Lowe's tech reaction — and the view from Dallas

Plus: Hornets join video-game league; New Siskey settlement; Krispy Kreme confirms South End plans

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Reactions to 2,000-job tech hub mostly positive, but grumblings about traffic and architecture

The more you think about it, the more this Lowe’s tech hub news sounds like a big honkin’ deal. It underscores several different trends — growth in Charlotte tech jobs, growth in center city office space — while adding up to 2,000 high-paying jobs in Charlotte’s economy, giving rise to a sparkling new 23-story tower whose effects on local real estate will be profound, all while putting the city on the map nationally as a destination for tech workers.

Not bad.

The new Lowe’s tower will stand above everything else in South End.

Reaction on the internet yesterday — which is never a reliable indicator of actual opinion — was mostly positive. There were some grumblings about the building’s architecture and the effect on parking and traffic.

From Twitter:

  • “The overall design looks very mismatched and somewhat old-fashioned.”

  • “It fits. The area has a history of industrial design, which is picked up by the brick.”

  • “Beautiful building, but it will turn South End into a Yogi Berra quote: ‘Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.’ Lunch waits too long. Traffic too congested. Trains more crowded.”

  • “Another huge, ugly parking deck with a bit of a building attached. Reduce the parking and bury most or all of what you keep. Break the Charlotte mold — please!”

Some people online complained about the parking deck attached to the back of the building (to the left of the tower).

From Urban Planet:

  • “This will raise the bar in this area, and buildings will start going much higher.”

  • “Don’t want to be that guy, but are we going to ignore that God-awful parking deck because the building is so damn sexy?”

  • “I don’t think this height fits in the Design Center very well and will be a traffic nightmare.”

  • “This very well could be the priciest office tower in Charlotte. The detailing on the top is sooooo expensive.”

WBTV went up to Mooresville, where Lowe’s is headquartered, and asked around there what people thought:

“Really a win-win for the Charlotte region,” said chairman of the Iredell County Board of Commissioners, James B. Mallory III. “They’re looking for a work force that is I.T.-oriented, which is going to be younger millennials, and Charlotte certainly has the cool factor for young millennials to be attracted to. … It’s a good news story for North Carolina because it’s not going to another state like Texas.”

But some residents around town, the station reported, said the tech hub should have gone somewhere besides Charlotte — like, oh, say, Mooresville (population 38,000).

Other Mooresville residents though said they wished Lowe’s chose to base the tech hub in Mooresville, instead of expanding in Charlotte. They said it would have helped boost Mooresville’s economy and mentioned that Charlotte was already overcrowded.

Would urban hipsters like these have been attracted to a rooftop terrace in Mooresville? Not likely.

And then, of course, there was the reaction from Dallas, which was Charlotte’s competition for the tech hub. Dallas had been talking a big game about its odds to land it but fell short:

Lowe’s decision “is disappointing for us," said Mike Rosa, senior vice president of economic development at the Dallas Regional Chamber. “We always want to win opportunities to bring great companies, jobs and investment here, and we are accustomed to doing so.”

Rosa noted that Dallas was the only other finalist. 

“I’m certain Lowe’s recognized and thoroughly evaluated all we have to offer before deciding to grow in Charlotte,” he said. “The Dallas region has benefited greatly when headquarters companies such as American Airlines, Texas Instruments, AT&T and others decided to grow at home.” …

Charlotte is obviously closer to its Mooresville, N.C. headquarters, but Dallas has a larger pool of talent and the local officials believed Dallas had a good chance. Dallas-Fort Worth has 350,000 tech employees, compared with Charlotte’s 101,377, according to CompTIA, the computing industry's trade association.

Maybe some of those abundant tech workers in Dallas can move up here for work.

History lesson: South End

When I was growing up in Wilmore back in the 1950s and 1960s, we viewed South Boulevard as sort of a no man’s land of aging industrial and commercial buildings between Tremont Avenue and Remount Road. …

What I remember most is the noise from the mill’s machinery. It was so loud we couldn’t hear each other talk until we got to Tremont Avenue.

The Historic South End name didn’t arrive until 1994, when Tony Pressley of MECA Properties and Mary Hopper of the Dilworth Community Development Association announced from the Atherton Mill that they would urge city leaders and businesses in the area to adopt it. …

In a few years South End will look as different to our descendants as it does today to those of us who remember the west side before South End.

— Former Charlotte Observer growth and development columnist Doug Smith, May 21, 2008.

The Hornets plan to pay young people $33,000/year, plus retirement plan and housing, to play video games

One of the hallmarks of good communication is speaking in a way that everybody can understand. Marketers try to sell products, which is fine — but sometimes they resort to jargon to try to reframe concepts. And sometimes those efforts get in the way of plain talk.

Nowhere is this phenomenon more apparent in what is now being called “esports,” which used to be known as “playing video games.” Young people are engaging in spirited competitions for money, universities are handing out scholarships, and it’s all OK because it’s not “playing video games” — it’s “esports.”

If you’ve ever had discussions with friends over whether golf and bowling are actual sports, “esports” takes that debate to a whole new level.

