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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.

Surge of development plans in Charlotte ahead of UDO taking effect

Charlotte Skyline
A view of the Charlotte skyline.

Did we say there was a slowdown in development in Charlotte? Well, this week the boom is back, at least for now, with plans for more than 3,300 new homes, a new middle school in South Charlotte and an expansion of the Harris YMCA in South Park. For more, we turn now to Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter for our segment BizWorthy.

Marshall Terry: Tony, you follow this stuff pretty closely. I take it it's not normal for this many projects to be unveiled all at once?

Tony Mecia: It isn't normal to have a huge crush of development plans revealed all in a couple-day period, but that's what happened this week. On Monday and Tuesday, you had about 30 rezoning filings filed with the city of Charlotte, a whole range of things, a bunch of different projects all over the city. You had 917 homes and a middle school in the Ray Farms area in south Charlotte. You had three developers teaming up for 1,500 homes and refurbishing the Providence Square Shopping Center along Providence Road in south Charlotte. You had an expansion to the Harris YMCA, apartments in Elizabeth, and Dilworth industrial projects along Beatties Ford Road and University City.

I sort of feel like I need to be one of those speed readers to get it in. I could keep going, Marshall. But there were a whole bunch of projects unveiled this week by developers.

Terry: So, so what's going on? Why all the new projects all of a sudden?

Mecia: Well, it's a little bit of a quirk in the way the city is approaching rezoning petitions. You might recall the city last summer passed what is called the Unified Development Ordinance, which sets new rules on how Charlotte is going to grow and how developers can build apartment complexes and the like. That ordinance set a Jan. 31 deadline for petitions to be submitted under the old rules. And so now, going forward, any new rezonings are going to have to be under the new rules.

Real estate people say they understand the old rules. They don't necessarily understand the new rules, and they don't know how they will be interpreted. So they see it as a little bit safer to hurry up and get those projects in and announce them in the pipeline to meet that Jan. 31 deadline. So that was really what caused this flurry of rezoning petitions and development plans coming out this week. As to whether things are slowing down or not, I would just say these are projects that are going to be at least a year or two down the line. So they're sort of looking farther ahead.

Terry: All right. Well, let's switch over now to a building that already exists — One Wells Fargo Center uptown, also known as the jukebox building. Wells Fargo this week announced it's leaving the building, kind of a "musical chairs" of office space.

Why are they moving? And what might this mean for uptown's post-COVID office market?

Mecia: Yeah, I think musical chairs is a good way to put it. There's a lot going on in the office market right now, but this is really sort of a shift that we've seen over the last couple of years. In this particular case, you had Duke Energy that was moving offices, getting out of its longtime headquarters of what is now called 550 South Tryon, which is the building with a big handlebar, as you might call it, on the top of it.

Wells Fargo said they're getting out of some of their older buildings, One Wells Fargo — which is on College Street — and Two Wells Fargo, and they're consolidating into 550 South Tryon and Three Wells Fargo. It does sound like it's more of just a shift as opposed to a reduction in space, although they have been wanting to consolidate their employees uptown for some time. And so this accomplishes that.

They say they are refurbishing a lot of the floors of those offices as well as their campus in University City. Generally, I'd say, Marshall, you're seeing a lot of employers reevaluate what their office space needs are. But this doesn't necessarily sound like a reduction as much as it is sort of a moving around. So, you know, there's a lot going on with office and how employers are approaching that. You don't have a lot of new construction of offices, but certainly, with hybrid work and remote work, employers are making some different decisions.

Terry: Now let's move to south of Charlotte for an update to a story you brought us a few months ago. Residents of one neighborhood were reporting dozens of deer were getting fatally impaled on a fence as they tried to jump over it. Now, one issue was the cost of replacing this fence with a safer version. What ended up happening?

Mecia: And we're talking here about the Enclave at Providence neighborhood. This is on NC 51/Pineville Mathews Road near Davey Park. And some of the residents had said, yes, they had seen deer that had gotten caught on the fence or really hurt or killed, you know, jumping over, over that fence. At the time, the homeowners' association said it would be too expensive to replace the fence.

But good news for the deer, this last weekend, the homeowner's association came in, lowered the fence a little bit and put plastic caps on top. So good news for deer in South Charlotte.

Terry: Indeed. OK, let's end this week by focusing inward. Last week you published an edition of the Ledger with stories written entirely from press releases that you received. So no going out into the community to gather stories as you normally do.

What was the thinking there?

Mecia: Marshall, it was a little bit of an experiment. We were interested in seeing how that might work. I think it was a matter of providing transparency to our readers on how information comes about, and how the media works. And it was maybe a little bit of a commentary on the media business as well.

As you know, I'm sure...reporters, people in the media get a lot of press releases. We get information from a lot of different sources. I would say over the last at least 20 years or so since I've been in the news business, I think we have seen a shift toward more press-release-driven articles. It's certainly very easy. You know, we had articles on a new toothpaste container, a new fintech company in Charlotte, a new museum exhibit. And I think what we learned was it is entirely possible to put together a news lineup that is interesting and holds people's attention just by relying on what publicists think is important. But I don't know that it's necessarily healthy for our community to do that.

And I think we should continue to go out and do the kind of original journalism that the Ledger does and that WFAE does. I think that better reflects the community. And so that's, that's what we did, that's why we did it. It's tempting, but I don't think we're going to make that a full-time way that we approach things.

Terry: All right, thanks Tony.

Mecia: Thanks, Marshall.

Support for WFAE's BizWorthy comes from UNC Charlotte's Belk College of Business, Sharon View Federal Credit Union and our listeners.


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Marshall came to WFAE after graduating from Appalachian State University, where he worked at the campus radio station and earned a degree in communication. Outside of radio, he loves listening to music and going to see bands - preferably in small, dingy clubs.