Sunday, December 16, 2007

So long, tacky Santa

You might call it tacky. We certainly did -- and other things -- before we owned it. When we first saw the three-foot plastic, glowing Santa at a relative's house in Atlanta several years ago we mostly laughed at it. Who would put such a thing in front of their house?

But time passes, the relative passed away and somehow the tacky Santa came home to Charlotte with us. If we own it, we should display it I thought, and so up it went with the rest of the Christmas lights. This was tacky Santa’s third Christmas on our porch. Also, the last.

I’m not sure if the person who took Santa from our porch wanted to make a cultural statement or if he thought tacky Santa was valuable or what (I have a hard time identifying with people who steal things off porches, so it’s hard to say). He certainly creeped us out. He also made a martyr out of tacky Santa, and reminded us how incredibly tacky some people can be.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

140 apartments on 7th

A packed crowd at Hawthorne Lane United Methodist Church heard Chris Branch of the Boulevard Company and Tony Miller of Miller Architecture deliver preliminary details of the planned development on 7th Street for the Roy White properties tonight. The highlights:
  • 140 one- and two-bedroom apartments.
  • 4 and one-third stories.
  • About 5,000 square feet of commercial space.
  • Between one and two parking spaces per bedroom.
  • No parking visible from the street.
  • No plans yet for the properties across 7th Street.
After the Branch/Miller presentation and some Q&A, they left and an open discussion started. Afterward we were to vote on whether we supported the project. I had to leave early, and I wasn't clear on what exactly we were supposed to vote on. I hope someone can fill me in. Branch said that their contract required them to submit their rezoning request by tomorrow. But the details we got tonight were too sparse, I think, for us to tell whether we favor the project or what conditions we might seek to impose. Clearly there will be further steps in this process.

My initial thoughts on the proposal was that it's a good start. The drawings looked handsome, and I like hidden parking. But 5,000 square feet of retail seems kind of small. I know the deed restrictions on most of the property require residential use, but I wonder if there isn't a way to get a little more retail at street level. Also, the size of the thing dwarfs the homes that border it, including the house at the corner of Clement and 7th and the houses on Clement and 8th streets. That's really huge for the people that live there. And 140 apartments? That seems like a lot.

What do you think?

Friday, December 07, 2007

Party time

Boulevard meeting site changed

Dana Inge writes:

The Boulevard Company will be making a presentation to the ECA at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 11 regarding their proposal for their 7th Street properties. At the present time, we know that they will present their proposal for the Krug Properties (Philosopher Stone to former Violin Shop), but they also have the Roy White properties under contract and they may address their plans for those parcels as well.

Due to the larger group attending, we are changing our meeting location this month to Hawthorne Lane United Methodist Church, 501 Hawthorne Lane, in the Joy Outlook classroom on the second floor of the educational wing (signs will direct you from the parking lot).

The Boulevard Company will be applying for a rezoning of the properties and the ECA will be writing a letter to City Council either in support or opposition, depending upon how the ECA members vote once the Boulevard Company has made all of their presentations to the ECA. We expect that this will be the first meeting where they present their intent for the properties. After the presentation and the Boulevard Company has left the meeting, we will discuss and vote on what the ECA will provide the Boulevard Company with respect to whether the community can support the proposed zoning change, what we would support, etc. The Boulevard Company would then have another presentation(s) to the Board at another board meeting(s) which would be more detailed plans of their proposed development. We will have a vote after each meeting on what we will convey to the developer in terms of support, opposition and direction of what we would support if such is different from what the developer presents at the meeting.

We need everyone's participation at this meeting and we need everyone to get the word out in the community about this meeting. This is likely to be a sizable development and one which will have a long term impact on the residents of Elizabeth. All Elizabeth residents are invited and all ECA members present at the meeting will have a vote on how we will respond to this proposed rezoning.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Worm catchers

Kara Gooding writes:

Due to the overwhelming demand for more tree banding supplies as well as concerns about common areas in Elizabeth, the ECA will sponsor a tree band volunteer day on Sunday, Dec. 2, from 11-5 in upper Independence Park.

On this day, the ECA will be distributing supplies for banding the park trees, any un-banded city trees or trees on rental property. So take note of any area in our neighborhood, especially on your street or on your block that is not banded. Get a group of neighbors, come get some supplies, and lets band these overlooked trees to make sure Elizabeth is 100% banded.

The one you've been waiting for

What will happen to the Roy White property on 7th Street? What will happen to the properties assembled by David Krug across the street? Find out Dec. 11 at 6:30 p.m. when Chris Branch of the Boulevard Company makes a presentation to the Elizabeth Community Association at the Hawthorne Rec Center. Boulevard has apparently either acquired or is in the process of acquiring both sets of properties, and will be seeking rezoning from the city. They'll want to get input from the ECA first. The meeting Dec. 11 will be the first steps in that process.

Boulevard did the Laurel Ridge development at Randolph and Laurel. You may recall they originally sought a rezoning that would have allowed more units on that site. The city, after consulting with the ECA, denied the rezoning request for higher density.

I don't think I can overstate the importance of the 7th Street projects to the neighborhood. If you live in Elizabeth or if you just occasionally drive on 7th, you have a stake in the results. Come to the meeting and let your voice be heard.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Neighborhood "improvement"

This is probably unfair criticism, but here goes: Does anyone think a fenced-in gravel lot is an improvement over a restaurant? For this they tore down the Athens?

Farewell pumpkin wall

The 2007 Pumpkin Wall has come and gone with little fanfare from UtWT. My apologies to all involved for neglecting the wall and the service of the dedicated carvers who had to brave the few days of rain we've had in the last few months to scoop and cut. Nice job to the Woodpeckers and all who took part. This is what the wall looked like on Halloween night.

Plenty of free parking

No one hates to pay for parking more than I do. But sometimes I wonder if we only encourage our dependence on the automobile (and therefore foreign oil) by offering plenty of free parking everywhere. I thought of this today while wondering what on earth the developers of the nearby Home Depot/Target project were thinking when they put the parking garage out front and the stores behind it. Were they afraid people wouldn't find the garage if they hid it behind the store where it belongs? Home Depot and Target stores aren't known for their tremendous curb appeal, but anything would be better than a parking garage -- even if this one is better than average -- and having the store at the front might encourage walk-ups.

