Sunday, December 30, 2007

Briar Creek rises

Glorious rain refills Briar Creek at the Merry Oaks Greenway bridge off Arnold Drive after an incredibly dry fall. The top picture is from Dec. 30. The next picture below is from Oct. 28, after rains, but not enough. The bottom picture is from Oct. 21.
Photos courtesy of Lulu the Wonderdog, who belongs to neighbor Chantal, and who was more than happy to take a walk in the rain.
More creek pictures here.

[where: 1900 Arnold Drive, Charlotte, NC 28205]

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Eastside neighborhood zoning update

Residents of Coventry Woods and Cedars East received a continuance in their appeal with the Zoning Board of Adjustments until 9 a.m. on Jan. 29.
Background here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Eastside neighborhood asks for support

Sharing a request from neighbors in Coventry Woods and Cedars East, eastside neighborhoods a little further southeast in a zoning battle. If you take a look at The Observer's foreclosures map, you'll see reasons these neighbors do need help. They're asking for a show of strength at a meeting at 12:30 on Tuesday downtown.

"On the afternoon of Dec. 11, the Zoning Board of Adjustments will hear the appeal of the Coventry Woods Neighborhood Association. We will be arguing against the City Planning staff. Last December, the Planning staff approved a subdivision on an R-4 tract adjoining the Coventry Woods and Cedars East neighborhoods.
It is the same tract the CWNA fought over in the 2003-97 Rezoning case. And we're up against the same developer: Jerry Rigsby, of Independence Capital LLC.
Though the land is zoned R-4 and protected as such by the Eastside Strategies and Eastland Area plans, Rigsby received the approval to devlop the site as R-5 Cluster. The density approved is 23.3 percent greater than R-4 allows; instead of 60 or 63 houses, he plans to build 74 houses on small lots that are the equivalent of 10 per acre. The Subdivision staff approved Rigsby's plan as a by-right development. Neither public notification nor a formal rezoning was required.
We only learned of this Independence Woods development -- between Amity Place and the back of Town & Country Ford -- this summer. He has since cleared the site.
The CWNA has met repeatedly with the Planning staff; they insist their decision was correct.
We beg to differ. Most assuredly.
We filed an appeal with the quasi-judicial Zoning Board of Adjustments, which will hear our appeal the afternoon of Tuesday, Dec. 11. We have flyered the Coventry Woods, Cedars East and Candlewood Condos communities: A strong turnout is crucial. The ZBA needs to know how wrong this project is.
We are asking for members of other East Side organizations to attend, as well. Will you help us by getting word to your board and your membership?
Your attendance is a show of support we greatly appreciate.
Also, our appeal can be viewed as a test case for how the serious the city is about protection, preservation and revitalization of East Charlotte. Our elected officials and the Economic Development staff tell us that East Charlotte is high on their agenda. Ultimately, the Planning staff will help us -- or sink us.
Here are the details on the hearing. We hope to see you there with us!
-- Board of Directors, CWNA

Tuesday, Dec. 11, afternoon session of the ZBA. (The session begins at
12:30, there are two cases before ours; please come when you can.)
WHERE: 8th Floor of the Government Building, at 600 E. Fourth St. (at
Davidson St., uptown).
PARKING: Park in the City-County deck on Davidson, between 3rdand 4th.
Details, comments, advice? E-mail

Friday, November 30, 2007

A web of trails for 15 counties

Dave Cable, executive director of the Catawba Lands Conservancy, will talk about plans for the Carolina Threads Trail at the Civic By Design Forum at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 11, at the Levine Museum of the New South.
The trail looks more like a network or web -- see a potential map.
It is planned to be a regional trail network that will eventually reach 15 counties and link cities, towns, and attractions.
Dan Huntley, long-time columnist for The York Observer, writes about the trail plans here. (The link might not exist forever).
The Levine Museum of the New South is at 200 East Seventh Street. There's
free parking at the Seventh Street garage.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Merry Oaks update tidbits

They're here, late and early on our neighborhood streets and back yards. Be careful driving after dark, for your sake and the deer. Nancy Pierce spotted one on Flynnwood Drive on a recent evening. They've also been seen in the greenway.

The place-blogging organized aggregator has interesting news and ideas here.

Local business recommendations
Good recent car care recommendations at the Merry Oaks Google Group at the Merry Oaks Google Group.

Merry Oaks events
You don't have to sign up or log in to see events at Neighborhood Link. If you'd like to add an event, you do have to sign in or sign up.
It's here.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Keeping track of neighborhood events

Merry Oaks is definitely cool. A neighbor posted to the Google Group about several recent events involving artists in the neighborhood, and another neighbor responded by asking about calendar tools to keep track of all the cool stuff people are doing.

