It’s crunch time for summer camp planning
Plus: History buffs want to keep Charlotte founder's name on park; Vote tonight on SouthPark development; Commercial properties lag in new values; Cotswold axe-throwing
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Today’s Charlotte Ledger is sponsored by T.R. Lawing Realty:
Expect higher prices and longer wait lists for some Charlotte-area camps this year; + tips for finding the right ones
by Cristina Bolling
For parents with school-aged kids, the process of booking summer camps typically starts around January as a nagging to-do list item and turns into full-fledged panic by March — especially for full-time working parents.
Some popular Charlotte-area summer camps say they’ve been filling up faster this year than in years past, with some even closing waitlists. Parents are reporting higher prices at some camps this year.
Summer camp planning is a heartburn-inducing matrix of needs for families that involves a variety of factors: family budgets, location and transportation, and often social questions like whether kids want to find a friend to go to camp with or whether they’re OK with certain camp themes.
Finding summer childcare “is like a part-time job” for parents, says Carolyn Hazeldine, chief operating officer of Child Care Resources, a Charlotte nonprofit that helps families navigate childcare choices. “Parents are experts at juggling family, work and life — and then comes summer.”
Child Care Resources focuses on helping families find year-round care, but Hazeldine knows well the challenges working parents face.
“All families working outside the home share a common challenge, and that is finding and affording quality childcare,” Hazeldine said. “In the summer, the cost for families of school-agers goes up significantly, because suddenly they face the need for full-time care and learning and enrichment. … Parents want to be sure that their children are spending their time in safe, healthy educational environments.”
Charlotte mom Anna Snowden has a front-row seat to the angst — and she is helping to calm it with a tool she has created to help Charlotte families.
Snowden, a Charlotte bank executive and mom to an 8-year-old son, Johnny, is organized by nature. So when Johnny entered elementary school and she needed to find care for the summer after kindergarten, she did her research early and put together an Excel spreadsheet of options.
Friends turned to her for advice. “They were like, ‘Give me all the goods,’” she laughs. She created a Google Doc that could be shared and added to as she learned of more camps and care options.
Then, she created the CLT Summer Camp, (Afterschool) Activities and No-School Days private Facebook page that now has 4,000 members.
Parents, grandparents and other caregivers log in to share information about camps or seek advice. Camp directors post information about their programs and links to signups.
Snowden expanded the focus to include posts about afterschool activities like music lessons or cooking clubs and ideas for care on days when schools are closed due to holidays or breaks.
She’s found there’s a cadence to camp registration in Charlotte, which she says starts when the Jewish Community Center, also known as the JCC, releases the brochure and registration for its “Camp Mindy” in December. It’s one of the earliest big camp programs to do so, she said.
“It kicks off this panic,” Snowden said, with parents wondering: “maybe I don’t want to do the JCC, but what if we don’t get in anywhere else?”
New Year’s sign-up: One extreme sign-up stress example is CLT Bike Camp, which teaches kids how to ride a bike and grows their biking skills. Sign-ups start at midnight on Jan. 1 — the second the ball drops in Times Square — and slots are typically gone by dawn.
“I had a girlfriend who stayed up for her 5-year-old to get in, and I got up at 8 a.m. and it was closed,” Snowden said.
Parents should expect higher camp prices this summer due to higher operating expenses, a spokesperson from the American Camp Association told The Ledger. Camps typically set their prices for the following summer in late August or fall.
Finding camps with modest prices: In Charlotte, some of the most modestly priced camp options include Mecklenburg County Park & Recreation camps, which start at about $100 per week depending on program and location. The YMCA of Greater Charlotte has a vast offering of traditional and specialty camps at many locations across the county with full and partial-day offerings at a variety of prices.
Some of the best camp values, parents say, are those offered by parks departments in the towns around Charlotte.
The town of Matthews offers traditional summer day camp called “Camp Funshine” for $190 per week for town residents or $200 for non-Matthews residents that includes field trips, swimming outings to a community pool, on-site craft activities, sports, games and outside play. Each week, campers go on field trips to places like trampoline parks, mini golf, the movies and Carowinds.
