Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Whither the big box on Eastway?

The announcement Wednesday that Wal-Mart will build a 155,000-square-foot supercenter on Independence to replace the Eastway Drive store could have far-reaching implications for nearby neighbors of both sites.

The new store between Eastway and Albemarle roads is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2011, according to The Charlotte Observer.

That sounds like ages away, but it’s not really. The Observer’s article notes that Wal-Mart first announced intentions to build on Independence four years ago, and it has taken four years to clear obstacles for that project.

So it’s not too early to ask questions about what will become of the old Eastway Wal-Mart site.

A creek runs behind the property, backing up to homes on Pinecrest and, down further, Carolyn Drive.

The registered property owner of 3042 Eastway Drive is Eastway I Holdings, according to county property records. (It’s possible those records indicate it’s Eastway 1 Holdings, with a numeral “one.”) The property was sold in January 2007 to the owner for $11 million.

A Google search on “Eastway I Holdings” turns up an Excel document that lists an address for the company of P.O. Box 36799, in ZIP code 28236.

Does the property owner have plans for when Wal-Mart leaves Eastway? Does the property owner have any legal responsibilities to keep the property from becoming a degrading big box? I believe I’ve heard of new rules in which commercial property owners face the same responsibilities that homeowners do to keep vacant buildings from becoming eyesores and hazards.

But could the move offer opportunities for redevelopment? Could a larger buffer be made near the creek? Could the parking-lot sea become more green? Could the building or parcel be redesigned to better accommodate local businesses? What kind of new tenants would serve nearby neighborhoods?

The post office in the Eastway Crossing Center is also up for review for closing, and a Department of Motor Vehicles office recently closed at the center. The Eastway Division of the Charlotte Police Department still has offices at the shopping center.

It’s not too early to ask questions and plan next steps, to avoid merely moving the Independence big-box blight to another neighborhood.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Vote early and often (well, maybe not often)

Pundits spent lots of words last year saying increased voter turnout among young people and first-time voters signaled an increase in civic engagement.
This year’s tiny local elections will test that theory.

Charlotte’s primary is Tuesday, Sept. 15, and absentee voting is available now until Tuesday, Sept. 8, if you’re mailing in your ballot. Races with primaries include the Republican Party’s mayoral race, at-large city council races (vote for four) and some city council district races.

The east side of Charlotte has two contested Democratic Party district races, in District 1 (Patsy Kinsey vs. Owen Sutkowski) and District 5 (Nancy Carter vs. Darrell Bonapart). The winners in those districts have no Republican competition in November, so the primary settles the seats.

Some districts have contested school board races. Most of east Charlotte does not, because incumbent Tom Tate of District 4 is running unopposed.

One-stop early voting, which allows you to register and vote at the same time, is available at the Hal Marshall Annex at 618 N. College St. Dates and times: Aug. 27 to Sept. 4, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sept. 8 to Sept. 11, 8 a..m. to 7 p.m.; and on Saturday, Sept. 12, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., according to a flyer from the Mecklenburg Board of Elections. (Click under “Early Voting” here for a PDF of the flyer.)

College students: You can register to vote in the community where you are attending school so long as you don’t register to vote elsewhere. Lots of disinformation on how such a move can affect you and your family has floated around in the past. The best place to get reassurance is Rock the Vote.
If you’re a student from Mecklenburg County going to college elsewhere and you want to vote in Mecklenburg, you can write a letter requesting a ballot or have a relative write or visit the Board of Elections to request a ballot. Details are here.

Unaffiliated voters: Long ago in North Carolina, unaffiliated voters could not vote in primaries. That restriction is gone, with both the Republican and Democratic parties allowing unaffiliated voters to vote in primaries. You cannot switch parties, however, to vote in a runoff, if any exists. This site explains in more detail.

Next question: For whom do you vote?
I’ll leave that up to you, but I do urge you do to your homework through the Mecklenburg Board of Elections candidates list, which includes links to candidates’ websites. (Bonapart’s site is not listed there, but it’s linked above.) First search to find out which districts you are in, to cut down on the number of candidates you need to research. Many of the candidates have Facebook group or fan pages as well, and some updates are available only there.
One piece of advice: Candidates post notes about organizations that have endorsed them, and some caution is advised. For example, the Eastside Political Action Committee has endorsed a candidate in the District 1 City Council race. I’m personally curious whether those making that endorsement live in District 1. (Please feel free to speak up in comments if so.)

Good luck, and vote early.

Image information: City council districts, from the Mecklenburg Board of Elections site. Go here if you want more maps, such as a map of school board districts.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ghost Busters car visits The Penguin

A car that resembled the Ghost Busters vehicle from the 1984 movie showed up at The Penguin restaurant at 1921 Commonwealth Ave. on a recent Saturday evening.

A waitress said the car's owner was inside eating. She said it was fine to gawk and shoot pictures. I took a couple of shots, and then I took my warm, greasy sweet-potato fries home without stalking the owner.

But a few clues exist on who the owner might be, or perhaps we have more than one Ghost Busters car in North Carolina. A Durham blog, take the bull by the horns, took note of a very similar Ghost Busters vehicle back in March 2009. And the Hendrick Durham Auto Mall blog spotted the same car as the one seen in Durham back in January 2009.

So was the car at the Penguin the same, only new and improved? Have you seen it elsewhere? Give me clues.

The vehicle isn't the only weird, wacky car to turn up in the Plaza Midwood business district and surrounding areas.

An Escher pickup truck showed up in September 2008 outside of Nova's Bakery at 1511 Central Ave. It didn't have an N.C. tag, and a bumper sticker touting Black Rock High School suggested the car had recently been to Black Rock City, home of the Burning Man festival. I haven't seen it lately.

And, of course, the Area Fifteen art car was parked outside of Area Fifteen at 516 E. 15th St. at Davidson Street for Charlotte's first ever Barcamp back on Jan. 24.

The Area Fifteen car appears to be the work of Jared Nicolson, profiled by Weird Charlotte awhile back. The car displayed at the bottom of the Weird Charlotte story was created for Charlotte photographer Jim McGuire, and I remember seeing him drive it around the neighborhoods.

Haven't seen it lately.

Wonder if it still runs.

Regardless, I love living in a place where crazy cars turn up. If you want more, check out the art carz archive at the House of Dioxin.