'Stop Building': Backlash in Ballantyne?
Plus: 'Secret' Pineville DMV all but closes; U.S. Bank's take on Consumer Electronics Show; Petition drive to stop CMS high school at Olde Providence
Good morning! Today is Friday, January 10, 2020.
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Plans for townhouses by Community House Middle School spur signs, Nextdoor debates; ‘You’ll need a helicopter to get anywhere in south Charlotte’
A plan to build 164 townhouses in Ballantyne on one of the biggest remaining undeveloped pieces of land in south Charlotte is stirring some strong feelings from nearby residents who say enough is enough.
David Weekley Homes, the nation’s largest private homebuilder, submitted plans to the city last month asking to rezone 37 wooded acres off Blakeney Heath Road, behind Community House Middle School and the Morrison YMCA. The site plan shows about 40 of the townhouses backing up to an existing single-family subdivision called Ellington Park.
Since The Ledger published details of the rezoning request last month, nearby residents have taken to Nextdoor to register their concerns about knocking down trees and the potential for more traffic. An Instagram account called “stopbuilding_ballantyne” has weighed in to its 91 followers, and there are a half-dozen signs near the planned development promoting the Instagram account and urging residents to email their City Council representative, Ed Driggs.
Growing pains: Complaints about growth are common in Charlotte, but they are particularly noteworthy in Ballantyne because that area of town is so new. For the most part, it didn’t exist 25 years ago. Houses in the subdivision adjacent to the site were built in the late 1990s, though much of Ballantyne, Blakeney and other points in the southernmost parts of the city weren’t developed until the last 15 years.
The area is also in the middle of a huge rezoning by Ballantyne Corporate Park owner Northwood Office, which would like to redevelop part of the golf course on 25 acres in the center of Ballantyne and add retail shops, restaurants and 1,200 apartments in its first phase. At a community meeting this summer, there seemed to be little vocal opposition to those plans.
The recent townhouse plans have spurred a robust debate on Nextdoor about the area’s growth:
Ragnar from Farmington Woods: “You’re worried about 164 new homes, lol? You should be more worried about the 2,500+/- homes, 1,000+ apartment units, the corporate headquarters move and the hospital being approved and planned along Johnston rd, south of 485 into Lancaster county. We’re moving far away because this traffics become unbearable…good luck to those planning on staying. You’ll need a helicopter to get anywhere in south Charlotte.”
Deloris from Mitchell Glen: “Ragnar is correct. It is the worst city planning ever. The greed of the builders holding hands with the greed of the City ‘leaders?”
Ken from Hunter Oaks: “Guess who built Mitchell Glen…a greedy developer. Lol.”
Neighbors also sparred over whether they are allowed to display the anti-development signs in their neighborhoods:
William from Somerset: “Unapproved signs are forbidden in Bushwood!”
Brenda from Mitchell Glen: “No offense but I’ve lived off Blakeney Heath for 20 yrs and have no idea where Bushwood is. Is it a relevant location?”
Roger from Williamsburg: “I’m fairly sure that’s a reference to the Country Club in the movie ‘Caddyshack.’”
South Charlotte land crunch: The site is one of the largest undeveloped pieces of land in south Charlotte. It was mentioned in a Ledger article in August examining possible sites for a new high school in south Charlotte — an issue that remains unresolved. Real estate experts said at the time that there are only five privately owned parcels of 20+ acres south of Pineville-Matthews Road.
Working with neighbors: In an interview, Mark Gibbs, David Weekley Homes’ division president for Charlotte, said the company is working with the city on plans for the development and will definitely talk to nearby residents to address their concerns. He said he didn’t have a lot of specifics but that the townhouses would sell for at least $400,000 apiece. The company is also developing the SouthRidge community off Community House Road, where townhouses sell in the mid-$400,000s, he said.
David Weekley Homes, he said, has been in the Charlotte area for more than 20 years and wants to build a development that’s a “good fit for the community.”
Too good a secret? Pineville’s DMV has all but closed
One of the only places in the Charlotte area where you could get a driver’s license without waiting in a long line has closed — except for eight specific days later this year.
