Apartments, apartments everywhere
Plus: What we learned from 4 CMS student assignment parent meetings; New Pineville library debuts; FTX's N.C. political donations; Bear brouhaha: 'part of Charlotte culture' or 'good riddance'?
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More apartments on the way, city filings show — especially in University City
by Tony Mecia
Developers filed plans with the city for more than 1,500 new homes last month — and more than half of them are in the University City area, according to a Ledger analysis of October rezoning filings.
The plans offer insights into Charlotte’s changing commercial real estate market, with 10 of the 15 filings seeking zoning changes to allow residential construction. Remote work has cast doubt on the future of new office developments in Charlotte and around the country, but demand for new housing remains strong.
A report last week from UNC Charlotte’s Childress Klein Center for Real Estate found that since Covid, construction of new housing has lagged behind demand, which is triggering big price increases.
The housing plans contained in October’s rezoning filings included:
320 apartments from Vista Residential Partners near McAlpine Creek Park
270 apartments from Ascent Real Estate Capital on Dalton Avenue, off North Tryon Street outside of uptown
350 apartments from High Associates Ltd. on Mallard Creek Road
184 townhomes by Brown Group Inc. off Mallard Creek Church Road
200 apartments from Mission Properties on North Tryon Street near the Cabarrus County line
200 apartments from a company affiliated with Catalyst Capital Partners on IBM Drive in University City
Asked about the explosion of housing construction in University City on a recent episode of The Charlotte Ledger Podcast, Darlene Heater, the former executive director of University City Partners, said: “With the number of apartment complexes that have been completed in University City, they stabilize pretty quickly. The market has not gone soft for multifamily up there.”
A second Whataburger? One other notable rezoning filing, by Woodhaven Development Group, calls for a retail and restaurant center on North Tryon Street by I-485 — and one of the restaurants is identified on the site plan as a 3,800-square-foot “Whataburger Restaurant.” Charlotte foodie journalists nearly melted down in September on news of a possible Whataburger at 5301 South Blvd. on the site of a former bank branch. (CharlotteFive advised its readers to “take a deep breath” on the possibility of “a Charlotte location of the wildly popular Texas-based burger chain.” WCNC reported, without evidence, that “a possible Whataburger in Charlotte has residents drooling.”)
Ledger readers vote rezonings as #1 choice: The Ledger examines rezoning filings monthly but has never previously analyzed those results in the lead story of a newsletter. That is changing today, though, as Ledger readers, to our surprise, voted “last month’s rezoning filings” as the No. 1 story they would like to read in an online poll we conducted on Saturday. That result illustrates either that Ledger readers are unusually passionate about rezoning coverage, or the danger of what can happen when you fail to exercise your right to vote.
More rezoning news: There’s a public hearing at tonight’s City Council meeting about Chick-fil-A’s plans for a drive-thru-only restaurant on its current site in Cotswold. We examined that restaurant’s notorious traffic issues in a May issue of our Transit Time newsletter.
Separately, the council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on plans for 300 apartments in a mixed-use development on the Starbucks site on Kenilworth Avenue in Dilworth, but we’re hearing it might be postponed. Neighbors have concerns.
➡️ See the full October rezoning summary. We make complete summaries of rezoning filings available monthly to our community of paying members.
Today’s supporting sponsors are T.R. Lawing Realty …
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Parent concerns arise as CMS south Charlotte boundary possibilities trickle out
With less than three months to go before Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools finalizes new south Charlotte high school boundaries in anticipation of the opening of a new high school in 2024, it’s no surprise that tensions are running high among parents.
District planning director Claire Schuch and other CMS administrators have been meeting with parent groups at various schools in recent weeks to get feedback and answer questions as the district draws new variations of draft maps that shift the boundaries of Ardrey Kell, Myers Park and South Mecklenburg high schools to make way for the new high school.
But despite the public meetings, the process has been moving in somewhat of a clandestine fashion in recent months, with CMS getting input on proposed maps from a work group of parent representatives, but asking them to keep the details of what they’re considering out of the public view.
That changed a bit late last week, when the district’s planning department posted a series of draft maps on a slideshow that they say will be replaced with three fresh versions in the next week or two. Those versions finally give a sense of what the district has been thinking as they go about the process of drawing new lines.
Last week, the Ledger attended four meetings CMS officials held regarding boundaries at Ardrey Kell High School, Providence High School, Carmel Middle School and Jay M. Robinson Middle School. Some were friendly gatherings. Others were tense and explosive at times.
Several themes emerged, including these three:
◼️ Secrecy = distrust. A far bigger-than-normal crowd of about 60 people showed up for the Ardrey Kell PTSO meeting Monday night when they were told Schuch would be there with proposed maps. The room got tense, though, when Schuch flipped so quickly through the presentation slides that showed draft maps that it was impossible to make sense of the boundaries.
