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Each week, WFAE's "Morning Edition" hosts get a rundown of the biggest business and development stories from The Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter.

Charlotte Is Losing Another Iconic Restaurant. Are More Closings Ahead?

Zack's Hamburgers
Vlada Maznytska
Queens University News Service
George Demopoulos, owner of Zack's Hamburgers in Charlotte.

Another landmark Charlotte restaurant is closing. Zack's Hamburgers off South Boulevard says Thursday will be its last day. The announcement came about two weeks after another iconic Charlotte restaurant, Price's Chicken Coop, closed after nearly 60 years. For more, WFAE's "Morning Edition" host Marshall Terry talks to Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter for our segment BizWorthy.

Marshall Terry: Tony, why is Zack's calling it a day?

Tony Mecia: Well, Marshall what we're seeing when these restaurants close, it's usually a combination of different factors. In this case, the owner told Charlotte Five, he said, look, he's been at it for 46 years or so there on South Boulevard at Scaleybark, and it's just time. It sort of had run its course.

There was also word on the street in the development community that the land is potentially under contract to an apartment developer. That tends to play a role in these sorts of things, as well. Usually it's a combination of factors. Zack's, I think, had a good run. Forty-six years being in business — that's something to be proud of.

Zack's Hamburger
Vlada Maznytska
You're going to miss cheeseburgers from Zack's Hamburgers.

Terry: Well, are we likely to see more of these types of closings in Charlotte?

Mecia: I think we are. This is something ... while these closings set off waves of nostalgia every time they happen, it's nothing really new. I mean, this has been going on in Charlotte for decades. Restaurants open, restaurants close. You know, it does seem like we've had a wave of these lately. And sometimes people say, well, it's COVID, it's the labor shortage. It's some of these owners getting older. I think all of those really play roles.

You know, there's nothing that says that these businesses are just going to go on forever. A lot of times Marshall, it's hard for these owners to pass it on to the next generation that maybe sees what their parents had to go through working in these places and doesn't want that lifestyle for themselves.

And obviously, land prices are going up all across the city and it's becoming maybe more attractive to get out from doing this if it's not your passion or it has been your passion for a number of decades and you're hitting retirement age. So I think it'll definitely continue, just for a number of reasons.

Terry: Tony, It appears that Charlotte may be poised to get another corporate headquarters, but not a bank or a tech company. What's going on?

Mecia: Roller coasters, Marshall. That's, I think, that's the future. Cedar Fair, which is the parent company of Carowinds, has been slowly moving a lot of its corporate people from Sandusky, Ohio, down into Charlotte. According to The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, Cedar Fair's CEO is down here, a number of their corporate divisions, there are a number of job openings that they've posted in Charlotte, and that they seem to be moving a lot of those key personnel from Sandusky, Ohio — small town, about 25,000 people — that a lot of that is being brought down here to Charlotte.

Now, the company hasn't said anything officially that it's opening a headquarters here or anything like that. But I mean, I think you see this with a lot of companies. They sort of gradually over time move things here. And so I think there's some hope in Charlotte that maybe we could land that headquarters.

Terry: Is there any idea why the company might be looking at Charlotte, specifically? Because the company does own amusement parks elsewhere in the country, right?

Cedar Point
Skyler Gerald
Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, is one of Cedar Fair's main amusement parks.

Mecia: Yeah, they have about a dozen amusement parks in North America. Knott's Berry Farm, Cedar Point, which is in Sandusky, and they have a few others in the Southeast and all over the place.

I think it's that their CEO is here. Charlotte has good weather. They're able to recruit people. This is just speculation, but it's a matter of a lot of times for these companies, they have a very difficult time recruiting people if they're in small towns to get top talent and technology and all kinds of different fields. So larger cities like Charlotte, really, I think, have an advantage. Obviously, the weather might be superior than it is in Ohio. Not as much snow, of course. We've got an airport that you can get pretty much anywhere. And just general quality of life.

Terry: According to a recent filing, more affordable housing is planned for Ballantyne. How much and where exactly?

Mecia: Marshall, there's a developer named Woodfield Development that has put in a rezoning request with the city in conjunction with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. They're developing a site across from Ardrey Kell High School. Want to build an elementary school there, as well as about 400 apartments and townhomes. And the developer is proposing that about 10% of those housing units be set aside as affordable housing, at 80% of the area's median income. And so the thinking is well, maybe you could have teachers live there.

I think that among Ballantyne residents, a lot of them are very concerned just generally about traffic, about school overcrowding. And so adding 400 more units there, some of which are affordable housing units, I think people are going to take a hard look at that.

And this isn't the first affordable housing in Ballantyne, which traditionally has been sort of a contentious topic over the years. The Ballantyne Reimagined project behind the Ballantyne Hotel, big project there by Northwood Office — that has an affordable housing component to it, as well. And then in addition to that, there's some land by the new police station on Johnson Road in Ballantyne that the city is looking at building affordable housing.

So there's been a big push, obviously, across the city to build affordable housing everywhere, including in places like Ballantyne.

Terry: And let's end on real estate. You report there's a new real estate opportunity in Charlotte: churches. What do you mean, exactly?

Mecia: Yeah, it's really interesting. You're seeing a combination of a number of trends here that really say that churches could be a pretty big redevelopment opportunity. Churches in Charlotte tend to have a lot of land in pretty desirable neighborhoods. At the same time, you're seeing a trend toward declining church attendance. The number of people who identify themselves as religious has plunged really in the last couple of decades, and land prices are rising.

So if you're a church and you have declining membership, declining church attendance and you're sitting on seven or 10 acres, maybe you don't need that land. And maybe you can sell that land. Maybe you can redevelop that land.

We've seen some examples of this around town. The best-known one is in SouthPark where Sharon United Methodist Church had about seven or eight acres. It's now been redeveloped into a hotel, an apartment complex — and the church stayed there in a much more sort of urban setting.

So we're seeing other examples of that, there's one in NoDa, there's one over in Myers Park. And I talked to some experts last week who said you're going to just see that continue. It's a bunch of trends coming together and it's an opportunity for churches to secure their future. And it's an opportunity for more development close in where a lot of housing units are needed.

Terry: Now, is there a lot of tax money at stake here since churches don't pay property taxes?

Mecia: Yeah, that's a good point. There is a financial element to it, too. Churches do not pay property taxes. So when that land is sold and redeveloped by private developers, that land, a lot of which is valuable, is back on the tax rolls. So there is definitely some financial benefit for local governments, as well.

Terry: All right, Tony, thank you.

Mecia: Thanks, Marshall.

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