As online tools continue to improve, friends and neighbors struggle to keep up with the technology and choose the right tool. Newspapers and other media are in the same boat.

No matter the technology, the truth is the biggest hurdle is the inputting of data, just like keeping your own calendar at home.

Artists want to create and perform, not promote. And some like to live quietly in the neighborhood under the radar. And while we all like to keep up with political and community events nearby, as 2008 approaches, we don't just want inbox politician spam.

But sometimes you're just proud of your neighbors and want to share. And sometimes you want help from others to keep track of all the great stuff people are doing.

To reach everyone, we ought to use several tools in these days of fragmentation. And sometimes, word of mouth on a sidewalk or a low-tech flyer posted at Dish still work best. Or sometimes, forming partnerships with nearby neighborhoods like Commonwealth Park and Elizabeth and Noda would make sense. Or maybe we should use all those methods.

Some possible tools:
Facebook. Two "applications" would work: Events and the neighborhood page. (Yes, we have one. Laura Paynter, Marcus Williams and I are there so far). It's not just for teens and college students anymore.
Google calendar. I don't know much about this yet, and I wonder how it integrates with Google Groups. We need a neighborhood expert to explore.
Yahoo events. Also something I don't know much about yet.
Blogs linked to Makes an automatic feed of news and blog postings geographically. The real estate blog Hip Hoods feeds to this, and it has stayed remarkably up to date over time because it's someone's actual job instead of a volunteer activity.

Have ideas? We can evolve faster if we share.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Free woodwinds classic concert

Music for Woodwinds in a New Space

Sunday, November 18, 7:30 pm, in the newly renovated sanctuary at St. John's Baptist Church on Hawthorne Lane.
Andrew Howell, Daniel Clark and friends, accompanied by Maureen Howell, will perform a variety of solos, duets, and quintets, from the chamber music of Telemann, Mendelssohn, Strauss, Saint-Saens, Ibert and others.
(Refreshments to follow.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Pumpkin wall time in Elizabeth

A flyer in Plaza Midwood stated that pumpking carving begins tonight for the traditional Elizabeth pumpkin wall. Ask around for location, or visit one of the fine nearby Plaza Midwood restaurants and look for the flyer for details.

Mayor candidates talk with Eastside residents

The Charlotte Observer covered the forum Tuesday night for political candidates with Eastside residents. You can read the full story here (at least for a couple of weeks).

One highlight for mayoral candidates:

If you become mayor for the next two years, what will be the one clear sign that you have delivered what you promise for east Charlotte?

Pat McCrory: He said his focus is on transportation and public safety, seeking solutions to gang problems that are an issue in east Charlotte. He said he will continue to work for more sidewalks and other amenities to lure economic development. "There is tremendous potential for growth," he said.

Beverly Earle: "If I'm elected the mayor of Charlotte, part of my goal will be to provide a great quality of life for all citizens of Charlotte," she said. "I believe in locking people up who commit crimes." Poking the podium, Earle asked how serious McCrory could be about fighting crime when he vetoed a budget that supported 70 new police positions.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Merry Oaks meeting, then a potluck

The general fall meeting for the Merry Oaks Neighborhood Association is at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, at Merry Oaks Elementary School. Topics will include the regular police report, tree banding, and area development.

Two days later, the annual potlock/social party follows at 6 p.m. Saturday at Cate's house, 2301 Arnold Drive, in the back yard. Bring a portable chair if you have one. If your house number ends in an even number, bring an hors d'oeuvres or side dish; if an odd number, bring a dessert. Someone will be grilling: if you prefer veggie burgers, feel free to bring your own for the grill.

It's a busy time of the year, but the party is a great time to meet diverse neighbors. If you have other commitments, feel free to just drop in briefly and say hi. We have lots of new neighbors, and it's a great way to strengthen community ties.

The party is a fine time for political candidates to visit informally with local voters as well; some might show up.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Development update: a map

This map shows residential and mixed-use projects for our part of town in purple. The map goes from the construction on Hawthorne Lane at Independence on the left, to the planned condos at Briar Creek and Independence at the lower right.

Amazing work by a person who goes by the name of Dubone, at Urban Planet. To see more of Dubone's maps from all over Charlotte, showing a boom town from the sky, go to the Charlotte forum of Urban Planet and look for the "Maps of active projects in Central Charlotte" posting.

Some rumors, and I stress rumors, from the Urban Planet forums: Harris Teeter at Central and the Plaza might move to the old Family Dollar site on Central, either to get more space or to relocate during refurbishing of the old store site. And Thomas Street Tavern's lease is soon up, and they'll be relocating to free up the space for condos. Most responders to this rumor thought it was highly unlikely.

