Discover more from The Charlotte Ledger
The 8 hottest Charlotte rezonings 🔥 of 2020
Plus: Trump signs Covid relief bill; Which local stocks did the best this year?; Goal-setting tips from a Charlotte swim coach; Tech CEO battles faulty windows; MrBeast burgers in Pineville
The Charlotte Ledger is a morning e-newsletter with business-y local news and insights. We have free and paid subscription plans. Sign up today:
Today’s Charlotte Ledger is sponsored by Queens University of Charlotte. Ready to advance your career or acquire a specific skill? Begin with a course and build to a graduate certificate. Queens offers 15+ offerings in business, communication, nursing and education. Inquire today and start in January or May.
Some dramatic and others transformational, Charlotte’s most interesting rezonings of 2020 give a window to the city’s growth.
By Tony Mecia
If it’s the end of December, it’s the time of year when actual news slows down and media take a step back to consider and rank the top stories of the year.
You want the year’s top personalities? The biggest restaurant openings? Yeah, others have written those already.
We are going a different direction and staying focused on one of the biggest themes in Charlotte over the last few decades: growth and development. Not even a deadly virus and stay-at-home orders could slow the pace of commercial real estate this year. Cranes are still swinging. Construction workers seem as busy as ever. Developers kept filing rezoning applications with the city at a torrid pace — and that’s what we’re focusing on today.
Developers tee them up, and today, we count them down, like a land-use-obsessed Casey Kasem. We consulted with experts, but these rankings of the year’s hottest Charlotte rezonings are ours.
We’re giving them each a hotness rating of one flame (🔥 Cub Scout campfire), two flames (🔥🔥 molten lava) or three flames (🔥🔥🔥 surface of the sun).
No. 8: Northwood Ravin’s Metropolitan apartment tower 🔥
In October, Northwood Investments bought the Metropolitan development in Midtown for $92.3M. Two weeks later, its sister company, Northwood Ravin, filed 2020-190, in which it laid out plans to build 330 apartments on 1.3 acres beside the Trader Joe’s. The previous owner had permission for a hotel and apartment mix of 330 units and up to 28 stories, and now Northwood Ravin wants them all as apartments.
It would be the tallest tower in Midtown — easily. Sure, 28-story residential towers in uptown might be common, but this one’s in a different part of town, and most other media inexplicably haven’t written about it, so all the more reason to include it on our list.
No. 7: Westside industrial 🔥
If we’re honest, nobody gets too excited about new warehouses. You run into a guy at a party who says he develops warehouses near the airport, and your eyes start darting around the room to hatch a graceful escape from that conversation. Yet Charlotte had several large rezonings for industrial and warehouse space — we’re talking 1 million square feet or more. They’re big and mysterious, as developers typically stay silent. This year, we noted in March (🔒), one even had a codename: “Project Square Grooves.” With all these deliveries poised to gain steam, industrial in Charlotte is running out of space — but it was still hot enough in 2020 to make our list. (The city approved “Square Grooves” by a 7-4 vote in November.)
No. 6: Eastland Mall’s long-awaited redevelopment 🔥
Plans for a mixed-use project that included the offices of Charlotte’s new pro soccer team got off to an exciting start in January, with some local media undies knotted into a bundle after the city’s PR staff hand-picked a few reporters for a private briefing on the rezoning filing. Those not selected took to Twitter to complain. (The Ledger wasn’t invited, but we reported the rezoning filing a couple hours ahead of the pack, having found out about it through means other than relying on the benevolence of the city’s PR staff.) The plans sound as though they are in flux, but the latest is they’re supposed to include soccer fields, a park, housing, retail space and an Atrium Health facility — but no soccer-team offices. Concerns about gentrification or even about the city’s deal with David Tepper never surfaced much, and the most controversy that could ever be imputed to the Eastland rezoning was the sniffles of a few skater-squatters who are going to have to find somewhere else to ride their skateboards if this thing really does ever get developed. It passed unanimously in June.
No. 5: David Weekley Homes’ Ballantyne townhouses 🔥🔥
On paper, 2019-175 looked ho-hum: David Weekley Homes sought to build 164 townhouses off Blakeney Heath Road in Ballantyne. C’mon, who’s going to complain about new housing in Ballantyne, which consists almost exclusively of homes built in the last 20 years? But once word got out, somebody started an Instagram account and a private Facebook group in opposition, and next thing you know, you have 150 or so angry Ballantynians (Ballantyners?) out after 7, at a neighborhood meeting loudly demanding the developer change course. There were the usual concerns about schools and traffic — it’s hard to turn left to get to the Y in the mornings as is, residents said — but they upped the pressure with other objections, too. The development, they said, might endanger a historic turn-of-the-century nearby farmhouse. And one resident floated the possibility, however improbable, that the land contained a Native American burial ground. Facing early and sustained pressure, David Weekley Homes withdrew the rezoning request in July.
