P&R publication) and on the P&R web site. Pearl Street Park (Map # 7-Go the Greenway) along Kenilworth is the first parking mentioned for greenway users along this urban stretch of Little Sugar Creek.

ALL the greenway maps with athletic fields (14 out of 18) have PARKING IN THE PARK, most right beside the fields and greenway entrances. All of them. Every single one.

Three maps show in-the-park parking for 3 greenway-only parks:
-McMullen Creek - 3 parking lots on park property-Hwy 51, Johnson Rd, Bevington Pl (flood plain)
-Little Sugar Creek - 2 new parking lots in Elizabeth Park - 4th St, Elizabeth St (flood plain, former asphalt lot)
-Campbell Creek - gravel parking lot on Margaret Wallace Rd.
All have parking in the park, most within 30 steps of the greenway.
 
Current P&R parking for the Urban Little Sugar Creek Greenway (Morehead to Thompson/4th Street):
1. Pearl Street Park at Kenilworth Rd
2. Decks at Target and Metropolitan
3. Thompson Park/St Mary's Church/the Thompson Orphanage Chapel)
4. Elizabeth Park
Alexander Street Park (the other side of 277) to the north and Freedom Park (East Blvd) to the south are the closest designated parking areas for the greenway. Both have athletic fields. Both have parking in the park. Next to the field.

The Shops at Piper Glenn/McMullen Creek Greenway parking fiasco was solved by adding the lot built on Bevington Place in the park on flood plain. In Pearl’s case, P&R state that they can’t put parking in the flood plain or improve the current asphalt lot along Kenilworth. Furthermore they don’t want to put parking beside the field along Kenilworth mainly for aesthetic reasons, which mirrors the developer’s wish for a beautiful open green space in front of his property.

Our dogged requests for parking in the park is merely asking for the standard practice used throughout the county to be used at Pearl. Children's athletic fields have to have field side parking. Parents must be able to supervise their children's walk to and from the field. Why is Pearl St Park the exception?

Use by Children:
Seventy-three years ago, the Thompson Orphanage/Episcopal Diocese of NC deeded some of their farmland over to Charlotte P&R for a playground for children (1943). The city created Pearl Street Park as the first African American playground and park in the county. It bordered the Brooklyn neighborhood on one side and Cherrytown on the other. Construction of I-277 later split the park from Brooklyn, while destroying the Brooklyn neighborhood in the name of urban renewal. Pearl was largely ignored until the 70's when MPTLL and CJSF started renting the athletic fields from the county and making capital improvements to the athletic fields. For the past 40 years, our non-profit children's programs have shared the field at Pearl Street Park.

The land that Pearl Street Park sits on is extremely valuable. The developer estimates that the two small "remnants" of the park that he wants to purchase are worth $1.4 MM (0.39 acres). But there is a different way to value the park other than dollars. We need to think of the value that park brings to our children.

The current park redevelopment plan benefits the developer and adults at the expense of the children.
For the developer: the access road (Pearl Park Way) to his property is 100% on county land; better shaped/more valuable land parcels; landscaped areas/front lawn directly adjacent to property; direct access to greenway, a proven value for apartments; and removal of ugly parking lot.
For the adults: a new cut through for cars to McDowell; greenway connection to uptown; a bigger park; lighted walkways; formal entrance features with landscape and hardscape throughout.

Cost to the children:
-a busy street up the western side (taking .84 Ac) and the northern side (.76 Ac) of the playing field;
-reduction of playing field surface;
-no field side parking; limited remote street parking;
-reduction in programming, flexibility, growth.
We have been asked to reduce our intensity of use; change our scheduling; find other fields; curtail usability; park in remote parking lots; and walk over 1000' with children to the field.

Thompsons Orphanage placed great value on their property to remain a playground for children in perpetuity through the 1943 deed stating:
1. the maintenance of a 50' buffer of evergreen shrubbery along the western/development side of the park specifically to insulate the playground;
2. use of the property restricted for playground purposes or it reverts back to the church for $2,500 and no interest.

The current park design and route of Pearl Park Way violate these two deed restrictions. The 50' buffer is now a street and greenway. The lack of parking by the field, the addition of two busy roads, and reduced field space make the field less safe and not functional for a children's "playground." Playground purposes don't include selling park land to developers or putting in a road. The hardscape designs along the Connector and Baxter Streets benefit the greenway and adults are not recreational improvements for children.

Our children are clearly the beneficiaries that Thompson Orphanage sought to protect and serve so many years ago. There is a fiduciary responsibility to the children to maintain this park as a usable, safe playground and not convert it into a passive park for adults.