Schuch and CMS Chief Operating Officer Brian Schultz told the group that the maps weren’t ready to be released publicly because they hadn’t gotten enough feedback on them internally, but that new iterations would be coming within a couple of weeks.
One parent said during the meeting that she was “very upset with myself” for not seeking a seat on the parent workgroup because now she feels in the dark on what’s going on with the process.
“Please allow our [parent work group] to be able to share enough with the community to be able to give feedback. We can’t give feedback if we don’t have any information,” she told Schuch and Schultz.
One Ardrey Kell administrator told Schultz and Schuch that not showing maps “kills that spirit of transparency. It kills the trust.”
Schultz and Schuch responded that new maps would be coming soon and that they weren’t displaying the previous maps because some had been deemed unworkable for various reasons.
◼️ What about Providence High School? The most explosive meeting of the four The Ledger attended was a Friday morning gathering at Carmel Middle School, where about 100 parents packed the school media center. Several parents voiced strong questions about why Providence High School doesn’t seem likely to have its boundaries affected by the changes.
Part of Carmel feeds into Myers Park and seems likely to have some students rerouted to South Meck or the new high school. The parents on Friday morning said they wanted to know why Providence, which in some cases sits geographically closer to their homes than South Meck or the new high school, isn’t being considered for changes.
Schuch told the group that it’s unlikely Providence will have its boundaries disrupted because the school is at enrollment capacity and it wasn’t listed on the 2017 bond that is paying for the new high school.
Some parents were unsatisfied with that answer.
“The fact that Providence is not even on (the slides showing the schools up for new boundaries) makes us feel that we can all be here, but it’s maybe just a show. ‘Here — we’re listening to you, but then we’ll do whatever we want,’” said one parent. She continued: “If you listened to us, Providence would be on this board as an option. … The fact it’s not there makes us feel that we are wasting our time in a way, because the decision would be made without even considering what we really want.”
◼️ Worries about juniors: A common refrain in all four meetings was worry for current high school freshmen who will be juniors when they’re moved to the new high school.
Junior year is considered one of the most important academic years in high school, because it’s the final full year before students submit college applications and it’s often the year when students take their most rigorous classes.
CMS typically allows high school seniors whose high school boundaries move due to the opening of a new school to stay at their original school for their final year, but freshmen, sophomores and juniors are required to attend the new school.
Some parents at the Carmel meeting said they worried their kids’ futures could be at stake if they were forced to move schools in their junior year.
“When you have a high schooler in CMS, you have to plan out four years of classes. If you go from one administration and organization to another, kids are not going to able to get the classes they need in order to get into the colleges that they’re now getting into,” one parent said.
District administrators have said they understand the concerns but that a shortage of bus drivers would make it hard to accommodate allowing students from the same neighborhood to attend two different high schools for two years.
➡️ Feedback form: At all of the meetings, Schuch emphasized that she wants to hear what’s on parents’ minds and she invited people to complete a feedback form to have their voices heard —CB
Related Ledger articles:
“Have a peek at CMS south Charlotte draft maps” (Nov. 19)
“CMS eyes shake-up of south Charlotte school boundaries” (🔒, Nov. 11)
New library opens in the heart of Pineville
Pineville’s new library branch looks out onto the town’s Main Street. Clockwise from top left: The library’s central area; one of two 8-person group study rooms; a large community room; a quiet reading room.
A bright and airy new Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library branch had its soft opening last week in Pineville’s new town hall on Main Street, featuring 18,000 s.f. of space devoted to books and other media, study areas, a peaceful quiet room and public meeting space.
Several toddlers and their parents were picking out books and playing with manipulative toys in the children’s area when The Ledger visited last week, and a couple of adults were working at the public computers in the center of the library.
The library is the product of a partnership between the town of Pineville and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library system, which is renting the space for the library from the town.
Garrette Smith, who’s the library’s community manager, said she’s excited about bringing new programs to the library and giving special emphasis to two age groups that are often overlooked: young adults and seniors.
The library will have a grand-opening celebration next month, the details of which are expected to be announced later this week. —CB
The bear affair: Readers weigh in on cancellation of Founders Hall singing holiday robots
It’s not the most important story in the world, but we found it interesting: the discontinuation of the Leonard Bearstein Symphony Orchestra at Founders Hall — a story that we blew the lid off of last week.
After more than 20 years of holiday performances, the animatronic singing bears were not invited back this year, Bank of America said Friday, confirming our report of a week ago. When asked why, the bank declined to answer.
Our email inboxes and social media, though, lit up with reader reaction, in response to our coverage (and to WFAE’s). A sampling:
The ‘bring back the bears’ side:
“The person who made this decision needs to be haunted by three ghosts! When the bell tolls one!”
