South End booms, but where to park?

Plus: How LendingTree founder knew his idea worked; Ballers merchandise flying off shelves; The Arlington dressed as 'Grease' character for Halloween

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As cranes rise over South End, traffic and parking become challenging; ‘the city is coming at us’

From his home behind the Lowe’s on South Boulevard, Steve Khentigan likes what he sees about the growth in nearby South End. The Charlotte Rail Trail, he says, is awesome. The new residential buildings, he says, are cool. The scores of new restaurants and breweries make the place lively.

But there’s one outgrowth of the area’s relentless development that he detests. Sometimes, the two-mile drive to the Dowd YMCA can take 20 minutes. “The traffic is brutal,” he says. “The city is coming at us.”

South End is growing like crazy. Its population density of 11 people per acre has increased by 22 times since 2000, according to figures from Charlotte Center City Partners, and it’s expected to increase again by 60% in the next six years. Warehouses, industrial buildings and vacant lots are giving way to dining and drinking hot-spots, luxury apartments and new office towers. On Wednesday, developers announced a new 23-story office tower by Tupelo Honey and the East/West Boulevard light rail stop. (The Ledger reported Monday that something big seemed imminent at the site.) It’s the eighth building of 150+ feet under construction or development in South End.

As uptown spreads into South End, though, it’s accompanied by urban-style headaches. Other fast-growing areas of town might soon have similar experiences: High-rises are on the way to SouthPark and Ballantyne, and uptown is spilling outside of the I-277 loop in all directions.

People interviewed in South End this week said they like all the new development but wish there were a solution for parking and traffic:

  • “There’s a lot of people around, so it’s going to be hard, especially on the weekend. It brings a lot of people, and it’s hard to park.” — Michael Peart, 47, who works at a South End restaurant.

  • “It stinks right now. They need to put more parking around here. It’s getting too built up not to have parking.” — Bobby Helms, 56, a construction worker from Concord.

  • “The construction has made it a lot worse. It’s just a pain in the butt.” — Leah Gunter, 22, catering company worker.

Just like uptown: Unending construction and the emergence of hot spots in South End can make it tricky to find somewhere to park.

Rise of paid parking: Parking that was once easily available on streets can now be hard to find. The city installed meters a few years ago on some of the most popular streets. And pay lots are starting to take off. Preferred Parking lists about a dozen pay lots in South End, from the Design Center’s parking deck that charges $15 a day to a gravel lot across from Sycamore Brewing that costs $5.

More cars are driving through the area, too, according to city traffic counts:

City traffic data show that traffic along Tryon Street in South End has nearly doubled in 10 years and that traffic on South Boulevard (near Mr. K’s) rose 20% between 2010 and 2016. The city doesn’t measure traffic at every intersection every year. (Source: City of Charlotte.)

Of course, concerns about parking and traffic are worries only to those who use cars. Planners have sought to make the area ideal for pedestrians and bike-riders, and of course the light rail line cutting through South End provides a non-car option. So do scooters.

Michael Smith, CEO of Charlotte Center City Partners, which helps with the planning of South End and considers it part of the center city, tells the Ledger that area is a “district in transformation.” “It places great value on becoming one of the most walkable, bikeable, transit-oriented centers in our city,” he says. “We are going through a transformation. There is going to be a lot of construction.”

Historic link: Smith says it might seem as though South End’s development has been rapid but that visionaries have been planting the seeds for 25 years. Key moments included bringing community leaders together to develop a plan and the big investment in light rail, which drew new development as well as redevelopment of old buildings. Historically, it has never made sense that the city’s central employment district should stop at Stonewall Street, Smith says.

Khentigan, the nearby resident, says he tries not to worry about the area’s growing pains: “It’s just part of the deal. If you want to live in a city, you’re going to have to deal with traffic.”

Lebda on LendingTree’s first customers

You might have heard the story about how Charlotte-based LendingTree started — how a young Doug Lebda, frustrated with the complexities and cost of getting a mortgage, figured there had to be a better way.

He founded Charlotte’s original fintech company in the mid-1990s, and he’s now chairman and CEO of a thriving $1B company that’s an online financial marketplace for mortgages and other financial products.

LendingTree CEO Doug Lebda (right) told a crowd at Northeastern University’s uptown campus that one source of entrepreneurial inspiration was that “getting a $55,000 mortgage was a pain in the ass.” Pictured with Dan Roselli, co-founder of the Charlotte entrepreneurial hub Packard Place.

On Wednesday, Lebda gave a talk at Northeastern University’s uptown campus, and he shared a story about the moment he first knew he was onto something:

Imagine you’re a first-year business school student. I’m 26 years old. I had finally gotten an investor who said he’d give me $10,000 … First, I had to show him that customers would show up.

