RCN – Project CHANGE Feasibility Study
Connecting Highland: Access, Neighborhood Growth, Equity
The City of Gastonia seeks $2,000,000 in RCN Community Planning Grant funds to complete a feasibility study for Project CHANGE - Connecting Highland: Access, Neighborhood Growth, Equity. This study will investigate the feasibility of capping the railroad ditch that runs through Downtown Gastonia and improving NC Highway 7, to eliminate the two barriers to mobility, connectivity, access, and economic development for the transportation disadvantaged communities to the north. The City of Gastonia has committed a total of $500,000 (20%) for this study. Project change will reconnect Census Tracts 315, 319.01, 319.02 and 320 to the Central Business District of Gastonia. Census Tracts 315, 319 (now 319.01 and 319.02) and 320 are all identified as an Economically Disadvantaged Community, located in a Qualified Census Tract (QCT) that is an Area of Persistent Poverty.
The completion of a feasibility study is imperative to understand the technical and financial implications of capping the railroad ditch while looking to maximize public benefits by way of better mobility and connectivity, and assessing various development opportunities. In addition, the feasibility study will look at ways to improve the design of NC Highway 7 (Airline/Long Avenue) to mitigate its divisive impact on the community; improving safety for pedestrians and visual and economic attractiveness for new development.
Building caps or lids over sunken transportation infrastructure to reconnect communities is not a new idea. There are numerous successful examples across the nation where infrastructure has been capped and now boasts parks and green space, civic spaces, and taxable private development. The City of Gastonia has included this concept in a number of high level corridor planning documents, but has been unable to secure the critical funding needed to complete a feasibility study to determine the methods to right the wrongs of past decisions.
With the opportunity of funding through the Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods Program (RCN), the time is now!
2023 RCN Application – Project CHANGE