Inclusion: The Key Ingredient in Charlotte’s River District

Laurel Street will build an affordable housing community—on land donated by Crescent Communities—within the metro’s largest current mixed-use project. The two local companies reveal details of their collaboration in an interview with MHN.

Slated to be the largest mixed-use community in the history of Charlotte, N.C., The River District is a 1,400-acre master-planned project to be built on a massive undeveloped stretch of land between Charlotte Douglas International Airport and Catawba River. The future development is set to include 4,000 residences, 500,000 square feet of shops, restaurants and retail space as well as 8 million square feet of office space.

Developer Crescent Communities is collaborating with local builder Lincoln Harris for the colossal project. Crescent recently announced that it has donated land to Foundation For The Carolinas for the construction of a 124-unit affordable community within The River District. Another Charlotte-headquartered company, Laurel Street, will be developing the affordable component.

Todd Mansfield and Dionne Nelson (Images courtesy of Crescent Community and Laurel Street)
Todd Mansfield and Dionne Nelson (Images courtesy of Crescent Community and Laurel Street)

Crescent Communities CEO Todd Mansfield, who also chairs the governing board of Foundation For The Carolinas, told Multi-Housing News that his company decided to donate the parcel, worth $2 million, because he wants The River District project to be diverse and inclusive at the same time. “Crescent’s roots are here in Charlotte and we want to do our part to help combat the growing gap in affordable housing, which is closely tied to upward mobility. … The 4.5 acres we donated for affordable housing is centrally positioned right in what will be the heart of The River District’s mixed-use urban village, which I think really speaks to what this means to us and how inclusiveness is central to what we are looking to create here,” Mansfield told MHN.  

Project beneficiaries

Individuals and households at a variety of incomes including 30, 60 and 80 percent of the area’s median income will be able to apply for an affordable apartment within The River District. The building that will serve low-income residents is part of the first phase of development, with construction slated to begin in late 2020 and completion set for late 2021 or early 2022.

“Households of all incomes need employment, shopping, recreation and other amenities within close proximity to where they live. Being part of the mixed-use urban village at The River District will allow the residents of the new development to live in close proximity to where they work, shop and play,” said Laurel Street President & CEO Dionne Nelson.

All The River District residents will have access to roughly 500 acres of land that will be preserved as parks and public areas. A 1-acre farm will also produce some of the food served in homes and restaurants built within the community. Retaining this surface as green space is all the more important considering that the cost of land is one of the main factors that inhibit developers from building more affordable housing units.

A pressing issue

River District (Image courtesy of Crescent Community)
River District (Image courtesy of Crescent Community)

With the average rent at $1,114, Charlotte remains an affordable metro, according to the latest Yardi Matrix report on the market. However, this does not mean that affordability concerns are absent. According to Crescent Communities data, Mecklenburg County faces a deficit of 22,000 affordable housing units and nearly half of its residents are cost-burdened.

A breath of fresh air is expected to come from the city’s Housing Trust Fund. At the recent midterm elections, Charlotte residents approved a ballot measure directing $50 million in municipal bond proceeds to the fund. The money will help finance several projects that cater to low-income residents.

In an effort to encourage the construction of more affordable housing projects, City of Charlotte officials recently talked about selling city-owned parcels to developers who include affordable units in their projects, or even donate land to nonprofit groups. We are thrilled to work with others to address the affordable housing gap and are encouraged by what we see others from both the private sector and the City of Charlotte bringing forward in the push to create more affordable housing and increase economic opportunity for our neighbors,” Mansfield added.

“Laurel Street currently has five affordable and mixed-income projects under construction in the Charlotte area that will serve both families and seniors with many more projects in the development pipeline over the next several years. All of these developments will help address the lack of affordable housing in the region,” Nelson concluded.   

Laurel Street has previously developed high-quality communities for working families and seniors such as The Renaissance in west Charlotte and Loftin at Montcross in Belmont, N.C. The company also broke ground this year on a 108-unit senior housing development. The property will be part of the 1,070-acre master-planned community of Berewick, developed by Pappas Properties. 

Video courtesy of Charlotte Chamber