The mobile DMV office in Pineville had been open only on Wednesdays. A Ledger story last fall on time-saving DMV hacks called it a “secret DMV” because so few people knew about it. Apparently, it was a little too secret.
“People weren’t showing up,” said DMV spokesman Steve Abbott. He wasn’t able to immediately provide customer numbers but said the low volume didn’t justify keeping examiners there when they could be used to staff other locations with much longer waits … like, oh, pretty much anywhere else in Charlotte.
Abbott noted that the West Arrowood Road DMV is only five miles away. Unless you enjoy standing in line for hours, do yourself a favor and make an appointment by calling 919-715-7000.
The Pineville DMV doesn’t do road tests and doesn’t take appointments. But if you want to plan a visit months ahead of time, get out your calendar: It will be open May 6, May 13, May 20, May 27, Oct. 7, Oct. 14, Oct. 21 and Oct. 28.
U.S. Bank innovation chief from electronics show: Tech is connected, and banks are there
The annual Consumer Electronics Show was held this week in Las Vegas. It’s a convention known for debuting the latest tech gadgets such as anti-snore pillows, cat facial recognition litter boxes and Keurig-like cocktail makers.
The Ledger spoke this week with Dominic Venturo, an executive vice president and chief innovation officer at U.S. Bank, who attended to check out what the advances might mean for financial technology. U.S. Bank has about 850 employees in Charlotte, where it plans to open up to 10 branches. Remarks have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Q. What sort of trends are you seeing at the show?
It’s amazing to me how many things are voice-enabled here on the show floor. We’re seeing cross-platform integration — things like refrigerators with cameras on the inside, so if you’re at the grocery store and you can’t remember if you’ve got milk, you can see. That sounds like a simple thing, but it solves an actual customer problem.
How does that affect us? Using things like a digital assistant within our mobile app. Being able to do things like deliver smart insights, not unlike the digital assistants consumers are using.
Q. How do these advances in consumer products affect U.S. Bank and the banking industry?
Let’s take remote delivery. The merchant-processing business has to be able to enable the payment acceptance for these service providers. Maybe the transaction, instead of happening with the restaurant directly, it’s happening with the delivery service. That falls into the digital payments, tokenization, digital wallets that the banking industry started doing quite some time ago.
U.S. Bank is a good example of where we have been first in devices. We’ve enabled the Fitbit Pay and the Garmin Pay, not unlike Google Pay and the like. If you’re out on a run or doing your thing, you don’t need to have a phone and a watch and a this and a that. You may only have your health-oriented device.
Q. How would you characterize the pace of technological change at U.S. Bank and in the industry?
It’s faster than it’s ever been, and at the same time sometimes slow. It depends on your lens. My group focuses on emerging technology. We look at things three to five years into the future. We started seeing things like 5G five years ago. Yet 5G is just now showing up in certain markets. You’d say, “Well, that’s pretty slow.” Mobile payments took 10 years to begin to take off. You’d say that’s pretty slow.
If you look at the actual pace of change from our human experience, there’s new stuff every day. It’s always coming up seemingly out of left field, and you have to pay a lot of attention to what’s happening and study that pretty rapidly and decide if it matters or not.
It’s very difficult to be good at running a business and do all those other things and try to make sense of the noise. Our job is to try to make sense of the noise and inform our business leaders on what we think will matter and why.
Q. What is the one emerging technology you are the most excited about?
What we’re seeing happen with connected vehicles and connected homes, there’s finally some compatibility to work seamlessly. You can move from your mobile phone to your car to your home and everything sort of works in a way that makes sense and that’s intuitive. We’ve seen some good examples of that at the show. Before, it was very one-off, very proprietary. Some of the standards now are getting much better. It has the opportunity to make people’s lives simpler and more convenient.
The Map Shop moving, mapped:
The Map Shop, which has been a fixture at Morehead Street at Kings Drive for 20 years, is moving to a business park near South Tryon Street at Clanton Road this spring because it needs more space, its owners told Charlotte Agenda.