Contrast that Midtown development with the construction on the Central Avenue side of the Hawthorne Lane bridge. I guess the huge concrete monolith is a parking garage, and by all appearances the condominiums will be wrapped around it. Result: We'll see the places where people live, not the places where cars live. Doesn't that make sense?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Come 'n' carve

Certainly you've noticed that the Woodpeckers have erected the Pumpkin Wall again. Just in time for the rains, I might add. Perhaps you've also seen the invitation:
Join us on Clement Street, between 8th and 10th Streets
Nightly pumpkin carving parties start Wednesday October 24
(Or carve and bring your own pumpkins)
Official Pumpkin Wall lighting at dusk Saturday October 27
Bring your trick-or-treaters on Halloween!
Be on the lookout for the documentary "The Great Pumpkin Wall"

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Yo Joe

As readers of UtWT comments know, quirky grocer Trader Joe's is coming to the Metropolitan development in Midtown. What does that mean for Grubb's Elizabeth Avenue project? Does the nearby presence of Target, Home Depot and Trader Joe's mean lesser tenants for us? Metropolitan has a jump on Elizabeth Avenue, and it appears Grubb is having trouble luring big names. But does a dominant Metropolitan hurt Elizabeth Avenue's chances? I don't necessarily think so, although it does seem to imply that Grubb needs to get busy. There's still lots of buying power around here and the area is under-served from a retail standpoint. Let's see what happens.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

OMG! Target! OMG!

Mysterious red balls in a parking garage on the edge of our 'hood? Could it be? It is! Target is open! I can confirm because my family's pocketbook is nearly $200 lighter today after being taken in by the shiny merchandise and the friendly employees at the store above the Home Depot, which doesn't appear to be ready for customers yet. I know a lot of people have been waiting a long time for this type of retail within walking distance. Who among us will be the first to get on a first-name basis with the clerks?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

We'll get sprayed

Our neighborhood will be part of a $2.8 million campaign by the city to eradicate the cankerworm. As part of the effort, Elizabeth will be sprayed next spring, the first treetop spraying since 1998. You're probably thinking, "Hey -- that means I don't have to band my trees!" Wrong. You still have to band. Get busy.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Boundary change dead

The Observer is reporting in its print edition (but apparently not online) that the Eastover school boundary change is dead.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Will we get sprayed?

Charlotte city arborist Don McSween will ask the City Council tomorrow for $2.8 million to spray parts of the city -- including Elizabeth -- to control cankerworms, the Observer reports. We should know by Oct. 8 if he gets the dough. No matter what happens, you still have to band your trees. As Dana Inge writes:

Every fall our mature tree canopy is threatened by the cankerworm bug. This year, the ECA will be selling the necessary tree banding supplies for $1.00 a foot to combat the cankerworm. The cost covers batting material, roofing paper, tanglefoot, gloves, plastic spreaders and staples and/or plastic wrap. Neighbors are strongly encouraged to order enough supplies to account for banding not only their own trees, but any trees whose canopies touch the trees on their property. Residents can then pick up their supplies on October 27th in Independence Park, from 8:00AM-4:00PM near the rose garden. Additionally block captains will serve as more local points of contacts for their respective zones throughout Elizabeth. To order supplies, email and indicate:
• Your name
• Address
• Phone number
• The number of feet of supplies that you require.
(Please note the ECA is not profiting in any way from the sale of these materials. The ECA tree banding materials are being sold at or below cost to Elizabeth residents in an effort to encourage participation.)

Good start at Crisp

After a long wait, Crisp is finally open in the old Corner Deli spot at the corner of 7th and Pecan. Jerry, the owner, said they opened Wednesday, and at least for a short time will be serving only lunch stuff, the sandwiches and salads on the menu boards -- even if they're open during dinner time. Folks who work there say they're pleased with business so far, and expect more when they get a beer and wine license and add some dinner items, like pastas and pizzas. ETA on the beer/wince license wasn't certain, but could be next week. Table service is coming too.

The decor and ambiance of the place is a huge improvement over at least the last two occupants of that site. It has a trim, urban feel. Sandwiches come on fresh-baked bread and my salad came with fresh-baked breadsticks. I had the steak salad (can't remember the name now), a marinated hunk of tri-tip steak cooked to order and placed on top of a bed of greens. It was great. My family had sandwiches. With chips and drinks the bill came to $40, which isn't bad for four people. We'll be going back.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Vote for overcrowding

I went to the Eastover/Cotswold school boundary meeting Monday night at Eastover. A few hundred people crowded into the auditorium to listen to CMS talk about the two proposals. I have two observations.

First, I thought CMS did a terrible job presenting the proposals, explaining why it had come to this and what brought us here. They never stated why this particular area was chosen over others, although if you look at the map it's pretty obvious. The data they provided was difficult to interpret and incomplete at best. The moderator frequently failed to answer plainly stated questions. I am a huge supporter of CMS. But this meeting was a good example of why they have an image problem.

Second, it seemed to me the vast majority of people there were taking a strong stand in favor of overcrowding. No, of course they didn't put it that way. But when all the emotion and rhetoric is removed, their basic plan was to do nothing. Many said they wanted to let the situation "auto-correct." While that would certainly minimize the pain of the people living in the affected area, it does nothing to minimize the pain of the people who believe the situation now is intolerable and bound to get worse. I wish I believed the situation would auto-correct itself.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Peachy market

Possibly the best peach I've had this summer was bought at the Charlotte Tailgate Farmer's Market on Commonwealth. Large and juicy, it peeled easily and tasted of sweetness and sunshine. I may head over there on Tuesday to see if they have any more left.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Did you hear it?

