Panthers eye new stadium — and tax money

Plus: Ballantyne developer makes the case for town center; 'Truist' name approved; Why isn't uptown on a river?

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Tepper says his 10-year vision includes ‘new retractable-dome stadium with taxpayer help’

They say strong leaders lay out a vision, set goals, then work to make them happen.

And that seems to be what Panthers owner David Tepper is doing. His vision includes a new brand-new stadium in uptown Charlotte, paid for in part by taxpayers.

That’s the upshot of a piece published Tuesday in the Sports Business Journal (paywall). It marks the first time Tepper has admitted publicly that he wants a new Charlotte stadium — though many people have suspected that has been his plan since he bought the team last year:

[Tepper’s goal] also includes a 230-acre development in nearby Rock Hill, extensive renovations to Bank of America Stadium if the MLS bid is approved, possible construction of a soccer practice facility, turning the football practice facility into conference space and further uptown Charlotte development. Within a decade, he says, he hopes to build a new retractable-dome stadium, with taxpayer help, that would turn the city into a contender for every major concert tour and sporting event. …

Tepper has his eyes on the big prize: a new retractable-dome stadium in uptown Charlotte at some point in the next decade that would host the Panthers, an MLS team, a robust rotation of concerts, Final Fours and Super Bowls. 

He won’t do it without taxpayer help, which he said ought to be an easy sell considering the economic impact of an expanded, year-round schedule of events.

“At some point, I would make a big investment if I could get the state and others on board in a new stadium that would be great for soccer and great for football,” Tepper said.

The project does need public buy-in, he added, and it’s achievable.

“The economy’s big enough for a revenue tax, a hotel revenue increase that would go a long way to help pay for a new stadium,” Tepper said.

He already expertly wrung tax incentives out of South Carolina for the Rock Hill development tied to the team’s headquarters being relocated there and is starting to make a political pitch infused with Charlotte boosterism for a stadium.

“This state, this region, has to realize how great it can be,” Tepper said.

Last days of Bank of America Stadium? Tepper, whose net worth is $12B, says taxpayer contributions to a sweet new uptown football stadium “ought to be an easy sell” because the facility would be jam-packed with concerts and other big events.

Previously, Tepper had spoken favorably of putting a roof on the existing stadium.

The Charlotte way is to work behind the scenes with political leaders and make the case for tax money. As recently as just a few weeks ago, City Council members had been led to believe that Tepper was interested only in refurbishing the existing stadium.

Where would it go? As we wrote in May, the most obvious space for a new stadium might be the 50+ acres of Charlotte Pipe & Foundry land across Morehead Street from the existing stadium. Charlotte Pipe has made noises about leaving for a more rural destination befitting a pipe-manufacturing plant. Its long timeline to vacate could match up with Tepper’s long-range plan.

Of course, we’ve all known the Panthers would eventually have an ask. Now we’re getting closer to what it will be.

And there’s no reason to suppose that Tepper won’t get exactly what he wants.

A Ballantyne developer makes his case

This week, developer Northwood Office detailed plans for its huge town center project in Ballantyne – a mix of 2,200 apartments, 300 town homes, retail shops and restaurants totaling almost as much space as Park Road Shopping Center, 400,000 s.f. of office space, a grocery store, an amphitheater and parks.

It’s an attempt to create an urban village in one of Charlotte’s most stereotypically suburban areas. The plan – announced in June and modified this week – requires city approval for a rezoning of 455 acres.

On Tuesday, Northwood CEO John Barton spoke with the Ledger about his company’s ambitious plans and why they make sense for Ballantyne and for Charlotte. Remarks have been edited for space and clarity:

On why Northwood is developing the property: “It’s really all about making life better for people: more efficient, more amenities, more opportunities for engagement.”

On worries about traffic: “In terms of traffic, we are working very closely in ways to mitigate it. No one has more to gain or lose than Northwood. Unlike a developer that has one small parcel surrounded by a lot, we own everything. We have 17,000 people here in a very large investment, so it’s critical that we get it right.”

