Historic Ballantyne? Townhouse plan gets frosty reception

Plus: Ballantyne Village theater closing confirmed; New light rail stop in middle of South End?; American reaches deal with mechanics; Alabama coach Nick Saban casually drops in at Myers Park High

Good morning! Today is Friday, January 31, 2020.

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

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

Today’s Ledger is sponsored by StretchLab. Recognize you need to stretch more but don’t do it? Call and come in for an intro stretch to see what the buzz is all about. Studios in SouthPark (704.585.8941) and Dilworth (704.703.1480).

FED-UP Ballantyners blast ‘greedy’ developer and cite worries about traffic, schools — and the threat to a 120-year-old farmhouse

Citing concerns about unbearable traffic and overcrowded schools, a crowd of about 150 Ballantyne residents unloaded this week on a developer who wants to build townhomes behind Community House Middle School.

On Wednesday night at South Mecklenburg Presbyterian Church, a representative of David Weekly Homes tried to explain plans to build 164 townhouses on a 37-acre site off Blakeney Heath Road. But the discussion soon devolved into a heated Q&A, with nearby residents airing grievances about students forced to eat lunch on the floor of Ardrey Kell High School and parents having to endure traffic backups so bad that they need 30 minutes to drive a mile to the Morrison YMCA for a morning workout.

To build the townhouses, the developer needs the city to rezone the property, which is now designated for single-family houses. The developer appeared willing to compromise, but the crowd was in more of a torches-and-pitchforks mood.

At times, residents interrupted the consultant giving the presentation with exclamations such as:

  • “Have you been on that road at 7:40 in the morning?”

  • “Accidents! How many accidents?”

  • “We like it the way it is!”

One resident told him: “It’s just a game to get more houses so you can be greedy and get more money for what you’re building. … I feel disrespected that you want to take this plot of land and make as much money as you possibly can. … You’re saying, ‘We’re going to be disrespecting everybody in here that has worked their asses off to get land and build a home and build a community, because we’re going to shove more houses in there, they’re not going to be able to drive, and the schools are overcrowded.’”

Shannon Boling of David Weekly Homes replied: “I appreciate your passion.”

City Council member Ed Driggs told The Ledger after the meeting that it was one of the biggest crowds for a community rezoning meeting that he has seen in his six years on the council.

Ballantyne is not impressed: Residents this week challenged developer David Weekly Homes, which wants to build 164 townhomes off Blakeney Heath Road. Under current zoning, developers could build only 88 single-family houses.

Preserving Ballantyne’s history: One additional wrinkle is that the parcel up for rezoning is designated as a historic landmark because of its proximity to the James A. Blakeney House, which the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission says is a “well-preserved example of a type of farmhouse erected by prosperous farmers in Mecklenburg County in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.” It also “might contain important historic and pre-historic archaeological artifacts.”

The house is believed to have been built between 1901 and 1905. The townhouse development wouldn’t knock down the farmhouse, but it would get close to it, as other housing developments in the area have in the last 25 years.

Land boom: To get a sense of how much land prices in Ballantyne have skyrocketed, check this out: The Commission’s notes from 1986 say the 110 acres that the house was on at the time were appraised at $26,610, or $242 an acre. Today, the 37-acre parcel by the house is valued at more than 70 times that amount per acre, even when factoring in inflation — and it will probably sell for even more than that.

“There are few places in the country that have changed as dramatically as the formerly rural farmland of southern Mecklenburg County,” said Stewart Gray, senior preservation planner with the commission, in an interview. The developer’s plans would need the commission’s blessing, he said.

Bigger picture: The Ballantyne area has been growing quickly since the late 1990s, and residents often say planning for schools and roads has been inadequate. There are other rezonings in the area, as well as apartment towers under construction. But this development seems to be gathering particular opposition because of the awful traffic on two-lane Blakeney Heath Road where it meets Bryant Farms Road.