“This is a part of Charlotte culture. The bears are everything!”
“Are you freaking kidding me????? I’ve taken my daughter for her whole life … The pandemic is freaking over — what is the problem now?? The Bearstein Bears are a tradition in the Charlotte area! #pissed”
“Probably replacing them with some bougie corporate hipster bullsh— mashup.”
“Can we get them to perform via Zoom link? Everyone else uptown is working remotely.”
Somewhere in the middle:
“Say what you will, but we still had the Bearstein orchestra when Patrick Cannon was mayor.”
“Wait — I’ve lived here since 2005 and I am just now learning that we had animatronic bears playing music each Christmas? Huh.”
“They were kinda weird, but one of the few things unique about uptown at the holidays.”
“So you’re saying they’re available for my holiday party?”
The ‘I’m not sad they’re gone’ side:
“No one else finds them creepy?”
“Loved them in ‘The Shining’!”
“These guys were/are in need of a refresh.”
“You can always go to Chuck E. Cheese.”
“Thank you, Bank of America, for so generously sponsoring this free attraction for the people of Charlotte for so many years. Perhaps some of the people who value it would like to contribute some of their own time and money and make it happen.”
“Good riddance to the bears. I knew our country and Charlotte were in trouble when, in the 1990s, I saw human beings at the Bank of America Corporate Center actually applaud for robots — banality has no limits. Yes, some 4-year-olds were enchanted, but Charlotte has any number of creative and talented artists who could also enliven and enchant at that venue.”
You might be interested in these Charlotte events: Mint Museum’s ‘Party in the Park’
Events submitted by readers to The Ledger’s events board:
Nov. 27: Party in the Park, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at The Mint Museum Randolph, Charlotte. Enjoy the last Party in the Park of the season with self-guided activities that celebrate Native American Heritage Month, food trucks, live music and a cash bar, plus free museum admission and Museum Store Sunday! Free.
For your Thanksgiving week consideration
In the car or on a plane this week? Why not pass the time nourishing your brain with The Charlotte Ledger Podcast? Available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and other podcast platforms.
Want to score points with your younger relatives at Thanksgiving dinner? Download The Ledger’s Teen Talk Thanksgiving Cheat Sheet.
N.C.’s first medical marijuana dispensary: North Carolina’s first legal harvest of medical marijuana is underway, by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The tribe plans to open the largest retail medical marijuana store in the U.S. next year three hours west of Charlotte. Non-tribe members who are 21 or older and medically qualified will be eligible to buy marijuana from the store after receiving approval from the tribe’s Cannabis Control Board. (Observer)
North Carolina FTX political donations: Two executives from cryptocurrency exchange FTX donated to North Carolina political races this year. Former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried gave about $1M to a political action committee (PAC) that supported U.S. Rep.-elect Valerie Foushee in her Democratic primary. And company executive Ryan Salame donated about $1.7M to PACs supporting Republicans Ted Budd, Bo Hines and Chuck Edwards, records show. FTX filed for bankruptcy protection this month. (N.C. Tribune)
SouthPark Mall scare: SouthPark Mall was evacuated and closed for nearly two hours Saturday afternoon after false reports about shots being fired started circulating. (WSOC)
New name for architecture school: UNC Charlotte’s architecture school will be renamed the “David R. Ravin School of Architecture” following a donation by Northwood Ravin CEO David Ravin. Ravin graduated from UNC Charlotte in 1994 with an architecture degree. (UNC Charlotte)
Layoffs at Red Ventures unit? More than 20 people were laid off from travel site The Points Guy, which is owned by Indian Land-based Red Ventures, according to unnamed sources cited by travel news site Skift.
Housing market normalizes: The Charlotte area’s housing market continued to cool in October, with houses staying on the market longer and the number of houses sold falling compared with a year earlier. Prices were still up 15% compared with October 2021. (WFAE)
Deadly accident at Raleigh parade: An 11-year-old girl died at a Christmas parade in Raleigh on Saturday after being struck by a parade float. The driver was charged with death by vehicle and reckless driving. (Fox 46)
In memoriam: Victory Christian Center announced that its longtime pastor, Robyn Gool, passed away on Friday. He founded Victory Christian in 1980 with his wife, Marilyn. (WBTV)
‘Grazologist’ available: A national charcuterie franchise called Graze Craze opened its first Charlotte-area location on Lancaster Highway in south Charlotte. “Boards are curated by a ‘grazologist’ — the concept’s charcuterie concierge,” the Charlotte Business Journal reported.
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Executive editor: Tony Mecia; Managing editor: Cristina Bolling; Staff writer: Lindsey Banks; Contributing editor: Tim Whitmire, CXN Advisory; Contributing photographer/videographer: Kevin Young, The 5 and 2 Project