On the apartment rents or square footage: “It’s all going to be dependent on market demand. After we see what occurs with the lease-up of this impending residential building we are doing here, that will give us a pretty good indication. … When you look at the enhancement of the amenity base and the magnitude of the improvements and green space and the parks, this is going to be a really compelling residential opportunity for a lot of people. People will absolutely want to be here. It will be an unrivaled environment.”

On why he’s including affordable housing in the plans: “It’s an important aspect of living in the Charlotte community. We understand that, and we know it’s important to the mayor and the City Council and the county commission, and more importantly, to the people who live here. There is an intentional approach to inclusion in this project.”

On why Ballantyne should welcome affordable housing, after neighborhood opposition killed an affordable housing project nine years ago: “That’s police officers. Teachers. Firefighters. Who doesn’t want them in the neighborhood? It’s a good thing. You’re referencing the past. I wasn’t here during that context. A lot has changed. People’s views of the world have changed since then. People are open-minded to it. We need those types of people living in our communities to make them better.”

On the shops and restaurants in the development: “There’s been a lot of interest. After our meeting June 8, retailers came out of the woodwork. Our strong preference is to lead with some good local restaurateurs, farm-to-table type stuff. We’d like for it to have that local feel. There will be some national groups in there, I have no doubt, but that’s not the primary focus.”

On light rail: “We are very much in favor of light rail to Ballantyne for a number of reasons. … It allows people to get to more places with less congestion. We all recognize that takes some time to come to fruition. … It would be good to have it on both sides of the park if possible. … It would have to be a feasible plan that we can rely on.”

On Ballantyne’s recent addition of Lime scooters: “We just got them about two weeks ago. I haven’t seen any stats on usage. Anecdotally, I’ve seen people riding them around. The feedback so far has been good.”

On whether he has ridden a Lime scooter: “I had a bad moped accident a long time ago, and I will not get on one. After being covered with blood and having bones showing on my forearm, my days with that two-wheel stuff are over.”

On the transformative nature of the proposal: “With the creation of this retail boulevard and the stream park, we are enhancing these parks and areas where people can use the amenities more robustly. We are transforming the golf course and opening it up to many. It’s a good thing. … It’s a more inclusive environment that more people in Charlotte can enjoy. You and I, when we met at that soft launch, we were talking about dogs. There’s not a dog in Charlotte that’s isn’t going to love Ballantyne Reimagined! It will be the best place ever for dogs! Even dogs are going to be happy about Ballantyne.”

A few other notes about this massive Ballantyne project:

  • Affordable housing. Northwood said this week it plans to make 8% of the 2,200 apartments affordable for renters making 80% of the area’s median income. It’s hard to know exactly what that means for rents, and Barton said he wasn’t sure. Typically, the median income is a countywide figure. Quick back-of-the-envelope calculation: For a Mecklenburg County family of two, 80% of median income is $50,600, which would suggest monthly rents in the $1,200 to $1,300 range. Experts told the Ledger that renters taking advantage of low rents under this program would have to show evidence of their incomes. It is not Section 8 housing.

  • Roads. Northwood’s rezoning application, which the Ledger obtained from the city on Tuesday, includes tentative plans for new road networks around the development:

Paving the golf course: Northwood’s rezoning application details plans for new streets in red, orange and purple. I-485 is at the top. Ballantyne Commons Parkway is at the bottom.

For the full rezoning application, go to the Ledger’s website here. It’s where we put public records, long-form journalism and occasional breaking news.

  • Correction: Northwood’s rezoning application is expected to be heard by City Council by December at the earliest, and possibly not until 2020. (In Monday’s edition, we provided an incorrect timeline.)

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Charlotte, the landlocked city

Ever wonder why Charlotte, which is so close to the Catawba River, wasn’t started on the water? If early Charlotte settlers had built the downtown on the river, like founders of other cities did, imagine how cool the center city would be today.