Did you hear the big boom this afternoon? I didn't. In a link that's sure to be gone in a day or so, the Observer reports: "Workers trying to excavate 8,000-gallon underground tanks from beneath an abandoned gas station inadvertently sparked a flash fire this afternoon that shut down an intersection and alarmed residents but seriously hurt no one. It happened at about 3:30 p.m. at Hawthorne and Elizabeth lanes in the Elizabeth neighborhood, just across the street from the main entrance to Presbyterian Hospital." I think we were very lucky no one was hurt.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Numbers at Eastover

Those of you who noticed the figures in the Observer's story on attendance changes at CMS and my recent post may be wondering what's up with the numbers. The Observer says Eastover "has nearly 450 kids in a school built for 410." I say 541 kids in a school built for 430. Who's right?

Numbers are funny things. They can change. They can be interpreted. How many kids can a school hold? That depends. I used a number that Eastover Principal Vanessa Ashford and CMS Area Superintendent Joel Ritchie seem to agree on, 430. But I've got no real argument with the Observer's number.

I do take issue with the 450 number. Ashford says as of today there are 533 kids enrolled, down from the 541 two weeks ago.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Strike up the banding

Cooler weather means time to band your trees to stop the spread of that hateful cankerworm. I can hear you now: Do I have to? The answer is yes. And the Elizabeth Community Association is making it easy for you, selling everything you need for $1 a foot. Email with your name, address, phone number and the number of feet of banding stuff you need. (Measure the circumference of the trees at about chest-height.)
And tree banding experts will be on hand at the annual ECA dinner on Sept. 25.

Elizabeth community annual dinner

Don't forget the annual Elizabeth community dinner Sept. 25th from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Always a great time to meet neighbors and politicians and get an accounting of what's going on -- and ask questions from the movers and shakers. The ECA provides a main course and drinks. You provide a covered dish. We eat, we talk, we learn. What could be better?

He's everywhere

Suddenly Elizabeth celebrity chef David Pasternack is everywhere. Hear him on NPR. See him in the Observer. Read his book. And you can eat his food at Customshop, where he is consulting chef.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

School boundary hearing

CMS will hold two meetings to discuss the redrawing of attendance lines for Eastover and Cotswold elementary schools. The first will be Sept. 24 at Eastover, the second Oct. 1 at Cotswold. My understanding is about 40 kids would be moved (PDF) from Eastover to Cotswold, a small start but nowhere near a solution to the overcrowding at Eastover.

So let me see if I get this right: We won't solve the problem, but at least we'll make some people mad. It will be interesting to see how all this plays out right before the bond vote. The big problem appears to be that all the elementary schools in the zone except Eastover and Cotswold are magnets. Is this really a good idea?

No matter where one stands on the overcrowding issue -- and it's not just Eastover -- it's clear the bonds need to be passed. Voting against the bonds will only guarantee that we have more problems like this. Unfortunately, passing the bonds in no way guarantees we won't have these problems.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Conformity on Commonwealth

Now is your chance to speak your mind on what should happen to the vacant lot at the corner of Pecan and Commonwealth. Elizabeth's Conformity Corp., headed by resident Monte Ritchey, owns the property. Ritchey told the Observer he plans to do some market research to find out what residents and business owners want to see there. There was a push recently to turn the lot into a park, but I'm not sure what happened to that effort. While a park would be nice, it seems unlikely at this point. What's the best use for that land? Let Conformity know: 704-334-5516.

Desegregation at Central

There was no spitting or taunting on the first day of the 1957 school year at Elizabeth's Central High School as its first black student walked to class. The principal made sure of it. You can learn more about the student and the principal and the role a neighborhood high school played in desegregating Charlotte's public schools in the Observer's story.

Save Volare?

Egads. Volare owner chef-owner Fabio Salazar says his business is down since he moved to Elizabeth from Myers Park. "I don't have much time to hang out over here," Salazar told the Observer, adding that he could call it quits in Elizabeth by the end of the year. Do we want to lose such a great restaurant? I wouldn't think so. I'm embarrassed to admit I haven't eaten at Volare since the move, so I can't say if they've lost a step. But I can say they were great on Providence.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Latest restaurant rumor

The latest rumor is that the planned Mexican restaurant in the old Arrow cleaner's spot between Roy White Flowers and Sub Station is dead. Instead it will be a beer, burgers and billiards concept. A thought from an anonymous observer: Don't we have enough beer and burger spots nearby? I might have to agree with that. But let's see how it turns out.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Your big chance

Maya Packard needs help. One of the homes in the Home Tour has dropped out. Don't you want to help? Maya writes:

I have just heard from our Homes Tour coordinator that one of our houses has just dropped out, only five weeks before the tour. I know that it is a lot to ask, but we really need to have that slot filled in order to have the tour this year! This event raises about $7,000 for our neighborhood every year, which we really need to do all the things we do. We NEED the Homes Tour! You may not think your home is tour-worthy, but you might be surprised. Some people go on the tour to see lovely decor, some go to see a new addition or remodel, some go because they are just curious to see how other people live, or what is behind those walls they walk by day after day. Having had my house on the tour last year myself, I will admit that it is not easy to prepare for it, but it isn't as bad as you might think, and it is excellent motivation to give (or hire someone to give) your house that deep cleaning you keep meaning to get around to, and to finish up those little projects that have been hanging over your head. If there is any way you would consider opening your home on the weekend of Oct 13 & 14, or even if you just want to know what is involved, please, please email or call me at 704-334-2196.

I hope you'll consider helping.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Goodbye Independence

I've been meaning to mention how Independence Boulevard is slowly retreating from our daily lives in Elizabeth. (Would that it never entered!) Back in 1946 the city decided to cleave some decent neighborhoods with the abomination that would become Independence Boulevard. Many years later the ungainly behemoth was turned into a limited access freeway, more useful for Union County residents than those who live and suffer next to it. We were left with a relatively useless section of divided highway between 7th Street and downtown, kind of an impotent reminder of poor decisions of the past. But no more. In June, our slice of Independence history was quietly renamed Charlottetowne Avenue. I say good riddance.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Over crowding at Eastover

Those of you with school-aged children know that Elizabeth is in the Eastover Elementary school attendance zone for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. We're lucky. It's a very good school. So good in fact, everyone wants to go there.

