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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.

Elon law dean says new South End program will be different than Charlotte School of Law

Charlotte is once again getting a law school. Elon University this week announced it will offer the program next year as part of a satellite campus opening in South End. For more, we turn now to Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter for our segment BizWorthy.

Marshall Terry: Tony, what's been the reaction to this news from the legal and business community in Charlotte? And what does it mean for the area overall?

Signage at Elon University.
Signage at Elon University.
Wikimedia Commons
Signage at Elon University.

Tony Mecia: Yeah, Marshall, I've been talking to local lawyers and they I think are excited about it, excited about the prospect. I think it's certainly something that's good for Charlotte. You know, Charlotte hasn't had a law school for the last six years. It also hasn't had a medical school. Now, you know, there's a medical school being built. There's a law school on the way. So I think it sort of fills in some of the gaps, maybe, that we've had in some professional degrees in higher education. So I think that's a good thing.

Some of the lawyers I talked with, they like the idea of it. They're hopeful that it will lead to their ability to mentor students, work with students here. We should point out it is a fairly small start. Elon said that it's starting with a class of 35 students. So it's not gonna make a huge impact on the legal market. It's not as though there's a huge shortage of lawyers in Charlotte, but there are some upsides, I think, for Charlotte in having this here.

Terry: Now, the last time Charlotte had a law school, it didn't end so well. The for-profit Charlotte School of Law operated for about a decade until it closed in 2017 amid accusations of mismanagement and low admission standards. It also lost its accreditation. Now, is there any lingering apprehension from all of that with this Elon law program opening?

Mecia: Well, that's the obvious parallel that jumps to mind. And the question is, if the Charlotte School of Law couldn't make a law school work in Charlotte, is Elon going to be able to make a law school work in Charlotte? And we talked to the dean of the law school at Elon about that, asked him that very question. And he said it's a completely different operation, that they have an established program that's been running in Greensboro for a number of years. Their students pass the bar exam regularly. He said they're focused on quality and they're mindful not to scale up the program too quickly just to make sure that they have good quality control.

Terry: From law school now to office space, delinquency on loan payments on office buildings is at 30% for Charlotte according to a recent analysis by The Washington Post. That's the worst delinquency rate among major U.S. cities. But local experts are saying, hold on a minute, the numbers aren't so simple. Can you unpack that for us?

Mecia: Yeah, Marshall, you know, we've talked about this problem with the office sector a number of times on this segment. And we've said that uptown has a lot of office buildings that are majority vacant. The Charlotte Business Journal this week looked into this a little bit further, and they said that the delinquency rates seem mostly to be concentrated in three buildings uptown: One Wells Fargo, the Charlotte Plaza building and 200 North College, which is formerly the Wake Forest University Charlotte Center. Those are all delinquent on their loans. In some cases, they might get turned back to the lender.

It's not just happening in Charlotte. This is happening around the country, but Charlotte does seem to be feeling the brunt of it a little bit worse maybe than some other cities. But again, this is something that's really been driven by the prevalence of hybrid work and companies consolidating and also new office space coming online that a lot of companies want to move into. So it's certainly a thorny problem. Some of the local people that the Charlotte Business Journal talked to said, well hold on, it's maybe not as dire as it seems. You know, this is just really concentrated in a few different buildings and it's not widespread — that it's not like all the office buildings in Charlotte are empty. But, there are a handful that seem to be having some problems.

Terry: Finally, you report a new statewide newspaper is buying The Charlotte Observer's printing facility off WT Harris in the University area. Tony, I thought the conventional wisdom was that print was dead. So what is this new paper, and am I missing something here?

Mecia: Yeah, I mean, you certainly have seen circulation declines among newspapers and print magazines. But last week, the North State Journal, which is an upstart print newspaper that covers all of North Carolina, bought the printing operation, as you mentioned, that was owned by McClatchy, which is the owner of The Charlotte Observer, Raleigh News Observer and other papers.

And I talked to the editor of the North State Journal, which says it is a fact-based publication, has a conservative opinion page. They said they see a bright future in print publications. They said that the important thing is to produce information that people want and that they see growing demand for their newspaper. They hope to get to 10,000 subscribers next year, And so this facility, Marshall, it sounds like it's going to continue printing The Observer, The Wall Street Journal, and other national and regional publications, but really under a different owner. And, they said they're very encouraged about it.

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

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.