Jacob Baum

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Jacob is the Assistant News Editor for the NinerTimes, as well as involved in the Student Government Association at UNC Charlotte.

7-Eleven near campus robbed at gunpoint

According to a Charlotte Mecklenburg Police report, five suspects attempted an armed robbery of a local 7-Eleven located at 8101 Old Concord Rd around 5:30 a.m. on June 28.

Two of the five subjects threatened the employees of the store with a handgun; however, they were not able to get away with any cash from the store and no one was injured in the incident.

The five suspects fled the store on foot into the “Newell Crossing” neighborhood, evading the police. Police were able to locate the suspects hours later and after a brief standoff with Charlotte SWAT, the suspects surrendered themselves to police. Officers charged Zaire Witherspoon, 19, Kiyara Stevens, 16, Nathan Bellamy, 18, Paris Lee, 19, and Dontavia McMorris, 16, with attempted armed robbery from a business and conspiracy to commit robbery from a business.

Anyone with additional information can contact the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police by dialing 911 or submit anonymous tips online through Crime Stoppers. 7-Eleven did not respond to a request for comment in regards to this incident. 

Armed robbery at the local Jack in the Box

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police reports that the Jack in the Box located near campus at 10121 N Tryon Street was robbed at gunpoint by an unknown assailant on June 30.

The robbery happened just before 10 p.m. when the assailant rushed into the restaurant and brandished two handguns, forcing one of the employees to the back of the store by gunpoint. 

The suspect made off with an unknown sum from the business and, once caught, will face charges including armed robbery, kidnapping and larceny. None of the three employees in the store were injured.

This case is open, and the suspects are still at large, while the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department continues to investigate. Anyone with information can contact CMPD by dialing 911 or submit anonymous tips online through Crime Stoppers. 

This incident is one of numerous gun-related crimes that took place in University City these past few weeks. On June 22, a woman was kidnapped and raped at gunpoint and her car was stolen after she escaped her attacker.

Two days later, a man was robbed at gunpoint in the parking lot of Fitness Connection. The assailant made off with the victim’s car and his belongings. 

On June 28, a 7-Eleven near campus was also robbed at gunpoint, and on June 29, an unknown individual stole someone’s car from Haven 49 Student Apartments. 

NinerAlerts don’t follow you everywhere

After an influx of violence near UNC Charlotte’s campus, some members of the community are criticizing the University for failing to issue safety alerts. In the past few weeks, police reports obtained by the Niner Times show hundreds of crimes including armed assaults, grand theft autos and sexual assaults, including the recent kidnapping and rape of a woman at 49 North Student Apartments. 

A reaction on Reddit to the recent kidnapping at 49 North read, “Why was this not announced? I’m just now hearing about it.” The user pointed out she had received six emails about a thunderstorm the night of the assault, but nothing about the crime itself. 

Another Reddit user responded to the original concern saying, “You’d think/hope this would be a more pressing concern.” While another person responded, “It’s okay, they notified us about the same thunderstorm six times so we are all good.”

UNC Charlotte’s Police Chief Jeffrey Baker, Emergency Management Director Chris Gonyar and Communications Director for Business Affairs Christy Jackson responded to the concerns saying they “do not issue safety alerts for off-campus incidents unless it is an immediate threat to the campus community.”

Chief Baker also explained that UNC Charlotte’s Police Department regularly listens to a mutual aid channel with Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) and responds to CMPD when called or learns otherwise of a serious crime off-campus. However, UNC Charlotte police lack the resources to monitor all off-campus crime because it is out of their primary jurisdiction.

The CMPD posts updates on social media regarding ongoing crimes but does not offer a service similar to NinerAlerts, which inform the community almost instantly about threats in the area. Gonyar and Baker reiterated that when there is an active or alleged threat to campus they notify the community without hesitation. Gonyar also explained that many safety alerts from the University are sent automatically when the National Weather Service issues a weather-related alert in the surrounding area.

However, UNC Charlotte issued a NinerNotice for an off-campus fatal shooting at University Village Apartments on May 1. Chief Baker described the incident as a unique circumstance due to the shooting a day before on UNC Charlotte’s main campus. Gonyar and Baker maintained that during normal circumstances they would not issue an alert unless a situation had an immediate threat to campus.

