BizWorthy: SouthPark Adding 'The Loop,' Commercial Kitchens Growing And $3M Cars
Charlotte’s SouthPark Mall and the area around it will look very different in a few years. There are plans to add a three-mile greenway encircling the mall and a park, along with more offices, apartments, and restaurants. Some of the development gets underway at the end of the month.
For more on this and other business news, we're joined now by Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger business newsletter for our BizWorthy segment.
Marshall Terry: Tony, SouthPark isn't a place you think about going to if you want to take a stroll outside. But that seems like what they're aiming for here. So, what's going on?
Tony Mecia: Well, SouthPark is best known, of course, for the big mall that's there. But, you know, there really are a lot of changes going on in that area right now. You have a whole bunch of construction, a bunch of mixed-use developments going in, and you have that Apex SouthPark going in there on Sharon Road. You have a few apartment complexes, a new hotel. At the end of the month, all the residents of the Colony Apartments, which have been there since the mid 1970s, are expected to have moved out, and the owner is going to start demolition and they're building mixed-use development on that site.
As part of that development, one of the things the developer is doing during the construction over the next few years is helping build this greenway-like path that residents there are calling "The Loop." That's going to be a very nice way to take a walk around SouthPark, make it more walkable, make it more approachable. You're seeing this going on in a lot of places in town that really want to make it more of an urban setting where people can kind of get outside and enjoy the outdoors.
Terry: And as part of that, they're actually redoing Symphony Park, right?
Mecia: Right. The mall owner, Simon Malls, is having some conversations with the city about how they can turn that park, which is right now an amphitheater where you know, you can go listen to the Symphony in the summer and have picnics and that sort of thing. Now, they're trying to make that a little bit more able to be used throughout the year, make it more of a town center, make it more of a town square, a gathering point. Again, taking this area that has just been thought of as a mall and making it more of a destination and more where people can go hang out.
Terry: How do residents feel about all this? Are they on board?
Mecia: Opinions differ, I think, on that. I think you probably have some people that worry with all this construction that you're going to have more traffic, more congestion. But some of the residents there that I talked with for the Charlotte Ledger say, "Well, look, change is coming. We just need to try to make the best of it and get some agreements with these developers to put in the kind of amenities that we want. And that if we don't do that, if we just stand in the way of progress, that we're going to wind up like Eastland Mall."
Terry: You reported on Charlotte regulations catching up with a new business trend: Commercial kitchens. Now, these are kitchens that are rented out to food trucks and caterers. So how big of an expansion are we seeing with this industry in Charlotte?
Mecia: It's not just in Charlotte, it's all around the country. You're seeing these pop up all over the place. And it's really driven by the explosion in the number of food trucks and the number of catering services, meal-delivery services. It's going on all over the place. In Charlotte, there are only a handful of these. I talked to some people up in University City and a business called The City Kitch that are up there, and they're basically serving this growing community. They've seen a lot of growth, and are going to be adding the location on the west side. They're going to be adding a location in Greensboro. They say it looks like there's a lot of growth ahead.
It's kind of like a WeWork for chefs in which you can just rent space, go in, you've got a place to prepare all your food. It makes it really very easy for small businesses or amateur chefs to kind of go in and try and start a business.
Terry: On to some banking news, now. Wells Fargo has hired President Obama's former Chief of Staff, William Daley, to head its public affairs. Is this part of the bank's efforts at rebuilding its image following all those scandals?
Mecia: You'll recall that last month the bank brought in a new CEO, Charles Scharf from Bank of New York Mellon to help right the ship. But Wells Fargo had a lot of criticism in the last few years about some of its business practices. I think this sort of falls under that umbrella a little bit. You know, this hire also comes from Bank of New York Mellon. The really interesting thing about it is William Daley has experience in Democratic politics, was the Chief of Staff for President Obama, served in the Clinton administration as Commerce Secretary. So I think the thinking probably is that this might help inoculate Wells Fargo against some of its attacks coming from Democrats on Capitol Hill.
Terry: Let's end on some automotive news. Charlotte is now one of only a handful of cities where folks with extra deep pockets can buy a $3 million Swedish sports car. First, Tony, what's the name of this carmaker?
Mecia: Marshall, my Swedish is not as good as it used to be. It's Koenigsegg and I believe it's pronounced "Coney Seg," something like that. It's opening up its seventh dealership in the U.S. and has signed an agreement with one of the luxury car dealerships in town to offer its cars here. Now, they're very interesting cars. They're very expensive cars -- $3 million-plus. They're very fast cars. One of them has a top speed of 286 mph. I don't know if you're gonna be doing that on 485 to 77. It might cut down those commute times if you can maybe go into the shoulder or something. But it's kind of interesting for Charlotte to have these luxury cars.
Terry: Why did they pick Charlotte?
Mecia: Well, I think it's not just Charlotte. This would be their first dealership in the Southeast. There's not a huge market for $3 million sports cars, as much as you or I might want one. It's a fairly limited market. But I think they're seeing that Charlotte is a good place to have a dealership because of its distribution network. You know, its proximity to other places in the Southeast where you might find a few buyers potentially that want something like this.