Like the YMCA, Matthews also offers a wide range of specialty camps including those with art and dance themes. (Specialty camps are typically pricier than traditional camps.)
In total, the town of Matthews has 1,733 open summer camp slots for summer 2023, and 49% were full as of last week, said Melissa Johnson, the town’s recreation manager.
The town of Pineville’s 8-week summer camp program filled up about a month quicker this year than last year, said Heather Creech, programs and events coordinator for the Pineville Parks & Recreation Department.
The camp lets Pineville residents sign up two weeks before non-residents, and some weeks, all 50 slots filled up with Pineville residents. There are about 15 kids on the waiting list most weeks, Creech said.
Some pointers from the pros: Snowden and others offer these tips if you’re still in the market for summer 2023 camps, or you will be in the years to come:
Start by talking to your kids. If there’s a special-interest type of camp that they want to try — and your budget can accommodate it — plan that week or two first and then work everything else around that. “If Suzie really wants to go to ballet camp, block out those two weeks first,” Snowden said.
Scope out budget-friendly options. Mecklenburg County Park & Rec camps are great lower-cost camps, Snowden said, but be aware that many locations fill up fast and you may have to choose a location that’s a little further from your house. Some locations take campers to Ray’s Splash Planet for swim time, so check on that as an option if it interests you.
The waitlist is your friend. Camps often offer generous refund or cancellation policies because they know that families’ schedules change based on vacations and other factors. So if you get waitlisted to a camp you were hoping for, there’s often still hope. “We will call people on the wait list up to the week prior,” said Melissa Johnson of the town of Matthews.
Check refund or cancellation policies. The downside to planning so far ahead is that plans can change. Some camps charge families upfront and refund a portion of the payment, while others take deposits or require payment closer to camp time. Make sure you’re comfortable with a policy before you sign up.
Pay attention to start and end times. Summer camps often have earlier pickup times than afterschool or daycare (many end at 4 p.m.), and some are only half-day camps. Some offer before- or after-camp care for an additional fee. You’ll want to budget in that extra care if you’ll need it.
Check the Charlotte Observer’s summer camp guide, which is broken down by themes and includes information about pricing and locations.
Cristina Bolling is managing editor of The Ledger: firstname.lastname@example.org
Today’s supporting sponsor is Landon A. Dunn, attorney-at-law in Matthews:
Renaming uptown park for Hugh McColl would ‘erase’ history, historical group says; favors keeping name of Charlotte founding father Thomas Polk
A group of local history buffs is questioning why the city is proposing to rename a small uptown park for banking titan Hugh McColl Jr., saying that the current name — Thomas Polk Park — honors the city’s most important founder.
In a letter sent Friday to City Council members, representatives of the Mecklenburg Historical Association and several other local historical groups say that they learned of the plans to overhaul and rename the park only last week from news reports.
While the letter says that “McColl is very deserving of accolades,” it wonders: “Must we once more tear down a part of our history?”
Polk was an early settler of this region, arriving in 1753, and built his house at what is now the corner of Trade and Tryon streets — the site of the 0.3-acre park that bears his name (for now). He brawled with loyalists, led soldiers in the Revolutionary War and was involved with the group that authored the 1775 Mecklenburg Resolves, which expressed exasperation with Britain before the Declaration of Independence.
McColl, the former CEO of Bank of America, is widely credited with building Charlotte into a banking center and a modern city through his business deals, civic involvement and philanthropy.
The letter says that Polk Park…
celebrates Charlotte’s historic location, the Square, the site of Native American crossroads, and The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence and Resolves. Do you really want to erase that history?
The letter asks a series of questions about how and why a private group is allowed to change the name of a park that is owned by the city. “Can anyone raise $10,000,000 and come up with a naming opportunity?” it says. It says that if the park is to be renamed for McColl that the city should honor Polk in another way.
