BizWorthy: Charlotte Medical School Will Be Boon For Economy

Aug 13, 2020

Atrium Health has unveiled more details, including a rendering, of the medical school it plans to operate in Charlotte through a partnership with Wake Forest Baptist Health and Wake Forest University. It would be Charlotte’s first medical school in more than 100 years.  

Atrium CEO Gene Woods says a consulting firm estimates the school would bring 20,000 jobs along with a $2.5 billion economic impact. Cristina Bolling of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter joins us with more on that and other economic news for our segment BizWorthy.

Marshall Terry: Cristina, besides the jobs, how would the addition of a medical school in Charlotte impact the local economy?

Cristina Bolling: Sure. I think we're going to see that impact felt in a bunch of different ways. I mean, if you think about it, you know, medical schools will have big purchases of equipment. Students will need textbooks. There will be housing impact for sure. There will be lots of services that will need to supply and medical school supplies, employee purchases. You're going to see students shopping at local stores and restaurants.

Terry: What's the vision for this medical school overall?

Bolling: Sure. So this medical school is going to be part of a larger partnership or a strategic combination, as they're calling it, between Wake Forest University, Atrium Health and Winston-Salem's Wake Forest Baptist Health. Really, the goal, these groups say, is ... to poise this medical school, having Charlotte be kind of the Silicon Valley for health care from Winston-Salem to Charlotte.

Terry: What's next in the process for getting final approval for the school?

Bolling: It still needs federal approval, and we don't know when that will come. Other details that we don't know is that we don't know exactly where it will be located in Charlotte. There's a lot of signs pointing toward it being located in midtown near Atrium Health's flagship hospital. But some of those questions are still not answered.

Terry: Cristina, you report the Levine Museum of the New South in uptown is thinking about selling the property and moving. So, what's going on?

Credit Wikimedia Commons

Bolling: Indeed, the museum's leadership is looking at selling their property at the corner of College and 7th streets. They really say that the building as it is now is, you know, inflexible and it's aging. And this is kind of a real time of change for museums when they are finding that they may be less physical space because they are going to be doing more events and things out in the community. And it's sort of pushing its way out into the community less than having a large space.

Museum CEO Kathryn Hill says that everything is on the table. She really gave no indication in terms of exactly where they might move. But she did say that they are focusing on uptown, that uptown is seen as the cultural center of Charlotte, and there's a thought that they should reside there.

Terry: Well, let's stay in uptown for a moment. Several restaurants in the Epicentre have closed. Earlier this year on this segment, we talked about how the Epicentre is no longer the center of Charlotte nightlife that it once was, so are these recent closings part of that, or is it related to the pandemic, or is it both?

Bolling: The Epicentre definitely was struggling before the pandemic. There were problems with crime. Certain businesses like Studio Movie Grill were looking at closing. Restaurants have, of course, since the pandemic really been suffering. And, you know, frankly, there just aren't people uptown going to work, and I think a lot of those restaurants were seeing a lot of lunchtime business from uptown workers. So you put all that together and it's kind of the perfect recipe for trouble at a place like the Epicentre.

Terry: Finally, you report the market for vacation homes is booming right now in the North Carolina mountains and at the beach, and that that boom is tied to the pandemic. How so?

Apparently it's a good time to buy a home in the North Carolina mountains.
Credit Dashiell Coleman / WFAE

Bolling: Absolutely. So, I mean, really, so many families now -- parents are working remotely, kids are learning remotely -- they're looking for another place to kind of get away and spend some time. And for those whose jobs have not been heavily impacted by the pandemic, interest rates are super low, and now seems to a lot of people to be a good time to find that other place to to go to kind of ride this whole thing out.

So, folks who might have been thinking about a home in the mountains or at the beach, to them now seems like a pretty great time to do that. I talked to several realtors in spots like Hilton Head and the Outer Banks and Boone and Asheville, and they all say that the market is just, they use words like insane. For instance, in Hilton Head, pending sales in June were up 80% from June 2019. Sales prices are rising. In Wilmington, there's two months of inventory or less, so it's just a really hot time in those vacation spots.

Terry: All right. We're going to leave it there. Thanks, Christina.

Bolling: Thank you, Marshall.