South Charlotte land crunch limits school sites

Plus: NFL RedZone outage on U-verse is about to get real; Another tech hub on the way; New dog bar near frozen aisle

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The area is so developed that hardly any tracts are suitable for a new high school, local brokers say

We all know that south Charlotte has been developing at a rapid pace. First there was Ballantyne. Then Blakeney. Now Rea Farms and Waverly. And plenty of subdivisions that fill in the gaps.

But you might not appreciate just how little undeveloped land there is in south Charlotte. Get this: Local real-estate brokers say there are only five privately owned parcels in south Charlotte that might be big enough to accommodate a new high school. Five.

And the ones that exist would likely cost millions of dollars just for the raw land — if the owners were even willing to sell to the school district instead of continuing to hang onto their investments.

“It is hard to find 60 acres for a 2,500-student school in S. Charlotte,” school board member Sean Strain told the Ledger in an email. In addition to privately owned parcels, there are some government-owned pieces of land in the area that might be suitable, but it’s tough.

Limited options: Big tracts of undeveloped private land are scarce in south Charlotte.

That shortage of undeveloped land helps explain why Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools appears interested in building a new high school at the site of Olde Providence Elementary School on Rea Road. It already owns that property, which includes baseball fields and woods.

CMS has pledged to build a new high school somewhere in south Charlotte to help relieve South Meck and Ardrey Kell, and possibly Myers Park. Voters approved bond money for school construction in 2017, and the district earmarked $110M for a high school in the area.

CMS had been mum about possible sites until last week, when residents of Olde Providence heard a bulldozer knocking down trees in the woods to test the soil there. District officials confessed that yes, they are considering Olde Providence as a high-school site, but they denied any decisions have been made. Residents there like the woods and would prefer not to have a high school right behind them.

Why it matters: The location is important to just about everybody with kids or a house in south Charlotte — because the location will help determine attendance boundaries of all public school children in the area. School boundaries have been shown to have an effect on property values.

But where else might CMS build a high school?

Here’s what we know: CMS has stayed mostly tight-lipped. Strain told the Ledger last week there are four sites that are possibilities: Olde Providence, a county-owned site and two that are privately owned. Olde Providence is the northernmost of the four, he said.

To deduce where the others might be, the Ledger turned to commercial real-estate brokers. Real-estate brokers are to land development what CSI is to murder scenes. But instead of using Luminol, brokers use computers with land databases and property records.

We asked Forde Britt of Land Advisors for a list of parcels that are more than 20 acres and are south of Pineville-Matthews road. Even that size is pretty small — CMS high schools in south Charlotte range between 52 acres (South Meck) and 70 acres (Myers Park). Olde Providence is 40 acres and includes an elementary school.

How hard is it to find a good site for a high school in south Charlotte? “It’s essentially a unicorn,” Britt said.

Britt came up with a list of five privately owned parcels — the most logical of which, he said, is a 37-acre wooded tract off Blakeney Heath Road behind Community House Middle School. Real-estate scuttlebutt indicates the owner has been open to selling in the past.

Details: For the full breakdown of the other possible sites, go to the Ledger’s website. We break it down with photos and maps. (To avoid reading the same thing twice, skip down to the photos and maps.)

In related high school/land development news:

  • Ace WSOC reporter Joe Bruno filmed additional soil testing at Olde Providence this week, and the South Charlotte Recreation Association told him that it would have to close if the site’s athletic fields were eliminated.

  • A south Charlotte parent told the Ledger that former CMS Superintendent Clayton Wilcox told a meeting on school overcrowding in April that the district was likely to build a high school at Olde Providence.

Where do you think CMS should build a new high school? Share your ideas at, and we will run the responses soon. Bonus points for creativity.

Attention: You might not have NFL RedZone

Football season is upon us, so it’s almost time to start tuning in to NFL Network and NFL Red Zone, right?

Not if you have AT&T’s U-verse. In case you weren’t paying much attention to football news in April, AT&T got rid of the channels — and they haven’t returned. They’re not just blacked out. They don’t exist on the U-verse channel guide. A Ledger reader reports: “It was like the Avengers — just disappeared.”

It’s one of those annoying cable TV carriage disputes in which viewers suffer.