If you hear anything further about the Teeter, please pass it on.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Sunday, Sept. 16, is Mexican Independence Day

A co-worker clued me in that Sunday, Sept. 16, is Mexican Independence Day, or Grito de Dolores.

She grew up in Brownsville, Texas, and said her mother wouldn't let the children out on the streets that day because many people celebrated by shooting off their guns, not unlike the way some people in Gaston County celebrate New Year's Eve.

So watch for fireworks on Sunday. And find good ways to celebrate with Merry Oaks neighbors. Another co-worker suggests these ideas:
"Go eat at a fine Mexican dining establishment. ... I recommend Maria Bonita on Rea Road and the Azteca on Independence in Matthews. Have a few margaritas! Or venture onto Sharon Amity and Central and grab a few tacos. Or tune in to Univision (Ch. 63) on Saturday night to watch the fireworks from Mexico City."

If you want to connect more with our neighbors or work on your Spanish, check out that co-worker's shared blog, Enterese.

(Personal note: Apologies for lack of postings. Life intruded. If you're a Merry Oaks resident who would like to help keep neighbors up to date with news beyond basic Google Group messages, let me know by posting a comment).

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Drought hits Briar Creek

Algae and icky ooze clog what little flow remains in Briar Creek near Merry Oaks on Aug. 18.
It's unclear whether the lowness and slowness of the creek are just from the drought. It's possible Charlotte Country Club is using creek water for irrigation; the club built a retaining pond after another recent dry summer, and it's working on renovations for a future event.
Are there any rules or laws about how much water private enterprises can take from public waters? Should there be?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Redevelopment at 1401 Central Avenue

People at Urban Planet are talking about redevelopment plans at 1401 Central Avenue, where The White Rabbit and the gay community center are now.
Site plans call for a travel shop, a hobbies shop, an art studio, and a place called The Blue Goose. In addition, plans call for a coffee shop -- some say Starbucks -- with a rooftop deck for skyline views.
Sources: Urban Planet forums, Providence Group website

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Tuscan development and The Vyne

Background and opinions are flying about the planned Tuscan development, Duo at CBC, at the Merry Oaks Google group. The development has gone back to the drawing board because the city wants an extension of Briar Creek Road through the property, according to Tom Poston, Merry Oaks Neighborhood Association president.
Try Urban Planet forums as well if you're seeking details about other nearby developments. Posters there are discussing The Vyne, also at Central Avenue and Briar Creek, and how it has billed itself as a gated community.
The quote from The Vyne's website, under "Specifications":
--social space for gathering on the hilltop.
--Opportunities for unstructured play and other activities like picnicking, sunbathing and reading.
--South of The Lawn are lushly planted gardens with plants of a human scale that provide seasonal interest.
--The perimeter edge is softened with hedgerows informally planted with redbuds and dogwoods within a field of wildflowers.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Development updates

Steve Lyttle in The Charlotte Observer gives an update on development along Central Avenue and talks with neighborhood leaders and developers here.
(Link will die in two weeks likely).
1. Sunnyside development at Hawthorne, (270 apartments) and future Faison development next to it (high-rise luxury condos).
2. The Vyne and Duo at CBC. Lyttle talks with Rip Ferris of Tuscan, but there's no mention of plans to change the design of Duo because of city requirements to extend Briar Creek into the land. Word has it that plans for Ferris to buy Birchcroft Apartments have stalled or ended.
3. John Nichols of The Nichols Company says the Plaza Midwood definition is spreading out toward Briar Creek Road.
4. Morningside Apartments: Not much new here.

Interesting stats:

"In Charlotte's 2006 Quality of Life Study, the Commonwealth-Morningside area was rated as a community on the rise. House values had climbed 15.7 percent since 2002, compared with a 1.2 percent increase for the city as a whole. Student performance statistics and crime were problem areas.

The student dropout rate in the neighborhood was 17.5 percent, compared to 4.2 percent for the city. And the violent crime rate was four times the city average."

Community police officers probably would be quick to give context to the violent crime numbers. The school numbers are another more complex matter.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Blooming Merry Oaks School

Plants donated by neighbors are blooming near the trails at Merry Oaks Elementary. The pink flowers -- cleome -- were volunteers or were seeded by a mystery visitor. Small cleome plants are all over the natural woodland garden near the school, including a row directly next to the trail next to the water pump.
The compost bin, built by some scout volunteers after the Hands On Merry Oaks cleanup, is ready for the school year to start. Some resident rabbits hang out nearby, so it's great that the school has a place to compost without small creatures digging in the pile. Worms welcome.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Midsummer Merry Oaks meeting

The general meeting for the Merry Oaks Neighborhood Association is now scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 26, at Merry Oaks Elementary School.
Agenda: Officer Weaver from CMPD to discuss the latest crime statistics; Rip Farris & John Boler from Tuscan Development to discuss plans for the Duo @ Briar Creek development on the old Renfrow property, and possibly Brian Conroy from Mecklenburg Park & Rec to talk about and conduct a walk around of the new Merry Oaks park.

