South Charlotte land crunch limits school sites

Plus: NFL RedZone outage on U-verse is about to get real; Another tech hub on the way; New dog bar near frozen aisle

Good morning! Today is Friday, August 23, 2019.

Need to subscribe? Sign up for free here (charlotteledger.substack.com).

Like what you see? Forward to a friend or share on social media.


The area is so developed that hardly any tracts are suitable for a new high school, local brokers say

We all know that south Charlotte has been developing at a rapid pace. First there was Ballantyne. Then Blakeney. Now Rea Farms and Waverly. And plenty of subdivisions that fill in the gaps.

But you might not appreciate just how little undeveloped land there is in south Charlotte. Get this: Local real-estate brokers say there are only five privately owned parcels in south Charlotte that might be big enough to accommodate a new high school. Five.

And the ones that exist would likely cost millions of dollars just for the raw land — if the owners were even willing to sell to the school district instead of continuing to hang onto their investments.

“It is hard to find 60 acres for a 2,500-student school in S. Charlotte,” school board member Sean Strain told the Ledger in an email. In addition to privately owned parcels, there are some government-owned pieces of land in the area that might be suitable, but it’s tough.

Limited options: Big tracts of undeveloped private land are scarce in south Charlotte.

That shortage of undeveloped land helps explain why Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools appears interested in building a new high school at the site of Olde Providence Elementary School on Rea Road. It already owns that property, which includes baseball fields and woods.

CMS has pledged to build a new high school somewhere in south Charlotte to help relieve South Meck and Ardrey Kell, and possibly Myers Park. Voters approved bond money for school construction in 2017, and the district earmarked $110M for a high school in the area.

CMS had been mum about possible sites until last week, when residents of Olde Providence heard a bulldozer knocking down trees in the woods to test the soil there. District officials confessed that yes, they are considering Olde Providence as a high-school site, but they denied any decisions have been made. Residents there like the woods and would prefer not to have a high school right behind them.

Why it matters: The location is important to just about everybody with kids or a house in south Charlotte — because the location will help determine attendance boundaries of all public school children in the area. School boundaries have been shown to have an effect on property values.

But where else might CMS build a high school?

Here’s what we know: CMS has stayed mostly tight-lipped. Strain told the Ledger last week there are four sites that are possibilities: Olde Providence, a county-owned site and two that are privately owned. Olde Providence is the northernmost of the four, he said.

To deduce where the others might be, the Ledger turned to commercial real-estate brokers. Real-estate brokers are to land development what CSI is to murder scenes. But instead of using Luminol, brokers use computers with land databases and property records.

We asked Forde Britt of Land Advisors for a list of parcels that are more than 20 acres and are south of Pineville-Matthews road. Even that size is pretty small — CMS high schools in south Charlotte range between 52 acres (South Meck) and 70 acres (Myers Park). Olde Providence is 40 acres and includes an elementary school.

How hard is it to find a good site for a high school in south Charlotte? “It’s essentially a unicorn,” Britt said.

Britt came up with a list of five privately owned parcels — the most logical of which, he said, is a 37-acre wooded tract off Blakeney Heath Road behind Community House Middle School. Real-estate scuttlebutt indicates the owner has been open to selling in the past.

Details: For the full breakdown of the other possible sites, go to the Ledger’s website. We break it down with photos and maps. (To avoid reading the same thing twice, skip down to the photos and maps.)

In related high school/land development news:

  • Ace WSOC reporter Joe Bruno filmed additional soil testing at Olde Providence this week, and the South Charlotte Recreation Association told him that it would have to close if the site’s athletic fields were eliminated.

  • A south Charlotte parent told the Ledger that former CMS Superintendent Clayton Wilcox told a meeting on school overcrowding in April that the district was likely to build a high school at Olde Providence.

Where do you think CMS should build a new high school? Share your ideas at editor@cltledger.com, and we will run the responses soon. Bonus points for creativity.


Attention: You might not have NFL RedZone

Football season is upon us, so it’s almost time to start tuning in to NFL Network and NFL Red Zone, right?

Not if you have AT&T’s U-verse. In case you weren’t paying much attention to football news in April, AT&T got rid of the channels — and they haven’t returned. They’re not just blacked out. They don’t exist on the U-verse channel guide. A Ledger reader reports: “It was like the Avengers — just disappeared.”

It’s one of those annoying cable TV carriage disputes in which viewers suffer.

In April, the NFL said:

As of earlier this week NFL Network and NFL RedZone are no longer available to AT&T U-Verse subscribers or DTV Now subscribers. While the NFL remains committed to negotiating renewed agreements on fair and equitable terms, AT&T has not been willing to actively engage.

The NFL is urging AT&T customers to call AT&T and demand the channels. RedZone has revolutionized the way people watch football, so that might actually happen once people realize they have to watch an entire football game, commercials and all. That experience could be particularly intolerable if Cam doesn’t get out of that walking boot soon.

These disputes usually get resolved before too long, but this one has been going on for for four months. Yikes.

Pro tip: The Panthers are offering NFL RedZone on smartphones to PSL holders this season at no extra charge. They sent an email with instructions and an access code last week.


Harris Teeter dog bar

Dogs can hang out in bars. Some Harris Teeters have bars. Therefore, dogs can hang out at Harris Teeter?

Time to up your game, South End: Dogs are now chillin’ at the bar of the Cotswold Harris Teeter.

In brief

  • Truist tech center: There’s been a lot of tech news in town lately, but don’t forget about another tech hub that’s on the way — from Truist. The bank announced its HQ location in the Hearst Tower, but it hasn’t announced where its Innovation and Technology Center will be, a spokesman tells the Ledger: “They are still trying to figure that out with a million other things.” He said it might be in Hearst or somewhere else uptown. The bank also hasn’t disclosed the tech center’s size.