Jackson expressed how important it is for students to make sure that their contact information is up to date in the university official system so in the event of an active threat to campus they can receive updates. Visit this link for instructions on updating your information. Jackson also stressed that students should save the campus police number to their phones: 704-687-2200. Calls to 911 from campus are not routed to UNC Charlotte Police, but rather to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg dispatch.

Jackson and Baker recommended ALICE (Active-Shooter) training, explaining that it isn’t for just school shootings but rather all emergency circumstances. They explained that more information will be available to students closer to the start of school in the fall about additional training opportunities. Chief Baker also stressed the importance of LiveSafe, an app where students can live chat anonymously with UNC Charlotte police, and encouraged all students to begin using it.

Car-related thefts persist in the UNC Charlotte area

According to Charlotte Mecklenburg Police reports obtained by the Niner Times, multiple vehicles have been stolen in recent weeks in the University City area. 

The latest report filed by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department shows an automobile was stolen from the Haven49 Student Apartments on June 29. Additional reports show two cases of theft from an automobile at the same apartment complex during the same day. 

A day before at around the same time, another automobile was stolen less than a mile from Haven49.

Five automobiles have been stolen in the past week, four of which were stolen within one mile of each other around off-campus student housing. One of these stolen vehicles resulted in the kidnapping and rape of a woman at the 49 North Student Apartments. After the victim escaped the car, the assailant stole the vehicle and led a Charlotte Mecklenburg police officer on a brief chase before abandoning the vehicle.

Vickie Roebuck, who has previously had a vehicle stolen from Haven49, shared her experience after reviewing parking deck security footage that showed “someone drove it out (of the parking deck) at 5 a.m. and it was found two weeks later in a parking lot in Huntersville.”

Kacie Wagner, whose boyfriend’s car was the one stolen from Haven49 on June 29, shared that “police located the vehicle also in Huntersville with the window and ignition busted.”

During June, 38 reports were submitted by the CMPD regarding the theft of or from an automobile within a 2-mile radius of UNC Charlotte. 

Since Jan 1, there have been 123 total reported cars stolen or broken into within that same 2-mile radius of UNC Charlotte. It is unclear how many of those vehicles have been recovered.

Anyone with information about a stolen vehicle can contact CMPD by dialing 911 or submit anonymous tips online to crime stoppers. 

Armed robbery at Fitness Connection joins a series of crimes in the University City area

Charlotte Mecklenburg police reported an armed robbery in the 8700 Block of JW Clay Blvd on Monday, June 24. 

A person, allegedly armed with a handgun, stole a vehicle as well as several thousand dollars worth of cash and personal belongings from an individual in the parking lot of Fitness Connection near UNC Charlotte. 

While it is not clear if a suspect has been captured in connection to the robbery, once apprehended, the suspect will face charges including simple assault, armed robbery, theft from a motor vehicle and theft of a motor vehicle.

Anyone with information about this case can contact the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department by dialing 911 or submit anonymous tips online through the Crime Stoppers website. UNC Charlotte students can also submit anonymous tips directly to campus police with the Livesafe app. 

This incident is a part of a growing number of off-campus crimes that have been troubling the University City district in recent weeks. This week alone there have been over one hundred reports of criminal activity within a two-mile radius of UNC Charlotte. Crimes reported include assault, grand theft auto, armed robbery and other miscellaneous crimes, including the kidnapping and rape of a woman at 49 North Student Apartments. 

UNC Charlotte, which has a police force separate from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department, has recently experienced minimal amounts of crime on campus. As the Niner Times reported this past fall, UNC Charlotte has reduced on-campus crime to near-record lows despite the rapid growth of the student body. In 2017, there were 33 reported cases of burglary compared with 154 in 2010.

UNC Charlotte Board of Trustees approves sale of alcohol at sporting events

During a meeting on April 12, the UNC Charlotte Board of Trustees voted unanimously in favor of a proposal made by Athletic Director Mike Hill to approve a provisional plan for alcohol sales at UNC Charlotte sporting events. 

