BizWorthy: Dilworth Residents Uneasy Over Atrium Expansion Plans

Oct 24, 2019

Atrium Health has announced big expansion plans on about 70 acres at its main campus in Dilworth. The plans call for a medical school and office space. The hospital system also wants to build a hotel.

For more on this and other business news, WFAE "Morning Edition" host Marshall Terry turns to Tony Mecia with the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter.

Marshall Terry: So, Tony, is Atrium getting into the hotel business here?

Tony Mecia: Well, there are a whole bunch of things that Atrium wants to do on its campus down there in Dilworth. They entered into an agreement with Wake Forest earlier this summer to try to develop a medical school. They're talking about putting in a hotel. They're talking about put it in residential units — part of a big overhaul of that campus as they're expanding and growing, and they say, you know, they have a lot of plans to make some changes.

Terry: Now, Atrium's plans are causing some Dilworth residents to be a bit uneasy. You spoke to some of them. I mean, what are they concerned about, exactly?

Mecia: Sure. Well, Dilworth Neighborhood Association has long had a reputation of being very vigilant and being very attentive to what goes on in its community. In this case, they're asking for more specifics from Atrium. I talked to a number of the neighborhood leaders there in Dilworth, and they're concerned that the Atrium's plans seem to call for some very tall buildings right next to some residential streets right off of East Boulevard, kind of behind East Boulevard there, behind some of those shops.

There are three neighborhood streets, and Atrium's plans seem to show, you know, buildings up to 150 feet high in one section, buildings up to 60 feet high in another section, and the neighborhood just wants some more specifics. They want to know what exactly those buildings are going to be. They think that some of those areas aren't appropriate to have very tall buildings that are right behind houses.

Terry: Let's stick with development for a moment. There are some plans in the works for a site on Freedom Drive at I-85 in west Charlotte. What's going on there?

Mecia: Yeah. Again, not a lot of specifics, but developers have filed some preliminary plans with the city that seemed to show the Freedom Mart shopping center — that's a strip mall across from the old Freedom Mall — and it would be knocked down and turn into a medical office building.

This is sort of an example of development that you've seen a lot of it down there at Morehead and Freedom. And it seems to be sort of moving in the direction of I-85. And so this is has long been sort of a distressed corridor, and so I think that's going to be pretty welcome news that there's some private investment heading into that area.

Terry: There's a new banking option in Charlotte. Minneapolis-headquartered U.S. Bank this week opened a branch in uptown. More branches are planned. Are we about to see a banking war in Charlotte, Tony?

Mecia: Yeah, you know, this is a market that has long been dominated by Bank of America and Wells Fargo. They have almost 90% of the deposits locally. But we are seeing a lot of new entrants into the market. We're seeing U.S. Bank — opened its first branch uptown, has plans to add maybe up to 10 branches. We have JP Morgan Chase, which is going to start opening branches in Charlotte. So, I think we're going to see a lot more heated competition for some of those deposits.

Mecia: Finally, it looks like rooftop bars are coming to SouthPark and Ballantyne. Usually you only see rooftop bars in and around uptown, so what's behind the change here?

Terry: Yeah, usually when you think of rooftop bars in Charlotte, you're thinking of these Instagram-able places in these close-in neighborhoods in uptown. You know, I don't post those. You know, that's what the younger, younger generation calls them. Right. These "Instagram-able" photos.

But, you know, we're starting to see more of them be announced in other parts of town. In SouthPark and in Ballantine, you've had developers recently announce some plans for rooftop bars, and that's as these areas are sort of developing more characteristics of urban areas. We've talked a little bit about that in the past, but we have a there's a AC Hotel by Marriott in there in SouthPark that's getting ready to open in the next few months. They have announced a rooftop bar on the eighth floor — skyline views, they say. There is another one, a Hyatt Centric hotel that's scheduled to open in the next couple of years — rooftop bar.

You have a couple others in the Ballantyne area. So, we're really starting to see this trend of rooftop bars move into other parts of town and really be available to people who don't want to go uptown to go have a nice view.