The plan to renovate and rename the park was first revealed publicly at last Monday’s City Council meeting, at which council members voted to approve $350,000. That’s part of a $10M fundraising campaign by a private group composed of uptown movers-and-shakers including former city councilwoman Cyndee Patterson, Bank of America market president Kieth Cockrell, former CEO of Foundation for the Carolinas Michael Marsicano, former Charlotte Observer publisher Rolfe Neill and Charlotte Center City Partners CEO Michael Smith.
At the meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Braxton Winston said that the park is an underutilized city asset that has been poorly maintained. He said it has few places to congregate, the water feature doesn’t work, the lighting is poor and a “persistent pest problem exists, particularly large rats.” Council members said there had been behind-the-scenes discussions about the public-private partnership for several months.
In addition to his business and civic leadership over the last several decades, McColl has supported the political campaigns of several members of the City Council, including Winston.
On Monday night, after the council approved the $350,000, Charlotte Center City Partners sent out a news release about the project. It quoted Malcomb Coley, Charlotte managing partner for accounting firm EY, saying: “It’s hard to think of anyone who has done more for this city than Hugh McColl.”
It quoted Patterson saying: “The project offers the perfect opportunity to showcase our cultural renaissance and to acknowledge the unparalleled leadership of Hugh McColl. It’s a win-win!”
In a statement to The Ledger on Sunday, Charlotte Center City Partners CEO Michael Smith said he spoke with a Thomas Polk family representative before the council vote last week and pledged to involve them and others in the process of designing the park, which could still honor Polk and other parts of Charlotte’s history.
“Community input is going to be an important part of the design process of this park,” he said. “We will make sure all voices are heard including historical associations, residents, businesses and others.” —TM
Related Ledger articles:
“Historical Heavyweights: a frontiersman who became Charlotte’s most important founding father,” (Oct. 2, 2021)
“Hugh McColl’s second act,” (Dec. 5, 2020)
Weigh in our our totally unscientific reader poll:
Let’s be nosy and look at new property values of some well-known Charlotte businesses
Mecklenburg’s property revaluations came out Friday, and if you’re wondering why your home’s property taxes are almost certain to rise, look no further than what’s happening with commercial property.
As we wrote Friday, the county has said that 85% of homeowners can expect higher property taxes, even under a “revenue neutral” tax rate. That’s because unlike 2019’s revaluation, commercial properties rose in value more slowly than residential properties. The properties rising fastest in value will shoulder most of the increased tax burden.
The county told us Friday that it won’t have the “revenue neutral” tax rate until budget discussions in May.
We scoped out the new values of several commercial properties over the weekend — mostly because we’re nosy, but also because you can see some trends in property values: Several local shopping malls fell in value, and other big commercial properties rose slowly or fell — while a lot of well-known small businesses rose sharply in value (especially in hot areas like South End).
Oh, and Charlotte’s country clubs are evidently falling into disrepair, with their values flat or plunging. (We’ll see if we can get an explanation on that.)
Determining values of some commercial properties is tough, as they are supposed to be based on comparable sales — but there are few if any local sales of big shopping malls, prestigious country clubs or professional football stadiums.
Here’s what we found, as it appears on the county’s website:
Up in value:
⬆️ Old Sycamore Brewing site (South End), $10,035,200, up 235%
⬆️ Building containing Providence Sundries (Myers Park), $2,923,100, up 144%
⬆️ VanLandingham Estate (Plaza-Midwood), $3,714,000, up 143%
⬆️ main parcel of the former Price's Chicken Coop (South End), $1,204,700, up 101%
⬆️ Seaboard Brewing (Matthews), $1,304,000, up 58%
⬆️ Pinky’s Westside Grill (“FreeMoreWest”), $992,300, up 42%
⬆️ Green’s Lunch site (uptown), $816,700, up 40%
⬆️ Bank of America Stadium (uptown), $270 million, up 26%
⬆️ StoneCrest at Piper Glen shopping center (Ballantyne), $90,662,800, up 13%
⬆️ Bank of America Corporate Center (uptown), $369,306,700, up 5%
⬆️ One Wells Fargo Center (uptown), $204,040,600, up 3%
⬆️ Myers Park Country Club, $16,540,700, up 0.2%
Down in value:
⬇️ The Ballantyne hotel (Ballantyne), $42,229,200, down 3%
⬇️ Carolina Place Mall (Pineville), $156,867,500, down 4%
⬇️ Excelsior Club site (west Charlotte), $285,000, down 8%
⬇️ Northlake Mall (near Huntersville), $133,570.700, down 11%
⬇️ Main SouthPark Mall parcel (SouthPark), $273,933,700, down 15%
⬇️ Charlotte Country Club (Plaza-Midwood), $12,272,300, down 21%
⬇️ Carmel Country Club, $16,976,200, down 26%
⬇️ Quail Hollow Club, $9,886,500, down 27%
You have one you’d like us to look up? Shoot us a note, and we’ll share more in a future newsletter.
