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  1. My Weimaraner puppy, Ike (so named because President Eisenhower had one) spies a deer for the first time, from my library (which sounds better than home office). He's now 4.5 months old; these pics are a month old or so. In the first pic, note the doe's fawn, who is a bit shy, in the right background. A staring contest, which lasted about 45 seconds:
  2. Happy Thanksgiving to all. Some generic thoughts, not about a particular bar/restaurant which is closing or may do so soon, but about the challenges faced in general by bars and restaurants... New behavior, once learned, can be difficult to un-learn. Most of us have, for quite a few months, been doing a much higher percentage of our eating (and, for those who indulge, drinking) at home, as opposed to bars and restaurants. I trust there will come a time, hopefully soon, when the virus is defeated, everyone has been vaccinated, the riots have stopped, and damaged/destroyed establishments repaired. So, once we return to what passes for normal, will we return to our favorite bars and restaurants (or new bars and restaurants if our favorites didn't survive) in the same numbers as before? I don't think so. At least, I'm pretty sure my bar business won't return to pre-crisis levels, because I've learned that drinking at home is a pretty good deal. i can make a damn fine martini at home for a buck and a half. Say I have two, at a cost of $3. What would the same cost at my favorite bar? At $12 per drink, plus 7.25% sales tax, plus a tip, about $30 for two. So, a 10x premium for the privilege of having a bartender make it for you. The premium for wine or beer is considerably less, but still significant. And at home, I have my TV set on what I want to see, or my sound system playing what I want to hear. Car expenses (gas, tires, oil) might be another buck or two. And let's not forget, I'm creating some danger to myself and others by driving after two martinis. I dare not have a third, unless I want to call an Uber and retrieve my car the next day -- another $20, perhaps? Of course, it's no new discovery that drinking at home is cheaper than drinking in a bar. But I suspect the difference will be driven home to a lot of folks once they've changed their habits for a few months. The same applies to food, but to a lesser extent. While making a drink, or grabbing a beer, or pouring a glass of wine at home is as easy as ordering the same at a bar, it takes much more effort to cook a ribeye or salmon or whatever, plus a salad and sides, even if you have all ingredients at hand, than ordering at a restaurant. And the cost differential is surely less for food than it is for martinis. The bottom line is I'm not optimistic about the return of bar and restaurant business to pre-Covid and pre-riot levels. Some won't be comfortable (perceiving danger even after it's gone); some won't be able to afford it (having lost their jobs); and some will focus on the bar vs. home cost differential. It's a tough business even in the best of times. It's going to get tougher.
  3. A few topics which don't merit a thread of their own -- I guess this is as good a place as any. 1. What is the status of the proposed highrise in Cherry? It seems to have dropped out of the news. 2. Some months ago, it was announced that the parking garage (but not the office building) of BB&T Center (200 S. College) had been sold. What about the office building? Is it a tear-down, while keeping the garage intact? The "anchor" tenant, BB&T, doesn't occupy much space -- I think three floors ± -- but of course they're leaving, including the first floor lobby. For years, the largest tenant has been BofA, for back-office space. Hard to imagine they still need that space, with all the BofA-branded space uptown, old and new. 3. Speaking of uptown space, there's a lot of it that his hit the market of late. A couple of months ago, I started a thread asking if uptown is overbuilt, with respect especially to office space and hotels. I'll add parking, too --parking garages in recent years have been profit centers for developers and owners. I have to assume that parking rates, if they have not dropped sharply yet, will soon. Uptown office space has to be grossly oversupplied in the current environment. And it's not just the epidemic. As James Carville might say, it's the riots, stupid! It's not just New York which has plywood storefronts, city-sanctioned grafitti on the streets, attacks on police officers, and a rise in violent crime. Larger companies may order their staff to get off of Zoom, and come back to their uptown quarters, as J.P. Morgan just did in New York. But will smaller companies renew their leases in uptown office towers? SouthPark and Ballantyne, and working from home, may be looking more attractive to them. And hotels, given the collapse of the convention business, are clearly hurting now; new hotels coming on line will make the problem worse. I realize I'm out of step here with my pessimism. It is natural for a real estate forum to have an optimistic consensus. But I think hard times are coming for uptown real estate.