  • Lincoln Harris payday: Highwoods Properties of Raleigh has agreed to buy the 33-story Bank of America Tower at the Legacy Union development on South Tryon Street. Sales price is a cool $436M, or $510 per s.f. The building was developed by Lincoln Harris and Goldman Sachs. The purchase is a vote of confidence in the uptown office market. (Biz Journal)

  • Pedestrian bridge, presented by US Bank: US Bank said it is kicking in $1M to help build an $11.5M bridge across I-277 alongside the light rail line that will accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists and (of course) e-scooter riders. “There will be some sort of recognition” of the bank’s contribution on the bridge, but specifics will be determined in the design process, a US Bank spokesman told the Ledger. Construction is expected to start by 2021.

  • Proof that most ranking stories are junk: “Study: Myrtle Beach is the second most romantic city in America.” (WMBF)


Food and booze news

A weekly wrap-up of the week’s eating and drinking developments

  • Amelie’s moving: The bakery’s flagship location is moving within NoDa to 136 E. 36th Street, a mile away from its existing location, in the spring. (CharlotteFive, Agenda, Biz Journal.) The Ledger broke the story behind the story of Amelie’s departure in June.

  • Optimist Hall fried chicken: Boxcar Betty’s, a small Charleston-based chain that serves a “gourmet fried chicken sandwich,” plans to open in the new Optimist Hall in December. “Expect chicken sandwiches, classic Southern side dishes, salads, desserts and a kid’s menu. Vegetarians can swap the chicken for a fried portobello mushroom cap stuffed with pimiento cheese.” (Agenda)

  • Grilled cheese in Optimist Hall: Also in Optimist Hall will be Papi Queso, “a beloved grilled cheese food truck,” opening next month. “Look for an expanded menu that’ll likely include mozzarella sticks and slushies along with their signature grilled cheeses.” (Agenda)

  • Pumpkin on the menu: “These Pumpkin Treats Are Arriving in Charlotte, Whether You Like It or Not.” (Charlotte magazine)

Robot food delivery

For a vision of the future, look to San Francisco. From TechCrunch:

Postmates has officially received the green light from the city of San Francisco to begin testing its Serve wheeled delivery robot on city streets. …

The permit doesn’t cover the entire city — just a designated area of a number of blocks in and around Potrero Hill and the Inner Mission, but it will allow Postmates to begin testing up to three autonomous delivery robots at once, at speeds of up to 3 mph. Deliveries can only take place between 8 AM and 6:30 PM on weekdays, and a human has to be on hand within 30 feet of the vehicles while they’re operating. Still, it’s a start. …

Like many short-distance delivery robots of its ilk, it includes a lockable cargo container and screen-based user interface for eventual autonomous deliveries to customers. The competitive field for autonomous rolling delivery bots is growing continuously, with companies like Starship Technologies, Amazon and many more throwing their hats in the ring.


Got a news tip? Think we missed something? Drop me a line at editor@cltledger.com and let me know.

Like what we are doing? Feel free to forward this along and to tell a friend.

The Charlotte Ledger is an e-newsletter and web site publishing timely, informative, and interesting local business news and analysis Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, except holidays and as noted. We strive for fairness and accuracy and will correct all known errors. The content reflects the independent editorial judgment of The Charlotte Ledger. Any advertising, paid marketing, or sponsored content will be clearly labeled.

The Charlotte Ledger is published by Tony Mecia, an award-winning former Charlotte Observer business reporter and editor. He lives in Charlotte with his wife and three children.

The docs who ditched Atrium aren't looking back

Plus: State tourism numbers looking strong again; Hedge fund complains about Coke Consolidated; Fast-food chicken fight on Twitter

Good morning! Today is Wednesday, August 21, 2019. Need to subscribe? Sign up for free here (charlotteledger.substack.com). Send to a friend.

Interview: A year after after starting an independent medical practice, Tryon Medical CEO forecasts growth — and slams ‘hospital-controlled healthcare’ as a ‘failed system’

Nearly a year ago, a group of about 90 doctors with Mecklenburg Medical Group left parent company Atrium Health to launch an independent practice — Tryon Medical Partners.

It was one of the Charlotte area’s biggest healthcare stories of the year, as it defied the trend toward industry mergers and consolidations.

The doctors pushed Atrium to allow them to leave by filing a lawsuit that claimed the hospital system was “self-serving” and “monopolistic” and run by a “bloated management bureaucracy.” They thought they could run an independent medical practice better and more cheaply, with more focus on patients.

Now, a year later, Tryon Medical CEO Dr. Dale Owen tells the Ledger his medical group — the largest primary-care practice in the Charlotte region, with 300 employees and eight offices — has big plans for growth. The experiment of separating from big medicine is attracting attention in national trade publications and from doctors around the country who want to replicate the experience.

This month, Owen discussed setting up the practice, his growth plans, the relationship with Atrium, the future of healthcare and what he calls the failure of hospital-controlled medical systems.

The full interview is available on the Ledger’s website. Here are a few highlights:

On winning over patients: “About 94% of our patients have already registered with our group. We sent out 115,000 letters with Atrium, and we have 108,000 already. That’s a big deal. … We’re the doctors. Patients don’t follow hospital administrators. Patients follow physicians, people who really care about them and who went to school to prove it.”

On why more doctors don’t leave big hospital systems: “Fear is the main problem here. Fear of not having a hospital to go to. Fear of doctors leaving a hospital system because they don’t know a stable platform to jump onto. It’s all about control based on money and fear. This group didn’t listen to all of that. We did it our way. We can tell you it’s not something to be afraid of.”

On Big Medicine: “You can’t keep doing the same thing the wrong way and expect a different outcome. Hospital-controlled healthcare is a failed system. It’s been demonstrated over and over and over again.”

On the business model of big hospital systems: “They are trying to gobble up physician groups so they can garner all of their referrals. When you’re a hospital system, do you think that you are lauded for referring to the hospital across the street? It’s essentially a captive referral system, which is why they try and grow bigger and bigger, so they can dominate markets.”

