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.