  4. Were I a hard-core preservationist (spoiler alert: I' m not), I don't think the Barringer Hotel/Hall House is the hill I'd die on. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the beholder would have to be under the influence of some pretty strong "feel good" drugs to see this building as anything other than one of ordinary, utilitarian design, rendered in cheap materials. "Art Deco" elements? Please. A concrete first and second floor facade tacked onto an otherwise perfectly plain box built of the most common brick (a particularly ugly and gloomy dark maroon which I can only surmise must have been on sale) does not suffice as an Art Deco design element. This decorative (to be charitable) feature, the only attempt at distinctiveness on the building, is precast concrete rather than marble, granite, or even limestone or terra cotta. But the dead giveaway of a cheap mindset is the fact that it extends only part-way down the sides, and not at all to the rear of the building. It's rather like a tract house which has faux shutters on the windows facing the street, but not on windows on the sides or rear. Age alone does not qualify a building for historical significance. The Barringer was completed in 1940, so probably designed in 1939. It was at the end of the Art Deco era. It might have ben interesting had it been designed in the "Streamline" (a late Art Deco offshoot) mode, but of course, no such luck. We can lament what might have been, but we must deal with what was actually built. As it stands now, or even if it were gutted and renovated, it's more of an impediment to adjacent development that a stimulant. It needs to be blowed up real good.
  5. An uncomfortable question, but one that needs to be asked, in light of 'rona and riots: how bad a long-term hit has the demand for office space and hotel rooms taken? I don't want to leave out residential, retail, bars and restaurants, parking garages, and public/cultural facilities, which are already having a tough time, but office and hotel demand seems to be in a particularly difficult long-term spot. Years ago, one of the big commercial real estate companies, in conjunction with, as I recall, the Central Charlotte Association (since absorbed by the Charlotte Chamber) kept a running count of office vecancy by building. Is such a list still being maintained? What's the real vacancy rate for uptown office space? And by "real," I mean stats which avoid double-counting leases (counting as occupied both the space that Law Firm X is currently leasing but is scheduled to leave, and the space they will occupy in a new building). Surely it has become a renters' market, given the massive office square footage recently added or under construction. It seems obvious that the new buildings will have to slash their rental rates and/or increase their tenant upfit allowances, as well as offer deeply discounted or free parking. But the real hammer might fall on the so-called Class B buildings which were built in the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. Take, for example, the 400 South Tryon building, the gold and white building known as Wachovia Center in the 70s and 80s, and later occupied mostly by Duke Power (now Duke Energy). is Duke still the major tenant there? If so, not for long, I would surmise. What about BB&T Center, at 200 South College? Southern Bell was for many years its majority tenant; when they left, Bank of America took most of their space for back-office operations. But now, in addition to BB&T leaving, BofA has greatly reduced its space, and I would guess might leave entirely. Who would fill the building? And the once-tallest and most prestigious office building uptown, the all-glass BofA Plaza, will certainly have some move-outs. What about One, Two, and Three Wells Fargo? Is Wells occupying more space than they need? If anything, the hotel situation may be more dire. I trust the NFL and NBA will be fully back in a year or less, but it will be a long time before the convention business bounces back. That's the life blood of hotels, of course, and new hotel rooms, from economical to luxe, are rapidly coming on line. I hate to be negative. I've always been a Charlotte booster. Would anyone like to demonstrate that things look better than I think they do?
  6. I'm a native of Charlotte, grew up near SouthPark, and have lived in Fourth Ward, and the "poor part of Eastover" (a humble condo in the shadow of the manses of the rich and powerful), among other places. But I built a house in Weddington, Union County, a decade ago. I absolutely love Union County. I have deer in front of my house, a pond with turtles, ducks, and a Great Blue Heron in back, and Red Tail Hawks wheeling overhead. If I had to commute to central Charlotte on a daily basis, I might not be so happy, but that's not the case. For all its charm, Union County is, well, quirky. Monroe (the older natives pronounce it MUNrow), in the middle of the rather large county, is the county seat. But it doesn't run the county -- not politically, as it's a blue dot in a ruby red county, and not economically -- it's no longer the largest town in the county; Indian Trail is. The power in Union County is in the string of towns lined allong and near the Mecklenburg County line -- Marvin, Weddington, Wesley Chapel, Indian Trail, Stallings, Waxhaw (a bit further back from the line), and others. Union County has, I believe, more incorporated towns than any other county in the state. Why? Blame involuntary annexation, which no longer is the law in NC. But in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, Union County's then unincorporated villages felt the need to protect themselves from annexation by Charlotte, which was not permitted to annex any part of incorporated towns. And so, we have "paper towns." My town of Weddington is one example. It has a nominal property tax rate, and essentially provides no services other than zoning regulations/enforcement , and signage and lighting regulations. No police department (the Union