Saturday, March 04, 2006

New Transit Center To Help Revitalize Area Around Eastland Mall

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- City leaders hope a new Charlotte Area Transit System Transit Center will breathe new life into a declining area of the Queen City.

East Charlotte remains a part of town teetering between blight and hope.

Friday morning, city leaders tossed shovels full of dirt for the ceremonial groundbreaking of a new CATS transit center on the grounds of Eastland Mall.

Many who live nearby, such as Kyle Woudstra, believe the new project could help reverse a developing negative image of east Charlotte.

"The perception is not where I would like it to be right now. However, it is just that -- a perception. At the end of the day, go look at the stats and everything. Life's good here," he said.

Life has also been difficult in the past for the east Charlotte area. Two summers ago, near riots erupted among teen bus riders at Eastland. Last fall, gunfire erupted inside the mall.

Part of the transit center design includes a manned security tower and an open air design police believe will discourage crime.

"There's no place for people to conduct any improper or illegal activity," said Capt. Harold Medlock, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

The city also hopes the project will spur new development nearby. Charlotte's mayor, Pat McCrory, sees even bigger change when street car lines reach Eastland a decade from now.

"We build around the street car with residential and retail and this will be a great place to come," he said.

If that happens, residents hope east Charlotte could revive just as fast as it has declined.

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