Free Wheelin’ Friday Bike Community Group Starts This Week

Whether it’s your first time biking to work, or you’re a regular bike commuter, there’s a new event getting started this coming Friday, May 12th, that’s just right for you. As part of Bike! Charlotte, the Free Wheelin’ Fridays bike commuter group is starting a new ride from a new spot – the brand spankin’ new Common Market at 4420 Monroe Road. The group will meet around 7 for FREE Common Market breakfast (brought to you by The Knight Foundation and Charlotte B-Cycle) and then head out around 8:15 to ride uptown.

We’re not saying you have to go to work but that’s the direction we’ll head anyway.

This is a great ride for beginners because:

(a) it’s pretty short (about 5 miles from Common Market to Center City),

(b) it’s a group ride, which is often more comfortable for new riders,

(c) our route will take mostly secondary or neighborhood roads, and mostly avoid busy or dangerous streets,

(d) we’re going to work, so we’re not in a hurry to get there, and we won’t leave anybody behind, and

(e) there will be some experienced bike commuters among the group who can help you with routefinding.

We hope to have a big group this Friday, and hope you’ll join us.

Advisor Mary Hopper helps navigate MoRA’s success

MoRA advocates often hear from people impressed by what we’ve accomplished in such a short time, and who are excited about the community that is being created.

The credit, of course, belongs to many. But here’s where much of the credit rightfully goes:  Mary Cagle Hopper, a semi-retired PR consultant and former planning commissioner whose vast background has been to MoRA’s great benefit because of her involvement during our formative months.

Mary is smart and funny and sharp-witted and her background is crazy impressive:

A former Queens College professor with her PhD in Romance Languages, Mary turned her business focus over to PR, where her skills earned six national awards and numerous local awards.  She was a founding member of Women Business Executives, a past president of Dilworth Community Association, and the executive director of University City Partners for five years. She was in Class 2 of Leadership Charlotte back in its founding year, now approaching its 39thclass.

Mary advised MoRA’s Land Use committee as it navigated the rezoning proposal for the development approved for Idlewild and Monroe Roads.  Her expertise comes from many years working on a number of the City’s most challenging rezonings and transportation issues in Dilworth, Midtown, South End, Freedom Drive, SouthPark.  She was on the Planning Commission for eight years, two as its chair.  Over the years, she found that her language skills have enabled her to translate arcane jargon into concepts that people could understand and embrace to improve their neighborhoods.

But before, during and after her extensive career has been Mary’s passion and activism for women’s rights.  She worked hard in the ‘70’s to get the Equal Rights Amendment passed.  (“I learned that facts and logic lose to fear and hyperbole every time.”) With the recent election results, she wonders, “Did we not often enough or well enough tell the story of what it was like for women before women’s rights?”

So, as Dr. Mary Hopper turns her attention once again to women’s rights and supporting women’s voices in local elections, MoRA is deeply grateful to have been the beneficiary of her great generosity of time over these last two years. From our branding efforts to our communication platforms to our strategic planning, Mary’s influence is woven throughout our organization.  Our MoRA community has been enriched, and we thank Mary for her passion and her intellect, for her actions and her advocacy to the profound benefit of our community and the city of Charlotte.

When to expect a new grocer and shopping on Monroe and Idlewild

City Council recently approved a major development on Monroe Road and Idlewild Road, guaranteed to change the face of southeast Charlotte. Rezoning is complete, so when will the new stores open?   Here’s what we know – and a little bit about the influence that MoRA exercised in shaping the project.

We talked with Selwyn Property Group partner Jensie Teague. He graciously worked with MoRA in implementing recommendations for the project.  Like us, he’s eager to see a clean-up of the site so that construction can begin. However, it may be 4-6 months after the engineering and permitting process.  Teague anticipates a late 2018 opening for the grocer, with the retail building under construction at the same time. The second structure has been designed to allow for outdoor seating and gathering spots, which should entice the neighborhood friendly tenants MoRA residents want.

Teague was complimentary about working with us, thanking “MoRA for both its cooperative spirit and the good advice it offered during the rezoning process.  Selwyn Property Group looks forward to continuing to work with MoRA as we build out this project.” MoRA has offered to identify and help recruit potential tenants, as well as keep the community updated as new tenants sign and open.

MoRA’s Land Use committee asked Teague reposition the store so that it was closer to the street, mimicking the “zero lot lines” that you see at Meridian Place.  That and the addition of trees and landscaping means you don’t see parked cars, making the corner more urban-looking and inviting.

Our volunteer group focused on bike and pedestrian access. We believe safety and access is an important trend that will make the MoRA area more appealing. Upcoming intersection plans should complement and flow with the Selwyn property, providing safe shopping for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists.

