Town staff–along with a citizen committee and the consulting group HNTB–have finished the first stages of designing a small area plan for the Lawyers Road and I-485 interchange. The town hosted three meetings this month to gain input from citizens about the future of the interchange.

“It’s a consensus of all the participants and the public came up with at the meetings,” said Deputy Town Manager Lee Bailey.

The most prominent part of the development is the Bridges at Mint Hill mall. General Growth Partners, the mall developer which owns a majority of the land between Bain School, Lawyers Roads and Interstate 485, had originally planned to build the mall with Childress Klein. However,  Simon Properties, owner of South Park Mall in south Charlotte, announced this week it is seeking to acquire General Growth for $10 billion.

Despite ownership uncertainties, the town is creating a plan that will guide development for years to come. The plan shows development possibilities on both sides of I-485. The southeastern area of the plan is mostly the retail part of the Bridges development. The other side of the interstate is mostly zoned for upscale office buildings, townhomes and some retail along Allen Black Road.

One noticeable feature of the preliminary plan is the large amount of green space reserved. Restrictions created by the endangered Carolina heelsplitter have limited development to smaller scales. “We were really limited as to what you could do,” Bailey said. “The typical developer would want to max out the space, but that can’t be done here.”

The plan also proposes more than one entrance to the Bridges at Mint Hill site. The main entrance will be along Lawyers Road, but there could also be an entrance from Allen Black Road—an overpass that crosses I-485—as well as an entrance from Quail Park Drive, a road that runs parallel to I-485 from Fairview Road.

Bailey said a good example of a town which utilized a master plan to guide development is Rock Hill. Twenty years ago, the town developed a plan for the Dave Lyle Boulevard and Interstate 77 interchange. There have been few deviations from the plan over the years, and today the mixed-use project is nearly complete. Bailey said Rock Hill deserved a “pat on the back” because as the elected officials changed over the years, the plan stayed in tact.

The next step in developing the plan is to crunch the numbers. On April 13, the Small Area Committee will meet to see if the plan that came out of the meetings will fit the needs of the economy and marketplace and to see if the town of Mint Hill can support it. Next, the plan will be sent to the planning board and eventually the Board of Commissioners for approval.

The final plan will be used to guide the town in the development of the I-485 intersection for the next several decades.

The red on the left represents retail where the mall will go; Blue is offices. The road in the middle is I-485; to the left is Lawyers Road and the right is Allen Black Road.