President Tom Poston says,"Still waiting to confirm with one or two more presenters, but that's the agenda to start!"

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Those shots on Arnold Drive

WCNC provides the crime blotter report on the shots fired at Hillcrest Apartments, 2603 Arnold Drive, on July 16 (Monday night).

Details from the Merry Oaks Google group:
Veronica Dews, site property manager of Hillcrest Apartments,says the shooting occurred between 2 females (non-residents). The police know who the suspects are and others that were involved, who are also non-residents. As of last night (July 16), police were in search of at least 2 individuals. The shooting seems to have been a domestic dispute over a guy.

Officer Weaver thanked Veronica for weighing in.

The good news : Great communication among residents, the manager at nearby apartments and the police. Officer Weaver's participation in the Google group is the best source for up-to-date information. An alternative with a time lag: the Charmeck police website.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Is Little Italy sold?

More restaurant rumors from the forums at Urban Planet:
1. Little Italy on Central Avenue has been sold to Carraba's, which will tear down the building and build a new restaurant.
2. The nearby McDonald's will close soon and be rebuilt in a more pedestrian-friendly way.
3. (And more like wishful thinking, rather than even a rumor) Wouldn't it be cool if Portofino's was there instead of a chain Italian restaurant?

Please note: these are unsubstantiated rumors. If you have concrete details, please share.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Development updates

(No reason folks who care about development can't look at pretty pictures at the same time, right? This is a spider lily from a Merry Oaks back yard. It appreciates the recent rains.)
Demolition has begun at the old Morningside Apartments off Morningside Avenue. Pictures from Rumphshaker, originally posted at Urban Planet. The developer for this particular part is Beazer, some say. Beazer has had some issues in the past.
Grading is also going on at Hawthorne Lane near Sunnyside Avenue, just next to the bridge over U.S. 74 connecting Central Avenue with Elizabeth. Word appears to be the development is to be called Woodfield Elizabeth, and is being developed by the remnants of Summit Properties left after Camden bought them. One neighbor said the word is that the project will feature two midrise units with a below-grade parking garage in-between, and it's unclear whether it's an apartment complex or condominiums. Some say the development involves 400 housing units. If anyone knows more, please share information or a link.
Under the Water Tower says that two restaurants will be going in near the new development.
Credit: The forum gossip at Urban Planet is an amazing source for development news. It appears you have to create a login to search, but the site is organized clearly enough that you can locate and read Charlotte information without a login.

Summer images

Monday, July 09, 2007

Storm, Part II: The sidewalk network

Power now restored to all of Merry Oaks, as far as I know.
Neighbors laughed because I called the AC guy early Sunday, but they helped get Duke Power out to deal with our low power problem. We had 120-volt, not 220-volt, because of a broken line. Thanks to the many firefighters and power-line workers during the last couple of days. If you have spare backyard vegetables, take them to a fire station.
Neighbors shared cucumbers, cold lemonade with ice (thanks Addie!) and memories of Hurricane Hugo through the sidewalk network. More amazing than any Google group I've ever seen.
So AC is on, all is cool.
Sidenote: I didn't get a photo, but a glance while driving along Central Avenue into the interior of Birchcroft Apartments on Saturday evening showed much of the parking lot under about a foot of water. Redevelopment of that tract must take runoff into consideration. This storm dumped at least 1.5 inches within three hours Saturday, so it was an unusual event. Still, caveat emptor, and check topography maps.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

A storm, the trees, and the power grid

The fierce storm that blew through Saturday afternoon continues to affect some parts of Merry Oaks.
While the neighborhood as a whole didn't receive the kind of damage other areas received, one double-trunked tulip poplar crushed a shed and damaged a home.
Ancient oaks in Plaza Midwood tumbled with major damage, and one stately tree at Firefighter Place near Lupie's on Monroe Road finally hit the ground.
Some blocks in Merry Oaks have only flickering electricity, with 120-volt power, not enough to make air conditioners or large stoves work.
So Sunday passes with the buzz of chainsaws and lawn mowers, and little movement in the heat.
Imagine what it would be like to have limited electricity all the time.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Power tools, politics and pumpkins