On the future of healthcare: “It is really important that other physician groups see that this succeeds and that it is a stable platform to jump onto or there’s a similar platform for their local area that they can jump onto. It can’t be about what’s best for big business. It has to be about what is best for patients — always. Doctors have to lead this.”

Read the full interview with Owen here.


Dueling plans for uptown bus depot

Two developers have submitted proposals to the city to redevelop the Charlotte Transportation Center uptown, across from the Spectrum Center, the Observer and Biz Journal (paywall) reported Tuesday.

CATS had asked for bids. According to the publications, the two competing proposals are:

BPR Properties

  • 20-story office building

  • 22-story tower with residential units and eight-story hotel

  • low-rise buildings with retail and residential units, including affordable housing

  • public plaza running through the site, with the bus station moved underground and an entrance to it in the middle of the plaza.

White Point and its partner, Texas-based DART Interests:

  • Option 1: 20-story office tower, with a hotel and ground-floor retail, with the bus facility on the ground floor.

  • Option 2: 30-story tower, move the transit center one block to the southwest

The timeline for selecting a winning bidder is unclear. CATS is “looking to select a group that adds something ‘creative and new’ to the site that provides required transit infrastructure and has the financial capacity to develop the project,” the Biz Journal said.


Tourism spending and HB2

New state tourism spending numbers from 2018 are in, and they show that the rate of growth was the highest statewide and in Mecklenburg County since 2014.

In each case, tourism dollars increased by nearly 6% over 2017.

Source: Ledger analysis of Visit North Carolina figures

The figure is significant because it might help give a little clarity to the economic effect of HB2, North Carolina’s controversial “bathroom bill” that led to well-publicized tourism boycotts and decisions by companies not to invest in the state.

Still, the conclusions from the new data aren’t clear-cut. Looking at the chart above, you will see that there was clearly a drop in the rate of tourism growth between 2015-2017. HB2 was in effect from March 2016 to March 2017.

  • Statewide, in the last seven years, the year of slowest tourism growth was 2015 — before the law took effect.

  • In Mecklenburg, the year of slowest tourism growth was in 2016 — when the law was in effect for most of the year. Was that because of HB2?

In 2017, the Associated Press tallied the cost of HB2 at $3.76B over 12 years. In 2019, a nonpartisan economist with the General Assembly concluded that “if HB2 had any positive or negative impact on the State’s economy and specifically direct visitor spending for tourism, the impact was too small to be detected by the available data.”

It’s possible both assessments are accurate, since the state’s annual economic output is more than $450B, and there are many factors that account for business investment and tourism spending.


The chicken sandwich Twitter war

From Business Insider:

Chick-fil-A and Popeyes set off a chicken-sandwich debate on social media on Monday when Popeyes quote-tweeted an apparent subtweet from Chick-fil-A.

Then Wendy’s jumped in:

… which prompted a smackdown with “Popeyes calling Wendy's ‘thirsty’ and Wendy’s describing Popeyes’ food as ‘dry.’”

Then along came Shake Shack

… and Church’s Chicken

… which prompted a response from Charlotte-based Bojangles’, which might have misfired:

In other words, all the more reason to stay off Twitter.


Hedge fund tastes the feeling of betting against Coke Consolidated

If you held a stock that has doubled in price in 2019, you probably wouldn’t complain.

But a London hedge fund is griping that the Charlotte region’s best-performing stock — that of soft-drink bottler Coca-Cola Consolidated — is doing well mostly because investors are confusing it with the Coca-Cola Co.

In an 12-page open letter to Coca-Cola’s CEO, Pedro de Noronha of Noster Capital says he objects to the Charlotte bottler’s name change this year from “Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated” to “Coca-Cola Consolidated,” worries about CEO Frank Harrison’s “potentially controversial political donations” and frets about the bottler’s “explicitly religious messaging” in its statement of purpose (“to honor God in all that we do”).

He adds that Coke Consolidated’s stock ticker symbol — “COKE” — fuels much of the confusion and points out that the bottler’s stock performance this year has outpaced all other bottlers as well as Coca-Cola. Coke Consolidated’s shares are up a stunning 106% in 2019.

“When a company trades under the ticker COKE and changes its name to ‘Coca-Cola Consolidated’, confusion in the market is inevitable,” de Noronha wrote.

Not surprisingly, he also admitted his firm is a short-seller, which means it makes money when share prices fall. Whoops.

Asked if the name was confusing, Coke Consolidated told the Ledger in a statement: “Our decision to change our Company’s legal name earlier this year was for simplification and reflects how we are known in the marketplace, which is Coca-Cola Consolidated. Our stock has been offered to the public under the Coke ticker symbol since 1972.” 


In brief

  • Tennis, anyone? Ballantyne Country Club is considering selling its small tennis and swim location on Summer Club Road near Community House Middle School and building new tennis courts at its main club. David Lee, the club’s general manager, tells the Ledger the idea is “very much at the beginning stage as we have not even decided if it is best to possibly sell the property and what the cost would be to replace the courts on our existing property.”

  • PSL fire sale: The Panthers have offered some fans a chance to buy PSLs “at 1995 prices.” “To mark our 25th anniversary, we’re offering two Permanent Seat Licenses for $25 a month” for 48 months, according to an email the team sent Tuesday. PSLs are only as “permanent” as the existing Panthers stadium, the future of which is in doubt.

  • Gastonia fabric icon: “Mary Jo’s Cloth Store, the iconic Gastonia fabric store that attracted customers from across the region for more than six decades, will permanently close its doors at the end of the month.” (Gaston Gazette)

  • Virtual hearings: Charlotte-based software and telecom company Cloverhound won two awards for its technology that allows government agencies to conduct hearings with people over the web.

