Discover more from The Charlotte Ledger
Waking up thinking of SouthPark
Plus: Myers Park-Alexander Graham protest CMS school assignment; Sneak peek of new Ballantyne hospital; Development rules to take effect; Sports gambling could be approved this week
Good morning! Today is Wednesday, May 31, 2023. You’re reading The Charlotte Ledger, an e-newsletter with local business-y news and insights for Charlotte, N.C.
Need to subscribe — or upgrade your Ledger e-newsletter subscription? Details here.
Adam Rhew leads an upstart team that’s working to make SouthPark more cohesive; logo, bike path, building ‘deeper emotional connections’
Adam Rhew, 37, is the executive director of SouthPark Community Partners, the city’s third organization funded by a special tax district. He wants to help articulate a shared vision for the area. The organization sponsored the “SouthPark After Five” events series this spring.
by Tony Mecia
The first spring concert at SouthPark Mall’s Symphony Park last month was just about to get started. Dozens of people had shown up early to nab a seat on the lawn in the shade. Weatherman Larry Sprinkle was preparing to take the stage and introduce a Zac Brown cover band.
And Adam Rhew, executive director of SouthPark Community Partners, was thinking about beanbags. They were in his car, and he needed to go get them for the new cornhole boards his organization had ordered for its first big event.
Remembering to bring the cornhole beanbags wasn’t a make-or-break issue, of course. But it’s one of many details that Rhew and his upstart organization have juggled, as it nears the end of its first year. Its vision for improving SouthPark goes much deeper than throwing a good party.
Alongside Charlotte Center City Partners and University City Partners, SouthPark Community Partners is Charlotte’s third community advocacy nonprofit that operates with money generated from a “municipal service district” — a special district that charges extra property taxes to pay for enhancements.
The City Council created SouthPark’s district last year, following a push by some of the area’s leading companies. It encompasses most of the area’s commercial center off Fairview and Sharon roads — including the mall, Phillips Place and Sharon Corners — though about 3% of its area is composed of condos or townhomes. A few residential owners objected to the additional taxes, but the creation of SouthPark’s district was mostly uncontroversial. SouthPark Community Partners’ budget is $1.4M this year.
SouthPark’s municipal service district includes most of the commercial land along Fairview and Sharon roads (left). Residents enjoy “SouthPark After Five” (right).
The idea behind SouthPark Community Partners is that SouthPark has many different components — an upscale mall, large corporate headquarters, office towers and restaurants, all surrounded by neighborhoods — and that those elements should be working in better harmony, under a shared vision.
“SouthPark traditionally has been a little bit disjointed,” says Chris Thomas, a partner at developer Childress Klein, who chairs the organization’s board. “Over the years, there’s not been a lot of collaboration, and we’re out to create some opportunities for better integration and collaboration. … We want to celebrate the fact that we’re an important part of Charlotte.”
Other board members include representatives from developer Lincoln Harris, mall owner Simon Property Co. and the SouthPark Association of Neighborhoods, or SPAN, a collection of more than 40 neighborhood groups.
SouthPark’s ‘brain’: City Council member Tariq Bokhari, who represents the area, explained at the organization’s annual meeting this month that he thinks of SouthPark as a human body: Now, he told the audience, there’s a “brain in the body, and that is SouthPark Community Partners. … The power of that brain? Yet to be determined. But we have a brain that wakes up every single day thinking about SouthPark, and that is so, so critical.”
Bokhari said the SouthPark body also will require a skeleton (planning and infrastructure), a circulatory system (walking paths and trails), organs (a chamber of commerce recruiting jobs and lobbying government) and blood (events, the “life blood” of the area).
A large part of Rhew’s job will be telling SouthPark’s story — a role that seems to come naturally, given his background. Rhew, 37, was previously a radio and television reporter and a top editor at Charlotte magazine.
His SouthPark roots run deep: In one of his best-known articles, from 2019, he described the transformation of Sharon United Methodist Church, which his grandparents helped found in the 1960s, into SouthPark Church and the surrounding Apex SouthPark mixed-use development, home to apartments, a hotel and restaurants Snooze and Steak 48. Rhew most recently spent four years at Center City Partners.
He’ll help devise and articulate a vision of the area as a desirable place to live, work and play: “We want our target audiences to better understand and build deeper emotional connections with SouthPark,” he said.