County Sheriff's Department patrols); fire protection is by VFDs; trash pickup by private contractors; water/sewer is, for the most part, individual wells and septic fields, or private mini-plants built by new subdivisions. Almost all of Weddington is single-family residential, 40,000 sf lot minimums, with a sole strip retail center which preceded the incorporation of the town. No multifamily, no office, no hotels, no industry. And so, rather than denser land use within the town limit, we have the opposite; smaller lots are permitted in unincorporated areas of the county. The operation hours of Weddington's City Hall, such as it is -- it's an old house -- gives a hint of how local government works: 9:00 to 1:00, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Weddington may feel pressure to loosen its anti-growth posture in coming years -- especially the Providence Road corridor. Providence is slated to be four-laned down to Waxhaw "soon" (a word which has been used for more than two decades). But being between Waverly to the north, and Waxhaw, which is more open to commercial development, to the south, it certainly seems to me (wearing my real estate developer hat) that the highest and best use of the remaining vacant land isn't more gated neighborhoods of McMansions on one acre lots. And there is a lot of vacant land -- strawberry farms, small veggie farms, timber farms, horse stables and riding acadamies. And that's just within the town limits of Weddington; further out in southern and eastern parts of the county, there's plenty of "big ag" -- poultry, pigs, dairy, corn, soybeans. Great swaths of Union county will remain agricultural for a long time. But I get the feeling that a lot of large landholders closer to the Mecklenburg line are biding their time until pro-growth mayors and town councils are elected in some of the towns. Back to the county at large, it is, as I said, rather quirky. It retains a County Commission structured as it was decades (maybe over a century?) ago, when its population was relatively tiny: five seats, all at-large. All Republican in recent years, of course, a Democrat being about as likely to be elected county-wide in Union County as a Republican in Orange County. And the public school system is neighborhood-based, with the result that the schools serving the mostly affluent northwestern part of the county -- the aforementioned towns near the Mecklenburg line -- have some of the highest average test scores in the state -- Weddington, Marvin Ridge, and Cuthbertson High Schools, for example. Though I find Union County a great place to live, it is not without its problems. All those people driving around with Steelers and Bills bumper stickers, for one thing. But they're generally good folks, and put lots of money into the economy. I'm a bit mystified by the explosion of gated communities -- crime isn't a problem here, but maybe the perception of exclusivity is the driving force. We need more employment -- manufactuting, office, retail, because large lot single family development inevitably spends more county tax dollars than it provides.
  7. How about bringing back "Downtown"? The word "Uptown" has always struck me as a silly affectation. But some people like it, so keep it to refer to the part of the central business district north of Trade Street, and call the part of the central business district south of Trade "Downtown." The intense development of the Stonewall/Tryon area merits its own geographic name, anyway. And having an Uptown and a Downtown would mirror the same designations as in New York and Atlanta, with Uptown being north, and Downtown being South. (Of course, Tryon runs approximately southwest-to-northeast, but North Tryon and South Tryon are the street names.)
  8. Perhaps you need more current data than "more than a decade ago." Marvin Ridge High, founded 2007, and Cuthbertson High, founded 2009, may not even have existed. I know the attendance zones have changed substantially since you worked at WHS. Here's a more current ranking of North Carolina public high schools: https://www.schooldigger.com/go/NC/schoolrank.aspx?level=3 Marvin Ridge, Weddington, and Cuthbertson are rated #13, #15, and #22 in the state, respectively. But note that the rankings include charter schools, early college schools, and tech and arts schools with small student bodies. Of general purpose high schools -- the schools your children would be assigned to if they didn't seek admision into one of the smaller specialty schools -- the statewide rankings are Marvin Ridge #1, Weddington #2, and Cuthbertson #5. Ardrey Kell and Providence, both in outer south Meckenburg, rank #3 and #4. Let's not even talk about my beloved alma mater, Myers Park. I realize there are many methods of ranking school quality. But for little ole Union County to have the two highest ranked general purpose high schools in the state is impressive indeed. As a former residential lot developer in Union County, I am in touch with the residential real estate community. And the number one factor for the "where to buy" question is school assignments. Even retired people with no kids consider this factor strongly, because they know that property values in some school districts will almost certainly increase more than values in other school districts. Prospective buyers even try to analyze what future attendance zones will look like, as new schools are built. Here's how wild it has become: I know an agent who markets homes in a neighborhood just west of Marvin Ridge High School. She points out to buyers that there's not much room between MRHS and the South Carolina (Lancaster County) line to the west. And so, she hints to prospects (of course, she can't promise it), the neighborhood is "Marvin Ridge for life." And given that Union County schools are neighborhood schools, unless that changes, and there is no indication that it will, she's probably right. Do people pay too much attention to the public schools they will be zoned into? Perhaps. But it is what it is.