  • Tiffany’s for men: Tiffany’s announced last week that it is launching its first luxury men’s line. “Think stereotypically macho stuff remade as luxury goods, such as sterling silver necklaces that resemble military dog tags, a silver-encased compass, and a cocktail mixer in crystal and sterling silver.” Sales of men’s luxury fine jewelry have risen 22% in the last five years. (Quartz)


Off the Clock

Low-key ideas for the weekend

Movies opening in Charlotte this weekend:
  • Ready or Not (R) (90% on Rotten Tomatoes): Bride plays deadly game

  • Angel Has Fallen (R) (50%): Secret Service agent accused

  • Overcomer (PG): Youth coach finds inspiration

Highly rated movies now playing:
  • Blinded by the Light (PG-13) (90% on Rotten Tomatoes)

  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (R) (85%)

  • Dora and the Lost City of Gold (PG) (82%)

  • Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (PG-13) (81%)

  • Good Boys (R) (79%)

  • The Angry Birds Movie 2 (PG) (76%)

  • Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (PG-13) (67%)

Cheap getaways from CLT:
  • Charlotte to Philadelphia, $76 round-trip on Frontier (nonstop), Sept. 19-22.

  • Charlotte to Baltimore, $65 round-trip on Spirit (nonstop), Sept. 27-30.

  • Charlotte to Madrid, $450 round-trip on United (one-stop), Sept. 29-Oct. 8.

  • Charlotte to Fort Lauderdale, $79 round-trip on Spirit (nonstop), Oct. 25-28.

  • Charlotte to Newark, $105 round-trip on American (nonstop), Oct. 31-Nov. 4.

  • Charlotte to New Orleans, $152 round-trip on American (nonstop), Dec. 13-16.

  • Charlotte to Montreal, $246 round-trip on Delta and American (one-stop), Jan. 10-13.

Source: Google Flights. Fares retrieved Wednesday morning. They might have changed by the time you read this.


Got a news tip? Think we missed something? Drop me a line at editor@cltledger.com and let me know.

Like what we are doing? Feel free to forward this along and to tell a friend.

The Charlotte Ledger is an e-newsletter and web site publishing timely, informative, and interesting local business news and analysis Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, except holidays and as noted. We strive for fairness and accuracy and will correct all known errors. The content reflects the independent editorial judgment of The Charlotte Ledger. Any advertising, paid marketing, or sponsored content will be clearly labeled.

The Charlotte Ledger is published by Tony Mecia, an award-winning former Charlotte Observer business reporter and editor. He lives in Charlotte with his wife and three children.

The day the bulldozer arrived at Olde Providence

Plus: Harris Teeter starts selling hemp products; How to pay for a new Panthers stadium; N.C. still adding jobs

Good morning! Today is Monday, August 19, 2019.

Need to subscribe? Sign up for free here (charlotteledger.substack.com). Like what you see? Forward to a friend.

Neighbors found out about CMS high-school plans only after the trees started falling; ‘What the hell?’

With the news from this weekend that Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools is considering building a new high school behind Olde Providence Elementary on Rea Road, the Ledger is taking a closer look at the neighborhood — and how exactly residents learned that there could soon be a high school behind their backyards.

Olde Providence resident Mike Wall, 72, shows the path of destruction from a “mini-bulldozer” that tore through CMS-owned woods by his house on Thursday. It led to the revelation that CMS is considering building a high school on the site.

In Olde Providence, neighbors in the last few days were at first bewildered, then angry. It’s a common reaction when development takes place close to neighborhoods.

For an inside look at how the news was received in Olde Providence, check out the full article on the Ledger’s website.

Here’s the beginning of it:

On Thursday afternoon, Mike Wall was trimming his lawn in his backyard. When you’re 72 and retired, that’s the sort of thing you can do on Thursday afternoons, when your younger neighbors are at work.

When he turned off his trimmer, he heard an unfamiliar rumbling noise in the woods behind his house. The woods behind Olde Providence Elementary are a place where neighbors walk their dogs, where deer roam and where neighbors maintain the trails that their kids use to walk to school. The woods are in the back 1/4 of a 40-acre lot that also contains the school, several baseball fields and a football field.

The sound Wall heard that afternoon sounded like a big piece of machinery. He looked and saw a “mini-bulldozer” cutting a path about 50 yards behind his house. “I thought, ‘What the hell are they doing to our woods?’”

The rumbling of heavy equipment in the Olde Providence woods last week was the first indication of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ plans for a new high school in south Charlotte. The discovery of the bulldozer set into motion a chain of events – neighborhood alarm, calls to public officials, a social-media frenzy – that led to the revelation that CMS is looking seriously at building a new high school behind Olde Providence Elementary on Rea Road.

The Ledger was the first media outlet to report on the possible site on Saturday afternoon. One school board member, Sean Strain, told the Ledger there are four potential sites but that CMS staff seems to prefer Olde Providence – though the board hasn’t discussed the issue recently. A second school board member, Margaret Marshall, told the Ledger in an email Sunday night that the Olde Providence site is one option, that land in south Charlotte is expensive and that “no final decision has been made.” She added: “We are open to other options and invite folks to give us any leads on large tracts of land we might consider.”

The debate over the site for the school is significant in a number of ways. It will require the shifting of assignment boundaries for thousands of CMS students in south Charlotte – most likely in the Ardrey Kell, Myers Park, South Meck and Providence attendance areas. It will affect land prices, property values and traffic. And it could be one of the first controversies of Superintendent Earnest Winston’s tenure – and show how he balances the concerns of angry neighbors and parents against the wishes of his staff and the board that hired him.

In a fast-growing city, the drama that played out in Olde Providence in the last few days is a familiar Charlotte story of neighbors learning of possible development not far from their backyards – and racing to mobilize against it.

For the full article, click here.


Harris Teeter gets into cannabis

Remember back in June when we told you that before long, local grocery stores would be carrying CBD products, which are made from hemp? (“Big Retail is preparing to crush local CBD stores, dude”)

Well, now it is happening.