Since being named executive director in August 2022, Rhew and his team of two other full-timers have devised a new logo for SouthPark, with the help of marketing firm Luquire; produced a “SouthPark Snapshot” report with economic statistics; and launched the spring “SouthPark After Five” series, which has drawn more than 2,000 people a week for music, food and drinks. (The final one is tomorrow, with a Fleetwood Mac tribute band.)
Next up is developing a “vision plan” for the area, which is sort of like a development guide — a wish list of the development leaders want to make happen. The organization will also be one of the top advocates for The Loop, a 3-mile walking and biking path being built piece-by-piece by developers and the city.
As the leader of a small team, he has also had to jump in and handle less-significant challenges — like the cornhole beanbags — as well as malfunctioning lights in his new office and assembling filing cabinets and dry erase boards.
By getting the details right, Rhew hopes to lay the groundwork for the bigger vision.
“It’s not going to become, nor should it become, the next South End. That’s not the vision. But over time, the built environment in SouthPark does become more vibrant, more active,” he says. “… SouthPark in a decade will still retain a lot of what makes people feel special today. It grows into a complete place rather than a collection of places.”
Related Ledger articles:
“A new logo to bind SouthPark together” (🔒, April 5)
Video 🎥: “Flyover Friday: Apex SouthPark” (Sept. 11, 2020)
“SouthPark isn’t just a mall anymore” (Nov. 8, 2019)
Students form ‘human chain’ at Alexander Graham Middle and Myers Park High to protest CMS south Charlotte boundary plan
About 70 elementary and middle school students and their parents linked hands Tuesday afternoon to form a “human chain” connecting Alexander Graham Middle School (AG) and Myers Park High School.
The group was showing its disapproval of south Charlotte school reassignment plans that would send about 200 students zoned for Alexander Graham five miles down the road to South Mecklenburg High School instead of to Myers Park High, which sits next to the middle school. Some held signs that said “One campus, one answer!” and “Same soil!!”
Earlier draft plans had called for Alexander Graham students to remain at Myers Park, so some parents have said they’re frustrated that the change was brought as part of the superintendent’s final recommendation. The plans — which have been revised and discussed over the last year — are aimed to relieve overcrowding, balance socioeconomic diversity and keep students close to home and with their peers as the district prepares to open two new schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on a new student assignment plan affecting 27 schools at a meeting on Tuesday.
“AG and Myers Park sit on the same soil,” said Mary Lauren Kennedy, a parent and organizer of the human chain. “The SouthPark campus is unique to Charlotte, and this feeder pattern is one that’s not been affected in the past year. We’re just demonstrating that these kids can stay at one school and literally walk to another.”
Many of the students who linked hands said they don’t want to be split up from their friends when they move from middle school to high school. Students at Sharon Elementary are split into Alexander Graham and Carmel Middle School, so many students have already been separated from their friends once.
‘Makes me sad’: Will Humphreys, a 6th-grader at Alexander Graham, was one of the students who made up the human chain. The 12-year-old said he wants to go to Myers Park High with his friends.
“The people that go to AG are so close to Myers Park; it doesn’t make sense why they shouldn’t go to Myers Park,” he said. “I’m affected by this — some of my friends that I’ve known for a while now aren’t going to be going to Myers Park with me, and that makes me sad.”
Hazel Kuykendall, 13, is a 7th-grader at Alexander Graham, and she and her father, Jeff, have been vocal about their disapproval of the proposed reassignment plans. They both spoke at last Tuesday’s school board meeting.
“I’m annoyed because I got split at Sharon Elementary to go to AG as opposed to Carmel, and then I’m getting split again,” Hazel told The Ledger.
CeCe Largen, 10, is a few years away from high school, but she’s already thinking about her future. Largen is a 4th-grader at Sharon Elementary.
“It's part of the ‘one campus, one heart’ thing,” CeCe said. “I just think it’s really important for us all to be together and not have to be split up because we already have to be split up into Carmel and AG, and then we have to split up again. It just doesn’t make sense.” —LB
Related Ledger articles:
“A marathon meeting over south Charlotte boundaries” (🔒, May 24)
“‘Blindsided’ neighborhoods fight CMS boundary plan” (🔒, May 19)
“Your guide to CMS school boundary recommendations” (🔒, May 17)
A new hospital for Ballantyne
A new $180M Novant Health hospital in the Ballantyne area was designed with growth in mind for future expansion, officials told reporters Tuesday during a ribbon cutting. Inside, the main entrance lobby (left) was designed with lots of natural light. The eight maternity rooms (right) are designed for labor, delivery and recovery.