Right now 541 kids are enrolled at Eastover, in a school that's built to house about 430. There's a waiting list of 92. One third-grade class has 34 kids in it. There are 367 kids who live in the Eastover zone that attend other CMS schools. The projections for coming years show more, not fewer, children coming.

CMS policy is a school must accommodate children who live in the attendance zone. That means when a child shows up, the principal has to find a place for him or her. No matter how many hims or hers there are. CMS also has a fairly strict sibling policy, meaning if one kid gets in all the rest do too.

If you've driven by Eastover, you'll notice one thing that separates it from other schools, even other inner-city schools. It's wedged in. There's no room to add more classrooms. There's no room to even add trailers.

What is the solution? You can't tell parents who live in the Eastover zone they can't come. You can't build more space at the school. You can't go on housing 541 kids in a school build for 100 less than that, although that's exactly what will happen this year.

What about next year, when the problem will be worse? The only apparent solution is to change the attendance zone. Carve off bits and pieces and send those kids elsewhere. You can imagine how upsetting this will be to a lot of people.

Look for meetings in September to discuss changes to the attendance zone (click on "Locate your child's school," enter your address, click submit, click Go and click on "View attendance zone" under Eastover). How will it affect Elizabeth?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Mark at Customshop

If you're heading over to Customshop on Elizabeth, see if you can get Mark as your server. We did recently and had a blast. Mark and his wife are expecting their first baby in a few months, and he is just as happy as he can be about it while still exhibiting the appropriate amount of fear and uncertainty. Do your best to reassure him and enjoy your meal.

We certainly did ours, and ran into some friends who were return customers and raved about the place. Over on Chowhound, not so much. Here's my take on the criticism: When one of your owners writes a cookbook, the expectations are high. People want to be wowed by celebrity chefs. But I think Customshop is all about simplicity. Their site says they serve food "with the freshest quality ingredients and the simplest preparation." High expectations, celebrity chefs -- simple preparation. Uh oh. I would tend to agree that the prices lean toward the higher end -- especially the wine list -- but they're not out of line.

My wife Lolo and I both had fish. I had tuna, she had snapper. Both were simple and done to perfection. The presentation was elegant, yet -- surprise -- simple. A chocolate tort for desert was to die for. Mark's service was impeccable. Check it out for yourself and decide.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Can't be good for business

Winn Maddrey and his family enjoyed dinner at the new Intermezzo restaurant at Central and Louise the other night, but when they returned to their car they found the front passenger window smashed and Winn's briefcase gone. In it, among other things, was his laptop. On the laptop were a bunch of family photos. He said he's got copies of most of the photos elsewhere, but not all. And insurance is covering the monetary side of his loss. But, really, this can't be good for a new business to have that kind of crime outside its doors in broad daylight.

Bird's eye view

Over at UrbanPlanet, dubone has created some wonderful maps that give a bird's eye view of development projects around the city. Of special note, of course, are those in Elizabeth. Nice work dubone.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

No comment from Fresh Market

The official word from the Fresh Market's PR people on a store in Elizabeth is: "no comment at this time." If anyone hears anything please let me know.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Ellizabeth Avenue at CPCC

By now most of us have gotten used to Elizabeth Avenue being closed between Kings and Charlottetown. The Observer reports it will open in time for the start of the fall term at CPCC, but don't get used to it. A construction project that's expected to take 18 months will close the street again in October. If this stretch of Elizabeth wasn't needed as a third way into and out of downtown, I'd say why not just close it permanently. But it's really useful when 7th and 3rd/4th get congested, even if traffic moves slowly on it.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

How hot was it?

Wednesday was the second day in a row of plus-100 degree temperatures at our house. Hot enough to fry an egg on the street? Well, actually, no. Our children Anne, 10, and Alan, 12, put the lie to the myth by cracking this egg on the manhole cover on Bay Street between Clement and Lamar and letting it sit for an hour. If you like your eggs really runny, this one might be done enough for you. Otherwise I recommend Shomars or John's Country Kitchen. (Photo by Anne McBride)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Best of Charlotte in Elizabeth

A number of Elizabeth establishments made Creative Loafing's Best Of Charlotte 2007 list. Among them Hawthorne's New York Pizza and Bar was named best late night restaurant by the critics and Visualite was named best concert venue [small]. Visart Video was mentioned as having the best video/DVD rental selection. Although they aren't strictly in Elizabeth, the Penguin, Thomas Street Tavern and Elizabeth Billiards also received raves.

Monday, August 06, 2007

So far-o, Solero

Great reviews continue to pour in for Solero, in the old Ethan's/Pearl spot on Caswell. I was there with friends recently, and I can tell you the owner is very gracious and accommodating. We had only appetizers, so I can't speak about the dinner menu. The high-profile location deserves a signature restaurant we can be proud of, as Ethan's was. I'll be going back to see if it makes it.

Pressures in Commonwealth-Morningside

Our neighbor Commonwealth-Morningside is seeing big changes, none more so than the development of Morningside Village. They're also seeing the pressures renovations can bring to a neighborhood. "People are buying the old, little bungalows and putting up these 3,800-square-foot homes that aren't in keeping with the neighborhood," said Krista Murphy. So, wisely, the neighborhood association held a meeting, bringing builders, architects and neighbors together to talk about renovations. The association has no power to stop people from doing what they want. But better to be proactive than reactive. While we watch how things play out in Commonwealth-Morningside, we probably want to continue to pursue our own Small Area Plan. Will it make everyone happy? Probably not. But if we don't get everyone together to talk about what we want our neighborhood to be, we won't know what makes people happy until after they become unhappy.

Fresh Market instead of Whole Foods?

Rumor has it that Whole Foods is out and Fresh Market perhaps is in for the Grubb Properties grocery store in the Elizabeth development. Anyone know anything more?

First stops

What does it mean that, after a week of vacation out west, our first stop when we got back in town (after the gas station, which doesn't count because the tank was on E) was VisArt Video and our second stop was Hawthorne's New York Pizza and Bar? I don't know. But I think we're happy to be home.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

On certifying my habitat

So I went to the meeting at Jen Cline's house the other day. A fellow from the National Wildlife Federation talked about how getting your yard certified is easy and, more importantly, why it's a good thing. We're not talking about encouraging raccoons, possums or feral cats. In an urban setting the wildlife we're after is mostly birds, bees and butterflies.

