In a recent post, Tyler Mulligan provided an overview of how local governments can use an Urban Redevelopment Area to attract private investment. This post will describe an example from Mooresville, NC.
Mooresville, a small town (population 32,711) located 20 miles north of Charlotte, provides an excellent example of a municipality that has worked diligently and creatively over the past 15 years to develop and implement an Urban Redevelopment Area plan to address a once-blighted neighborhood called the Cascade Mill Village. The Cascade Mill Village, a small community (originally 67 homes) located just north of downtown Mooresville, was significantly deteriorated in the early 1990s – it had dirt roads, a high crime rate, was primarily renter-occupied, and many of its historic mill homes were in poor condition. As a result of significant public investment, strategic partnerships, and sustained focus, the Cascade Mill Village has since transitioned to a healthier, more vibrant community with improved infrastructure and a high owner occupancy rate.
URA Planning Process
In 1995, in response to the blighted conditions in Cascade Mill Village, the town commissioned the Centralina Council of Governments to survey and develop a redevelopment plan which, under the North Carolina Urban Redevelopment Area (URA) law, declared the area as a “rehabilitation, conservation, and reconditioning area”. In the case of Mooresville, it was decided that the Town Board of Commissioners would serve as the Redevelopment Commission. This Commission would ultimately have the authority to implement the URA plan. According to Senior Planner Tim Brown, having the Town Board serve as the Commission allowed for a more efficient and streamlined process. Moreover, since these were elected officials, staff felt that the Town Board was well-equipped to represent and be accountable to the interests of community residents.
In implementing the URA plan, the Town undertook a number of significant steps, including:
- Drawing on capital funds to improve neighborhood infrastructure
- Purchasing and rehabilitating derelict properties for first-time low-income homebuyers
- Using HOME and CDBG funds, as well as partnerships with other stakeholders like the local Habitat for Humanity chapter, to increase home ownership
- Establishing a non-profit community housing development corporation
- Utilizing code enforcement for neighborhood clean-up and maintenance
Updates to the Original Plan
The Town updated the original URA plan in 2003, in partnership with a consultant. This update relied heavily on community participation solicited through a charrette process that was designed to review progress and update the revitalization goals outlined in the original URA plan. One of the primary recommendations resulting from this update was that the Town expand the revitalization area to include nearby residential areas. The expanded Cascade Redevelopment Area now consists of 188 parcels. This expansion allowed for the redevelopment of an adjacent public housing apartment complex, King’s Creek, through low-income housing tax credits. In 2005, the Town of Mooresville updated the Cascade Redevelopment Plan again, conducting a thorough inventory of the neighborhood in order to survey current conditions and identify areas for further improvement.
The Town of Mooresville has used the URA process to engage in a sustained, focused effort to revitalize the Cascade Mill Village over the course of nearly two decades. According to Senior Planner Tim Brown, partnerships with other stakeholders, such as Habitat for Humanity and a Community Development Corporation (CDC), have been instrumental in implementing the URA plan. For example, the local CDC has partnered with the Town to develop three subdivisions of single family homes within the Cascade Redevelopment Area, resulting in 37 opportunities for homeownership for low-income families. Mr. Brown says that because of the positive outcomes resulting from the URA effort, the Town is now looking to replicate its success in other areas. Mooresville’s dedication and commitment to collaborative partnerships exemplify the elements necessary for a successful URA. To see the 2005 Cascade Redevelopment Plan and learn more about the Town of Mooresville’s efforts, follow this link.
Marcia Perritt, a UNC-Chapel Hill graduate student pursuing a joint master’s degree in Public Health and City and Regional Planning, is a Community Revitalization Fellow at the School of Government.