Over the past several months, you’ve probably heard about plans to widen Interstate 77 using toll lanes.
Like you, I was thrilled with the idea that any lane – even a toll lane – would help reduce the awful traffic tie-ups we see on I-77 every weekday. But the more I look into this, the more I’m convinced toll lanes are a bad idea.
First, toll lanes won’t solve I-77’s traffic problems.
Drivers will pay to use the toll lane only when the free lanes are congested. No congestion, no toll revenue.
Right now, the plan is to have the toll lanes operated on a for-profit basis by a private company. The only way any private company will agree to participate is if they can be certain the free lanes stay congested. So instead of relieving congestion, toll lanes will ensure it.
Second, not only will toll lanes ensure congestion, they’ll make it worse. Why? Because the tolls will be set by a practice called “dynamic pricing.” Under this scenario, as traffic gets worse, the toll increases.
The tolling company will want congestion to be as heavy as possible in the free lanes, so they can charge more to drive in the toll lane.
Third, these toll lanes could be under contract for as long as 50 years. During that time, we’ll have little or no say as to what happens with any future I-77 improvements.
Remember, the private company wants the free lanes congested. We can expect them to oppose any further attempts to widen I-77 with anything but more toll lanes.
There hasn’t been a single improvement in north-south roads through Lake Norman since I-77 was built nearly 40 years ago. In the meantime, every other stretch of interstate in Mecklenburg County has been widened at least once. I-77 through Lake Norman is now the only stretch of interstate in Mecklenburg that remains four lanes.
We in the Lake Norman area are way overdue for our turn. I-77 should be widened with general-purpose lanes like they have everywhere else in the county. I’m wondering if any of you feel the same?Lake Norman Real Estate Charlotte Real Estate Lake Norman Homes for Sale Lake Norman Real Estate Charlotte Homes for Sale
Residential real estate closings in Lake Norman were 10 percent higher than September a year ago, according to Creigh Hill with Southern Homes of the Carolinas, president and owner of Southern Homes of the Carolinas, based in Cornelius. New contracts rose 23 percent, while new listings fell 13.6 percent with a total 41 percent decrease in inventory. All in all, it’s heartening news for sellers, she said. The only dip to report was in the median sales price. “We’d seen a couple of months of rising median sales prices, so September’s decrease of 7 percent from September of last year was disappointing but understandable, as there are still many short sales and foreclosures working their way out of the market,” Creigh Hill said.
Tourism in Lake Norman brought $23 million to the local economy during the year ended June 30, a 21 percent increase from the prior year, according to Sally Ashworth, executive director of Visit Lake Norman.
Visit Lake Norman speaks at the Lake Norman Chamber’s “Power Luncheon” at River Run Country Club.
Speaking at the Lake Norman Chamber’s “Power Luncheon” Thursday at River Run Country Club, Ashworth said the recent Democratic National Convention will pay dividends for Lake Norman. New events such as gymnastics, football and wheelchair basketball competitions also brought exposure to the region, she said.
She said money invested in tourism is well spent. For each dollar in VLN funding, visitors spend $52.17.
The CEOs of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce and the Lake Norman Region Economic Development Corp. also updated their work during the luncheon which was sponsored by Piedmont Natural Gas as well as BusinessToday and Cornelius Today.
Jerry Broadway, executive director of the Lake Norman Region EDC, reported that over the last three years, 918 new jobs and $140 million in new capital investments have been added to the Lake Norman Region. Lake Norman Real Estate Charlotte Real Estate Lake Norman Homes for Sale Lake Norman Real Estate Charlotte Homes for Sale
New companies like ABB, Positec, Lime Energy, and MSC account for most of the new jobs and capital investment dollars. ABB in Huntersville officially opens Sept. 19.
Even though bringing new businesses is important, the Lake Norman EDC recognizes that business retention and expansion is critical for the economic vitality of the region.
“Companies go where they’re wanted and stay where they’re appreciated,” said Broadway. “The foundation of any regional economy is its existing businesses.”
However, Broadway noted that the “Achilles heel” in terms of economic development is the lack of available buildings and shovel ready sites for businesses to move to. Broadway says that the Lake Norman EDC has a similar amount of active projects now as they did last year, but feels like a lot of companies are putting the brakes on expanding until after the election in November. He commented that he believes the Lake Norman EDC will see a spike in active projects in January, though, no matter who is elected President of the United States in November.
The Lake Norman Chamber has invested a great deal of time and resources into the development of a new website which chamber president Bill Russell says is much more user-friendly. The website already dramatically improved the chamber’s ability to promote its members and bring awareness to chamber events and programming. Lake Norman Real Estate Charlotte Real Estate Lake Norman Homes for Sale Lake Norman Real Estate Charlotte Homes for Sale
At least two successful Lake Norman restaurant operators plan to open eateries in the first phase of Langtree at the Lake where retail lease rates are exceeding Birkdale Village in Huntersville.
Robert McCrary, owner of The Egg at Davidson, will be opening a traditional Italian restaurant called Caprese in Phase I of the billion-dollar Langtree development.