The plaster walls in most of the brick homes in Merry Oaks present challenges for those doing home improvement projects. Some of the homes in other center-city neighborhoods have the same walls.
Carpenters familiar with the construction techniques explain: The builders put up two by fours, then put in thin horizontal wood strips on top of those. Then they slathered cement -- yes, cement -- on to the thin wood strips. The cement oozed into the small cracks between the wood strips, forming an incredibly tight, strong bond. On top of the rough cement went plaster.
Seems those returning World War II vets wanted bunkers.
So if you plan to put holes in the walls for shelves, art, curtains or crown molding, prepare to use force. The small nail guns with air cartridges and batteries won't necessarily cut it -- but nail guns powered by heavy compressors seem to work well. You can rent the tools at Home Depot, and choose your nails carefully. Steel nails will work, experts say.
Of politics: Merry Oaks is in a small corner of the 8th Congressional District, a seat held by U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes of Cabarrus County. The district lines are oddly drawn, with our corner of East Charlotte and points east lumped in with rural areas in Cabarrus. Mel Watt's 12th District is often less than a mile away for many residents.
Democrats are targeting Hayes in the 2008 race, because he won by only 328 votes over teacher Larry Kissell in the last election. Read Lisa Zagaroli in The Charlotte Observer (link might expire in two weeks) for updates as 2008 nears, and check out new political links here. For official government websites that affect the neighborhood, the Merry Oaks Neighborhood Link website is a great place to start.
Of pumpkins: In a small sunny clearing, surrounded by woods, pumpkins are blooming and growing. It's unclear who planted: I like to think a student at Merry Oaks Elementary stuck the seeds in behind the school. Here's hoping that same student gets to return in the fall to see what summer sun and rain produce. See if you can find the pumpkins on a walk through the new well-used, paved trails near Merry Oaks Elementary. Caveat: it could be squash or zucchini, I'm not completely sure.
Time will tell.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Biking for booty

A beer and wine tasting party will be held on Friday, June 29 from 5:30-8:00 p.m. to support Charlotte-based 24 Hours of Booty , which runs the Official 24-Hour Cycling Event of the Lance Armstrong Foundation in Myers Park on July 27-28. The "Hops & Vine" fundraiser will take place at Dillon Natural Health in Elizabeth at 406 Louise Avenue (near 7th and Hawthorne). Tickets cost $15 per person. Details: Christina Dekraay at 704-226-6580 or at christinadekraay AT

Connecting Duo at CBC with Merry Oaks

The Merry Oaks Neighborhood Association board had a cybermeeting this month, via email, and agreed on a letter to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department about Merry Oaks connectivity with Duo at CBC:

The Merry Oaks neighborhood has a strong value around pedestrian, bicycle and public transit use. As evidence, please note that we have successfully lobbied the City and County for in-place ped/bike trails to the adjacent Plaza Midwood neighborhood and to the Merry Oaks School Campus. Many of our residents use the bike lanes and CATS buses on Central Avenue for commuting.

Consistent with this, we strongly support eventual public bicycle and pedestrian connectivity from Tuscan’s proposed development Duo @ BCB to the interior of the neighborhood (Cosby Place).
This will allow current residents to more easily walk to CATS buses on Central Avenue. It will also allow Duo @ CBC residents to walk/bicycle to the Briar Creek Greenway/CDOT connector off Arnold Drive which takes them over the creek and through the woods to Plaza Midwood.

However, we do not support a full extension of Briar Creek Road for eventual vehicular access to the interior of the neighborhood.

Be aware that we fully understand and support the City’s connectivity policy with regard to new subdivisions. However, in the case of our existing very small neighborhood, we do not see compelling reasons to add additional vehicular connectivity to the interior of our neighborhood.

---We only have around 450 homes with no possibility for vehicular connectivity to any other neighborhood. Therefore, there is adequate ingress/egress from the neighborhood for our residents.

---Signalized ingress/egress at Briar Creek Road may encourage cut-through traffic from Eastway Drive. While we acknowledge that the connectivity policy exists precisely to provide this kind of option, in this case it could be devastating to the dead-end Cosby Place and other small neighborhood streets.

Tuscan’s plans call for minimizing impervious surface and significant tree save on this heavily forested parcel. We are concerned that a public street would compromise this intention.