I ran $500 in ads on Yahoo [for] a company named Bankwire — that was our name at the time. [It was] one webpage that a friend built that basically said, “Fill out this form, and we’ll have banks compete for your business.” We had no banks.

So I’m sitting in class, in business school. And emails start flying in. This thing, all it did is it took all your information and sent it to me in an email. And it was your home address, Social Security number — every piece of data you could ever imagine, and I had hundreds of them.

And I’m like, “This thing works!”

And I sent everybody back a nice email that said, “I’m very sorry. We don’t have any lenders that match your specific criteria.”

And I used that data to go sign up my first lender. [We thought] if we can make it work for $500, imagine how we could make it work for $50 million. And that’s how we got that pump primed.

Loves me some internet: Skyscraper Halloween

Twitterer CLT Development got busy with Photoshop on Thursday to imagine what some of Charlotte’s most recognizable buildings might look like if they wore costumes for Halloween:

Others in the series include Optimist Hall as the Transformer Optimus Prime and 1 Bank of America Center as an Amazon package.

View from Raleigh: Charlotte is ‘highway rest stop that got out of hand’

A columnist with the Raleigh News & Observer went out of his way this week to praise Charlotte for how it’s handling its challenges with upward mobility. But he couldn’t resist first taking a swipe at us:

I bow to no one in my indifference toward Charlotte. The Queen City has always seemed more like a highway rest stop that got out of hand, less of a municipality than an IKEA outpost. Sure, it’s a global banking center and the home of NASCAR. But people there think “downtown” is spelled “uptown,” and that’s just silly.

So please know how much it pains me to say this: we have a lot to learn from Charlotteans, at least when it comes to public policy.

The column went on to say that civic leaders in the Raleigh area seem mostly indifferent to addressing such challenges there — preferring (paraphrasing here) to luxuriate in their soulless tract housing in suburban Raleigh when not making an appearance at their cushy university or government jobs:

Raleigh clocked in as 48th worst in the country for economic mobility, statistically indistinguishable from our Mecklenburg cousins. Yet there’s been no comparable mobilization of civic leaders here, no all-hands-on-deck effort to figure out why poor children stay poor and what we can do about it.

Hot rezoning round-up for October

The latest batch of Charlotte rezoning applications is out, and developers disclosed plans for …

Nearly 200 apartments for college students in University City … 124 townhomes near Mallard Creek High School … 21 townhomes on Providence Road West in Ballantyne … 405 apartments off University City Boulevard. And uptown’s Legacy Union wants permission to add a “valet-drop off.”

The most intriguing rezoning petition might be a six-parcel site between Optimist Park and Villa Heights, at 21st Street at North Davidson. Wood Partners wants to upzone nearly three acres on six parcels to the most intense transit-oriented use, TOD-UC, which can allow buildings of up to 300 feet tall. The company declined to provide a comment to the Ledger about what’s in the works. Wood has a couple apartment developments in Optimist Park.

The full list is at the bottom of this issue of the Ledger. (You might think rezoning is boring, but some people really dig this stuff.)

In brief

  • Ballers merchandise a hit: The Kannapolis Cannon Ballers have extended the run of the team’s pop-up store by several weeks after an “overwhelming response” from fans, the Concord Independent Tribune reported. But some are sad that the team is dropping its “Intimidators” name, the nickname of racing legend Dale Earnhardt: It’s “a little like saying the Yankees are out of the Bronx,” Humpy Wheeler wrote in the letter to the paper’s editor.

  • West Charlotte tech jobs: Stratifyd, a Charlotte-based data analytics firm with 100 workers uptown, said it plans to add 200 jobs and move to a new HQ in west Charlotte. “The new jobs will primarily be in tech, including engineering positions and marketing services.” City and county governments are expected to kick in $136,000 in incentives. (Biz Journal)

  • Going solo on River District: Lincoln Harris seems to be backing off from its partnership with Crescent Communities to develop the 1,400-acre River District. “Chase Kerley of Crescent Communities said Lincoln Harris is now focusing on what he calls ‘pad-ready’ development in other parts of Charlotte, and that Crescent is now the lead developer on the entire project.” Pad-ready land is land that has infrastructure and is ready to be built on. (WFAE)

  • LendingTree beats expectations: LendingTree’s earnings surpasses analyst expectations, with the company saying it set records in several financial categories. Its stock closed up 14% on the news. (WRAL Tech Wire)

Food and booze news

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

  • Uptown jazz: A new jazz nightclub, Middle C Jazz, opens Saturday at 300 S. Brevard street uptown. It “represents an ambitious and audacious bet that there’s a healthy appetite for jazz in Charlotte.” (Observer)

  • Waverly wine: Foxcroft Wine Co. is likely to open its new location in Waverly in the next week or two. It’s holding a media preview next week. Foxcroft Wine already has locations on Fairview Road near SouthPark and in Dilworth.