David Weekly’s zoning consultant, Walter Fields, said after the meeting in an interview that he’s happy to take the feedback from residents and continue working with city planners and neighbors to improve the plans. He said he wasn’t discouraged by the strong opposition: “I’ve had people who love the developments, but they don’t come to the meeting. The people that hate it come here. The people that love it, they figure, ‘Hey, it’s fine. I don’t care.’”

Just a couple miles away, there’s a much bigger project in the works — the proposal by Ballantyne Corporate Park owner Northwood Office to convert the golf course into a mixed-use, town-center-type development that includes 1,000 apartments, 300,000 s.f. of shops and restaurants and an amphitheater in its first phase. A Northwood spokeswoman said via email that the project is “on track.”

Residents at Wednesday’s meeting said they weren’t as opposed to that one.

“The part I like is more restaurants and things to do and the live music venue,” said Chris Craig, 46. “I can see that being a family thing, to go hang out and stroll the park and listen to music on the weekend. But the problem is we don’t need more people out here.”

Development updates: Ballantyne theater, SouthPark tower, Dilworth condos

Several updates this week about stories you first read about in the Ledger:

Ballantyne Village Theater

The Observer reported Thursday that one of Charlotte’s two arthouse theaters is closing, the Regal Ballantyne Village:

After much speculation in the past year, Ballantyne Village management has confirmed the movie theater will close next month.

Jonathan Gould, co-managing member of Stonemar Properties of New York, which owns and manages the center, told the Observer Thursday that the theater will close the second week of February to make way for office space.

The speculation came from the fact that for the last seven months, real-estate giant JLL has listed the theater’s space on its website … as available for offices, as the Ledger reported in June (“Curtain closing on Ballantyne theater?”) and again in September (“Ballantyne theater depicted as hip office”).

SouthPark apartment tower

More details came out Thursday about the proposed 15-story apartment tower in SouthPark, on Fairview Road across from the Nordstrom entrance to SouthPark mall. (The Ledger first disclosed the plans on Jan. 8.)

The city released the full rezoning petition, which gives a first glimpse of what the tower — developed by Raleigh-based Dominion Realty Partners — might look like:

It’s on the site of the old Fifth Third bank building. There’s also talk of building a connector street behind it parallel to Fairview.

Dilworth condo/office towers

Citing real estate records, the Biz Journal reported this week (subscriber-only) that a company tied to developers Jim Gross and Brian Phillips has bought parcels totaling 1.8 acres at East Boulevard and Lombardy Circle for $7M.

City records reveal that the developer wants to build three condo towers and an office tower, each between three and eight stories, the Ledger reported Jan. 6.

—> Stick with The Ledger, folks, and we’ll do our best to keep you on the leading edge of Charlotte business news. (Still waiting for the predicted Wegmans to materialize.)

Today’s supporting sponsors are The McIntosh Law Firm/Carolina Revaluation Services and The Charlotte Ledger’s 40 Over 40 awards (nominations close today):

Nick Saban visits Myers Park High

Saban, accompanied by Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, was there to watch his QB recruit Drake Maye, the Observer’s Langston Wertz Jr. reported.

In brief

  • New light rail stop? Is the Lynx light rail line about to get a new stop in the center of South End? Real estate sources have been buzzing lately about the possibility of adding one by the Publix and Sycamore Brewing, between the New Bern and East/West stops. The idea has been around for a few years, but CATS apparently lacks the money to build one and is said to be working to find money from the private sector. The official word from a CATS spokeswoman is that it is “evaluating the next steps for this potential crossing.” And you thought property values around there were high now.

