Thursday, November 21, 2013

Is a Charlotte-Triad-Triangle 'Megalopolis' in North Carolina's future?

UNC Chapel Hill researchers are projecting that by 2050, North Carolina could well have its own version of the so-called 'Megalopolis' that is today's Washington-Baltimore-Philadelphia-New York City-Boston corridor. A new study by the Carolina Population Center at UNC suggests that by 2050, the Charlotte-Greensboro-Raleigh corridor will have grown into an urbanized corridor similar to the one comprised by the major metros of the Northeast. (Check out the video simulation below showing what the mapped-out version of the N.C. data looks like over time).

The study uses Census data and demographic analysis to map out the state's housing growth from 1940 to 2050. It puts new statistical context on a dynamic we already know about -- that lots of people and industry are moving to the state. (My story on today's front page reinforces the rising development profile of both Charlotte and Raleigh). But that growth could also pose planning challenges, and the study's authors say it raises questions about the need for new roads, water lines and other infrastructure investments.

“This is one potential look at the future,” said Rebecca Tippett, director of Carolina Demography, the unit at the Carolina Population Center that produced the data. “Where and how development occurs is very responsive to policy and planning, and I hope this sparks conversations about what we might want North Carolina to look like in 2050.”

I found myself trying to imagine what smaller cities like Salisbury and Lexington would look like and feel like if the urban sprawl from Charlotte and Greensboro and Raleigh overtook them. They all have that sleepy small-town feel when you drive through (or more accurately, past) them on Interstate 85. Hard to imagine them as fully urbanized arms of Charlotte and Greenville. But then again, people in Atlanta probably never figured on the Braves moving to Cobb County, either.

Do you think it'll happen? If it does, would a hyper-urbanized Interstate 85 corridor be a good thing for North Carolina? 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

More development in FreeMore West/Freedom Drive corridor

Stophel Commercial Properties says it recently closed on the 55,000-square-foot former Berry Manufacturing building at 1921 Freedom Drive. It's the latest bit of development on the still-blossoming area around West Morehead Street and Freedom Drive that boosters have dubbed FreeMore West. Stophel plans to house several of its businesses -- Carpet One and the Stophel REO Group -- in the building, which it bought from F&N Family Partnership of Lawrence, N.Y., for an undisclosed sum. (The property has an assessed value of $1.3 million). Jim McAuliffe of NMKT Commercial represented Stophel in the deal; Brooks Whiteside of Whiteside Industrial represented the seller.

The area continues to develop nicely. Years ago, I used to get my beloved but constantly malfunctioning '95 Audi  fixed at the repair shop at Freedom and Morehead. Wasn't much else happening to bring me to that area then. But now the repair shop is Pinky's Westside Grill (love that they kept the VW Beetle on the roof), one of an array of cool new eateries in the area. More residential development is on the way as well. Ryan Homes and the Simonini Group broke ground in September on their planned 251-home project at Bryant Park, situated on 30 acres on Millerton Avenue off West Morehead. Nice to see the area continuing to bloom.

Monday, November 4, 2013

World of Outlaws dirt track race: Cabarrus County's $8 million mudfest

Who knew there were so many dollars in the dirt?

The World of Outlaws World Finals, called by one public relations rep the "Super Bowl of grassroots dirt track racing," is returning to The Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway this week. It's bringing more than 40,000 spectators from Thursday to Saturday and an estimated impact on the local economy of $8 million.
Courtesy CMS/HHP Photo
John Mills, executive vice president of the Cabarrus County Convention and Visitors' Bureau, said the festivities will bring in $5 million in direct visitor spending on hotels, food, transportation and retail stores, and another $3 million in estimated indirect and induced spending.

"It's a great event," Mills said. "It's a pretty big one for us, so we're glad to have it here."

People from all 50 states are coming, along with others from Canada, Australia, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Hotels on Bruton Smith Boulevard were filling up late last week, said Scott Cooper, a Charlotte Motor Speedway spokesman. 

Who says the economic development game is just for high-powered corporate CEOs?

Friday, November 1, 2013

Charlotte job-recruiters heading to Germany

On Friday, a delegation representing Charlotte’s business sector is scheduled to fly to Germany on a job-recruitment trip.

Their goal: to bring more companies and more jobs to Charlotte. They’ve got meetings scheduled with 10 German companies during their four-day stay, hoping to convince them to set up shop in the Queen City.

Sven Gerzer, a vice president for economic development with the Charlotte Chamber, summed up the objective in two words: “Plant seeds.”

You could say they’re playing to Charlotte’s strength. Some 127 German companies already have operations in Charlotte, according to chamber statistics for 2012. That makes Germany by far the country with the biggest business presence in Charlotte. (The United Kingdom ranks No. 2 with 84 firms).
Gerzer, a native of Munich, will be a key salesman for Charlotte. He speaks German and understands the culture, having grown up there. But he also knows the Carolinas. He graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in international studies from the University of South Carolina's highly touted program. (He chose the university after his parents said he could go anywhere in the world for college – but he’d be helping to pay for it, he recalled with a chuckle).

His personal story might prove persuasive to German business leaders. He enjoys life here in the Carolinas that he has no desire to return to Germany. “I love it here,” he says. “It makes my job (selling the city to companies) easier because I believe what I tell them.”