To attract this kind of wildlife, you need to offer the same essentials outside your house that you offer the wild life inside: Food, water and shelter. Most of us have some plants that produce seeds or berries or pollen. Planting native species can offer more alternatives and cut down on watering and fertilizer use. And a water source can be as simple as bird bath or a terra cotta dish that fills up when it rains.

I'm going to take another serious look at the mess that is my yard, and see if I can come up with a plan that will improve not only its looks (wouldn't be hard to do) but also its value to birds, bees and butterflies. And then I think I'll spring for the $15 fee and see if I can get certified. Maybe you'd like to too?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

8th Street: Certified wildlife habitat?

Should 8th Street become the first street in Charlotte to be named a certified wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation? How should I know? I'm going to try to attend a planning meeting tomorrow, July 19, at 6 p.m. at Jen Cline's house at 2025 E. 8th St. to find out. Maybe I'll see you there.

Whole Foods CEO not anonymous

The latest news from the Whole Foods front is discouraging, although it has nothing to do with the company's Charlotte locations. Apparently Whole Foods CEO John Mackey thought he was anonymous online and used Yahoo message boards to "assail competition and promote his supermarket chain’s stock," the New York Times (login required) reports. You know it's bad if the Securities and Exchange Commission is looking into your sock-puppetry.

This report does nothing to burnish the reputation of Whole Foods. When taken together with the recent realization that Elizabethans who have emailed Whole Foods won't be getting a personal reply as promised, well you start to wonder if Whole Foods is a special outfit or just another big company.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Dancing for school bonds

In case you missed it, Mecklenburg County commissioners chairman and Elizabethan Jennifer Roberts danced a jig after the board unanimously agreed to a school bond plan. Talk about dancing with the stars.

While the subject is school bonds, remember that despite what seems to be constant bickering between members of the school board and the county commissioners, the only real disagreement among them was over the size of the school bond package. There is no disagreement on the need.

A gift to early Elizabeth settlers

Remember the Revolutionary War-era graves that were unearthed during the construction going on at Mercy Hospital at Fifth, Caswell and Vail? The remains of those settlers are being re-buried today in a west Charlotte cemetery, but there's more to the story than that. Bill Merritt, the project manager of the $100 million Mercy project, got to know the descendants of the settlers and apparently felt some kind of connection. On his own time he hand-built four oak coffins in the style of the 1770s: "wide at the shoulders and tighter at the toes like the outlines found in the clay at the construction site."

Thank you, Bill Merritt, for going beyond your duties, and thank you for your humanity.

Friday, July 13, 2007

New restaurants coming

Word on the street is that the Recognition Plus building on Central Avenue (near Hawthorne) will be converted into not one but two restaurants, one of which is described as "upscale Mexican." Clearly the folks who'll reside in the 400+ apartments being built on Hawthorne between Independence and Central will need a place to eat.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Reward offered for missing ring

A friend reports losing a wedding ring while strolling through Elizabeth last Sunday. He had enjoyed a movie at the Manor Theatre and decided to go for a walk through Elizabeth. His route covered Laurel, 8th, Kenmore, Greenway, Vail and Ridgeway, and perhaps streets in between. It's a plain gold wedding band with no inscription, and how it fell out of his pocket -- where he put it while washing his hands at the Manor -- he doesn't know. But he says he'll gladly pay a $50 reward. If you see it, let me know by commenting to this post and I'll get the two of you together.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Small area plan still large

I hope you've had a chance to read Andrew and Becca Nesbit's excellent article in the Summer 2007 issue of the Elizabeth Community Association newsletter. If you haven't, I encourage you to check it out. It is an concise summation of why the original Elizabeth Small Area Plan was so important to our neighborhood and why we need to do another one. Here are a couple of highlights from Andrew and Becca's article:
  1. "As a result of our engagement in [the project to update the ESAP], we've learned that many of the things we love about Elizabeth were not accidental, but instead were the result of cooperation, dedication and extensive planning."
  2. "The original Elizabeth Small Area Plan, which took five years to complete, was the first small area plan adopted in Charlotte."
  3. "Today... there is no reference to the Elizabeth Neighborhood Plan on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department website nor is a copy available in the department's office."
  4. "There exists no officially recognized document to guide development and provide a framework for evaluating and providing input to the constant changes that face Elizabeth."
  5. "Elizabeth has an identity and will continue to have one, but that identity should be determined and developed by those who care for Elizabeth, not those who see Elizabeth as a place... to make a profit."
With some comments from yours truly, referring to the points above by number:
  1. I hope everyone realizes that Elizabeth would not be Elizabeth -- that is to say it would be a lot less than it is -- without the original ESAP. I don't think this point can be overstated.
  2. The group of folks -- Ken Lambla and others -- who brought you the original ESAP were visionary ground-breakers. Can we fill their shoes?
  3. These things are living documents. If we don't care and feed them, they will expire. Ours has expired, leaving us vulnerable.
  4. This means every time a Blockbuster wants to put a brightly-lit, big-box, huge-parking lot edifice in your backyard and unscrupulous local business owners start tearing down houses in the middle of the night, we have to fight it with little support.
  5. Either we do it or someone else will. Someone else may not have our best interests at heart.
I encourage everyone to volunteer to help design the new Elizabeth Small Area Plan. Call Andrew Nesbitt at 704-344-9725 if you'd like to help.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Storm damage

I hope yesterday's brief but powerful storm left you unharmed, although clearly lots of folks suffered damage to their homes and other property. We were very lucky at our house, no damage and no power loss in what several long-time Elizabethans are calling a "mini-Hugo." And if you drive or walk down some of the streets, the resemblance to that storm is striking. We'll be talking about this one for years, I imagine.

This house on the corner of East 8th and Ridgeway was lucky when the tree in the front yard (below) missed it, but then part of another tree landed on the roof (above).