In the last week, some Harris Teeter stores in Charlotte have started stocking a small selection of creams, lotions and oils made from hemp, the strain of the cannabis plant that won’t get you high.

Hemp at Harris Teeter: Harry the Dragon now has topical cannabis lotions to help treat his joint pain.

A spot check over the weekend showed:

  • Harris Teeter stores in Blakeney and Stonecrest had a couple shelves in their pharmacies with lip balms, lotions, creams, scrub bars and even bath bombs made from hemp (bath bomb directions: “Drop in bath and relax.”) A pharmacist said the new products arrived last week.

  • The HT at the Arboretum didn’t have that selection, but it had hemp oil in its herbal medicines, between ginkgo biloba and horny goat weed.

  • At the Cotswold Harris Teeter, hemp-seekers are out of luck entirely.

Trend: Mainstream retailers are feeling more comfortable carrying CBD products. Specialty retailers will emphasize their better selection and service.


Higher taxes on dining out to pay for Panthers stadium?

Erik Spanberg of the Charlotte Business Journal unleashed a smart piece over the weekend (paywall) delving into how state and local government might help pay for a new Panthers stadium. It has actual numbers and actual projections, the result of conversations with actual sources who know what they are talking about.

The upshot of Spanberg’s article is that people knowledgable about local government revenue seem to believe that hiking taxes on dining out could be a sensible way to help pay for the public share of a new stadium. Panthers owner David Tepper last month mentioned a “hotel revenue increase” as a potential funding source. But Spanberg writes:

The likelier source for local government stadium funding is a tax on drinks and food at bars and restaurants. Known as the prepared food tax, it already adds 1% to your tab. During fiscal year 2019, the 1% food and beverage tax generated $36.6 million, up from $34.7 million in 2018. The fiscal year ended June 30. 

Doubling the current tax to 2% would, based on recent trends, reap somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 million per year. Assuming a borrowing leverage of 15-to-1 — a reasonable proposition — the food-and-beverage tax hike could then generate $600 million for an NFL stadium here.

That probably wouldn’t fully fund the public contribution to a $2B stadium, but it might get close. Developing city-owned land near the stadium could be another source. Property taxes and sales taxes seem to be off the table, Spanberg writes.

Watch for more of this linguistic slight-of-hand: Spanberg’s article repeatedly refers to the basket of hotel taxes, car-rental taxes and prepared-food taxes as “hospitality” or “tourism” taxes — which reflects the way some local officials talk about them. It’s easier to raise taxes paid mainly by out-of-towners. But taxes on dining out fall pretty squarely on local residents. Grabbing a sandwich at lunchtime on the way back to the office isn’t “tourism.”

The article quotes the CEO of the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association opposing new taxes on dining-out:

“It’s baffling to me that when you collect $120 million a year (there is discussion about raising taxes),” said Lynn Minges, CEO of the trade group, referring to the current combined annual amount generated through local tourism taxes. … “We would oppose any effort to increase the meals tax or occupancy tax until there is better prioritization of how existing sources of revenue (are spent).”


In brief:

  • N.C. jobs still increasing: Employers in North Carolina added 10,500 jobs in July. North Carolina shows “little hint of being negatively impacted by the slowing global economy or the increased volatility in the financial markets triggered by all the uncertainty,” Wells Fargo economists report.

  • Defending Duke: “In defense of Duke Energy, its energy policy attacked by both sides.” (Greensboro News & Record)

  • Moynihan channels FDR: “We have nothing to fear about a recession right now except for the fear of recession,” BofA CEO Brian Moynihan told Bloomberg on Friday.

  • Vending-machine warehouse: Carvana is planning to build a distribution center at the former Philip Morris plant site in Concord. It would employ about 300. (Biz Journal). It continues the trend of warehouse operations locating outside of Mecklenburg.

  • Panthers ticket woes: As predicted, Friday’s debut of 100% digital ticketing had some problems. “Phone glitches and a complicated ticket transfer process left many Panthers fans … confused, frustrated and nostalgic for the days of paper tickets, as they hassled with apps, sought out orange-shirted customer service agents and waited in endless lines,” the Observer reported.


Taking stock

Unless you are a day trader, checking your stocks daily is unhealthy. So how about weekly? How local stocks of note fared last week (through Friday’s close), and year to date:


Got a news tip? Think we missed something? Drop me a line at editor@cltledger.com and let me know.

Like what we are doing? Feel free to forward this along and to tell a friend.

The Charlotte Ledger is an e-newsletter and web site publishing timely, informative, and interesting local business news and analysis Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, except holidays and as noted. We strive for fairness and accuracy and will correct all known errors. The content reflects the independent editorial judgment of The Charlotte Ledger. Any advertising, paid marketing, or sponsored content will be clearly labeled.

The Charlotte Ledger is published by Tony Mecia, an award-winning former Charlotte Observer business reporter and editor. He lives in Charlotte with his wife and three children.

BREAKING: Olde Providence eyed as site for new high school

CMS board member tells Ledger that the board hasn't approved a site but work started there this week

Good afternoon! Today is Saturday, August 17, 2019, and we’re coming to you with HOT BREAKING NEWS.

Need to subscribe? Sign up for free here (charlotteledger.substack.com). Send to a friend.

CMS board member: 4 sites are under consideration, and the district has started testing soil at Olde Providence

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools might be zeroing in on a site for a new high school in south Charlotte — and it’s right next to Olde Providence Elementary School on Rea Road.

Neighbors in Olde Providence say CMS this week started soil testing on the site, which required the removal of some trees. Cutting down trees always grabs the attention of neighbors — especially in south Charlotte — so they started poking around for answers.