Brothers Keith Caminiti and Vincent Caminiti, who own New York style pizzerias in Mooresville, Cornelius, Denver, and south Charlotte, will open a Neapolitan style eatery featuring artisan pizzas baked in wood burning pizza ovens.
They’re well-known for Brooklyn Boys in Mooresville and Brooklyn South in Cornelius.
Lease rates are in the $30 a square foot range — the priciest retail neighborhood in Lake Norman, according to Tom McMahon, of Sperry Van Ness Commercial Real Estate Advisors in Cornelius. Posh Birkdale Village rates are in the $26 a foot range, he said.
“We believe [Langtree] is the Charlotte area’s most exciting project to date with its highway exposure, boat access and the potential of its synergy. My brother and I felt very strongly about Langtree’s potential from its inception and that is why we were one of the first to sign a lease,” Vincent Caminiti said. The brothers haven’t picked a name for the new eatery, which will be decidedly upscale.
So far, the retail space in Phase I — some 50,000 square feet — is 70 percent leased.
Barry Rigby, executive vice president of RL West Properties, the developer of Langtree, has more leases in hand for Phase I. A total of 800,000 square feet of rental apartments and other amenities will drive customers into the stores and restaurants.
Confirmed Phase I tenants include Orchid Nail Salon, Vanilla Sky Ice Cream, Hibachi Express and Sushi, Wild Wing Café, Broad River Coffee Co. and David Beth and Co., a day spa.
Still in negotiation: BoneHeads. The upscale restaurant chain has eateries in Memphis, Atlanta, Lake Forest, Ca. and on Rea Road in Charlotte.
RL West Properties, which took over from Langtree’s original father-son developers, Rick Howard and Brad Howard, will move its headquarters from Ohio to the new “Gateway Building” in Langtree. The 11,000 square foot building will also house a Shell gas station, Marco’s Pizza and a carry out food store.
Rigby plans a dignitary-packed groundbreaking ceremony Sept. 20 at the Langtree site off of I-77 exit 31 in Mooresville. This time, it’s for real.
This 58-acre portion of the Langtree development is currently under construction. Phase I will include
seven buildings with retail and residential space plus the “Gateway Building” which will house
RL West’s new headquarters.
The massive mixed-used project stumbled along with the economy in 2008. RL West took over 18 months ago; the Howards remain minority partners.
As you ride on Highway 150 East towards Mooresville, you might notice some changes starting to take place on an old barn just before you get to the Marshall Steam Plant. A project of the Lake Norman Folk Art Festival, one of the founders of the festival, Robert Oren Eades will paint 4 x 8 sheets of plywood on the barn to promote the festival.
After helping to get the festival started, Eades has continued to work with the festival and serves on the executive committee for the festival. This will be the fourth annual event and this year may be its best year yet.
The barn project is made possible thanks to a grant that the Hickory Museum of Art received to “paint” the historic barn. Although the sheets of plywood will not be attached to the old barn, the project will announce Sherrills Ford/Terrell as the home of the Lake Norman Art Festival.
The art festival is a community undertaking in conjunction with the Hickory Museum where a number of Eades’ pieces are on display. This one-day event is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 6 in Sherrills Ford. Artists will not only have their work for sale,
but you will be able to meet the artists and some will even demonstrate their work.
The event is planned for a site on Lake Norman. There, people can stroll through the artists’ booths, listen to live music, enjoy local food, and enjoy a day in the beautiful setting. They are relocating after the previous three years to a spot in the Sherrills Ford area that borders Lake Norman with easy access off Highway 150.
Over the next few weeks, Creigh Hill will feature some of the participating artists. But go ahead now and mark your calendars for Oct. 6 as the anticipation with the “barn project” gets your art juices flowing.
From the aerial point of view of an osprey cruising one of Lake Norman’s many coves for a possible nesting spot, the torn-up earth near Mooresville’s Exit 31 looks far from hospitable.
Acres of exposed red clay are dotted with pieces of massive earth-moving equipment, and concrete and steel structures have punched up from the dirt like skeletal fingers uncovered in an archeological dig.
Inhospitable, indeed. For an osprey.
But to Steve Welly, it looks like the beginnings of mixed-used heaven on earth — Langtree at the Lake.
“We’ve been developing property for more than 35 years and, frankly, felt this was one of the best sites we’ve seen,” says Welly, president of Ohio-based RLWest Properties, the majority owner of Langtree.
But the path to this point — with vertical construction under way and financing secured to keep hammers swinging — hasn’t been an easy one.
The highly touted plan for a massive, upscale, mixed-use development dates back about six years to when it was given the go-ahead by Mooresville officials. On paper, the project’s original developers, Mooresville’s Rick and Brad Howard, plotted out 400 acres replete with hundreds of luxury apartments as well as building after building that would be home to high-end local and national retail, office and commercial use. There would even be Lake Norman’s first waterfront resort hotel and marina.
On paper it would stay, however, once 2008 and its tanking economy washed up on shore and washed out the availability of development dollars to make it all happen. After repeated groundbreaking ceremonies where no ground was actually broken, skepticism about Langtree’s future was working through the region’s business circles, and the sheen was beginning to wear off the once-golden project.