The one-year pilot program to sell alcohol was contingent on legislation proposed in the North Carolina General Assembly that allowed the Board of Trustees to set regulations regarding the sale of alcohol in the UNC System. That bill was passed after months of review from N.C. lawmakers and sent to the Governor’s office, who signed the bill into law on June 26. 

According to records from the Board of Trustees meeting, alcohol will be sold at football, baseball, basketball and soccer games starting fall of 2019. The trustees also discussed the revenue that alcohol sales would produce and addressed the other sports which would not have alcohol available. 

According to comments obtained by WSOC-TV, UNC Charlotte plans to closely monitor fan behavior and alcohol-related incidents during this one-year pilot program. 

It was not immediately clear if UNC Charlotte planned to issue any revisions to University Policy 706 which addresses the consumption and sale of alcohol. The University has, however, recently established new regulations on tailgating, which were approved by Chancellor Dubois on May 8.

Woman raped at gunpoint at 49 North Student Apartments

On June 22 at approximately 2 a.m., a woman was kidnapped and raped at gunpoint just feet from UNC Charlotte’s campus at 49 North Student Apartments, according to a press release from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department. 

The 21-year-old woman was in the parking lot of 49 North Apartments, located in the 1200 block of Rebecca Bailey Drive along University City Boulevard, when a suspect forced his way into the victim’s car. He then told her to drive to several ATMs before raping her.

The victim was able to escape her attacker near the intersection of North Tryon Street and University City Boulevard; however, the suspect stole the victim’s vehicle and used it to flee from  Charlotte Mecklenburg Police. After a short pursuit, the suspect ditched the stolen vehicle and escaped police on foot.

On June 24, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department arrested a 15-year-old suspect in relation to this incident. The suspect was not immediately identified but was charged with three counts of first-degree rape and first-degree kidnapping as well as robbery with a dangerous weapon. The suspect had already been released on bond with an electronic monitor for an unrelated felony charge.

This incident is the latest in a series of off-campus violent crimes troubling University City. One week prior to the kidnapping and sexual assault, Charlotte Mecklenburg Police responded to a shots-fired call at the Panera Bread just 250 feet from campus. 

On Memorial Day weekend there was a shooting at the Flats at Mallard Creek, an off-campus student housing development. A gunman fired multiple rounds into a crowd of hundreds of people at a pool party while asking the crowd “if they want to die.” 

The Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department announced they would increase patrols at local student housing developments in light of the recent violence, effective June 1. It was not immediately clear if police were conducting patrols at 49 North during the night in question. Student housing complexes Haven49, University Crossing, University Walk and Boulevard98 all have had a regular police presence since June 1.

House Bill 241: UNC System seeks $200 Million for system-wide improvements

In the state’s capitol, lawmakers have introduced House Bill 241 to bring additional funding to the UNC System, as well as to public schools across the state and even some community colleges.

The UNC System has requested $200 million for “various statewide renovations, repairs and new construction.” The bill does not specify how that funding will be divided across the UNC System. In January, UNC Charlotte Spokesperson Buffie Stephens addressed the proposal via an email to the Niner Times stating: “Every year the UNC System asks all campuses to submit capital project funding requests to them. The System compiles and makes the request to the General Assembly on behalf of all campuses. UNC Charlotte requested $45 million in funding for the Cameron and Burson buildings.”

On top of UNC Charlotte’s request to the North Carolina General Assembly, UNC Charlotte recently hosted various local lawmakers on campus. On Jan. 18, the Chancellor’s Office hosted members of the General Assembly for lunch and a tour of campus. The following month, UNC Charlotte hosted leaders from the North Carolina Senate on campus as well at an unannounced event in the Harris Alumni Center. In a press release, UNC Charlotte also confirmed that more than 30 legislators from the Charlotte region attended a recent dinner hosted by Chancellor Philip L. Dubois and the UNC Charlotte Board of Trustees in Raleigh, North Carolina. On March 13, UNC Charlotte hosted Governor Roy Cooper on campus for a tour of the Burson Building.