  9. Things change rapidly, don't they? As of a decade ago, suburbs were doomed, and millenials were giving up their cars, and moving into lofts over retail beside the tracks. But by the time this thread started (2017), we were already seeing a reversal of this trend. The word "exurbs" was little used until the 2016 elections. Then, exurbs were discovered, and suburbs rediscovered. Of course, residents thereof had long been aware of their attractiveness. In the Charlotte metro area, the urban/suburban divide is especially sharp once you cross the county line out of Mecklenburg. Taxes are lower, crime is lower, and schools are better. And if you don't think the quality of public schools matter, I would urge you to think again. The rapid growth of northwestern Union County (Weddington, Wesley Chapel, Marvin, and Waxhaw) is a clue. Check the statewide rankings of Weddington, Marvin Ridge, and Cuthbertson High Schools, and their middle and elementary feeder schools. In my experience (residential lot development), school quality is the #1 determinent in people's choice of where to move. Northern Lancaster and York Counties in South Carolina are experiencing the same thing: good schools (plus lower taxes) equals population boom. The 2020 census figures will be interesting. I think they'll show the beginning of a swing back to suburban/exurban growth, with a slowing of urban growth. And of course, recent events -- pandemics and pandemonium -- will serve to amplify the trend, certainly in the short run, maybe for a long time. Work-from-home and Zoom meetings will be found to work well for many organizations. And fear of disease and civil unrest will work in favor of the exurban boom. Single-family development, much of it in gated communities, seems to be surging again in Union County.
  10. The need for an "art house" movie theater is, to me, debatable, given modern capacity for home entertainment. In fact, the era of movie theaters in general, whether "first run" or "art house" is coming to an end. Showing films in a dark room does nothing to enliven the nearby streetscape -- didn't work at EpiCentre or Ballantyne, to name two recent fiascos. If someone determines there is a market for such films, fine with me. But why in Myers Park/ Eastover? If the concept works at all, it might be in more of a hipster hood -- NoDa, Plaza Midweird, Elizabeth Avenue, or a back street in South End.
  11. Agree with that 100%. If anything, "battle royale" is an understatement, given the prominence of the site. I'll have to make my own popcorn since the theater is closed.
  12. Well, I guess it just gets down to my failure to appreciate the appeal of any movie theater, whether showing new films or vintage obscurities. The home options -- Blu-ray, Hulu, YouTube, Turner Network, and dozens more -- seem to me superior to the movie theatre experience. Heck, if you like sticky floors, worn and smelly upholstery, the smell of burned popcorn, and other people talking, you can re-create these at home. I just don't get the nostalgia thing, especially given the video/audio quality now available at home. That aside, on this real estate oriented forum, it seems to me that the idea of replacing a failing movie theatre with a midrise retail + residential and/or office tower would be a slam dunk.
  13. There will be pearl-clutching. But not from me. Not that I wear pearls. Years ago, I lived within two blocks of the Manor. Never saw the inside of it, never wanted to. Built in 1947, of no particular architectural style other than Cheap Post-War, the Manor has no aesthetic claim to justify its preservation. Let's just say it's no Carolina Theatre, and no Fox Theatre (Atlanta). Being 73 years old is not, by itself, sufficient to make it indispensable. The rest of the block is similarly drab. Bulldozers should be the first step to the creation of building a suitable entrance to Eastover and Myers Park. But I'm guessing a protracted battle over demolition, zoning, planning, and construction will ensue. No shortage of lawyers in the hood.
  14. The Manor Theater will not re-open after the virus epidemic. The mini-shopping center the Manor was a part of always stuck me as an under-use of the location, between Myers Park and Eastover. I don't know how the ownership of the shopping center is split up. Nor do I know offhand what kind of density would be permitted by zoning. But it seems to me a mid-rise luxury condo, atop a combination of structured parking and retail/restaurant, would make sense. Probably a great view of Uptown from 5th floor and above.
  15. What's especially odd is that part of Weddington (including my abode) is in the 28173 Waxhaw zip code, and part of it is in the 28105 Matthews zip code, never mind that Matthews is in Mecklenburg. When we read an article about our State High School Football Champions, of which we are all proud, it will refer to Weddington High School, Matthews, NC.
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