Some of Charlotte’s leading business and civic leaders gathered at the Harvey B. Gantt Center Monday evening for a “welcome reception” for R. Donahue Peebles, lead developer on the city’s Brooklyn Village project.
Peebles, who formed The Peebles Co. in 1983, is frequently listed by Black Enterprise and others as heading the nation’s largest African American-owned construction firm.
In an interview with Qcitymetro, Peebles reiterated his stated goal to make minority participation a priority for the $683.3 million Brooklyn Village construction project, with at least 35 percent of total contracts going to “historically underutilized minority or women-owned small business enterprises.”
“Our cornerstone is, we’re going to build an exceptional project but showcase diversity,” she said. “We’re going to work very hard to have meaningful diversity on every level of our contracting throughout the project.”
Peebles also said the project would honor the former Second Ward High School, the first high school for African American students in Charlotte. Peebles did not give details for that plan, but public documents show plans for an Entrepreneurship Institute, which would help local youth and businesses get “leadership and management skills associated with the hospitality industry. (Current plans call for two hotels on the 17-acre cite, and Charlotte Works has identified the hotel and hospitality industry as a sector prime for growth.)
The Brooklyn Village project is not without controversy. Critics note that the development will replace the 5.5-acre Marshall Park with 1.9 acres of green space.
Mecklenburg Commissioner Pat Cotham attended the reception despite having voted against the project.
“I was disappointed – extremely disappointed – to lose five acres of parkland,” she said. “That’s our gift to the future. I thought that should be the priority and to renovate that park, especially if we’re going to have buildings with more people.”
Cotham said she also wanted to see more affordable housing included in the project. Current plans for Brooklyn Village call for 1,070 residential units, including 107 “affordable workforce units.” Cotham said the cheapest units would rent for about $1,000 per month.
Peebles said he and his partners in projects plan to have all paperwork completed with the city by Dec. 31. Construction would start by late 2018, he said. Brooklyn Village would be built in two phases over 10 years.
Peebles said he believes the project will help move the city forward as its seeks to expand economic opportunity to communities traditionally shut out.
“I think Charlotte is the city of the future, and the greatest strength Charlotte has is that it’s got diversity, a real richness in terms of diversity,” he said. “I think when that diversity is unlocked even more in terms of economic opportunity, it’s going to be a transformative city, and we’re looking forward to being a part of that.”