UNC Charlotte told the Niner Times that, “While in Raleigh, Dubois and Keeter met with Sen. Dan Bishop, Sen. Kathy Harrington, Sen. Todd Johnson, Rep. Becky Carney and Rep. Jason Saine to advocate for the University’s 2019 legislative priorities.”

UNC Charlotte Chancellor Philip Dubois spoke about the meeting with state legislators in the press release: “It was very heartening to see the passion and excitement of our regional legislators for UNC Charlotte and I was greatly encouraged by their support of our priorities,” he said. 

Stephens went on to add “UNC Charlotte continues to advocate for the University’s number one priority the repairs and renovations to the Cameron and Burson buildings which are needed to keep pace with the growth of our students in the sciences and computer science fields. The University is appreciative that the Senate and House leadership as well as Governor Roy Cooper acknowledge the need for capital for repairs and renovations on the UNC campuses.”

House Bill 241 is officially titled the “Education Bond Act of 2019.” It includes $200 million in funding for the UNC System, $1.5 billion to the County School Systems across North Carolina, as well as $200 million for community colleges across North Carolina. The General Assembly is proposing that North Carolinians vote on this bond referendum in the 2020 Election Year.

The last time a bond referendum was used was in 2016 when North Carolina voters approved the “Connect NC Bond,” which appropriated $2 billion in funding. $90 million of this money was for UNC Charlotte’s new science building, which is currently under construction on UNC Charlotte’s main campus where the old Parking and Transportation Services building used to be.

The legislation was introduced February 28, 2019 and approved March 5. However, the bill still has to appear before various committees and is still in the initial stages.

On March 6, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper proposed $500 million for the UNC System, more than double the initial request by the North Carolina General Assembly. Governor Cooper announced via Twitter, “If we set the right priorities, we can value our teachers, build schools for the future and expand Medicaid, all with no new taxes on North Carolina’s people.”

On top of the $500 million allocated to the UNC system, Governor Cooper’s proposal includes $500 million for community colleges and nearly $2 billion for North Carolina Public Schools.

The North Carolina General Assembly placed House Bill 241 on the calendar for March 13, 2019, however; after the public proposal from the Governor it was withdrawn from the docket, and is being sent back to committee to reconsider how to move forward.

Students voice concerns over safety

A report published by the City of Charlotte shows that the intersections around UNC Charlotte are statistically some of the most hazardous in the city. Now, UNC Charlotte students and local residents are demanding answers from local leaders. The Niner Times has obtained over fifty complaints that have been filed addressing the persistent problems with the roads and intersections both on and off campus.

The safety concerns from local residents directly affect the thousands of students that attend UNC Charlotte. Campus concerns submitted to the City of Charlotte regard speeding and pedestrian safety. Off campus, the concern is even higher as students have to cross major roadways like University City Boulevard, North Tryon Street and Mallard Creek Church Road to get to campus each and every day.

Some concerns stem from a string of recent accidents. Nearly an hour into the new year, University City had already seen its first traffic fatality. On Jan. 1, a man walking on North Tryon Street was hit by multiple vehicles. After the first impact, the man was thrown 50 feet; the vehicle fled the scene. Another vehicle hit the man and he was thrown an additional 60 feet. The third and final vehicle hit the man, dragging him over a thousand feet. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police and other emergency responders rushed to the scene; however, the man was pronounced dead upon arrival. On Jan. 16, another pedestrian was hit on Mallard Creek Church Road and rushed to the hospital.

These recent accidents brought light to the hazardous intersections that directly surround UNC Charlotte. According to Charlotte’s High Accident Location List, four local intersections are among the most dangerous in the entire city. The most dangerous intersection in Charlotte is at Reagan Drive and Tom Hunter Road. This intersection has been reviewed by the NC Department of Transportation who developed an all-way stop plan to remediate the situation. However, other intersections, like the one at John Kirk Drive and University City Boulevard, have had at least 144 accidents in the past three years and there are no plans to change or fix the intersections. W.T. Harris and North Tryon Street as well as North Tryon Street and University Pointe Drive are also local intersections on the High Accident Location List.