In April, the NFL said:

As of earlier this week NFL Network and NFL RedZone are no longer available to AT&T U-Verse subscribers or DTV Now subscribers. While the NFL remains committed to negotiating renewed agreements on fair and equitable terms, AT&T has not been willing to actively engage.

The NFL is urging AT&T customers to call AT&T and demand the channels. RedZone has revolutionized the way people watch football, so that might actually happen once people realize they have to watch an entire football game, commercials and all. That experience could be particularly intolerable if Cam doesn’t get out of that walking boot soon.

These disputes usually get resolved before too long, but this one has been going on for for four months. Yikes.

Pro tip: The Panthers are offering NFL RedZone on smartphones to PSL holders this season at no extra charge. They sent an email with instructions and an access code last week.

Harris Teeter dog bar

Dogs can hang out in bars. Some Harris Teeters have bars. Therefore, dogs can hang out at Harris Teeter?

Time to up your game, South End: Dogs are now chillin’ at the bar of the Cotswold Harris Teeter.

In brief

  • Truist tech center: There’s been a lot of tech news in town lately, but don’t forget about another tech hub that’s on the way — from Truist. The bank announced its HQ location in the Hearst Tower, but it hasn’t announced where its Innovation and Technology Center will be, a spokesman tells the Ledger: “They are still trying to figure that out with a million other things.” He said it might be in Hearst or somewhere else uptown. The bank also hasn’t disclosed the tech center’s size.

  • Lincoln Harris payday: Highwoods Properties of Raleigh has agreed to buy the 33-story Bank of America Tower at the Legacy Union development on South Tryon Street. Sales price is a cool $436M, or $510 per s.f. The building was developed by Lincoln Harris and Goldman Sachs. The purchase is a vote of confidence in the uptown office market. (Biz Journal)

  • Pedestrian bridge, presented by US Bank: US Bank said it is kicking in $1M to help build an $11.5M bridge across I-277 alongside the light rail line that will accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists and (of course) e-scooter riders. “There will be some sort of recognition” of the bank’s contribution on the bridge, but specifics will be determined in the design process, a US Bank spokesman told the Ledger. Construction is expected to start by 2021.

  • Proof that most ranking stories are junk: “Study: Myrtle Beach is the second most romantic city in America.” (WMBF)

Food and booze news

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

  • Amelie’s moving: The bakery’s flagship location is moving within NoDa to 136 E. 36th Street, a mile away from its existing location, in the spring. (CharlotteFive, Agenda, Biz Journal.) The Ledger broke the story behind the story of Amelie’s departure in June.

  • Optimist Hall fried chicken: Boxcar Betty’s, a small Charleston-based chain that serves a “gourmet fried chicken sandwich,” plans to open in the new Optimist Hall in December. “Expect chicken sandwiches, classic Southern side dishes, salads, desserts and a kid’s menu. Vegetarians can swap the chicken for a fried portobello mushroom cap stuffed with pimiento cheese.” (Agenda)

  • Grilled cheese in Optimist Hall: Also in Optimist Hall will be Papi Queso, “a beloved grilled cheese food truck,” opening next month. “Look for an expanded menu that’ll likely include mozzarella sticks and slushies along with their signature grilled cheeses.” (Agenda)

  • Pumpkin on the menu: “These Pumpkin Treats Are Arriving in Charlotte, Whether You Like It or Not.” (Charlotte magazine)

Robot food delivery

For a vision of the future, look to San Francisco. From TechCrunch:

Postmates has officially received the green light from the city of San Francisco to begin testing its Serve wheeled delivery robot on city streets. …

The permit doesn’t cover the entire city — just a designated area of a number of blocks in and around Potrero Hill and the Inner Mission, but it will allow Postmates to begin testing up to three autonomous delivery robots at once, at speeds of up to 3 mph. Deliveries can only take place between 8 AM and 6:30 PM on weekdays, and a human has to be on hand within 30 feet of the vehicles while they’re operating. Still, it’s a start. …

Like many short-distance delivery robots of its ilk, it includes a lockable cargo container and screen-based user interface for eventual autonomous deliveries to customers. The competitive field for autonomous rolling delivery bots is growing continuously, with companies like Starship Technologies, Amazon and many more throwing their hats in the ring.

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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.