➡️ You can look up your property’s new value (and others) at the county’s revaluation site.
Decision expected tonight on controversial SouthPark rezoning; odds seem to favor it
The City Council is expected to vote tonight on a contentious rezoning proposal in SouthPark, where a developer would like to build 730 apartments.
The plans by The Related Group also include 60,000 s.f. of retail and restaurants and 24 for-sale townhomes by the intersection of Colony and Roxborough roads. Some neighbors in nearby Barclay Downs have objected, citing concerns about traffic and building heights of up to 164’ on the Roxborough side.
However, city staff and an advisory committee are supporting the rezoning on the 9-acre site, which now contains 118 condos at a complex called Trianon. The City Council typically follows those recommendations, although at a recent meeting, a couple council members were critical of the process. —TM
Related Ledger articles:
“Another tower planned for SouthPark” (🔒, May 10, 2022)
“Some notes of skepticism, and testy exchanges, in SouthPark meeting about plans for 700+ apartments” (🔒, Dec. 9, 2022)
Axe-throwing comes to Cotswold
FOOD, SELF-SERVE BEER, AXES: Hot dog and self-pour beer chain restaurant Crave opened last week at Cotswold Village Shops – and it has two axe-throwing lanes. The restaurant’s website says players throw “real axes at our digital targets.” The axe-throwing is for ages 18+ and Crave says: “Our boards are non-bounce back so there’s no risk of the axes ricocheting back at guests or other players.” As of late last week, the self-pour beer wall was not operational because of permitting. A Ledger reader who ate there Thursday told us: “I had a hot dog and BBQ sandwich and they were OK.”
You might be interested in these Charlotte events
Events submitted by readers to The Ledger’s events board:
THROUGH WEDNESDAY: Savor Charlotte. Discover can’t miss hands-on classes and demonstrations from industry trendsetters, exclusive menus from tastemakers and special offers from top restaurateurs. This is the story of Charlotte told by the culinary artists who call Charlotte home. Pricing options vary.
THURSDAY: Coffee with the Chamber, 8:30-9:30 a.m., Hyatt Centric SouthPark, 3100 Apex Drive. Join the Charlotte Area Chamber of Commerce for an hour of informal networking. Join us for coffee and make some new connections! Free.
◼️ Check out the full Ledger events board.
➡️ List your event on the Ledger events board.
Tougher rioting penalties: Gov. Roy Cooper said he will allow a bill to become law that will toughen punishments for rioting. (Associated Press)
Ballantyne bridge demolition: Crews from the N.C. Department of Transportation are starting to demolish the bridge that takes Ballantyne Commons Parkway over I-485. The process will take at least four weeks and will be done at night. Traffic is using a new bridge. (Fox 46)
Banking crisis news:
Swiss bank regulators engineered a deal for UBS to buy Credit Suisse for $3.2B on Sunday. But the move seems to have done little to quell fears about the fragility of the banking sector. One analyst said: “It should be clear that after more than a week into the banking panic, and two interventions organized by the authorities, this problem is not going away. Quite the contrary, it has gone global.”
Without citing a source, a billionaire hedge fund manager said on Twitter that he heard Bank of America would buy failed Signature Bank today, but the report could not be confirmed.
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:
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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