For a neighborhood bustling with new office buildings, apartments and restaurants, SouthPark’s future seems to have a lot of people worried. Increasing traffic congestion and a layout that discourages walking and biking have prompted concerns that the south Charlotte neighborhood’s popularity won’t be sustained. Why would a millennial rather live and work near SouthPark instead of downtown’s entertainment venues or South End’s brewpubs?
A $250,000 effort is addressing SouthPark’s future, financing a study by about 10 nationally respected urban planners affiliated with the nonprofit Urban Land Institute. They will visit the city for five days, then issue recommendations in mid-March. “We want to be out front as SouthPark transforms into a more urban marketplace,” says Ron Kimble, a deputy city manager who chairs ULI’s Charlotte chapter. He is helping raise $90,000 from city and county governments and $160,000 from private companies.
Despite its glitzy appearance and abundant construction, SouthPark faces significant challenges because of its blocky, disconnected design and an inability to widen existing roads connecting it to downtown, which is 6 miles north, says Craig Lewis, a principal in Charlotte with the Stantec consulting company. Walking across the intersection of Fairview and Sharon roads, where 75,000 cars pass daily, is often a scary prospect. One irony is that the 46-year-old, 1.6 million-square-foot mall that is the area’s landmark may be its biggest challenge.
“It is a very large block of space, and it is very difficult to traverse north and south through that area because of that,” Lewis says. Charlotte’s goal should be developing a street grid that improves traffic flow and encourages transportation that doesn’t require a car, especially on the area’s main drag. “Fairview Road should be like Tryon Street downtown, a walkable, thriving Main Street.” He cites Atlanta’s Buckhead and Reston Town Center in Virginia as examples of car-centric districts that are adapting to a different world. Connecting SouthPark to downtown Charlotte via mass transit should be studied, he says.
While previous ULI visits to Charlotte focused on struggling areas such as now-defunct Eastland Mall and West Boulevard, SouthPark has immense strengths. More than 40,000 people work there, including at the headquarters of Coca-Cola Consolidated, Nucor and Piedmont Natural Gas, says City Councilman Kenny Smith, a commercial real-estate broker who represents the area. About 800 apartments have opened in the last year, with another 1,000 under construction, while property values of nearby homes are soaring. While the Harris family or their joint ventures developed the mall and most of the property at SouthPark, more major developers are involved in the $750 million of development underway or planned. Simon Property Group, the largest U.S. public retail property owner, owns Charlotte’s biggest mall.
“A lot of the development community would tell you they don’t want a lot of changes if they think it’s going to hurt them,” Smith says. “But the ULI study is the best, fastest way to proceed as we set up a game plan for SouthPark over the next 50 years.”
Charlotte – Tony Zeiss will retire at the end of July after 23 years as president of Central Piedmont Community College, one of the state’s largest community colleges with 70,000 students. His replacement has not been named.
Charlotte – Following its failed effort to buy General Electric’s appliance unit, Electrolux canceled a planned $85 million expansion that would have added 810 jobs and nearly doubled its local workforce. The Swedish appliance maker moved its North American headquarters here from Augusta, Ga., in 2010.
Charlotte – The parent company of Park Sterling Bank named Donald Truslow chief financial officer, replacing David Gaines. A 27-year veteran of Wachovia, Truslow was chief risk officer at M&T Bank, a Buffalo, N.Y.-based financial-services company. Prior to that, he worked for Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Financial Services Roundtable.
Charlotte – Frank Yoho will lead natural-gas operations at Duke Energy once the utility completes its $4.9 billion purchase of Piedmont Natural Gas. The deal is expected to close by year-end. Yoho, 56, has worked for Piedmont since 2002, most recently as chief commercial officer.
Charlotte – MapAnything raised $7.3 million in a financing led by Greycroft Partners that included Harbert Venture Partners and Salesforce Ventures. Founded in 2009 as Saber Business Solutions and later renamed Cloudbilt, the company sells business apps for users of Salesforce’s cloud-based software.
Mooresville – Lowe’s will acquire Rona, a Quebec, Canada-based home-improvement retailer with 500 stores, in a $2.3 billion deal. The company based here also exited an unprofitable joint venture with Woolworths in Australia. Lowe’s, which had annual sales of more than
$56 billion in 2014, operates more than 1,845 hardware stores in North America.
Concord – ETS Express opened a manufacturing and distribution center and plans to add 200 jobs over the next 18 months. The family-owned company, which is based in Oxnard, Calif., makes personalized cups and water bottles.
Lowe’s named Jennifer Weber chief human resources officer. Weber, 49, comes from Charlotte-based Duke Energy, where she was most recently executive vice president of external affairs and strategic policy. A graduate of Miami University with a master’s in public policy and management from Carnegie Mellon University, she previously worked for Scripps Network Interactive and consultant Towers Perrin. Weber succeeds Maureen Ausura, who retired after 11 years at the Mooresville-based company.