In public safety complaints released by the City of Charlotte, residents and students brought various concerns to the attention of the City of Charlotte for the roads on and directly surrounding UNC Charlotte. One resident said, “The signaling pedestrian crossing does not work, [making it] very dangerous to cross the road,” while another resident said, “I can’t cross the street from my parking lot without almost getting hit. There are no sidewalks or crosswalks. Very dangerous. Plus, drivers are always speeding in this area.” In total, there are over 22 complaints specifically addressing pedestrian safety in recent months.

Other complaints focused on issues such as speeding or traffic lights. One resident said “drivers consistently run red lights at this intersection” and noted that “speeding is a serious problem.”

UNC Charlotte’s Police Department addressed the concerns. Deputy Chief of Police Joshua Huffman said in a statement to the Niner Times, “Students can aid the police department in addressing these issues by reporting their traffic concerns directly to us. If there is a particular area where violations are frequently occurring, we want to know about it. Officers can be directed to increase patrols and enforcement activity in those areas to address violations.”

Huffman added, “The UNC Charlotte Police Department takes the safety of both pedestrians and motorists very seriously. Those who operate vehicles on campus must abide by state traffic laws. In order to ensure compliance with those laws and maximize safety for the campus community, officers conduct traffic stops on motorists who commit violations of the law. Officers utilize directed and saturated patrols to target high traffic areas where violations are likely to occur. Those caught violating traffic laws may face University sanctions, state citations or even arrest depending upon the severity of the offense.”

The City of Charlotte is also trying to address the problem with a new program called Vision Zero which was started in Sweden in 1997. It is a strategy to eliminate all traffic-related deaths and severe injuries while increasing safety, health and mobility for all. Vision Zero focuses on how people naturally behave. According to the program’s mission statement, people make mistakes but mistakes should not be fatal.

Vision Zero explains that “over the past ten years, our city has seen explosive population growth, adding close to 200,000 more drivers, pedestrians and cyclists to our streets, paths and intersections. Charlotte has responded by creating a variety of safe ways for people to move around the city and connect with each other – we’ve upgraded intersections, added more bike lanes and built additional sidewalks – as we continue to work towards the best possible transportation and pedestrian safety systems for our growing city.”

Crashes and fatalities not only take a toll on human life, but also on the city’s capital, affecting loved ones, health care facilities, businesses and many other areas of our community.

That’s why Charlotte is renewing its commitment to safer streets in 2019 with the creation of Vision Zero, an action plan designed to reduce crashes and eliminate traffic-related deaths and severe injuries by 2030. Why? Because even one traffic-related death is too many.

Man shot in front of UNC Charlotte Center City Campus

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has confirmed to the Niner Times that one individual was shot in an apparent drive-by shooting in front of the UNC Charlotte Center City building on January 31. CMPD also confirmed that multiple bullets hit the building, breaking windows but not injuring anyone inside.

Just after 9:30 this morning, UNC Charlotte placed its Center-City Building on lockdown and issued a “NinerAlert” to inform all students and staff of the developing situation. Many students expressed alarm on social media and on UNC Charlotte’s main campus.

The alert message read “Center City Building is on Lockdown. Shots fired in vicinity. Avoid area until further notice. CMPD is on scene investigating.”

At a press conference, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police announced that an individual went to the hospital with a non-life threatening gunshot wound to the buttocks and that the shooting is not connected to the University. They went on to add that the shooting happened around 9:10 AM, nearly twenty minutes prior to the University sending out the lock-down notification. The incident is described as a drive-by shooting; car drove up and opened fire on the individual, impacting the UNC Charlotte building multiple times. CMPD said they “flooded the area” after the shots fired call came in.

Police are currently reviewing the cameras in the area for additional details on the shooting and hope to find a suspect soon.

UNC Charlotte removed the lock-down around 10 AM citing no active threat in the area. The investigation is ongoing and no arrest has been made. 

University owned land brings new opportunities for future growth

Since 2009, UNC Charlotte has known that it may have to expand to two large parcels of land located directly next to the University, and as UNC Charlotte nears 30,000 students and continues to grow, the plan to expand the University’s main campus and utilize the land remains unclear.