Novant Health opened the doors to its new Ballantyne hospital Tuesday for media and local dignitaries as it prepares for a June 12 opening for both the hospital and an attached medical office building.
The Ledger got a look around the place, which at about 168,000 s.f. is similar in size to other community hospitals Novant is building, including one that opened in Mint Hill in 2018. Many in south Charlotte are familiar with the land it occupies at Johnston Road and Providence Road West, which was previously the Hall Family Farm, a place locally famous for its spring pick-your-own strawberry fields. (Tom Hall of the Hall Farm family attended the ribbon cutting event Tuesday.)
Benjamin Brodersen, president and chief operating officer of Novant Health Ballantyne Medical Center said the building incorporates the “latest and the greatest” technology and was designed to incorporate the outdoors, with walking trails around the property, a pavilion and pond for reflection and a future fountain.
“This is this community’s hospital,” Broderson said. “It’s still going to be a place where we want the community to come. Not just for acute care needs but we still want to be a part of this community, even a little bit as it used to be.”
A few by-the-numbers facts about the hospital:
36 acute care beds, including 24 in its medical-surgical department, four intermediate care beds and eight labor and delivery suites
4 operating rooms, and one dedicated operating room for cesarean section births
15 bays in the emergency room, including a special gastrointestinal treatment room
12 medical observation rooms
Services will include general medicine, heart and vascular medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, cancer with infusion services, outpatient surgery and orthopedics.
Other interesting tidbits:
Digital boards: All patient rooms will have digital communication boards that will let patients communicate with doctors and nurses and get information about their treatment, diet, communicate pain levels and watch video tutorials. Broderson said the Ballantyne hospital is Novant’s first in the Charlotte region to have the special boards. “We’re moving away from the days of the white grease board that’s still stained from whoever was there last time,” Broderson said.
Hydrotherapy room and zero-entry showers: Obstetrics will be a big focus at the new hospital, as it’s situated in a growing community with lots of young families. The labor-delivery-recovery suites are outfitted with zero-entry showers (it used to be de rigueur to have bathtubs in delivery suites for women to use during labor). The new Ballantyne hospital has one “hydrotherapy room” big enough for both moms and their partners to get in during labor. (Babies won’t be born in the tub, staff said.)
Full staff: The hospital will open with a full staff, without taking many staff members from other local Novant facilities, Brodersen said. “That has been a concern but ended up not being a challenge for us.”
Pizza oven: The hospital dining room, located near the main entrance, has indoor and outdoor dining — and the kitchen is complete with a fancy tiled pizza oven.
Though boring, new development rules to take effect Thursday; 643 pages of dense city regulations designed to ‘benefit the community’
With new Charlotte development rules set to take effect on Thursday, city planning director Alyson Craig says she’s optimistic about how neighborhoods will benefit.
“There’s a lot of it that over time, people will really start to see help improve the character of their communities,” Craig said Tuesday in an interview with The Ledger. “I’m really excited about that.”
Although the issue of building duplexes and triplexes in residential neighborhoods has attracted much of the attention, the new Unified Development Ordinance is 643 pages long and contains many new rules on more arcane and boring-sounding topics such as building standards and infrastructure.
There are also new rules taking effect Thursday on mildly more interesting topics such as saving trees and encouraging affordable housing (though, regrettably, the details are less-than-action-packed). The new regulations, though dull, could add to developers’ costs in some cases — say, by lowering the thresholds for traffic studies or imposing fees for removing certain trees (still with us?). But Craig said the planning department will be watching closely to ensure that the rules don’t inhibit building sufficient housing.
“I think from trees to transportation improvements to multimodal requirements, affordable housing and stormwater, there are a lot of things that will benefit the community,” she said. It won’t happen all at once; it will be “incremental, through development,” she said.
Craig said she expects a rush of permit filings to beat the deadline and qualify under the old development rules, which are better understood by builders. She asks for “a little grace” and “patience” among developers as planning staff review an anticipated flood of permit requests under two different codes.
Next up in the process: devising community area plans, which help shape how the rules will be applied to different parts of Charlotte.
Duplex/triplex info next week: The ordinance passed last summer on a 6-4 vote. One of the main objections was provisions over building duplexes and triplex in neighborhoods. The City Council last week directed city staff to re-examine some of those rules and present possibilities to a committee on June 5 (which is Monday). Craig said Tuesday it’s too early to say what she might propose but that she has tried to articulate how duplexes and triplexes are “helping in our housing challenges that we have in Charlotte.”
