Uptown booster group outlines center city challenges
It's time now for Biz Worthy, where we check in on what's going on in Charlotte area business news. This week, we're spending much of the segment on uptown, which took a big hit the last two years as employees work from home. The CEO of the booster group Charlotte's Center City Partners this week gave a presentation to city council about where uptown stands now. And for more, WFAE's Marshall Terry talks to Toni Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter.
Terry: Okay, Tony, what were some of the highlights in CEO Michael Smith's presentation to Council on Monday?
Mecia: Well, Marshall, it was kind of interesting. A lot of times when you hear uptown leaders talk about the future of uptown, it's in sort of broad terms, meaning they have long range plans about specific things they'd like to see happen. But what was interesting about this was city council members really drilled down on some of the challenges that uptown is facing, things like homelessness, public safety, a relocation of some businesses to South End.
So Michael Smith of Charlotte Center City Partners said he thinks the future for uptown is bright. I mean, uptown is not where it was when COVID hit. He said that only about 50% of workers are back in the office, which he knows from talking to businesses that use card swipes. So you can see when people come in. But he said that's better than a lot of peer cities where that number is only about 30%. So, you know, he addressed each of those challenges in response to council members question said that homelessness he is hopeful that that's going to be improving with the work with the city and the county and then CMPD. Same thing with public safety. There have been some, you know, reports of disturbances uptown, street racing. He said they're working on that and that's getting better. And as far as this issue of businesses moving to South End, he said, we shouldn't really look at that as a zero sum. South End wins and uptown loses, he said. It's really all the same area. And so if South End is thriving, that that's good for uptown.
Terry: So is he saying that South End and uptown are just kind of becoming one continuous area neighborhood, that sort of thing?
Mecia: Yeah, that's really the way they look at it. They look at it as the center city, the central business district. And he pointed out that development in the center city has traditionally moved around. In the '90s he said it was all centered on Trade and Tryon that it move it up North Tryon and then a decade later South Tryon and now it's sort of spilling out across 277 into that Morehead Street corridor. You got a number of new office buildings there where LendingTree is and a bunch of other projects planned. So he said it always moves around and it's all good for uptown.
Terry: Now, you mentioned employees are coming back to the office uptown a moment ago. I want to I want to stick with that topic for a second. The publication Insider recently had an update on how that's been going for one of the biggest employers in uptown Bank of America. And it found that it's not going quite the way executives have planned. How so?
Mecia: Well, it's a little challenging for companies. Bank of America, its CEO, has said, hey, we're a work-from-work company. We want people in the office and at work. But how that plays out is not having people there necessarily five days a week, full time. They're still trying to give employees flexibility. The article in Insider said that, you know, it really varies division by division and that you have some divisions that are in five days a week, others that are maybe in two or three days a week, and that that's creating some tensions among employees. So it's really a balancing act that a lot of these companies are having to face is how do you get people back into the office while still giving them the flexibility? And so Bank of America, probably not unlike a lot of companies like that, but, you know, it is challenging is uptown tries to get back to full strength.
Terry: All right. Let's switch gears now. The Ledger reports a 12-year-old girl was hospitalized after falling from the zip line at the YMCA Camp Thunderbird on Lake Wylie last week. What can you tell us?
Mecia: A 12-year-old girl fell from a zip line structure at Camp Thunderbird, which is a very popular summer camp, sleepaway camp, day camp. The zip line is about 40 feet in the air. So that's a pretty far fall for for anybody, really. But the Y has not released a lot of details about it. It has not said how it happened. It has not said how the girl is doing. It has sent parents who have campers there, a couple of emails saying, please pray for this camper and her family, but not a lot of information coming out of the Y on that. And some parents are asking, what are you doing about it? Is it safe? They want more details, but the Y has not been providing that information.
Terry: And why is that? Do you know?
Mecia: It would be speculating on my part. But, you know, any time you have something like this, there are potential legal ramifications, I suppose. And I think they do want to honor, you know, try to keep health matters confidential, although I think there's no reason they couldn't say what they think happened. I mean, this is something that happened last week. They must have some preliminary idea, but they're not sharing that just yet.
Terry: All right. Well, let's end on something that's very timely on this week. Temperatures are nearing 100 degrees. You report the term air conditioning is widely believed to have its origin in the Charlotte area. Really, where exactly?
Mecia: As we're all enjoying the air conditioning, might want to reflect on the term air conditioning. I talked with Tom Hanchett, a well-known local historian, about Stuart Cramer. He was a textile baron around the early 1900s. He designed textile mills in the Charlotte area. He also as he was building these mills, he also started developing a system that would kind of regulate the humidity and heat in the mills because cotton, it's kind of like your hair, I guess. You know, if changes in humidity can make it kind of frizzy and can alter it a little bit. And so he wanted to regulate that put in a patent in 1906 for something he called an air conditioning apparatus. And today, obviously, you know, we use the term air conditioning. Not saying he invented air conditioning. There were people before him that were working on similar things. But certainly, the term air conditioning, first time it was mentioned in a U.S. patent was by a Charlotte businessman, Stewart Cramer. One of the mills was in modern day Cramerton. That's how Cramerton gets his name. Name after Stewart Cramer.
Terry: Well, who knew? Well, thank you. Thank you for sharing that.
Mecia: Little bit of Charlotte and Gaston County history for you today, Marshall.
Terry: All right, Tony. Well, thank you very much. We will leave it there this week. Thanks. That's Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger business newsletter. Support for Biz Worthy comes from Sharonview Federal Credit Union and our listeners.