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.