The 2009-2010 UNC Charlotte master plan highlights the goal to develop nearly 106-acres of land owned by the State of North Carolina to create the “Mallard Creek Village.” The master plan explains, “The 106-acre parcel along Mallard Creek Church Road presents several opportunities for the University. However, there are significant issues of floodplains within the site that limit where development may occur.”

 

Photo courtesy of UNC Charlotte Master Plan

The owner of a key parcel that would provide access to the University’s current property sold the land to an outside developer in 2009. Today, the Flats at Mallard Creek, an off-campus apartment complex, sits in front of UNC Charlotte’s land. 

The master plan goes on to explain that “this area off Mallard Creek Church Road will become an additional asset for the University.”

UNC Charlotte Spokesperson Buffie Stephens said in a statement that “a specific use for the 106 acres has not been identified.” Stephens went on to add, “The land has not been removed from planning, but the time frame for development is undetermined.”

With the future of the land unclear, so are many other elements of UNC Charlotte’s future. The current long-term master plan is nearly a decade old and the University confirmed to the Niner Times that it currently does not have plans for a new master plan in the near future.

Photo courtesy UNC Charlotte Master plan

UNC Charlotte also has access to an estimated 143 acres of wooded area on the northern edge of its main campus with an additional 100 acres of wooded area on its southern edge. However, much of the land is a floodplain, making it difficult to turn into usable space for an expansion.

The last major expansion of UNC Charlotte was the acquisition of a second campus. The second campus, named UNC Charlotte Center City, was bought in 2011 for $50.4 million and is home to a variety of graduate programs.

More recently, the Niner Times obtained documents confirming that UNC Charlotte is currently focusing on renovating current buildings rather than expanding. UNC Charlotte recently requested state funding for the renovation of the Cameron and Burson buildings. That request has drawn criticism from some students because UNC Charlotte spent nearly $13 million to renovate the Burson Building in 2016.

“I think the renovations the University is doing are a waste of money,” said Matthew Parker, a student. “Why would we renovate a building that we just renovated a few years ago? I think it is more reasonable to invest in new buildings that we won’t have to renovate and repair as often.”

Other students support UNC Charlotte’s continued expansion and renovation process. Freshman Peter Martin said, “I think UNC Charlotte has some of the best facilities in the state, but there is room for improvement.” Martin went on to explain that “some parts of the campus are in much better condition than other parts.”

UNC Charlotte and the State of North Carolina have owned the land for over two decades. While there is no time frame or specific use for the area currently, it may become a vital part in the future growth of the University.

Greek Village fire, on-campus arrest and more

Jan. 23

Greek Village fire

The Delta Zeta Sorority house, otherwise labeled as Greek Village Building 13, experienced a fire due to burnt food in a toaster. Housing and Residence Life was able to put out the flames prior to officers arriving. There was minor damage to personal property.

Larceny in the Student Union

Officers responded to a report of larceny in the Student Union. Police are still investigating.

Jan. 22

South Deck breaking and entering

Two separate incidents of breaking and entering were reported in the South Village parking deck. Both individuals had items stolen from their vehicles. UNC Charlotte police are still investigating.

NT File Photo

Jan. 17

Individual communicating threats found with knife  

Officers responded to a residence hall in reference to a report of someone communicating threats. The offending party was issued a trespass order, a North Carolina state citation for possession of drug paraphernalia and another state citation for possession of a knife on educational property.

Jan. 16

Hit and run

Officers responded to a report of an on-campus hit and run. Police were able to track down the driver and issue a state citation.

On-campus arrest

An individual with an active warrant for their arrest was found on campus. UNC Charlotte police were able to apprehend the individual without incident.

Jan. 13

On-campus arrest

Officers responded to a call about an individual, who had been previously banned from campus, sleeping in the lounge area of a residence hall. The person was arrested for “Resist, Delay and Obstruction” for giving false information.

Jan. 5

On-campus arrest

An individual was charged and arrested by police for second degree trespassing.

Jan. 3

Reese Building breaking and entering

Officers took three separate reports of breaking and entering in reference to a series of incidents at the Reese Building. Police assume the building was broken into overnight.

