BizWorthy: Ballantyne Development Is More Than Just A Park
Even during the pandemic, plans for developments in the Charlotte area keep on rolling. A proposal for 200 apartments and townhomes in downtown Huntersville drew a lot of opposition at a public hearing this week. And in Ballantyne, we knew a big park was coming as part of a project that includes 2,000 apartments along with townhomes, retail and office space. But it seems the word "park" doesn’t do it justice – developers have dubbed it a "stream park" to become "the soul of Ballantyne."
The Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter's Tony Mecia joins us for this week's BizWorthy segment.
Lisa Worf: So first, Tony, what is a Stream Park and how is one ending up in Ballantyne?
Tony Mecia: Northwood Office, which owns the Ballantyne Hotel and the Ballantyne Corporate Park, you know, we've reported and WFAE's reported, they've been working on this big development down there to transform the golf course into a mix of housing and retail.
And they released in the last week some details on what the park is going to look like behind the Ballantyne Hotel. It's an eight-acre park. They're calling it a Stream Park. It has some small streams going through it, which I think is why they're calling it a stream park. But yes, it's not just open spaces. It'll have a 2,000-seat amphitheater. It will have rock climbing walls. It has bridges. It's on a whole bunch of different levels. They sort of see it as a community center where people can jog, ride bikes, push strollers. They can have events. And they say it should be the soul of Ballantyne.
Worf: And this is a trend with developers putting together this higher-density project with open space and retail. But this is one that's noteworthy because the developers own so much space here, right?
Mecia: Yeah, that's what makes this a little bit different than a lot of other parts of town. Like, in South End, everything is individually owned. Here you have Northwood Office that owns, I think it's about 500 acres. And so they can develop a master plan in one fell swoop. It was approved by the city council in June. They say they have an opportunity to do it right as opposed to doing everything piecemeal, a bunch of different owners.
But, yeah, we're seeing this all over town, as you mentioned. You see in Mathews, University City, South Park, even, you know, you're seeing a lot of this move toward sort of a more urban experience, even in areas that were thought of as typically suburban.
Worf: Now to this debate brewing over a 200-unit housing development in Huntersville. And usually, you hear opposition when so many units are being built next to neighborhoods. But this one is proposed for downtown, right behind Discovery Place Kids. So what's the debate there?
Mecia: Right. So, you know, this is a little bit smaller of a scale than, say, Ballantyne. But, you know, 200 units for downtown Huntsville is a lot. But some of the residents nearby in Huntersville are worried that adding apartments is going to increase traffic. It's some of the complaints you typically hear in suburban areas: what's it going to do to the schools? There are worries about that.
I mean, the town for a long time has wanted to enliven its downtown. It's a kind of a sleepy downtown. There's not a lot going on down there. There are few restaurants, you know, a cafe. So planners say one of the ways you can enliven an area is to build housing. But some of the residents nearby are asking some pretty hard questions about that.
Worf: And talking about developments, we have finally seen sketches of the Panthers' headquarters in Rock Hill. They were saying that it is inspired by South Carolina quarries. What does that mean? What does this look like?
Mecia: Well, it looks a lot better than strip-mining the side of a mountain, Lisa. I mean, they're pretty nice rendering. These renderings always tend to be pretty glossy. But, you know, they're really futuristic kind of looking headquarters. They've got a couple of practice fields next to each other. You have the 5,000-seat stadium that can be used for events. Eventually, they're hoping to build out restaurants, retail and entertainment district down there in Rock Hill off I-77. From the pictures, it looks pretty nice.
Worf: In one of your pieces in The Ledger, you look at Park Road Books and how their business is doing. They're the only independent bookstore in Charlotte. And you also get a taste of reading trends during quarantine. So how's that looking?
Mecia: Yes, it's sort of like you've seen a trend, I guess, toward comfort food during the pandemic. I think we're seeing a trend in reading toward comfort books. Where the owner of Park Road Books told us the people would come, grand ambitions, say, "I'd like to read 'Moby Dick.'" And then they realized, well, maybe they didn't really want to read "Moby Dick."
And so then they switch over to something that's more comfort reading -- you know, Agatha Christie mysteries, those sorts of things. Their overall business is down a little bit. But definitely some of the consumer tastes are shifting.
Worf: That's the Charlotte Ledger's Tony Mecia.