City marks completion of Yellowstone Drive Connectivity Project
Tabitha Warren

New project in Historic West End connects residents to parks, greenways and each other

A new roadway and bridge in West End connecting Yellowstone Drive recently opened, giving residents convenient access to Rozzelles Ferry Road, Martin Luther King Park and the future Stewart Creek Greenway. The Yellowstone Drive street connectivity project extends Yellowstone Drive past Coronet Way, over Stewart Creek and across Rozzelles Ferry Road. The project finished under budget and a year ahead of schedule.

Better, safer and quicker access

The new street, complete with 8-foot-wide sidewalks and pedestrian-scale lighting, gives residents direct access to Martin Luther King Park and a future section of Stewart Creek Greenway between Rozzelles Ferry Road and the existing greenway section that currently ends at State Street. “The greenway crossing at Yellowstone Drive will give the surrounding community access to the Stewart Creek Greenway north and south,” said Katie Daughtry, planner with Mecklenburg County Park & Recreation. “The county is also planning to start construction on the Stewart Creek Greenway Tributary project, which will extend the greenway another mile north/northwest to Lakewood Avenue. This project will add to the existing 2.7 miles of the Stewart Creek/Wesley Heights/Irwin Creek greenways.”

In addition to providing access to the park and greenway system, the project also provides a safe, pedestrian-friendly route to Old Savona Mills and Phase 2 of the CityLYNX Gold Line, which is currently in construction. It also restores neighborhood integration between the Biddleville and Eleanore Heights neighborhoods. “Before this connection went in, people had to drive all the way around the Lakeview neighborhood to get over to MLK Park,” said Lamar Davis, engineering project manager for the West Trade/Rozzelles Ferry CNIP. “I’ve been getting calls from residents in the neighborhood thanking us for getting this done. It finished under budget and a year ahead of schedule, so the community can start using it right away.”

“I think the biggest value for residents in Biddleville/Smallwood and Seversville is that residents will have easy access to MLK Park, which will activate usage of park amenities,” said Paul Van Gundy, president of the Biddleville/Smallwood neighborhood association. “It’s a beautiful, large space that has largely gone unused by our neighborhoods. I’m excited that we now have easy access.”

A community-focused effort

The project, made possible through the City of Charlotte’s Capital Investment Plan, is just one of numerous public and private investments that are laying the foundation for transformation in one of the most culturally rich and historically significant areas of Charlotte. The city has long recognized the potential of this area, which led it to identify the West Trade/Rozzelles Ferry area as one of six geographies included in the Comprehensive Neighborhood Improvement Program (CNIP). Launched in 2014, the CNIP combines the resources of several city departments to help large, multi-neighborhood areas revitalize its business corridors, reenergize its neighborhoods and capitalize on key economic activity centers.

In all, 23 projects were identified as being the most transformative, encouraging additional investment from the private sector and most needed by the community. Of those, nine received CNIP funding. Six are complete, with the other three expected to be complete in the coming months. Among them is the Five Points Public Plaza, situated at the confluence of West Trade Street, State Street, Beatties Ford Road and Rozzelles Ferry Road. Scheduled to open in the summer of 2021, the plaza will be a community and cultural hub that will include an amphitheater, splash pad, swings, solar brick pavers, decorative walls and public art. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation provided the City of Charlotte $394,200 to support neighborhood engagement, planning and programming at the plaza and increase connections and promote inclusive, resident-led development of the area.

Jamall Kinard is among those who participated in the engagement process. As a resident of the Lakeview neighborhood – previously known as Lakewood -- and executive director of the Lakeview Neighborhood Alliance, he wants to make sure his neighbors aren’t left behind in the tsunami of development surrounding them. “The Yellowstone connection is a welcome addition to the area,” he said. “We love it, but we can’t help but ask who benefits from all these improvements now that gentrification is happening? We want to make sure our community’s story isn’t lost in all the progress the city has made in our area. The only way everyone achieves our goals is to make history now, together.”

An eye toward the future

As these projects near completion, the city is looking toward the future through Corridors of Opportunity initiative. With a $24.5 million investment, the city will continue its commitment to the West Trade/Rozzelles Ferry corridor, along with five other key corridors across the city. The city’s role is to magnify and enhance the work that has already been done by filling in the gaps around infrastructure and services and helping to create fertile ground for growth that benefits those in the community and fosters an ecosystem of revitalization.

Public artwork created by North Carolina artist J. Stacy Utley will soon be installed at key locations along the corridor. The sculptures honor the people and places that shape the history of West End while also looking ahead to a promising and inspired future. “It’s an exciting time seeing all these projects going in,” Davis said. “This CNIP has so many unique factors that are a win-win for residents and businesses in the corridor.”