Thank you for considering our concerns about this.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Briar Creek and Central Avenue: the land

Two images here show the topography and an aerial view of the land at Briar Creek Road and Central Avenue, where two new developments are going. Briar Creek (the creek) is in the upper left corner of each image.
A third development is nearby, at the corner of Briar Creek Road and U.S. 74 (Independence Boulevard).
Two highlights:
1. Road connectivity from the back of The Duo (outlined approximately in red) to Cosby Ave. in the Merry Oaks neighborhood would seem to require a heavy investment to cross a creek bed. It appears mostly dry this year, but a bike and walking path would live much more lightly on the land than a real road. The right of way is there already, for electrical lines serving the property. The developed area to the left on the aerial map is Birchcroft Apartments. Developer Rip Farris has reached an agreement with the owners of that property and says he'll announce plans for it later. It's lower in elevation than the Duo; the existing swimming pool there sits about where a pond was back in the day, old-timers say.
2. Specifications for The Vyne (outlined approximately in yellow) suggest sunbathing and picnics at the corner of Central Ave. and Briar Creek, within one's own fully secure gated, green community.

The development websites:
Industry 29 at Independence and Briar Creek. Slow-loading, Flash-heavy website. Large square footage compared to the other developments, close to a highway, relatively smallish parcel of land.
The Vyne, on the old Plummer property. Small condos, "green," gated community. High elevation in general.
Duo at CBC. Large parcel of land, heavily wooded and sloping. "Green" duplexes planned with more development later.

Images courtesy of Terraserver.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Briar Creek and Central Avenue development update

Renfrow property
Doug Smith of The Charlotte Observer updates what's happening at Briar Creek and Central Avenue here. The link won't last forever, so here are a few highlights, from his reporting, with some background from The Merry Oaks neighborhood newslettter and neighborhood discussions:
Ray "Rip" Farris III of Tuscan Development has come to terms with the owner of Birchcroft apartments at 3143 Central Ave. next to Tuscan's planned development on 8.5 acres on the northeast side of Central Avenue, backing up to the Merry Oaks neighborhood. The first phase of Tuscan’s $17 million development – Duo at CBC – will be 58 duplex condos. The 8.5-acre site’s second phase of condos will “push the architectural envelope," but details won’t be unveiled until duplexes sell out, he said.
Farris said it's too early to be specific about plans for the Birchcroft site, but “I can say our project is getting ready to triple in size and offer a diverse range of elements.”
Of course, a Flash website has been created for the project. It just provides a form to sign up for email alerts.
Details: two-and three-bedroom duplex condos. Five have been sold. Price: $200,000 to $240,000, Building exteriors mainly in natural wood. Extensive use of sustainable materials, “rain chains” instead of gutters, optional upgrades of bamboo floors and carpet tile from recycled materials. Architect: BB+M Architecture. Tuscan will start building a model unit in two weeks and finish it in the third quarter. Buyers are to begin occupying condos in about 12 months, Farris said. Sales: My Townhome Realty. Reservations to be taken starting June 13. Sales event planned for June 21 at The Watermark, 1355 Greenwood Cliff.

Topography: the front part of the Renfrow property is high, offering possible skyline views, as the Plummer property across Central Avenue could have done. A small branch, barely a creek, runs through part of it. Birchcroft is low, and back in the day included a pond, before the apartments were built, long-time Merry Oaks residents have said. It appears the pond was near where the apartments' swimming pool now sits. How that will affect development remains to be seen, but one could hope that if the project is "green," runoff and topography will be considerations. Briar Creek is within a mile of the development, and has been getting cleaner because of past commitments from the residents of Merry Oaks.
Interested folks can look at the area with Google Maps.
Connectivity: Questions remain about Tuscan's plans for connectivity with the Merry Oaks neighborhood. A right-of-way called "Myrtlewood" street or avenue previously went through the Renfrow property, connecting to Cosby Avenue in the Merry Oaks neighborhood. With beautiful new biking and walking trails near Merry Oaks Elementary and at the Merry Oaks Greenway, the development offers opportunity to continue that focus, so residents across Central Avenue and in the new development can access existing trail investments. In addition, safe, walkable paths for children would enhance the attractiveness of the elementary school to nearby residents. Several of the new bikers and runners of the Merry Oaks trails have been from the other side of Central Avenue or from Plaza Midwood.

Update on The Vyne, a 99-unit project priced from the $120,000s to the $180,000s, across Central Avenue: Citiline Resortline Development and Construction has sold 20 of 66 first-phase condos, said Citiline’s Tim Crawford.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

School kids walk the neighborhood

Almost-finished first-graders from several classes at Merry Oaks Elementary walked the neighborhood to learn about homes -- for people and creatures like birds, squirrels, rabbits and insects.
Along the way, they learned about magnolia trees, gardenias, rosemary, pine cones and how to navigate the sidewalks on trash day.
Magnolia leaves make good bunny ears, some decided.
Some classes also got lessons in how to pour and smooth concrete from a crew repairing a sidewalk.
Kudos to all the teachers and assistants for walking on a hot morning. And thanks to all the neighborhood residents and workers who took a minute or two to stop and talk with the kids.
Thanks too to the garbage and recycling truck drivers for tooting their horns, waving and watching out for the groups of youngster as they traveled the streets.
More pictures at Merry View.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Crime note, Arnold and Draper
This place is not a crime blotter. You can go to Crime in Charlotte for that. But other places have mentioned this incident, so for those curious and as a caution to others, here's what happened May 24:

Police blotter:
Eastway Division
2432 Arnold Drive
Victim was in her front yard looking at her flowers. Victim turned around and was confronted by a B/M, 6', slender, young, black mask, and had a small gold gun. Suspect took her purse and ran. No injuries."