Social disagreement: In January, back when it was cool to have standing-room-only crowds at neighborhood meetings, skeptical Ballantyne residents packed in to hear plans for townhomes. (Ledger file photo)
No. 4: Atrium Health’s plans at Carolinas Medical Center 🔥🔥
This one started with great promise for fireworks: The state’s largest hospital system, with a reputation for secrecy despite being allegedly run by a public board, files expansion plans at its 71-acre Carolinas Medical Center campus in Dilworth — a neighborhood long known to be vigilant about development. While there were some novel twists and turns — such as a couple dozen homeowners off East Boulevard banding together to sell to another developer — large-scale opposition to 2019-114 never really materialized. Although some neighbors objected to allowing Atrium to expand onto residential property it has gobbled up over the years, the City Council approved the rezoning request unanimously in June. Atrium and Dilworth’s neighborhood association struck several compromises, and Atrium’s precise development plans remain vague. Of course, with all the challenges of 2020, Atrium had much bigger issues on its mind … such as producing CEO Gene Woods’ slick music video, released in September.
No. 3: Truist building’s new signs 🔥🔥
When you buy a house, you want to fix it up and put your stamp on it. And when you buy a $456M Art Deco uptown office tower for your new bank, you want to make it your own. And that’s just what Truist did, filing a rezoning request in March to allow new signs on all four sides of the building formerly known as Hearst Tower. Planning Commission chairman Sam Spencer tells The Ledger he calls 2020-064 “the Taylor Swift rezoning” because the application had no images of the actual sign — just blank space. (“Blank Space” is a 2014 Taylor Swift hit. Sample lyrics: “We’re young and we’re reckless / We’ll take this way too far / It’ll leave you breathless / Or with a nasty scar … I’ve got a blank space, baby / And I’ll write your name”)
BLANK SPACE: Truist’s rezoning application in March (top) showed only the dimensions of the sign, not a sketch of the design. The noncontroversial rezoning from the spring and summer received fresh attention in the fall, with social media and the building’s architect slamming the look of the new signs (bottom).
The City Council approved the request unanimously in July, but after the signs were installed in November, complaints poured in on social media, and the building’s lead architect blasted Truist’s “corporate ego” and said the signs “vandalized” the structure. Less remarked upon are Truist Center’s new Vegas-style colored lights running up the sides of the 47-story building. No word on whether Truist is angling for a lighting consulting gig with the Catawba Nation’s planned Two Kings Casino in Kings Mountain.
No. 2: Grubb’s car-free development 🔥🔥🔥
There wasn’t a lot of middle ground on 2019-167, a proposal filed in November 2019 by Grubb Properties to build 104 apartments on 0.7 acres north of uptown in the Seversville neighborhood. Residents, as The Ledger first disclosed in June (🔒), would be required to sign a contract saying they don’t own a car. This was described as either an incredibly innovative and forward-looking approach to urban design that makes housing affordable by being less car-reliant; or, alternatively, a colossally naïve idea that allows a developer to avoid paying to build a parking deck and will force residents to stash cars illicitly on nearby streets just to go to the grocery store.
City planning director Taiwo Jaiyeoba tells The Ledger this one gets his top vote because it is “probably the most direction-changing, interesting petition Council approved” and that “it meets multiple goals: environmental sustainability, economic mobility (savings from driving), affordable housing.” This one also gets the top vote of the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute’s Ely Portillo because of the close 6-5 City Council vote approving it, “and you don’t always get exciting nail-biters at rezoning meetings.”
No. 1: Reimagining Ballantyne 🔥🔥🔥
For the sheer scope and transformational nature of 2019-115, Ballantyne Reimagined is our choice for the #1 hottest rezoning of the year. Think about it: You have an office park, a boujee hotel and a golf course. But the owner, Northwood Office, won approval in June to rezone 454 acres, bulldoze the golf course and turn the center of what’s known as a sleepy part of town into a hub of activity. It will include an amphitheater, a stream park, retail, restaurants and 2,000+ apartments, some of which will be affordable housing (in Ballantyne, in case you forgot). Some residents, though, are nervous about the effect on traffic and schools.
This one has the vote of Sam Spencer, the planning commission chairman, who tells us it has all the qualities of #1 hottest rezoning, including “massive acreage” and “hundreds of millions of dollars in investment.” The Ledger has also gone out on a limb to predict, without evidence, that the development will be the home of the Charlotte region’s first Wegmans. Whether we’re right or wrong on that one, the development is still huge, literally and figuratively — and big enough for #1.
… And that’s a wrap for 2020. We list rezonings every month, exclusively for our paying subscribers. We’ll list the next batch in early February and will let you know before that if there are any big ones.
Until then, keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars.
Today’s supporting sponsors are Landon A. Dunn, Attorney at Law in Matthews…
… and T.R. Lawing Realty…
Advice from a swim coach on setting 2021 goals: Go big
By Doug Miller
It’s that time of year: 2020 is in the rear-view, and you’ve turned your focus to 2021.
If you’re like me, you’ve been thinking about things you’d like to accomplish in the new year. Exciting, right?
Let’s harness that enthusiasm. Let’s talk about goals.
Which goal are you most likely to reach?
An easy goal
A moderately difficult goal
An extremely difficult goal
Believe it or not, the more challenging the goal, the higher the probability of success.
