One of Charlotte’s airports is closing. OK, you’re probably saying right now, "Wait, Charlotte has more than one airport?" It does. Wilgrove Airport off Albemarle Road near I-485 in east Charlotte opened in the late 1960s and has been home to the city’s only flight school as well as being a hangout for recreational pilots. It’s closing this spring to make way for development.
Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter joins WFAE "Morning Edition" host Marshall Terry with more on this and other business news.
Marshall Terry: Tony, just how big is this airport?
Tony Mecia: A lot of people who've lived in Charlotte for a long time don't know that this airport exists — myself included. I've lived here for 23 years and was actually news to me that it's there. It's kind of hidden. It's off of Albemarle Road. It's a 53-acre site. It's not what you would think of when you think of an airport, you usually think of Charlotte Douglas International Airport. This is much, much smaller than that.
It's essentially an airstrip with a couple of buildings and about three dozen small planes parked on there used by recreational pilots. The airstrip is not really long enough to accommodate, you know, business jets. It's mostly really small planes, guys, you know, flying around the Carolinas on the weekends, learning to fly. It's popular among recreational pilots, among sort of weekend pilots, but it is closing.
Terry: You spoke with some of those pilots and also the manager of the airport who shared a lot of fond memories.
Mecia: Yeah. You know, they said it's more than just an airport where they go and fly places and come back. You know, there's this community of recreational pilots that gets together. They have cookouts, you know, one of the guys plays the guitar. They get together and they spend some time together. There's this real camaraderie among pilots and among people in the aviation community. And this was really sort of a hub of that.
Terry: What does this mean for recreational pilots in Charlotte now? Do they have other options?
Mecia: There are not a lot of great options in Charlotte for recreational pilots. Charlotte Douglas — a lot of them don't want to go in there; there are massive airliners and American Airlines flying these huge jets in there. There are a bunch of other options in the region. There's an airport called Goose Creek, which is in Union County. There are some spots in Cabarrus. I mean, there are (small airports) around the region where they can fly.
Terry: And as I mentioned at the beginning of this, Wilgrove Airport is closing because of development. What's the development, exactly?
Mecia: Well, we don't know exactly what the development is. The manager of the airport told me that the owner of the land has decided to go ahead and sell it to a developer. There is a lot of development action in that area. This is sort of near Albemarle Road and I-485. Novant Health just put a medical center in there a couple of years ago. Developers are clearing some land for an apartment complex there. There's a whole bunch going on around that interchange. This is maybe a mile or two from that. So, it's sort of getting caught up in some of this development pressure that you're seeing in a lot of areas of town.
Terry: On to Dilworth now where something may finally be coming to the long vacant spot at the corner of East Boulevard and Scott Avenue. Tony, it's really surprising to me that such a primo spot has been vacant for as long as it has.
Mecia: It is a little surprising. And a lot of people in Dilworth for a long time have really sort of been pulling their hair out about this as they would like to have this land developed and like to have something nice there rather than just a surface lot, which over the years have been used for parking for Christmas tree lots, for pumpkin lots around Halloween. It's right across from the Brixx. It's catty-corner to the Starbucks if people are sort of trying to figure out where this is. But it is little surprising it hasn't developed.
Real estate people that I talked to say that, you know, there have been some sort of fits and starts over the years, that the owner of the land wanted to develop it, ran into some roadblocks, then wanted to sell it, then decided not to sell it. And so, there's sort of been this back and forth, but it's under contract now. We don't know whether it will go through. These things can always fall through. But it looks like it might be developed.
Terry: Are you hearing anything about what it could possibly turn into?
Mecia: The company that says that it is buying the land, which is Selwyn Property Group, isn't giving any details about that. Some people in Dilworth seem to have heard that it could be an office building, maybe with some retail on the first floor and some underground parking. But, you know, the developer isn't talking about that.
Terry: It's a little early in the morning, but let's end on some beer news. Bold Missy Brewery in NoDa has announced it's closing. Now, a brewery closing in Charlotte is somewhat of a rarity. Has the beer bubble burst?
Mecia: Well, that's sort of a controversial question. There are a lot of people in town who will tell you that it absolutely has not, that as we all know Charlotte has a thriving beer scene, that there are new breweries opening up, new locations. I do think this idea that you can just open a brewery and it will automatically make money and it will be the path to riches is not accurate really, either, that, you know, breweries or businesses just like any other business. Just because they have a good product, that's just part of it.
There are all kinds of things that go into a business, especially a retail business like this — you know, the location, the marketing, the partnerships, the financial side. So, it's not just do you make good beer or do you not make good beer, but it's much more complicated than that. And so, on the one hand, you know, it's not automatic that these things will make a bunch of money. And, you know, you're going to see, I think, breweries like Bold Missy, there are going to be more more casualties, I think, to come. But that's not necessarily a reflection of the growth.