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Little Sugar Creek - Cullman Avenue
Floodplain Acquisition, Stream Restoration and Floodplain Restoration 

What used to be a nondescript stretch of Little Sugar Creek behind a row of brick businesses and warehouses has become a green gathering spot for the NoDa area. Storm Water Services has completed the project to:
  • buy creekside buildings that repeatedly flooded
  • restore 1,100 linear feet of stream
  • enhance the floodplain.

Final project mailer (March 2012) 

Additional project mailer​ (November 2013)

Creek before restoration 


Creek after restoration 

Little Sugar Creek before restoration
(fall 2011)


 Soon after restoration was finished 
(March 2012)

Project Objectives
  • Eliminate risk of future loss of life and property along Cullman Avenue due to flooding
  • Eliminate the release of environmentally-hazardous materials due to flooding of industrial buildings
  • Enhance the natural and beneficial functions of the floodplain by creating green space along the creek
  • Improve habitat for aquatic life in the stream and wildlife near the water
  • Provide amenities for residents in the restored open space

Long history of flooding
This section of Little Sugar Creek is highly prone to flash flooding. Storm Water Services began this project in 2003 with the purchase of flood-prone property along the creek near Cullman Avenue. Those buildings were in a high-risk area and had flooded at least three times since the mid-1990's. By 2008, twelve buildings in this part of the floodplain had been purchased and demolished.

Restoring the stream
Starting in late 2011, Storm Water Services began reshaping the path of the stream along Cullman Avenue downstream from 36th Street. Gentle curves were added to slow the flow of the water, which reduces erosion. The restoration also stabilized and repaired the eroded bed and banks. A rain garden was added near the stream to improve water quality. The stream work will not prevent Little Sugar Creek from flooding. The main goal is cleaner creek water.

Additional stream work was done in the fall of 2013. Three additional property owners sold their flood-prone land to Mecklenburg County. The stream and floodplain along those three parcels was then restored.

Restoring the open space
The third phase of this project will be restoring the floodplain. That means returning the flood-prone land along the creek to a more natural state that won't be damaged by future floods. NoDa-area residents, business owners and artists helped decide what the restored floodplain might include.

After considering many options and drawing three concept sketches, the group decided on this plan:

Cullman Ave. project area map.

View a larger image of Master Plan map

Top amenities as voted on by residents:

  • putting meanders back in the stream
  • adding wetlands and other pollution-removing features to the floodplain
  • increasing open space
  • a protected area for artwork displays, musical performances, and a farmer's market
The proposed concept plan also includes a community garden, walking trail, dog park, children's playground, informal sports area, and pedestrian bridge. Adding recreational amenities in the floodplain will require funding beyond that provided by Storm Water Services.​​​​

Aerial of stream before restoration
The straightened stream channel 
in 2009 before restoration

Aerial of stream after restoration
The restored stream channel in 2012

Floodplain Buyout Cost:  $4 million

Sources of funding to buy property:
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services: $900,000
FEMA:  $2,500,000
Land Donation: $600,000

Stream and Floodplain Restoration Cost: $335,087

Sources of funding for stream and floodplain restoration:
NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund: $146,379.30
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services: $178,708

Stream restoration planning and design (2009 - 2011)
Wildlands Engineering, Inc.

Stream restoration construction: (November 2011 through February 2012. Additional stream work done in 2013 and 2014.)
Eaglewood, Inc.

Stream restoration project manager
Crystal Taylor, P.E.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services

For more information, read the news release.