High school site petition: South Charlotte neighbors opposed to a new high school behind Olde Providence Elementary have launched a petition drive asking county commissioners to buy the land from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. That would generate money for CMS to buy a better site and preserve the woods and ball fields, they say. “Please encourage your county commissioner to purchase this land from CMS so all Charlotte children can continue to play on the fields and all of Charlotte can continue to enjoy the woods, walking trails and outdoor classrooms behind OP,” it says. CMS had started to examine the site for a high school but put those plans on hold after neighbors complained.
Brookhill redevelopment: Wake County developer Thomas Hendrickson plans to build 324 apartments on a 16-acre portion of Brookhill Village, near South End. About half the units would be set aside for affordable housing. The existing site, a complex “filled with run-down units” that dates to the 1950s, is 36 acres, “leaving about 20 acres for additional commercial development.” (UNC Charlotte Urban Institute)
New library: Charlotte Mecklenburg Library is replacing its Scaleybark location with a new library at 4429 South Blvd., about a half mile to the south. It will be called South Boulevard Library and is scheduled to open on Monday. It will feature “new spaces for both children and teens, public computers, children’s computers, three self-checkouts, an expanded community room, a dedicated children’s program room, a quiet reading room, five group study rooms [and] a laptop bar,” which is probably a place for patrons to use their laptops, not a bar serving alcohol. But this is South Boulevard we’re talking about, so you never know. (Library)
New role for Hendrick: Hendrick Automotive Group chairman Rick Hendrick is becoming CEO of the company, replacing Edward Brown, who is retiring at age 71. Hendrick is 70. The company made the announcement this week.
Crescent promotion: Crescent Communities has promoted Brian Natwick to president and chief operating officer, where he will oversee development and construction for the company’s multifamily and commercial businesses. He’ll report to CEO Todd Mansfield.
South End hotel: A Marriott Aloft hotel is expected to open in 2023 in South End. It will be six stories tall and will be near the Rail Trail on South Boulevard across the street from Belle Acres. There’s only one other hotel in South End. (Agenda)
South End land: Carolina Foods in South End has transferred its land holdings into a single LLC. The “transaction doesn't mean development is imminent per se, but it’s step 1 of what could be a massive land sale.” In addition, “Childress Klein has purchased land adjacent for Design Center Phase 2.” (CLT Development)
Flying taxis: “Autonomous aerial vehicle, or flying air taxi, takes test flight in Raleigh” (WTVD)
Food and drink news
A weekly wrap-up of the week’s eating and drinking developments
Beer tribute: Twelve Charlotte breweries are joining forces today to “brew a beer in celebration of Scott Brooks’s life.” The event started this morning at NoDa Brewing’s North End location. The beer is not named yet, but it will be sold at each of the breweries starting in February, with contributions going to the Brooks family. Brooks was the co-owner of Brooks’ Sandwich House in NoDa who was killed in an apparent robbery last month.
Brunch spot closing: Peculiar Rabbit in Plaza-Midwood is closing to the public and will become a private-event space. The owner “cited a slump in sales in recent years as the reason he has decided to shut down the business. Customers have more options these days given the rapid growth of breweries in the area.” (Agenda)
‘Unforgettable hamburger’ promised: Branding firm Plaid Penguin and grilled-cheese food truck Papi Queso are teaming up to open a restaurant called Harriet’s Hamburgers in Optimist Hall. “We plan to build an unforgettable hamburger,” Papi Queso’s owner said. (Agenda)
Beer restaurant: Catawba Brewing plans to open a restaurant called Blue Fork inside its tasting room in Plaza-Midwood next week. What is there to eat? “Most of the menu items at the new Blue Fork restaurant will be infused with beer.” (CharlotteFive)
More tacos: Asheville taco chain White Duck Taco opened a location outside uptown last month, at the corner of 10th Street and Seigle Avenue. The menu “includes tacos such as Thai peanut chicken, jerk chicken, black bean, banh mi tofu and Bangkok shrimp.” (Biz Journal)
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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.