Related Ledger article:
You might be interested in these Charlotte events
Events submitted by readers to The Ledger’s events board:
THURSDAY: SouthPark After Five, Symphony Park, 5-9 p.m. Free music, food trucks & drinks, & hands-on art experiences are coming to Symphony Park at SouthPark After Five on 6/1. Enjoy live music from Landslide Tribute to Fleetwood Mac. And make your own flower bouquet and work on a SouthPark themed coloring book. Don't miss your last opportunity of this event series. Free.
FRIDAY: Full Moon Paddle, Mount Holly Boat Landing, 8:30-10 p.m. Our monthly Full Moon Paddles are an adventure for anyone from beginners to experienced paddlers. It's a great date night, girls night out or fun evening with friends. We set out at sunset beneath the rising moon. S’mores, campfire and beverages after! $55.
FRIDAY: Charlotte Ballet's Trainee Showcase, Knight Theater, 7-9 p.m. The Pre-Professional performance is the culmination of the 2022/2023 season for Charlotte Ballet’s Pre-Professional Trainees. Works have been specifically chosen to represent the talent and diversity of each individual dancer. This performance consists of a wide range of styles and genres, including choreography by George Balanchine, Marius Petipa and Charlotte Ballet’s Artistic Director, Alejandro Cerrudo. $50-80.
Green light for sports betting? N.C. legislators appear to be on the verge of legalizing sports betting. N.C. Senate committees approved the bill on Tuesday, and votes in the full Senate are expected today and Thursday. It has already passed the House and would allow mobile betting as well as in-person wagering at pro sporting arenas. One change: the wagering would start by mid-June 2024, instead of January 2024. The bill would allow in-person sports betting in the Charlotte area at Bank of America Stadium, Spectrum Center, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Quail Hollow Club. (WRAL)
New CLT airport rankings: Charlotte’s airport ranked No. 7 in the world for aircraft takeoffs and landings in 2022, down from No. 5 a year earlier, the airport said. It fell to No. 19 for total passengers, down from No. 6, as airports in other parts of the world rebounded after Covid. (Charlotte airport)
TV and film projects drop: The state office that coordinates movie and TV filming in North Carolina says says the number of inquiries about productions is down 25% compared with a year ago, which it says is attributable to the Hollywood writers’ strike. The strike is in its fifth week. (WFAE)
No more nights at The Roxbury: Uptown ‘80s and ‘90s nightclub The Roxbury will close on June 24 after 11 years in business. (Axios Charlotte)
South End towers envisioned: Cousins Properties is working on designs for two towers about 19 stories tall along West Tremont Avenue in South End. There is no timeline for the project, which would contain a residential tower and an office tower. No office tower in Charlotte has broken ground in more than a year, The Ledger has reported. (Observer, subscriber-only)
New Atrium hospital in Cornelius: Atrium Health has plans to build a new 170,000 s.f. hospital in Cornelius with 30 beds, maternity suites, an intensive care unit with four ICU beds, imaging services and a full-time emergency department. Atrium Health Lake Norman is expected to open in 2025, and a groundbreaking is scheduled for this afternoon.
Picasso fans: Nearly 70,000 people visited the Mint Museum Uptown over 14 weeks to see the “Picasso Landscapes: Out of Bounds” exhibit, including visitors from all 50 states and foreign countries. (Observer)
Burger favorite considers a sale: The owners of Brooks Sandwich House in NoDa are considering selling it to a developer. The restaurant is celebrating its 50th anniversary next month. (Axios Charlotte, which says the news was first reported by development writer Jason Thomas on Instagram)
Mall fight: A large fight at Carolina Place Mall caused the mall to go on lockdown for about an hour on Saturday. (WFAE)
Need to sign up for this e-newsletter? We offer a free version, as well as paid memberships for full access to all 4 of our local newsletters:
➡️ Learn more about The Charlotte Ledger
The Charlotte Ledger is a locally owned media company that delivers smart and essential news through e-newsletters and on a website. 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.
Like what we are doing? Feel free to forward this along and to tell a friend.
Sponsorship information/customer service: email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Executive editor: Tony Mecia; Managing editor: Cristina Bolling; Staff writer: Lindsey Banks; Contributing editor: Tim Whitmire, CXN Advisory; Contributing photographer/videographer: Kevin Young, The 5 and 2 Project