In a statement to the Niner Times, Deputy Police Chief Josh Huffman said, “We highly suggest that students download the free Livesafe App to their mobile phones. This would allow them to immediately communicate with our dispatchers, anonymously report tips with pictures or videos and even provide GPS coordinates to incidents as they occur in real time.”

Additionally, the UNC Charlotte Police Department website states, “If you are the victim or a witness of a crime on campus, it is extremely important that you file a report with the Campus Police. Filing a report is easy. Simply call 704-687-2200 or stop by the Police Department which is located at 9151 Cameron Blvd, directly across from the Student Health Center.”

Revamping and rezoning in University City

As UNC Charlotte has grown, so has its economic impact on the University City region. A number of new commercial developments are coming to the area to meet the demand of the area’s ever-growing population.

Top Golf, a global sports entertainment community, submitted a petition to the Charlotte City Council for a new 13.2 acre entertainment district on McFarlane Boulevard. The University City Top Golf facility will feature 102 hitting bays for groups and has marketing programs aimed toward college students.

 

Proposed entertainment site

 

Top Golf tried to expand to the UNC Charlotte area in 2017 but stopped pursuing a University City location after an outcry of concerns from local residents at City Council meetings that the development would be built directly next to a historic cemetery.

Top Golf is not the only new business coming to the University City area. A Dallas-based fund-manager, EB Arrow, has acquired two large parcels of land directly next to UNC Charlotte. EB Arrow purchased University Place I and II for a total cost of $18.2 million and has already filed a petition with the City of Charlotte to rezone the land.

EB Arrow repositions commercial projects in prime locations that are suffering operational difficulties. Its mission statement explains that upon acquisition of land, each retail center will be renovated or redeveloped to add apartments, office buildings or hotels, or alternatively their operations will be optimized for value enhancement.

According to public records released by the City of Charlotte, EBA Crystal Real Estate LLC, which is affiliated with EB Arrow, has proposed a project with up to 300,000 square feet of commercial space, multiple parking decks, a library, 600 residential units and, potentially, a hotel.

 

EBA Investments proposal

One of the few confirmed new tenants for the development is the Armored Cow Brewery. The brewery will be a first for the University Area and will specialize in gluten-free beer. The Armored Cow will operate out of an already existing building at 8821 JW Clay Blvd., which will be directly across the street from EB Arrows development.

The University City Chick-Fil-A, which currently has a standalone location in the shopping center, has also filed a rezoning petition with the City Council to move from its current location to a new and larger location across the street to meet the high demand of customers. That petition to move to a new location was approved by the City Council late last year.

At the center of all the new commercial developments in the area is the University City Partners, which is an organization that implements strategies to drive University City forward. The University City Partners has been actively engaged in the new commercial developments and has a plan for the future growth and redevelopment of the area. When asked about EB Arrows’ redevelopment plan, a representative said, “While no two projects are alike, their basic formula is exactly what this site needs — more residents and office workers helping to create a strong center for University City.”  

Some students are thrilled for the new businesses that are moving to the area. “It will be great to be able to go out and have a good time without having to drive to [Up]town Charlotte or the Concord Mills area,” said Robert Mills, a sophomore. Mills went on to explain that, besides restaurants, the University City area lacks entertainment, such as a bowling alley, movie theater or other options for residents to explore in their free time.

The University City region does have a movie theater three miles away from the center of campus as well as a bowling alley nearly five miles away from campus, but nothing directly surrounding the University.  

The commercial developments are a direct result of UNC Charlotte’s continued growth and rapid expansion in the University City region. As the area continues to grow, so does the demand for places of entertainment.

UNC Charlotte’s list of potential capital projects

Documents obtained by Niner Times show UNC Charlotte has begun the initial phase of planning for over a dozen potential new capital projects.

A UNC Charlotte spokesperson confirmed to Niner Times that the University has requested $45 million from state legislators for the renovation of the Burson and Cameron buildings on campus. After the request for funding, UNC Charlotte also confirmed it hosted local representatives from the North Carolina General Assembly for lunch and a tour of campus on Jan. 18.