Now, the Charlotte Hornets are getting into the act and on Thursday, we’re told, they “unveiled the branding around its new venture into esports.” From the Business Journal (paywall):

[Hornets Sports & Entertainment] released its new NBA 2K League team’s logo and name, Hornets Venom GT, which will begin play in 2020, the league’s third season. Hornets Venom GT is the 22nd team in the league, all of which correspond with NBA teams. …

“Imagine a 15-to-21-year-old fan of basketball is consuming content in a very different way than the last generation did,” [league managing director Brendan] Donohue said.

A lot of us have teens at home who are “consuming content” in this way — and it’s not books. The article goes on:

Hornets Venom GT’s players will live in Charlotte and receive a salary between $33,000 and $37,000, Donohue said. He also said the players will receive benefits, a retirement plan and housing from the team.

While most NBA 2K League games are currently played at the NBA 2K Studio in Long Island City, New York, Donohue said the league expects to branch out more and bring events to cities like Charlotte as the league grows. In the meantime, the team will be involved in community events and engagement to connect with local fans.

Translation: The Hornets will be employing people to play video games against players from other cities. There is an NBA-sponsored league for them. And it’s all good, because there’s money behind it, and sponsors are lining up to insert marketing messages into young brains via video games. Great.

On the other hand, with Kemba Walker possibly heading to the Boston Celtics, maybe the Hornets need to sign all the “athletes” they can get.

New Siskey settlement

The trustee in Rick Siskey’s bankruptcy case has reached a settlement with former Charlotte businessman Richard LaVecchia, according to court documents filed Thursday.

LaVecchia, the former owner of seafood distributor Poseidon Seafood, had invested $1.5M with Siskey but had withdrawn nearly $1.7M from his accounts. He agreed to return half of his earnings, nearly $91,000, documents show.

Siskey committed suicide in 2016 after accusations surfaced that he was running a Ponzi scheme. Most of his investors lost money, but they are expected to recover around 90% of their losses. There’s no insinuation that those who made money did anything wrong, the bankruptcy trustee has told the Ledger.

Some people might recognize the LaVecchia name, as his brother owned LaVecchia’s Seafood Grille uptown before it closed in 2012.

In brief

  • BofA caves on detention centers: Bank of America said Thursday that it will no longer provide financing to companies linked to immigrant detention centers and private prisons. “The bank has decided to ‘exit the relationships’ it has with companies that provide detention services at the state and federal level and has been discussing the issue ‘for some time,’” according to USA Today. JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo adopted similar postures this year.

  • How Tepper is pushing soccer: Good read in Sports Illustrated this week on how Panthers owner David Tepper is laying the groundwork to win a Major League Soccer team for Charlotte.

Food and booze news

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

  • French surrender: Restaurants Aix en Provence in Myers Park and Le Cochon d’Or in Waxhaw have closed, with the owners declining to specify what happened. (Charlotte magazine)

  • Deli closing one of seven local locations: Jason’s Deli is shutting its store near UNC Charlotte at the end of June. (Observer)

  • German brewer interested in Charlotte: Gilde is making plans to open a massive brewery in Charlotte, though it sounds as though it’s in the early stages, with no site selected. (Observer)

  • Brewery/bakery mash-up: “Birdsong Brewing Co. and Amelie’s French Bakery are pairing up for a second year of macaron-and-beer collaborations. This year, the Amelie’s seasonal sorbet macaron, Strawberry Passion Fruit Sorbet Sandwiches, will be brewed into beer form as a tart fruit ale, Passion Play.” (Queen City Nerve)

  • Eat your vegetables: “Arby’s is making carrots out of meat. Yes, meat.” (Fast Company)

  • New BBQ restaurant: Noble Smoke plans to open July 25 on Freedom Drive, serving “Carolina-style pork and Texas-style brisket with seasonal vegetables and Southern side dishes.” (Team coverage: Charlotte magazine, Charlotte Agenda, Observer, CharlotteFive)

Update: Krispy Kreme reveals South End plans

We told you a couple weeks ago about Krispy Kreme’s new corporate offices in South End, and how, looking at site plans, it appeared to be more than offices. The site plan showed the U-shaped doughnut conveyor belt, plans for a store and a room mysteriously labeled “The O.G.”

Now, Katherine Peralta of the Observer, who was afforded a tour of the building at 2116 Hawkins St., fills in some of the (doughnut) holes:

By the end of the year, the Winston-Salem-based doughnut maker will open a 4,500-square-foot retail shop toward the front of its building where customers can test limited edition donuts and offer feedback on what kind of recipes the bakery chain should try next. …

In the facility’s test kitchen, white-coat workers experiment with recipes using different flavors, toppings and fillings — bags of Skittles, Kit Kats and chocolate-covered espresso beans sitting on a table nearby are evidence of recent experiments. …

At Krispy Kreme’s shop attached to its South End offices, customers will be able to try limited edition recipes made onsite, [chief marketing officer David] Skena said. Some of the limited flavors the company has tried before include blueberry glaze, lemon glaze and pumpkin spice. …

Experimentation is the specialty at the Charlotte test kitchen, but that doesn’t mean Krispy Kreme is getting away from its most popular doughnut, the original glazed. Employees call it the “OG,” as in, “We don’t want to mess with the OG,” Skena said.

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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.