  • Beer barbershop: Arrow opens this week at Atherton in South End. “They offer short cuts, buzz cuts, shampoos, hot shaves, long cuts, and mid cuts. All cuts come with one of their beers, created in collaboration with [Durham brewery] Fullsteam (kids get a lollipop).” (Agenda)

  • New hard seltzer: Sycamore Brewing is going to start producing a new hard seltzer called Bubs. “Starting this spring, you’ll get your choice between Juicy Peach, Pink Cherry Lemonade and Tropical flavors.” It follows NoDa Brewing’s Brizo seltzer, released last year. (Charlotte Five)

Latest Charlotte-Mecklenburg rezoning applications

OK, so these won’t interest everybody. But if you love geeking out to local real estate development, here’s your fix:

2019-138. Roma Homes, 0.55 acres at 3024 Whiting Ave. from R-5 to R-8(CD). “Four single-family detached residential homes.” Rezoning agent: Paul Pennell, Urban Design Partners.

2019-139. JDSI LLC. 5.3225 acres on two parcels at 8136 E. W.T. Harris Blvd. (1,2) from R-12MF(CD) and R-3 to R-8. Rezoning agent: Judson Stringfellow.

2019-140. C Investments 5 LLC. 2.22 acres at 11740 Providence Road West from R-3 to UR-2(CD). “Up to 21 Single-family Attached (Townhome) Dwelling Units.” Rezoning agent: K&L Gates.

2019-141. Mark Bolous. 0.44 acres at 1239 Sharon Amity Road from R-3 to UR-2(CD). Rezoning agent: David Wales, Salt + Light Builders.

2019-142. Kennedy Howard. 0.27 acres at 3131 Tuckaseegee Road from B-1 to NS. “Relief of parking requirements under B-1.”

2019-143. Tara Ellerbe of EliteHealth. 0.33 acres on two parcels at 1024 N. Tryon St. (1,2) from I-2 to MUDD. “Site to be rezoned to MUDD and existing building used for office and restaurant.” Rezoning agent: LandDesign.

2019-144. York Acquisitions dba Aspen Heights Partners. 23.99 acres on four parcels at 9920 Mallard Glen Drive (1,2,3, and portion of 4) from R-3 and R-12(CD) to R-12MF(CD). “To allow development of the site with multi-family residential community, designed for college students.” Site plan says up to 194 apartments in buildings up to three stories. Rezoning agent: Moore & Van Allen.

2019-145. MOD CLT LLC. 0.47 acres at 2808 Shenandoah Ave. from R-4/O-2 to UR-2. Rezoning agent: MOD CLT LLC.

2019-146. ALB Architecture. 0.17 acres at 1521 N. Davidson St. from R-8 to UR-1(CD) and UR-C(CD). Duplex. Rezoning agent: United of Carolinas.

2019-147. Guy Properties LLC. 0.44 acres on three parcels at 351 E. 36th St. (1,2,3) from MUDD to TOC-NC. Rezoning agent: James Guy.

2019-148. Branful LLC. 1.55 acres on two parcels at 1045 W. Sugar Creek Road (1,2) from B-1(CD) and NS to NS and NS SPA. Site plan shows 3,000 s.f. restaurant. Rezoning agent: Moore & Van Allen.

2019-149. Wood Partners. 2.8 acres on six parcels at 501 E. 21st St. (1,2,3,4,5,6) from TOD-MO to TOD-UC. Rezoning agent: Alexander Ricks.

2019-150. Oakmont Industrial Group dba Oakmont Pacolet Acquisitions LLC. 32 acres on eight parcels at 12132 Moores Chapel Road (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8) from R-3 to I-1(CD). “The site may be developed with up to 500,000 square feet gross floor area of warehousing, warehouse distribution, manufacturing, office, and all other industrial uses.” Rezoning agent: Moore & Van Allen.

2019-151. Longbranch Development. 11.63 acres on four parcels at 3440 Johnston Oehler Road (1,2,3,4) from R-3 to UR-2(CD). “The Site may be developed with up to 124 residential dwelling units … [the] dwelling units will be designed as single-family attached dwelling units (townhomes).” Rezoning agent: Moore & Van Allen.

2019-152. Spectrum Cos. 26.58 acres on eight parcels at 7808 University City Blvd. (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8) from R-3 to UR-2(CD). “Up to 405 residential dwelling units” of up to four stories in some areas and three in another. Rezoning agent: Moore & Van Allen.

2019-153. 650 South Tryon Development (Lincoln Harris). 0.64 acres at 600 S. Tryon St. from U-MUD(O) to U-MUD(O) SPA. “To add an optional provision to modify the setback and streetscape to allow a valet drop-off area.” Rezoning agent: Alexander Ricks.

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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.