On a private Facebook group on Saturday, one of the neighbors said she received the following reply from school board member Margaret Marshall:

I heard this week from our Facilities and Planning Dept that soil testing is beginning on that site. Some trees are being removed so that machinery can have access to the wooded portions of the site. It is looking like that is going to be the site for the new high school. We have been weighing sites and have been talking to folks with larger holdings for quite some time and have not found anything large enough or at a price not completely astronomically high so that we could put that project in another location.

Marshall and the neighbor did not immediately return messages from the Ledger on Saturday afternoon.

Voters approved a school-bond package in 2017 that included construction of a new high school in south Charlotte. It was advertised as a $110M project designed to relieve overcrowding at Ardrey Kell and South Mecklenburg. School officials also said at the time that it could pull students from Myers Park and Olympic. It was expected to open in 2023. The CMS website says: “planning and architect contract continue to progress.”

Big effects: The decision on where to put the high school could have huge effects on property values, school boundaries and traffic — a trifecta of vital concerns to many south Charlotte homeowners. The selection of a site is not a done deal. Board members have said little publicly about the location. State law allows them to discuss potential land acquisitions in private.

The site: Property records show CMS owns a 40-acre rectangular parcel on Rea Road, between Colony and Providence roads, that is surrounded on three sides by single-family houses. The front 1/3 or so contains Olde Providence Elementary School. The rear portion has several baseball fields and it also contains a densely wooded area with a path and a creek.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is eyeing a site adjacent to Olde Providence Elementary School for a new high school that could relieve overcrowding at Ardrey Kell and South Meck. (Photos from Google Maps, Polaris)

The Olde Providence area is zoned for Myers Park High. Areas immediately to the east and south go to Providence High, and areas to the west go to South Meck.

It’s not all that close to Ardrey Kell, which concerns school board member Sean Strain, who represents that area.

Strain told the Ledger that CMS has four site options for the new high school. He declined to identify the other three but said the Olde Providence site is the northernmost location and would do little to relieve overcrowding at Ardrey Kell. He also said the Olde Providence site might be too small to accommodate a high school.

“Is it possible to put the south-county relief high school behind Olde Providence? Yes, it’s possible,” he says. “We put men on the moon. It’s possible. But it is sub-optimal at best, and at worst, it is irresponsible.”

Leadership turmoil: Strain said the school board has received no recent updates on the new site and that it has made no decisions. He said former Superintendent Clayton Wilcox, who was forced out last month, seemed to favor the Olde Providence site.

“The board has not received an update on land acquisitions in these bond projects for a couple of months, for obvious reasons with what has been going on with our leadership,” Strain said. “This week, this issue came up in a conversation, and I echoed these same sentiments: ‘Wait a minute — we never discussed the pros and cons of the four sites.’ That discussion has to be had before we move forward. Literally the next day, I received a call about trees falling at Olde Providence.”

He said one of the other sites is owned by Mecklenburg County. He said the other two are privately owned but that he is aware of no negotiations.

Ardrey Kell, Strain said, “is not only the most overcrowded school currently but also the fastest-growing school. This would be the least likely site to provide the sort of relief that’s necessary.”

Note: As more details on this story develop, I’ll put them on the Ledger’s website. The Ledger is primarily an e-newsletter, but it’s easier to handle developing, breaking news there than to keep bombarding you with emails if updates pour in.


Got a news tip? Think we missed something? Drop me a line at editor@cltledger.com and let me know.

Like what we are doing? Feel free to forward this along and to tell a friend.

The Charlotte Ledger is an e-newsletter and web site publishing timely, informative, and interesting local business news and analysis Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, except holidays and as noted. We strive for fairness and accuracy and will correct all known errors. The content reflects the independent editorial judgment of The Charlotte Ledger. Any advertising, paid marketing, or sponsored content will be clearly labeled.

The Charlotte Ledger is published by Tony Mecia, an award-winning former Charlotte Observer business reporter and editor. He lives in Charlotte with his wife and three children.

SouthPark office building sold as area redevelops

Plus: Toys & Co. owners want out of toy business; Atrium impressed with Wake med-school visit; Sycamore Brewing settles ABC case

Good morning! Today is Friday, August 16, 2019. Need to subscribe? Sign up for free here (charlotteledger.substack.com).

Like what you see? Forward to a friend or share on social media.


As SouthPark construction booms, developer Daniel Levine spends $14M on Wells Fargo building by mall

With development on a tear in many parts of town, SouthPark — Charlotte’s original suburban mall community — sometimes gets overlooked.

But in the latest sign that real estate is still hot there, too, a four-story office building in the heart of SouthPark has been sold to developer Daniel Levine, who’s best-known for owning and developing parts of First Ward uptown.

Levine Family Office on Thursday closed on the purchase of the Wells Fargo building at 2545 Sharon Road, across from SouthPark mall’s entrance, the company said. Levine paid Wells $13.65M for the 44,000 s.f. office building. Property-tax records show it was built in 1999. The tax value is listed at $11.8M.

‘Bullish’ but no plans announced: In a statement, Levine did not disclose any plans for the property. But he said in a statement:

The Wells Fargo Building is a great addition to the Levine Family portfolio because of its excellent location and the explosive development happening in SouthPark. As a native Charlottean and commercial real estate developer, it has been incredible to watch SouthPark grow from a suburban neighborhood into an mini urban center.  My family’s continued investment in SouthPark should demonstrate how bullish we are on the future of this area.

The building is fully occupied by Wells Fargo, “who will remain the sole tenant until March 2020.”

SOLD: Developer buys 20-year-old SouthPark office building from Wells Fargo. Nearby Apex SouthPark development (left, behind trees) is one of the area’s biggies. More on the way?

Wells Fargo has been trying to rein in expenses, including offloading real estate and selling off business divisions.

Levine, whose development companies have diversified holdings throughout Charlotte, has been an important figure in the development of the North Tryon corridor in uptown, as he and family members own prime land and have helped redevelop the area — including work on projects such as First Ward Park. He also sold land to UNC Charlotte for its uptown campus.