More information from WSOC, excerpted here:
"A woman living in one of Charlotte’s oldest neighborhoods was checking on her garden after work Thursday when a masked man came out of the shadows, pointed a gun at her and stole her wallet....

“I had just gotten home. I’d gotten out of my car and I thought, ‘I’ll go take a look at the yard,” J.C. Honeycutt said.

Honeycutt was in her front yard in Merry Oaks, not far from the Charlotte Country Club in east Charlotte, when she saw the man in the shade.

“I saw first that somebody was standing in my yard; secondly that he was dressed in all black; third that he had a black mask on his face,” she said.

Then she saw the gun.

The man called her over and demanded her purse. He took her wallet with her cash and bank cards, and then took off....

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department shows few incidents have been reported in Merry Oaks since the beginning of the year, although plenty have happened along Eastway Drive and Central Avenue outside the neighborhood.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Briar Creek-Independence rezoning update

Here's an update from our neighbors in the Commonwealth neighborhood Google group. This is from a posting by Ted Cleary, about the May 21 rezoning hearing for development at Briar Creek and Independence Boulevard:

"There were several Commonwealth Park neighbors in attendance; one
spoke at the podium to express our consensus that we approved of the
project and its style, as shown in their architectural rendering and
especially based on the specified materials and details shown in the
construction drawing set they shared with us (which should eliminate
any down-grading in details due to 'value-engineering' that often
occurs in projects once construction begins). No neighbors, if any,
opposing the project had come forward in any lead-up meetings with
the developer, or at the re-zoning hearing last night.

The developer's attorney asked that Council approve the project last
night (rather than the normal procedure of a vote at next month's
meeting), due to delays already forced on him by incorrect
information from the Planning Dept.; one Councilmember expressed
concern about this break from procedure (perhaps because he wanted to
make sure nothing was being 'slipped by' them with a project he was
not fully familiar with); therefore, Council will vote next month
(approval is expected). You may begin to see marketing start before
then, but not construction till it's official."

Notes: Zoning committee is scheduled to meet at 4:30 on May 30 on the 8th floor of the Government Center to make a recommendation on the petition. That is not a public hearing, but the meeting is public. Full city coucil meets June 18 at 6 p.m. at the Government Center to vote on the petition, though that could always be delayed. Rezoning petition is at the rezoning site and it's Petition No. 2007-059.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Keeping connections strong
Listening to neighbors talking with neighbors through Google Groups is an amazing way to keep in touch with what's going on nearby.

It's almost as good as chatting with Mr. Bookout during his daily walks in Merry Oaks.

Smart politicians are active in these groups as well -- reading and posting as a way of staying in touch with local voters.

So the update: a German shepherd is roaming the Merry Oaks greenway, and neighbors are helping each other figure out whether the dog has an owner.

A zoning hearing on development at Briar Creek and Independence was scheduled Monday, May 21. At least one resident had signed up to speak in favor of residential condo development, but several residents are keeping an eye on the quality of the building plans.

Details at the Google groups for Merry Oaks and Commonwealth Park. The links were broken for awhile, but should be fixed. Please let me know if something does not work -- the tools can be hinky, to use a technical term.

And if you want to travel further away, check out a newsy blog by David Boraks for Davidson.

Closer to home, it's always good to check in periodically with John McBride at Under the Water Tower for Elizabeth news. You might find some local ice cream.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

More places to walk
The trails at Merry Oaks Elementary School are finished and open to walkers.
One trail loops around the field, dipping briefly into the woods. Six trail markers help keep track of your distance: one loop is .31 miles, or 550 yards.
Another trail connects Merry Oaks Road with the community woodland garden area of school property. It ends in a water spigot, a great place for dogs and people to take a break.
The project was a partnership of Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation and the school system. Community residents are welcome to take advantage of the planting space in the woodland garden area.
For more photos, go to Flickr.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Briar Creek condo update

From a neighborhood Google Group member, who attended the open house for the condos at Briar Creek:

The condos are 3 story walk-ups, ranging in size from about 700 sq. ft to 975 sq. ft., and ranging in price from $120,000 and up. And, it has one of the ugliest roof lines I've ever seen.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Briar Creek condos:

Community meeting with developers to discuss site plan for the rezoning of the
property at Briar Creek Road and Independence Boulevard.

