WAXHAW — While the town works on creating a small area plan for historic downtown Waxhaw to preserve its historic charm and make room for new growth, town leaders are looking for a location for town hall.
During a meeting Monday, April 30, at the Waxhaw Women’s Club, town council got an overview of 11 sites in town suitable for what’s being called a “municipal center” that could include a library, community center and police department in addition to a town hall.
Sites include land on Blythe Mill Road, the old Historic Ventures site, the northwest quadrant of Broome and Price streets, the water tower site, the corners of Main Street and Providence Road, Givens Street Park, South Main and Church streets, Broome Street and Howie Mine Road, northeast corner of Broome and Price streets, Church and Broome street split, and the Rodman-Heath Cotton Mill.
The list was put together by The Lawrence Group which is leading the design workshops for the small area plan.
“What we’ve put together for you is a high-level unfiltered view of potential civic building locations and that can mean different things,” said Craig Lewis with The Lawrence Group. Right now you’re talking about a town hall and police station. But as you grow, there are other things to think about. As part of the planning effort, we’re identifying locations you should think about reserving because they’re the right location, and when we think about the next 100 years of Waxhaw, your great, great grandchildren will be thankful you reserved those locations for a civic building.”
The location that garnered the largest response from council was the property on the corner of North Main Street and Providence Road, right next to the pedestrian bridge and rail line.
Lewis said this site is ideal because when looking down Main Street, the civic building would mark the end of the road and end of the downtown area. The property also is 1.7 acres, which leaves the town with endless possibilities.
Some of what was discussed included adding a green space where outdoor concerts and other activities could be held. In that location there also would be space for a town hall building as well as a community center or library.
“I can easily envision a natural gathering place, because it’s already where we gather for parades, and the east side also needs some help, so it kind of doubles up both there,” Mayor Pro-Tem Erin Kirkpatrick said. “It’s a natural extension of our grid, near the pedestrian bridge, and we’re already used to the noise (from the train), but can you talk a bit more about what we can put there?”
Lewis replied, “It’s 1.7 acres, you can do whatever you want over there.”
Kirkpatrick asked if that site would be appropriate for a police department, since it’s a largely residential part of town. Lewis said that wouldn’t matter. Because the police can determine the right time to use their sirens there wouldn’t be any more noise than usual in the area, Lewis said.
But as the conversation continued, council members thought it might be wise to locate the police department to the more commercial area of Waxhaw on Highway 16 where most of their calls originate.
Kirkpatrick suggested locating the department near the Food Lion on Highway 16.
And while most of the commissioners seemed keen on the North Main/Providence site, Mayor Daune Gardner suggested Lewis and his team scope out a few others in order to have the most comprehensive list and best suited choices for the town’s needs.
Those locations included an additional parcel in the Blythe Mill area, near North Providence Road, because there are 300-year-old oak trees that provide a “wonderful vista.” She also suggested the old South Providence School property, which is on the south side of the historic commercial district and would help facilitate pedestrian traffic in the area.
Gardner also suggested a parcel on the west side of Captain’s Galley, which is near the edge of downtown, as a potential location for a community center.
There’s also land behind the mill that is home to several of the historic mill homes, which would be preserved, that could be used for something, Gardner said.
The only thing Lewis suggested is that when looking at sites for a municipal center, the council keep it close to downtown.
“Having a compact downtown is more valuable than having it spread out,” Lewis said. “There are ways you can incrementally grow it, but communities that have tried that have ultimately failed because there’s never going to be enough to have a downtown be eight or 12 blocks of really solid downtown. And that’s not a slam to you, you’re doing great with what you have. You just need to be cognizant because you don’t want to water it down.”
Since council hasn’t decided exactly what buildings it wants and where, that will be part of the planners’ challenge as they create the small area plan – piecing together which sites are best suited for what, and presenting them during a final meeting May 7, at 6:30 p.m. at the Museum of the Waxhaws.
“Our pie in the sky is having everything everyone wants in Waxhaw,” Kirkpatrick said.