Community chatter surrounding “The Piece” (the former Carriage Cleaners building that was painted bright orange and bombarded with paint-filled balloons in 2016) has not fallen on deaf ears. Folks interested in seeing the building demolished sooner rather than later may see that happen this fall.

“We’re trying to proceed fairly quickly, not recklessly, but fairly quickly,” said Bryan Myrkle, Community Development Director for the City of Charlotte. “One of the things that has been driving us to move this along quickly is the state of the site currently. That site has been an eyesore for a long time. We had a little fun with it last Halloween, painting it up, but I think folks are tiring of that as well.”

Myrkle presented the final concept plan for what will become the East Lawrence Pocket Park to Charlotte’s Downtown Development Authority Thursday, July 13. Landscape architect Trevor Bosworth, from Viridis Design Group, put the final plan together utilizing input from community members, the DDA, and CharlotteRising. The pocket park will take the place of the building at 108 E. Lawrence Avenue.

Myrkle said several factors, including the design process, have slowed the project down. The first is the environmental issues surrounding the property. The southern half of the building contains contamination from the dry cleaning solvents used by Carriage Cleaners over the years. The contamination means the surface will have to be capped as soon as the building is demolished to ensure the contamination does not spread to neighboring properties. The second issue is the potential cost associated with the pocket park, which includes some engineering realities, such as internal drainage, buried utilities and the need to sink new light poles into the concrete.

“That’s an extensive amount of work to just get the surface down,” Myrkle said. “Bosworth also pointed out that the fall is almost the worst time to bid this out. He is really encouraging the city to bid the first phase of the project in the winter, which could save the city $10,000 to $15,000 by bidding it at a more favorable time. It kind of creates a conflict between us wanting to get it done right away, but also wanting to do it in a smart, economical way as well.”

Fortunately, the environmental firm Triterra, which did the environmental study of the property, explained to Myrkle that an intermediary plan could be put in place. The city could place compacted sand in the hole and then a gravel cap could be placed on the demolition site for the winter months.

“We do at least have options for trying to approach this that accomplish both trying to get the building torn down and allowing us to do this first phase that makes economic sense,” Myrkle said.

The final concept design includes a public fire feature in the center of the park, five trees placed in concrete planters that will double as public seating, a public art piece at the north entrance, six patio tables and umbrellas that provides seating for up to 24 individuals, decorative “Edison Bulb” string lighting, and an open courtyard area that could serve as a gathering space.

Myrkle said the next step in the process is to have engineered drawings completed, which will go out for bid as soon as possible. The engineered drawings will give the city a better idea on the cost of the project and how construction will be phased. City Council will then have an opportunity to review and approve the project.