Wednesday, May 2, 7 p.m., at WTVI, 3242 Commonwealth Ave.

The site is on your right when you're on Briar Creek, traveling from Central Avenue and before you hit the entrance ramp to go downtown.
Developers plan to build 28 residential condos. Current zoning
is for 16,000 feet of commercial use.

Site plan and other info available at Charlotte rezoning website.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Wild school at Merry Oaks

Merry Oaks Elementary received its designation as a wildlife habitat from the National Wildlife Federation.
The designation certifies that the school provides wildlife habitats on school grounds, provides educational material and encouragement to students. The Merry Oaks Neighborhood Association helped with planting and cleaning up during the April Hands on Merry Oaks Day.
If anyone wants to build and hang bluebird houses, send a message to the Merry Oaks Google group.

Monday, March 12, 2007

A week after a 69-year-old pedestrian was killed while trying to cross Central Avenue, area residents have a chance to learn about how we can redesign our area to make it easier to age in place.
Two opportunities:
Civic By Design Forum
Tuesday, March 13, 2007, 5:30pm – 6:30pm
Levine Museum of the New South
200 East Seventh Street
Free parking at 7th street parking garage
Invited speakers:
Dr. Bill McCoy, Retired Director of UNC Charlotte Urban Institute
John Highfilll, Steering Committee Member
The Status of Seniors Initiative (SOSI)
Gayla Woody, Director, Area Agency on Aging
Rhonda Deitch, Associate State Director, AARP
Marsha Ghent, Caregiver Specialist, Services For Adults Division, DSS

Second opportunity:
Wednesday evening, March 14, St. John's Baptist Church on Hawthorne Lane. 6:45 p.m. McCoy, Highfill and others speak on the same topic. Details by calling church office, 704.333.5428.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Aging in place
A new Wednesday night series on aging in place and school design alternatives is planned at St. John's Baptist on Hawthorne Lane at Fifth Street. Program at 6:45 p.m. Details by calling church office, 704.333.5428.


Fostering a senior-friendly community that values dignity and independence for all older adults

Gayla Woody, Director, Area Agency on Aging
Rhonda Deitch, Associate State Director, AARP
Marsha Ghent, Caregiver Specialist, Services For Adults Division, DSS

Physical Environment Implementation Workshop
Development principles to support “aging in place” for seniors and baby boomers (our future seniors).

--Maps showing neighborhoods with projected high concentrations of seniors and how they are useful to private and public decision makers.
* Recommendations, although directed toward the senior populations, serve to also preserve and enhance the quality of life for all citizens.
--Recommendations may serve the goal of bringing about changes to residential, commercial and infrastructure construction by educating the broader community about development that is more "senior-friendly" - for seniors and baby boomers.

Dr. Bill McCoy, Retired Director of UNC Charlotte Urban Institute
John Highfilll, Steering Committee Member
The Status of Seniors Initiative (SOSI)

Inspiration from Katrina
Learn about the pilot program being launched by Charlotte-Mecklenburg School (CMS) system to test the Hurricane Katrina-inspired Learning Cottage as an alternative to the mobile trailer-style classroom and a new approach to school campus design.

Tom Low, Director
DPZ Architects and Town Planners

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Loving The Penguin
People in the know loved The Penguin long before "Happy Feet."
The greasy spoon (and glass) in Plaza Midwood has a loyal following.
For a history lesson on one of the people behind a Charlotte landmark, see an obituary of Jim Ballentine at
For a look at the Penguin's brand and sign, see this.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Artists in the 'hood
New links here for artists in the 'hood. Inspired by a conversation at the grocery, and talk previously of profiling artists in the printed neighborhood newsletter.
I know there are more of you; if you're ready to go public, post your links in comments.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

DSL or wireless in the 'hood
Some neighbors on the Merry Oaks Google group had questions about cable and DSL access.
Two notes:
1. Lots of political attention nationally has been on providing rural high-speed access, but the flip side could be reliable convenient urban access in not-so-wealthy areas, just where students need it most;
2. David Mildenberg of the Charlotte Business Journal seems to follow news about this issue closely.

Some background links:
A wireless alternative? Mildenberg in the Business Journal in November 2006
An alternative involving Duke Power
Rivalries, from Mildenberg
Taking care of suburban institutions
Access nationally, with diversity implications. Go to "Research and reports" on the right and click on "Are We Really A Nation Online?" for an in-depth .pdf document.