The deal comes as SouthPark is in the middle of several big redevelopment projects, including:

  • The old Colony apartments, which are being turned into a mix of retail, office space, nearly 1,000 new apartments and Publix grocery store. The first parts are expected to open in 2021.

  • The old Sharon United Methodist Church — the so-called “ski-slope church” — which is being transformed into a mix of nearly 350 apartments in two 12-story towers, plus retail, restaurants, a new church and a hotel in a development called Apex SouthPark. It’s expected to open next year.

  • Symphony Park, behind the mall, is going to get a makeover. The city and mall owner Simon Property Group are planning to improve the area by adding play spaces, public art and a plaza. The city is also looking to add walking and biking trails in SouthPark.

Those projects represent a modernization of the area, which was first developed in the early 1970s on land that used to be a farm owned by former N.C. Gov. Cameron Morrison.

Future of SouthPark: Unlike South End, which is exploding with growth, SouthPark is “probably at a more mature phase,” says Kenny Smith, a commercial real estate broker who lives in Barclay Downs and represented the area on City Council from 2013-2017.

He told the Ledger he foresees more density in the area, in the form of taller buildings around the intersection of Fairview and Sharon roads, as well as eventual redevelopments along Rexford Road, which is now home to several corporate HQs.

“My guess is there will continue to be projects coming through. I’m not sure in the next five years we’ll have anything on the scale of Sharon United Methodist or the Colony apartments, but maybe in the next cycle or after that. … I’m excited to see what will happen.”

Fine print: In the sale, Wells Fargo was represented by John Saclarides and CBRE’s Patrick Gildea and Matt Smith. Wade Finger of Levine Properties represented Levine Family Office.


Wanna buy a toy store?

After 12 years in Charlotte, Toys & Co. might be calling it quits.

In an email to customers on Thursday, the independent retailer said it is “downsizing the company and looking to sell the Toys & Co. Cotswold location. Please let us know if you or anyone you may know might be interested in owning one of the most impressive toy stores in the country!”

The company did not reply to a Ledger email late Thursday.

Downsizing: Toys & Co. has been shrinking in recent years. It used to operate four locations, including one at Park Road Shopping Center and one in Myrtle Beach. Its website today lists just the site at Cotswold mall and one in Greensboro.

Look, the toy-retail business is rough. A lot of sales have migrated online, and surveys show consumers nowadays prefer online toy shopping to going into physical stores. In addition, big retailers like Walmart and Target have gobbled up business from smaller rivals. Toys ‘R’ Us closed all its stores last year.

What it means: The email to customers indicates the shop could very well close, since reaching out to customers to ask if they know anybody who wants to buy a toy store is an unusual way to sell a business and smacks of a last-ditch effort.

Toys & Co. is probably Charlotte’s best-known independent toy retailer. It’s the highest rated in the city on Yelp. In one review last year, somebody named Vanessa L. wrote: “The only bad thing about this place is that you may find your kids kicking and screaming when you try to get them out of the store lol.”


Atrium ‘blown away’ by potential med-school partner

Atrium Health’s leaders came away impressed from a four-hour tour of medical facilities at Wake Forest. The two sides are working together to create a Wake medical school campus in Charlotte.

From the Winston-Salem Journal:

The boards visited Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine and Bowman Gray Center for Medical Education within the innovation quarter. They heard brief presentations from 10 research and informatics groups.

“It’s incredible what you have built here and what you have in motion,” said Edward Brown III, Atrium’s chairman. “If we don’t take advantage of this opportunity, we’ve blown it.” …

Carol Lovin, Atrium’s chief integration officer and system chief of staff, described the two systems’ discussions as being in the “third inning” toward “maximizing the impact on patient lives.”

“Every board member who came today found the facilities here incredible,” Lovin said. “They were blown away, which was the reaction we wanted them to have.”

Haunted by previous Charlotte deal-makers: The article seems to reflect some concern, though, that Charlotte is going to do to Winston-Salem healthcare providers what it has done to Winston-Salem banks: steal them. (See: BB&T, Wachovia):

The open-ended nature of negotiating a potential medical partnership between Wake Forest University and Atrium has raised concerns about the future of Wake Forest Baptist and its medical school in Winston-Salem. … The groups have not ruled out a much larger collaboration during their period of exclusive negotiations.

So far, Atrium and Wake are saying all the right things to make a med school happen. There’s still a lot of work to do.


In brief

  • Wells Fargo troubles: “Wells Fargo Closed Their Accounts, but the Fees Continued to Mount” (New York Times)

  • “Hearst” Tower: Hearst employees are vacating “Hearst” Tower uptown and moving to an office building in south Charlotte. Employees of the new Truist Bank — a result of the merger between SunTrust and BB&T — are expected to move into the “Hearst” Tower after the deal closes later this year. BB&T’s CEO called the tower “the old Hearst building” on a conference call last month. (Biz Journal)

  • Health-plan veto? Gov. Roy Cooper might veto a bill that passed the General Assembly this week that would allow associations to offer healthcare policies to their members. The bill had been approved by wide bipartisan margins. (WRAL)

  • Carowinds adding waterslide, carnival: “Carowinds announced Thursday that the longest mat racing slide in the Southeast debuts next summer. … Also new in 2020 is Grand Carnivale, a nighttime international festival and street party.” (WCNC)

  • Auditor switch at Sealed Air: Under investigation by the feds, Charlotte-based Bubble Wrap maker Sealed Air dropped Ernst & Young and hired PricewaterhouseCoopers as its auditor. “It is the latest development related to federal investigations into the company’s financial practices and audit-firm selection process.” (WSJ)

  • Ranked: 54 companies in the Charlotte region made Inc. magazine’s list of the top 5,000 fastest-growing companies: “15 are software or IT services-based and another 11 are in construction,” the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance said. The list “shows the diversity of successful companies in the region.” Top 5 in the Charlotte region were Power Home Solar, Clean Juice, Saprex, Lewel and Printful.