A huge tree fell on pecan (above) but didn't appear to damage any surrounding houses. "I'd call it a miracle," said one observer. It was still blocking one lane on Sunday.

This fallen tree on Bay (above) managed to get both house and at least one car, although you can't see it in this photo.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

We're No. 1,755,354!

Your favorite blog, UTWT natch, is the 1,755,354th-most popular blog in the blogosphere, according to Technorati. Huzzah! I shall not rest until it becomes the 1,755,353rd-most popular.

Leaky no more

I have been remiss. I have neglected to mention that all the leaks I reported to the city have been fixed. I wish I had been more diligent in following up on them so I could report exactly how much time passed between reporting and fixing. I can say this: I noticed some time ago that they were fixed. I just never got around to posting it here. Since I drive on East 7th Street several times weekly, and that leak was hard to miss, I'm reasonably sure that one was cleared up quickly.

Biofuel man also an Elizabethan

Elizabeth's own Bob Teixeira converted his '81 diesel Mercedes to run on vegetable oil -- and then got nailed by state and federal governments for not paying fuel taxes. I'm still feeling the patriotic buzz from yesterday's festivities, but let's face it: The laws that penalized Bob for attempting to do something about our dependence on oil are just wrong. You might mention that the next time you see Dan Clodfelter, Jennifer Roberts, Dumont Clarke or any other elected official wandering around Elizabeth. Should we start a collection to pay Bob's fines?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Fabulous Fourth

Two things distinguished this year's Elizabeth 4th of July parade and party: Cooler weather and fewer people than recent years. Also, the traditional lead car -- Hardin Minor's Blue Heaven Mustang convertible -- had a flat tire and saw no duty in the march. (That's Hardin at right, getting the marchers fired up at the parade's start.) In fact there were fewer vehicles of all stripes this year. But what we may have lacked in wheeled entrants, we more than made up for in hot dogs. Burp.

Parade notice

The annual Elizabeth 4th of July parade is at 10:30 a.m. today. Corner of Clement and Bay. See you there.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Parade coming

Don't forget the annual Elizabeth 4th of July parade coming up Wednesday. Just because the Observer forgot about it doesn't mean you get to. More details to come.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Storm damage

Sunday night's bombastic storms caused some damage at Cuisine Malaya at the corner of Independence and Elizabeth. Part of the building's facade fell off, forcing Mecklenburg County to declare the building unsafe. More thunderstorms today probably didn't help matters. (Photos by Lolo Pendergrast.)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Whole Foods roundup

Back from vacation. Time to catch up on the Whole Foods beat:
  • I hope you enjoyed the Observer article "Fighting for 1st Whole Foods" on June 9. In it, a UNCC marketing professor agreed with me that the SouthPark location makes more sense for Whole Foods's first foray into Charlotte, but was more hopeful about letter-writing campaigns than I was. A Whole Foods spokesman said the company plans to answer every email. So let's hear it: Who emailed Whole Foods? If not, why not? Did you get a reply? What did they say? Comments please!
  • Meanwhile, let's hope that when Whole Foods does come to Elizabeth, they adopt the single-line, bank-style (registration required) of check-out "queue management." "By 7 p.m. on a weeknight, the lines at each of the four Whole Foods stores in Manhattan can be 50 deep, but they zip along faster than most lines with 10 shoppers," the New York Times reports. We may be more gracious than some New Yorkers when it comes to waiting in line, but that doesn't mean we have to like it. If only our own Harris Teeter had room for such an improvement.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Movie Tavern on Elizabeth

Lost in my pitiful mewling about the Whole Foods loss was the news of the really cool Movie Tavern, part of a 70,000-square-foot entertainment complex on Elizabeth Avenue. Movie Tavern "combines first-run movies with a casual dining menu offering a wide range of choices that include half-pound burgers, homemade pizzas, chicken sandwiches, wings and fries, appetizers, fresh salads, beer, wine, and mixed beverages," according to its Web site. We're talking six screens, first-run movies, "art house films" -- and a bar. I'm there. Anyone from Texas familiar with Movie Tavern? The Observer reports a late 2008 or early 2009 theater opening.

Developer Grubb Properties says after Movie Tavern, the rest of the $300 million development "is being designed for a collection of boutiques along Elizabeth Avenue, two terrace level restaurants overlooking a central plaza and a 15,000 square foot club." Sweet.

Juneteenth of the Carolinas

The tenth annual Juneteenth of the Carolinas celebration kicks off June 14 and continues through June 16 at Independence Park. Juneteenth commemorates the freeing of the last slaves in the U.S. on June 19, 1865 -- more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Elizabethan Peter Tart, who supplied these pictures from last year's festival, writes:
"I think we are fortunate to have our neighborhood's park host such an important event and hope we display a large participation. I've attended for the last three years and have been impressed with the variety of costumes, customs, artwork and gestures of inclusion and friendliness. I'll be there this year as well and hope to see many of my neighbors. Incidentally, the festival last year had a wonderful parade along the park's sidewalk."
The parade will be back on both Saturday and Sunday. Should be an excellent event.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Can email campaign save our Whole Foods?

Some folks have started a Whole Foods email campaign, trying to get them to reconsider starting a SouthPark store before an Elizabeth store. Here's some suggested text:
Whole Foods belongs on Elizabeth Avenue in Charlotte!

There's no sense in beating around the bush. As a neighbor of the exciting Elizabeth Avenue project, I can tell you that there's no better place in Charlotte for your store, and there are thousands of people like me who are waiting anxiously for Whole Foods to open.

As you might expect, then, we are extremely disappointed to hear that plans for this location are now "on hold."

Most of the people here in Elizabeth, Myers Park, Eastover, Uptown, and Plaza Midwood are familiar with your stores in the Triangle area, Atlanta, even Charleston and metro DC. We're big fans, and we'll be big shoppers. Why?

* Because we love to shop right here, and we don't like fighting the congestion in places like South Park and Ballantyne.
* Because a store at the intersection of Elizabeth Avenue, Hawthorne Avenue and 4th Street is right on our way to work - and home - and to most of the places we love in Charlotte.
* And because these are communities that are incredibly supportive of our "own" merchants.