Something shiny must have remained, though. Shiny enough to catch a developer’s eye in far-away Ohio.
Welly says it was not long after that recessionary tide rolled in when RLWest began eyeing the troubled project. As a company that has developed the likes of shopping centers and industrial parks for about 30 years, Langtree was a new type of venture for the company, but a venture Welly says was ripe for the picking.
“This is our first foray into vertical mixed-use,” he says, “and Langtree has all the components to be a very successful project.”
After a good deal of back-and-forth negotiations, early in 2011 RLWest acquired 75 percent of the project by paying off the existing bank debt. The Howards remain as minority owners, but Welly says they have no decision-making authority as Langtree moves forward.
In addition to making good with the bank, RLWest provided the equity required to submit a request for HUD funds to get things moving vertically. That’s precisely what’s happening now, with the first structure a two-story building that will house the developer’s offices on the top floor above an organic-themed convenience store. Welly says occupancy for that building is planned for spring next year.
Capitalizing on the high-powered politicians and others who will descend on the Charlotte area during the Democratic National Convention, the National Marine Manufacturers Association will meet in Lake Norman next week to raise awareness about how the recreational boating industry spurs economic development. During the invitation-only event from noon to 3 p.m. on Sept. 4, media, public officials and business leaders will take boating excursions and see project demos, an on-site fire boat and educational booths. The group represent boat, marine engine and accessory manufacturers. During the event, which will take place at the Peninsula Yacht Club, there will also be several manufacturer representatives and industry experts to discuss technological, environmental and safety advancements in the industry. In addition, the Carolina Show Ski Team will perform , said Lisa Hartsell with Charlotte Ski Boats, which is organizing the event’s entertainment. “It’s going to be a mix of old school and new school,” said Lee Levandowski, owner of Charlotte Ski Boats. “It will definitely be action-packed and patriotic.” The boating event and the delegate party at the Carolina Raptor Center were the only two major events that the Lake Norman area has secured during the DNC. “The goal is to expose our area to others who might not have seen it otherwise,” said Courtney Wolfrom, a spokeswoman for Visit Lake Norman, adding that the organization has recruited the boating association since October. “We’re thrilled to be able to showcase our area.” The National Marine Manufacturers Association is hosting a similar event during the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Levandowski said the boating industry hopes to use the election season as a platform to emphasize its impact on economic development. According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, recreational boating generated $32.3 billion in sales and services in 2011, up 6 percent from 2010. Roughly 83 percent of recreational boats sold in the United States were manufactured in this country, said Lauren Dunn, public relations manager for the organization. In North Carolina, there are 204 marine manufacturers that employ 8,301 people. In 2011, state residents spent $626.7 million on recreational water craft and $661.8 on total trip spending. During that year, the recreational boating industry employed about 10,330 people. Levandowski said he hopes that the event will succeed in showing business leaders and government officials why the recreational boating industry is so vital to the national economy. “That way, if a law is ever tried to be passed that is kind of anti-boating, they’ll understand how important it is and hopefully they won’t pass anything that would have a negative impact on us.”
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Visitors to the Lake Norman towns of Cornelius, Davidson and Huntersville spent an estimated $23 million in our area from July 2011 to June 2012.
That amount is an increase of almost 50 percent in visitor spending over 2010-11.
The work of Visit Lake Norman in recruiting and hosting events over the past 12 months has brought an estimated 81,829 people to various events in Cornelius, Davidson and Huntersville. Those visitors to Lake Norman spent their money at our local hotels, restaurants, retail stores and gas stations. Call Creigh Hill at 704-779-5263 for additional information.
According to VLN, spending by these visitors saved local residents about $430 per household in taxes. Lake Norman Real Estate Charlotte Real Estate Lake Norman Homes for Sale Lake Norman Real Estate Charlotte Homes for Sale
VLN’s contribution also helped support 235 local jobs, which yielded about $5.76 million in income to residents in the past year. According to the N.C. Department of Commerce, every $98,000 in visitor spending supports one N.C. job, and each nonresident dollar spent generates about 25 cents in wages and salaries.
Thanks go out to the efforts of Visit Lake Norman. You make where we live a nicer place.
The ABB Group’s 430-foot cement tower, visible from much of Huntersville North Carolina and Lake Norman Area east of I-77, also serves as an exclamation point on the plant’s impact on North Mecklenburg’s economy. The plant was budgeted to cost $90 million and will cost $100 million, ABB spokesman Bill Rose said.
More importantly, the plant will employ 135 people when it officially opens next month, up from the 100 employees planned when ABB said it was coming to Huntersville North Carolina almost exactly two years ago.
The company, which operates in 100 countries and employs about 145,000 people, will bring in employees from other locations as well as hire llocally.
Hiring is under way now, said Mike Griffin, chairman of the Lake Norman Region Economic Development Corp. ABB is testing equipment and plans to begin full-scale operations in the fall. The tower is a big change to the North Meck skyline.
“In a perfect world, some people wouldn’t want to see anything above the trees… but I don’t think it’s caused any major concerns,” Griffin said. Indeed, he said it’s a great opportunity for a sign to let travelers know they are entering North Mecklenburg.