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CHARLOTTE-An idea that originated in the early 1980s to revive a blighted section of town is finally getting off the ground. Bank of America and Cousins Properties Inc. of Atlanta are jointly developing Gateway village, a $470 million, 25-acre venture along West Trade and Fifth Streets in the Third Ward. The project encompasses 1.1 million sf office for the bank’s technology center; 75,000 sf of retail; and 600 townhomes and apartments taking up 600,000 sf.

The bank and the developer are sharing the $350 million in commercial development costs. Funds for the $120 million residential component will come from various developers participating in the project. About 5,000 persons will work at Gateway Village when completed and about 1,000 will live there as permanent residents.

The first phase of the two-phased project is expected to be completed in late summer. This phase includes the existing Doubletree Hotel and Gateway Center across West Trade Street. A hotel and 10-story Gateway Center had been completed in 1989, but the project began to lose momentum.

Third Ward has been in the throes of redevelopment since the early 1980s, when the village idea was first discussed by bank executives Dennis Rash, Hugh McColl and Joe Martin. The plan was to rehabilitate the area and develop Third Ward into a grand, mixed-use urban village that would become an integral part of uptown. At the time, West Trade was the quickest path to uptown from the airport. The bank became interested and bought some land, but further development was not in the cards at the time.

Bank of America was still a regional bank called NCNB, but dramatic growth turned it into NationsBank and later Bank of America. The bank then took over the 10-story Gateway Center project.

In the early 1990s, developers were drawn to the area to provide office space for Charlotte’s growing companies. This led to residential, retail, and open-space developments. The bank and Cousins Properties met with Third Ward residents and listened to what they wanted. Those living in Third Ward now consider the complex a neighborhood asset.

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