At Elizabeth Avenue, you'll not only be the best option for Charlotte's urban condominium market and its numerous historical close-in neighborhoods, you'll be the only convenient option. So you can expect a much higher share of our grocery dollars than you'd ever get in a more competitive
location like South Park.

We hope the news we're hearing about Whole Foods in Charlotte is wrong and that you'll soon be announcing plans to accelerate the opening of your store in Elizabeth. It's the right place, and the best place, for you to be.
The folks to email are CEO John Mackey (, South Region President Scott Allshouse ( and VP for Real Estate Norah Smith ( Note the email pattern. Assuming it holds, you can probably figure out a few more people to email from this list.

While an email campaign probably can't hurt, I have to say I'm dubious. I have my doubts about the effectiveness of email campaigns to begin with. But more importantly, I think the SouthPark store is a done deal. No way Whole Foods can concede the SouthPark market to competitor Earth Fare, whose SouthPark store is scheduled to open in November. If you're Whole Foods and you're comparing the two locations, it's pretty clear that Elizabeth can wait and SouthPark can't -- as much as I hate to say that. But maybe we should all email them anyway, just to make sure they don't change their minds and never come to Elizabeth.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Street car delay's first loss: Whole Foods

It's probably not completely accurate to blame the loss of the Elizabeth Whole Foods store on the inane decision to put off work until 2013 work on the center city street car line. But certainly it played some role in the decision making. "Both Whole Foods and Grubb were disappointed the planned streetcar line connecting uptown to Central Avenue was delayed recently," the Observer reported.

Look at the area immediately surrounding the proposed Whole Foods site in Elizabeth. Then look at the area immediately surrounding Sharon and Colony roads, where the SouthPark Whole Foods will go. I'm partial to my neighborhood, but let's face it. If you're a developer and you take some Whole Foods honchos to Elizabeth and Hawthorne and tell them to put a store there, you're selling the future. And up until recently you were able to throw in the street car to sweeten that future. Now take those same Whole Foods honchos to Sharon and Colony. You don't have to imagine a bright future for SouthPark -- it's already there.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Free ice cream

Crime Dawg writes:

The Dawg has a sweet tooth, so he can’t resist passing along the news that the recently opened Elizabeth Creamery on Elizabeth Avenue is having a free ice cream day tomorrow, 12-6 p.m. The ice cream is made "in house," one more reason to support a new addition to our neighborhood. And tell ‘em the Dawg sent you!

Mercy! Graves found under parking lot

Who knew there was so much history in Elizabeth? Some of the work going on at Mercy Hosptial has been stopped while archaeologists dig up the 13 Revolutionary War-era graves workers found underneath the parking lot. One of the gravestones they found read: "Here lies the body of Thomas Barnet who deceas'd May The 3d, 1776, aged 22 years." (Think you have a cemetery in your back yard? Check here.)

Wonder how Mr. Barnet died. Wonder what life was like in our neighborhood back then. Did everyone add a second story to their single-story log cabin? Were cankerworms and crime dreaded? I suppose life was quite a bit different in those days. After all, Independence hadn't even been widened yet.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Know whose dog this is?

Crime Dawg reports this dog is looking for its owners. If you know who belongs to this canine, call Lucy Amedio at 704-622-8589.

From Crime Dawg

Progressively better

It seems like the Elizabeth Progressive Dinner just gets better every year. This year's bash, wonderfully organized by Beth Haenni, was as inviting as the day. That's my group above, at Judy Ghoneim's house on Greenway. For once I didn't overstuff myself at the appetizer house (smaller photo) before dinner, although not because the appetizer fare was lacking -- it wasn't. No, I actually exercised a bit of self-restraint, as hard as that is to believe. At least until I got to the the chocolate desserts at Jane and Roxie's. Thanks to Beth and Maya Packard, all the host houses and anyone else who had a hand in making this the premier neighborhood event. Find the recipies here.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Changing Elizabeth

You can't turn around without seeing an empty lot where once there was an old building; an apartment complex where once there was a vacant lot; a second floor where once there was only a first; a hole where once stood a big tree. Elizabeth is changing faster than we know. Do we have a handle on it?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Of course he does

When George Clooney comes to Charlotte, what neighborhood does he head for? Elizabeth, of course. There was an amazingly sparse crowd of onlookers on hand this afternoon at Memorial Stadium, where filming for "Leatherheads" is underway. Some kind of action was going on inside the stadium. I was able to see a small crowd of extras dressed warmly in 1920s-style hats and coats, and at one point they let out a cheer. But I couldn't see what, if anything, was happening on the field. (It's hard to see through all the fences.) The film schedule has Clooney and company here through April 20 before heading up to Statesville. Word is the stars are just as loveable in person.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Calling all show-offs

Time to start planning the 2007 Elizabeth Home Tour. As you probably know, the annual home tour is one of our most important fundraisers, and last year's was a great success. If you've just remodeled your home or business, consider inviting others in to check it out during the tour, which will be in the fall (although a date has not been set yet). Of course you don't have to remodel to be featured on the tour, and you don't have to open your home if you want to get involved. Terry Lett is looking for homes to feature, volunteers to work and businesses to sponsor. Call 704-377-0052 or email terrylett at bellsouth dot net.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Look what I got

Hughes showed off his Easter egg cache after a successful morning at the Elizabeth Easter egg hunt in Independence Park. Hughes is the youngest son of Elizabeth and Winn Maddrey of Elizabeth.

Big E race starts

Elvis himselvis was of course on hand for the 21st annual Big E road race, waving the flag at the starting line this morning at 8. Elvis says he's switched to organic jelly doughnuts and was looking rather buff. He didn't run in the race, though, which kind of makes you question his commitment to his health.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Tree talk

Let's think about our blooming trees this weekend. First, if you haven't already, remove the cankerworm bands. Their work is done. Second, run or walk in the 21st Annual Elizabeth 8K road race 8 a.m. on Saturday. Proceeds from the race go toward replenishing our canopy. Then at 10:30, join us under the shade of the big trees in upper Independence Park for the Mad Hatter Easter egg hunt. Wear your silliest hat.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Farewell Eastland

When I first visited Charlotte in 1979, one of the places I went was Eastland Mall. It was still a marvel then, a big shopping mall with an ice skating rink. Now they want to tear it down. Which is probably the right thing to do. SouthPark is the same distance from my house, but Eastland always felt closer. Little reason to go there now, though.