  • Tax incentives for grocery stores? County commissioners on Thursday floated the idea of paying grocery-store chains to open stores in areas of the county that don’t have them. “Chairman George Dunlap said tax dollars may be on the table as an incentive to get grocers to build in food deserts. ‘We understand the bottom line is profitability, and if necessary, we can allocate the funding to make up the difference.’” (WSOC)

  • American reaches labor deal: American Airlines and its mechanics announced a new labor agreement Thursday night after four years of bitter negotiations. “The agreements are worth $4.2 billion and offer more than 30,000 employees industry-leading wages, benefits, work rules, job security and retirement income, the union, the TWU-IAM Association, said on its website.” (Reuters)

  • New uptown hotel? Plans were filed with the city for a hotel with structured parking at Bland and South Tryon streets. That’s up to seven potential hotels on the way to South End. (CLT Development)

  • Final day for 40 Over 40 nominations: The Ledger’s 40 Over 40 nominations close tonight (Friday) at 11:59 p.m. (Ledger)

  • Worthy read: Fortune magazine recounts “How Bank of America’s CEO Brian Moynihan orchestrated one of the biggest comebacks in banking history.” The article starts with a scene from 2011 when Moynihan met with two of his lieutenants at a wine-and-sushi bar on Trade Street in Charlotte called Press. It quotes Moynihan and Warren Buffett. It recounts how Moynihan “orchestrated the single most outstanding comeback from the financial crisis.” He might have turned around the bank, but he couldn’t save Press — Yelp reports that it has since closed. (Fortune, requires free registration)

  • Quotable: In the Wall Street Journal, a Duke Energy employee is quoted in an article on what to do with old business cards: “Karen Schrimper, 51, a Charlotte-based director in the finance department at Duke Energy … is currently working her way through a pile of cards dating back to a job from 2005, with several dozen cards still left, which she keeps handy in her desk. ‘They make excellent toothpicks,’ says Ms. Schrimper, citing their pointy corners.” (WSJ)

  • Truist feeling good: The combo of BB&T and SunTrust had net income fall in the 4Q, but the numbers are messy because of the merger that was completed in December. CEO Kelly King: “We feel better today than we felt a year ago. At this point, the organization is settled, strong, focused, and we’re just now focusing on doing the connectivity work that is big, but is predictable in terms of how well we can do it.” (Biz Journal)

  • Eastland rezoning media brouhaha: Reporters at several Charlotte media organizations complained on Twitter this week after the city failed to invite them to a private media briefing by the city about the rezoning filing at the old Eastland mall site. Jonathan Lowe of Spectrum News wrote: “How is this appropriate for a public entity?” WCCB’s Morgan Fogarty wrote: “You messed this up. Square up, take the hit, offer a legitimate apology and move on.” WBT’s Mark Garrison wrote: “The so-called PR professionals who did it should be fired.” The city offered a partial apology.

Food and drink news

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

  • Sleepover canceled: Discovery Place has canceled a planned adult sleepover with a bar and continental breakfast because it apparently violates fire codes. “The fire marshal reached out to us and said, ‘You’re not actually allowed to have people spend the night,’” a spokeswoman told the Observer.

  • Top Golf competitor headed to South End? City filings show renovation work is planned for 210 Rampart St., for a “bar/restaurant and amusement space,” the Biz Journal says. “The permit is called Drive Shack LLC, also the name of a golf entertainment venue based in New York that opened its first North Carolina facility in Raleigh last year.” (Biz Journal)

  • South End biscuits: Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit opens today on Tremont Avenue in South End. “Charlotte’s local feature biscuit is the Queen Bee, a shortcake biscuit topped with South Carolina honey and turbinado sugar.” (Team coverage: Agenda, CharlotteFive, WBTV, Biz Journal)

  • NoDa restaurant: The Goodyear House opens Tuesday near 30th and North Davidson streets in NoDa. It’s “a neighborhood spot, where diners can come as they are.” (Team coverage: Agenda, Biz Journal, CharlotteFive, Unpretentious Palate)

Need to sign up for this e-newsletter? Here you go:

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.

Searchable archives available at https://charlotteledger.substack.com/archive.

On Twitter: @cltledger

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.