So the answer? You got it: #3.
Studies show that raising the degree of difficulty of your goal will also drive you to higher levels of effort and performance.
As a swim coach, I’ve helped countless athletes achieve their goals in the water. But these principles apply on land as well.
Think about your personal project. Or your professional project. Is it on point? Or is there a way to make it more audacious? Think quantity, quality and impact.
For my swimmers and triathletes, we mainly think in terms of time and distance. Sometimes a particular event brings with it a particular challenge.
For you, can you scale your thinking to another level? Can you reach a higher level of quality than you had imagined? Can you affect even more people?
Of course, every goal must be reasonable — that is, within the limits of your human ability. But you are capable of more than you think.
Here’s what’s at stake:
You pick an easy goal. You tell your friends or colleagues about it, but you’re not really worried about what they will think if you fail. After all, it wasn’t that difficult to begin with. There’s also little reward for success. You will probably be unmotivated and not very dedicated toward this goal, and likely fail.
You pick a very challenging goal. You’ve told others about it, enthusiastically. The stakes are high. But your expected rewards for success: huge! This spells high motivation. And, despite the fact that this goal is more difficult than the easy goal, odds are you will succeed.
Did you fall short in 2020?
Aim higher in 2021.
Covid relief bill signed: President Trump signed the $900B Covid relief bill on Sunday, clearing the way for a number of measures including enhanced unemployment benefits, additional Paycheck Protection Program loans, rental assistance, money for vaccine distribution and $600 stimulus checks (subject to income limits). (USA Today)
Moving to Charlotte: Charlotte appears to be one of the top cities in the country for attracting new residents since the start of the pandemic in March. The city ranks 6th-highest among LinkedIn users who changed their addresses to a new ZIP code between April and October and has the 3rd-highest share of inbound moving vans from United Van Lines between May and September. (Bloomberg)
A millionaire’s windows: Red Ventures CEO Ric Elias is suing the architect and builder of his 24,500 s.f. south Charlotte house by Quail Hollow Club’s 7th fairway over what he says are faulty doors and windows that fog up because of faulty seals. The house cost $16M to build and is valued at $10.5M. The doors and windows in the Elias home cost $1.2M, the lawsuit says. (Observer)
Back to work: American Airlines has started recalling laid-off employees to work in anticipation that the new Covid relief bill under negotiation in Washington will provide money for airline payrolls. American, which had furloughed 19,000 employees, operates its second-largest hub in Charlotte. (CNBC)
Holiday travel plans: County Manager Dena Diorio, at a news conference last week in which she said county residents should “stay home and only be around those who you live with,” revealed in response to a reporter’s question that she was actually driving to Durham over the holidays. “I know who the family is, I know where they spend their time, so I feel comfortable making that trip,” Diorio told WBT’s Brett Jensen. The exchange was picked up in the national media, by Fox News, the Washington Times and Britain’s Daily Mail.
Bar owners sue: Bar owners from six North Carolina counties are suing to reverse Gov. Roy Cooper’s orders that have kept them shut since March. They say he lacks that authority. Under current order, bars are allowed to be open but cannot serve alcohol indoors. (Carolina Journal)
Shots delayed: Atrium Health dropped plans to vaccinate 97 workers in the first phase of the vaccine roll-out after local media started questioning why non-front line staff were scheduled to receive the doses ahead of critical groups. The issue arose after an Atrium social media manager posted on Twitter that she was excited to be scheduled to receive the vaccine in early January. (WCNC)
Mortgage lender expands: New York mortgage lender Intercontinental Capital Group plans to add 500 jobs in Charlotte with an average annual wage of $87,500. It will receive nearly $8.5M in tax incentives. (WFAE)
Beast Burger near you: The country’s second-highest-earning YouTube star, a 22-year-old from Greenville, N.C., who goes by the name “MrBeast,” has “launched a viral burger joint called MrBeast Burger, borrowing space in existing restaurants to grill burgers and chicken tenders.” One of the 300 delivery-only locations appears connected to the Buca di Beppo by Carolina Place in Pineville. (Raleigh News & Observer)
Who were the public companies with Charlotte ties that were the biggest winners and losers this year? With just a few trading days left in 2020, that’s coming into focus.
Biggest stock gains: Microsoft’s stock is +41% so far this year, followed by Lowe’s (+36%), Sonic Automotive (+23%) and Honeywell (+18%).
Biggest stock drops: Stock of retailer Cato is down 53%, followed by American Airlines (-45%), Wells Fargo (-45%) and Truist (-17%).
Generally, it has been a good year to have shares in tech, home improvement, car sales and certain industrial segments. Not so good to be in retail, travel or banking.
How local stocks of note fared last week and year to date:
Need to sign up for this e-newsletter? We offer free and paid subscription plans:
The Charlotte Ledger is an e-newsletter and website publishing timely, informative, and interesting local business-y news and analysis Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 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.
Executive editor: Tony Mecia; Managing editor: Cristina Bolling; Contributing editor: Tim Whitmire, CXN Advisory; Reporting intern: David Griffith