The hope is to revitalize UNC Charlotte’s main campus, which has over two dozen buildings listed as “poor condition.” Many of the buildings were built in the 1970s or 1980s and have begun to deteriorate and lose value.

The Facilities Condition Index displays the two dozen “poor condition” buildings indicated in red. Buildings represented in green are in “good condition.”

Facilities Condition Index

When asked about the potential projects, Kathryn Horne, the director of planning at UNC Charlotte, explained, “the Capital Renewal Deferred Maintenance (CRDM) tool tracks both current and potential projects and our needs for repair and renovations across campus. Information is compiled from multiple sources. It is also used to track our repairs and renovation needs and deferred maintenance needs.

Horne went on to explain, “It is important to note that being shown on CRDM in no way implies that it is a current project or will become a project in the future. Whether something on the list becomes a project is dependent on identifying funding. Part of the planning effort is prioritizing needs and potential projects and aligning them with available funds to implement those that are most crucial to the success of the University. Even if it does become a project, it is possible the timeline could be 20 years or more in the future.”

The following projects are listed as “prioritized planning” projects, meaning they are future projects identified but not yet underway.

Second Center City Building

One of the most expensive projects, called “Center City II,” is a second uptown location. UNC Charlotte records indicate that it is in the initial stages of a $98.5 million dollar building in Charlotte. The same records indicate that UNC Charlotte anticipates acquiring land in uptown Charlotte for an estimated $19.1 million. 

Arts and Humanities Building

A $95 million dollar Arts and Humanities building is also under works. The project states, “This new building will provide expanded facilities in support of the new College of Arts and Architecture. A new 1,500 seat performing arts facility is needed on campus to accommodate student body growth.”

Student Academic Success and Retention Center

This project will consolidate academic support services into a single, convenient location on campus. This project is listed at an estimated cost of $94.7 million.

Science Building Two

This building will be a separate project from the current science building which just began construction at an estimated cost of $90 million. This addition will cost an estimated $50 million. The description states, “This project will build upon the improvement provided by the bond referendum and add teaching and research capacity for growth of an estimated 35,000 students.”

Computing and Informatics Building

This new building will cost an estimated $48.5 million. It was designed because “a preliminary study has shown that the college will need 120,000 square feet of space for offices, teaching, research, student advising and engagement and other essential functions.”

Parking Deck K

This new parking deck is to be built in East Village and will cost $20.8 million.

Early College High School

This project will cost $20 million and the project description states, ”The Early College High School project is intended to provide a permanent building for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) and UNC Charlotte shared initiative. Currently, CMS has a temporary facility to accommodate the Engineering Early College function on campus. This building will house two early college programs; one in engineering.”

New Entrance N. Tryon

This project will provide a new road connecting CRI to main campus at Cameron Boulevard and adds a third entrance on the Tryon/Highway 29 side of campus. This project is estimated at a cost of $10.8 million

Cone Center Renovation

At an estimated cost of $36 million, this project will modernize and overhaul the Cone Center.

Storrs Building Expansion

This project will create additional seminar, studio and office space for the College of Architecture and cost an estimated $40 million.

Additional Projects:

Engineering Innovation Hall $46.8 million

Prospector Renovation $3 million

Crown Commons Renovation $2.5 million

Friday Building Renovation $29 million

Smith Building Renovation $15 million

Cameron Building Renovation $26 million

Colvard Building Renovation $14 million

UNC Charlotte did not speculate on any other details of the project or a time frame of any of these projects and are still in the planning phase of development.

Some students are excited to see the changes coming to campus. “It is really cool to see all the changes being made to this campus. When I first got here many of these buildings were not here,” said Noah Adams, a junior. “It seems like a few weeks go by and UNC Charlotte is either tearing a building down or putting a new one up.”

According to UNC Charlotte public records, the University is currently still in the middle of its five-year capital construction plan. That plan has fifteen projects incomplete still which includes the new Science Center, Admissions and Visitor Center, as well as the University Recreational Center, all of which will be complete in late 2019 or 2020.

More information is expected after the next Board of Trustee meeting, which is set for Feb. 19 in Atkins Library.