Ely Portillo of UNC Charlotte’s Urban Institute did some digging:

The answer goes back to the city’s early days, when “Charlotte Town” was first settled by British colonists. They built their village at an intersection on the “Great Trading Path,” [historian Tom] Hanchett said, a route that had been used by the native people and a crossroads of which would later become Trade and Tryon Street. 

Why not put the new settlement on the river? Well, the river was miles from the trading path, and — worse by far — not a navigable passage for trading craft. 

“The function of rivers back in the day before railroads, before interstate highways, was as transportation,” said Hanchett. “The Catawba River is rocky, and there was not much point in building there if you could build somewhere better...And we had a better transportation route.”

Charlotte is above the “fall line,” or the geographic zone where the Piedmont meets the Atlantic coastal plain. Many cities grew on the fall line, where the navigable portions of rivers end, including Washington, D.C., Richmond, Va. and Augusta, Ga. 

Mecklenburg County’s plentiful streams supplied sufficient water for drinking, washing, cooking and other needs. At the time, a waterfront wasn’t seen as an economic development tool in its own right. 

“We now see rivers completely differently,” Hanchett said. “We now see them as leisure amenities.”

The full article is available here.

In brief

  • Shareholders approve merger, ‘Truist’ name: Shareholders of SunTrust and BB&T overwhelmingly approved the banks’ planned merger on Tuesday: 99% of SunTrust shareholders and 98% of BB&T shareholders voted in favor. Just 96% of shareholders voted to approve the name “Truist.” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Lawsuit settled: A former lawyer at the Charlotte law firm Robinson Bradshaw “has settled her fraud lawsuit accusing the firm of using minority lawyers as ‘diversity props,’” Bloomberg reported. “Sharika Robinson, a black former associate, filed her suit in March, claiming the law firm fraudulently uses its few minority lawyers to market itself as a ‘trailblazer,’ despite its mostly white male partnership.” Terms weren’t disclosed.

  • Bank jobs: Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, an international bank based in Tokyo, plans to hire 300 workers in Charlotte in the next 18 months. It opened an office in the WeWork space on South College Street uptown. (Biz Journal/paywall)

  • University City apartments: Panorama Holdings has broken ground on a 309-unit apartment complex by the University City Boulevard light rail station, to be called the Lumeo Apartments, the company said. They will feature “a resort-style saltwater pool with sun deck” and a “full fitness center with a yoga room.”

  • Nature Museum replacement: Discovery Place’s Nature museum by Freedom Park will close in 2020 for two years as it is knocked down and replaced by a museum twice the current size. (Observer)

  • Chancellor retiring: Chancellor Philip DuBois plans to retire in June 2020 after 15 years as the leader of UNC Charlotte, the UNC system’s third-largest school. (WFAE)

  • Amusing national read: Scooter companies such as Bird, Lime and Razor are getting annoyed by repo men who have “impounded thousands of dockless e-scooters around San Diego on behalf of business owners and landlords who are fed up with the deluge of dockless two-wheelers.” (The Verge)

Off the Clock

Low-key ideas for the weekend

Movies opening in Charlotte this weekend:
  • Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (PG-13): Sworn enemies team up

Highly rated movies now playing:
  • Toy Story 4 (G) (98% on Rotten Tomatoes)

  • Spider Man: Far From Home (PG-13) (90%)

  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (R) (84%)

  • Crawl (R) (83%)

  • Annabelle Comes Home (R) (64%)

Cheap getaways from CLT:
  • Charlotte to Austin, $137 round-trip on United (one-stop), Aug. 15-19.

  • Charlotte to Baltimore, $60 round-trip on Spirit (nonstop), Aug. 17-19.

  • Charlotte to Newark, $68 round-trip on Spirit (nonstop), Aug. 22-25.

  • Charlotte to Denver, $126 round-trip on American (nonstop), Aug. 23-26.

  • Charlotte to Monterey, Calif, $195 round-trip on American (one-stop), Aug. 23-26.

  • Charlotte to Reykjavik, Iceland, $469 round-trip on Delta (one-stop), Sept. 30-Oct. 7.

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

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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.