  • Speakers announced: Northeastern University-Charlotte announced a speaker series this week. Sept. 24: Charlotte’s growth, featuring Charlotte Center City Partners CEO Michael Smith and city Planning Director Taiwo Jaiyeoba. Oct. 30: fintech, featuring LendingTree CEO Doug Lebda. Details here.

  • Digital Panthers tickets: Lots of good details in this helpful Observer piece on how to access your Panthers tickets or transfer them for tonight’s preseason game against the Bills. Tickets are 100% digital for the first time. Don’t wait until the last minute.


Food and booze news

A weekly wrap-up of the week’s eating and drinking developments

  • ‘Polygamy Porter’ rejected: The N.C. ABC commission this week upheld the state’s rejection of a beer-bottle label proposed by a Utah brewery for a beer called Polygamy Porter. As the Ledger told you last month, the state regularly rejects beer and wine labels deemed inappropriate. The appeal for Hello Kitty wine was postponed until next month, a spokeswoman said.

  • South End oysters: A restaurant and oyster bar called Stir has leased space in the RailYard in South End. It “joins a growing lineup of retail tenants at the transformational mixed-use development, including OrangeTheory, Rhino Market, North Italia and Bishops.” (Team coverage: Agenda, CharlotteFive, Biz Journal)

  • University City gets crabby: From the newsletter of University City Partners: “University City is rapidly becoming Crab City. Two crab-centric restaurants just opened, a third will open soon, and a place specializing in crawfish is expanding. All are near UNC Charlotte. Sounds like it’s time for a University City Crab Crawl!” Restaurants are Crab du Jour Cajun Seafood, The Crab Cracker, Crafty Crab Seafood & Bar and Crackin’ Crawfish.

  • Self-serve beer/wine in NoDa: A 60-tap bar called Free Will Craft & Vine is scheduled to open next month in NoDa. Decor includes “plush sofas for lounging, a corner stage for bands and trivia, a 14-foot multi-sport virtual simulator and half a dozen flat-screen TVs.” (Agenda)

  • Davidson bakery: The former executive pastry chef at Kindred is opening a bakery in Davidson in September, to be called Bonjour, Y’all. It will “combine the vibrant personalities of New Orleans and Charleston with French technique.” (Unpretentious Palate/paywall)

  • Pumpkin spice in August: Dunkin’ Donuts is bringing back its pumpkin spice coffee and other pumpkin menu items on Aug. 21, the company says. Starbucks’ pumpkin-spice latte is set to debut Aug. 27, the earliest-ever such launch. (USA Today, Business Insider)

  • Food blogger smackdown: Charlotte food bloggers are usually a positive and cozy bunch. But Jason Ackerman, who runs a local blog and podcast called ScallionPancake with his wife, this week called out the king daddy of Charlotte restaurant coverage: “The Charlotte Agenda’s top 50 list, it’s sh**, it’s really bad,” he said on an episode of “The Charlotte Podcast” released Tuesday. “… Any list that has Viva Chicken in the top 15, it’s just not doing a good representation for Charlotte. Charlotte is more than chain restaurants.” He also criticized Agenda’s choice of Kindred, which is in Davidson, as #1: “No offense to Kindred, (but) Kindred is not in Charlotte. … We need to represent Charlotte and good restaurants in Charlotte.” (Agenda’s top 50 list has Viva Chicken at #33, not in the top 15.)

Sycamore Brewing, Whitewater Center cited for ABC violations

The N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control commission released its disciplinary records for July. The Charlotte businesses on the list were:

  • A to Zee Food Store, 3201 Beatties Ford Road, agreed to pay $2,000 on charge of selling to an underage person.

  • Food Mart, 2605 Central Ave., agreed to pay $1,000 on charges of maintaining living quarters at the place of business, failing to display a permit and failing to keep records.

  • La Revolucion, 900 NC Music Factory Blvd., agreed to pay $1,600 on charges of possessing five empty liquor bottles with incorrect labeling and failing to meet qualifications for a restaurant.

  • Press Box Bar and Grille, 9609 N. Tryon St., Suite A, agreed to pay $2,700 on charges of possessing three empty liquor bottles with incorrect labeling and serving alcohol to an intoxicated person.

  • Slate Billiards and Oak Room, 200 E. Bland St., Suite C, agreed to pay $2,400 on charges of failing to clear all tables and counters of alcoholic containers by 2:30am and allowing drinking between 2:30am and 7:00am.

  • Sycamore Brewing, 2161 Hawkins St., agreed to pay $500 on a charge of “giving away or selling alcoholic drinks at a price that is different from the usual price to a segment of the population.”

  • Tony’s Bar, 10004 Moores Chapel Loop Road, agreed to pay $1,500 on charges of allowing controlled substance laws to be broken and possessing a liquor container without a tax stamp.

  • Tropix Bar and Lounge, 4701 N. Tryon St., agreed to pay $1,800 on charges of failing to keep records, possessing improperly marked liquor bottles and possessing liquor bottles without tax stamps.

  • US National Whitewater Center, 5000 Whitewater Center Parkway, agreed to pay $400 on charges of promoting an event with industry members without ABC approval.


Got a news tip? Think we missed something? Drop me a line at editor@cltledger.com and let me know.

Like what we are doing? Feel free to forward this along and to tell a friend.

The Charlotte Ledger is an e-newsletter and web site publishing timely, informative, and interesting local business news and analysis Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, except holidays and as noted. We strive for fairness and accuracy and will correct all known errors. The content reflects the independent editorial judgment of The Charlotte Ledger. Any advertising, paid marketing, or sponsored content will be clearly labeled.

The Charlotte Ledger is published by Tony Mecia, an award-winning former Charlotte Observer business reporter and editor. He lives in Charlotte with his wife and three children.

Loading more posts…