ECA newsletter

When you get the Spring 2007 edition of the ECA newsletter (currently being delivered), be sure to check out the excellent primer on zoning by Tony Miller.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Leaks continue

Ok so I'm naive. I wanted to believe the city would respond within 72 hours like they promised they would when I reported a pair of leaks three weeks ago. So I called back again today, re-reporting the first two leaks and adding another: East 7th Street at Beaumont (above). As the pictures taken today (below) show, the first two leaks are still leaking. The clock starts today on the Beaumont leak. We're at three weeks and counting for the other two. Stay tuned.

Another one bites the dust

Ancient Independence Park denizen succumbs to pressures of city life.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Top 5 Elizabeth streets

  1. Clement -- Some day, maybe.

  2. Greenway -- The short and winding road that ends in a rose garden.

  3. East 8th -- Of course.

  4. East 5th -- With buses gone, add quiet to its class.

  5. East 9th -- Short but sweet.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Both sides of 5th

Crime Dawg writes:

Here is a note from CDOT: Within the next few days, we will be removing the parking signs on 5th Street between Osborne and Dotger at the request of the Elizabeth neighborhood. Traditionally the street has been parked on one side only. In an effort to slow the traffic down, we are allowing both sides to be parked. CATS buses are no longer routed down 5th Street and the street is wide enough to support the parking.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Leaky 'Lizbeth

It's been some time since it's rained, so when the street is wet where else can the water come from except below? Some of the water leaking at Clement and Park (below) froze on the street overnight. The one on the 1900 block of East 7th Street (above) was flowing strongly downhill. Fortunately it's easy to report water leaks. Call 311 anytime. Took me about five minutes to report these two leaks this morning. They promise to respond within 72 hours. That would be Valentine's Day. Let's see if they keep that promise.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Moon over 'Lizbeth

Did you check out the moon last Wednesday night before the storm came in? Around 7:30 or so the clouds created a really cool set of colored rings around our lunar neighbor. Peter Tart snapped this picture just after the peak color time. It was quite a show. Peter also pointed to this page that explains the phenomenon. Thanks Peter.

Jennifer watch

There she goes again, this time on a skateboard. (You'll have to look at page 20A of the Sunday Observer to see the photo of Jennifer Roberts with helmet and pads -- it's not on the Web site.)

Million dollar baby

Is it a first? The house at 1928 E. 9th Street is for sale, asking price: $1.1 million. This is not your typical Elizabeth bungalow. We're talking 3,400 square feet, a triple lot and a detached two-car garage with a 600-square-foot upstairs. But a million dollars? Has it been done before? Will it happen now? We'll see...

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Dig they must

I think they're almost done with the work under 7th Street in front of Fig Tree restaurant. Looks like they were fixing the drainage under 7th Street, although I can never seem to find someone to ask. Cut up a good slice of Independence Park while they were at it. I'm sure they'll make it as good as new when they're done.

Conformity in Dilworth

Who's behind the cool new project in Dilworth known as Southborough? Elizabeth's own Conformity Corp., of course.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Hermitage report

Don't we all want the kind of close-knit neighborhood they have over on Hermitage Court? A deep sense of history, a sense of belonging, a sense of ownership not just of an individual property but of a piece of the place where you live. Former Bay Street Elizabethan Ian Kutner is amont the people who have found it there. Don't we also have it here?

Lambla's British Tradition

Elizabethan June Lamblas' show "The Figure: A British Tradition" has opened at the McColl Center for Visual Art uptown. The Observer takes a look at it.


It's the state's largest community college, with 2,100 employees, 70,000 students and six campuses -- and a huge impact on the city. Yet it rarely feels like CPCC's main campus is a part of the neighborhood, despite the visionary leadership of Tony Zeiss. Is that a fair statement? Do we need to start a dialog?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Allan Reed

Many of you may remember Allan Reed, the piano teacher who for a time lived and taught on Clement before moving to Chambwood in our neighbor Plaza-Midwood. I'm sorry to say Mr. Reed passed away Jan. 25. He was a fantastic man, an excellent piano teacher and he will be missed.

Thousands perish in neighborhood disaster

The Tanglefoot is doing its job, capturing thousands of cankerworm moths as they try to climb trees in Elizabeth. I see the moths everywhere -- on sidewalks, porches, trees -- and I have to say I'm snuffing out as many of their lives as I can (while feeling somewhat guilty about my naked agression). It certainly seems like they had a fruitful mating season. More on cankerworms here.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Brixx bits

Perhaps the successful Brixx Wood Fired Pizza restaurants got their start in Dilworth in 1998, but co-owner Eric Horsley chooses to live in Elizabeth. The Charlotte pizza chain has expansion plans.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Surreal streetcars

The continuing saga of mass transit in Elizabeth now enters its surreal phase. How else can you describe the decision to lay the tracks now but not use them for 12 years? This decision makes no sense. If we don't have streetcars we don't need track. Twelve years is an eternity when it comes to public policy. Will laying track now guarantee a route will go up Elizabeth Avenue? No. Will it guarantee we'll even have a streetcar? No. So what's the point?

Dilworth break-ins

Note the brief item in The Observer (can't find it on the Web site) on page 2 of the Local section about a series of break-ins in nearby Dilworth. People were home during the break-ins. I think this is rare -- and I certainly hope it stays that way.

Who's next for a booth?

If you really miss Anderson's restuaruant, buy one of the old booths from the Habitat Restore.

Gorman in the 'hood

CMS Superintendent Peter Gorman will talk on "The Mind of Charlotte" from 6:45 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 10 (pdf), at St. John's Baptist Church on Hawthorne Lane at 5th Street. It's free. (Thanks Andria.)