City Council and Zoning Committee members complimented MoRA and the petitioner for how well they worked together.  MoRA also appreciates the assistance of City staff, as well as the guidance of MoRA Advisor Mary Hopper, during this very complex rezoning.  The development will become part of the Independence Trail bike and pedestrian path.  The 12-foot multiuse path along the Monroe and Idlewild frontage will actually be the first section built for the long Independence Trail.  The City planning staff was intent on enhancing connections within the site.  Bike racks and signage will remind motorists to look out for pedestrians and cyclists.  Improvements in building materials and decorative lighting, also requested by MoRA, will be added as the project builds out.

Stay tuned as this important corner takes shape. We will keep you informed with any news about this exciting new shopping, and of course, any other changes along our corridor.

First look inside of Monroe Road’s Common Market Oakwold

We have been waiting impatiently for Common Market to open their new and nearby Oakwold location. Southeast Charlotte desperately needs a hangout place, and the quirky and colorful local market easily fills that need.

MoRA is excited.

We reached out to Common Market for info on their upcoming opening, and got a sneak peak at the new neighborhood hangout. They have made a lot of progress since we last saw it, and promise they are opening soon.

The cool custom exterior art is good to go! Common Market plans to have their grand opening in mid-May. If everything goes according to plan, they will start serving food next week, and serve beer and wine in two weeks.

The inside space looks inviting for early morning coffee and late night drinks.

 

The new bar will look out onto Monroe Road, and offer a slew of hard-to-find brews.

 

Finally, a place to get a great cup of coffee. Our only area options are McDonalds and chancing life and limb in the Cotswold parking lot for Starbucks.

You can really get the feel for Common Market from this covered outdoor patio. We can’t wait to try out the newest neighborhood hangout.

MoRA Market Watch Spring Update

In memory of artist Leslie Scott

Unexpectedly and shockingly, artist Leslie Scott passed away in her sleep Tuesday, April 4.  It was devastating to her family, and a shock to those of us working with her on her ambitious and transformative art project, Art@thePoint.

For those of you who got to know Leslie Scott through this project, you have just a small glimpse of her creativity and vision.  Her death is an incalculable loss for MoRA on so many levels.

It was a chance meeting that brought Leslie to us, but perhaps it was fated. We are devastated at her passing, but can smile that we were part of her biggest community art project ever. She loved engaging with the neighborhood in tile-making workshops, and we hope her spirit can live on in her art.

But Art@the Point was just the latest of many examples when her talents made MoRA better.  Her Foodie Court project put MoRA on the map when it was a national  finalist in the Knight Foundation competition. Assembling the plan for that submission, she introduced our efforts to key community leaders.  Through Foodie Court, she showed us the value of having a community gathering spot.

She didn’t stop there.  Leslie thought of and helped organize MoRA’s first Holiday Tree lighting, teaching us how celebrations and gatherings are needed to build community. She pushed us to aspire for more, and challenged us to think bigger.

Leslie was also part of the team that branded the area now known as MoRA.  As you look at the logo and its small O, we hope you see a figure that represents the people – that was her idea.  Her graphics skills and sense of style made us look more polished, even in our infancy as an organization.

At heart, Leslie was a place shaper and public art was her tool. Because Art@thePoint will be a culmination of that work, we are committed to its completion.  We hope to complete the Art@thePoint project in Leslie’s honor and with the support and participation of the community. Leslie’s son Eddie, who was sometimes her assistant and sometimes her partner, will be helpful in guiding us as the work goes forward on the project.

Details will be published on our Facebook page and website as they become available.

In the meantime, if you wish to honor Leslie’s memory, her family has asked that contributions be made to Art@thePoint through the donation link on the website (www.moraclt.org/art).

MoRA plans to support rezoning petition for new Monroe-Idlewild development

MoRA has a mission to do what’s best for the community, and that includes ensuring rezoning is the best fit for our residents. We’ve heard from countless people regarding the rezoning and proposed development at Monroe Road and Idlewild Road.

Below is the handout we will give to city council for tonight’s rezoning hearing. The Selwyn Property Group has made a number of improvements to the site, including improved and additional access, lighting, and services for pedestrians and cyclists, moving structures for better and more appealing frontage, improved building materials, and additional screening for parking and mechanical equipment.

We surveyed everyone who came out to our development update in January, and found that nearly everyone wanted the old office park replaced. The current property owners told us they are unable to improve the existing buildings, and are struggling to keep the property secure. A former city council member worried that if the rezoning failed, it could be years or decades until someone invests in the property.

Our MoRA volunteers have worked tirelessly on this project for months and are happy with the results. Access the updated rezoning plans here.

Please find the full letter that will be presented in support of the rezoning.

TO: Mayor Roberts and members of the Charlotte City Council

And the Zoning Committee of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Planning Commission

After working with the petitioner, consulting with City staff and engaging in ongoing dialogue with area stakeholders, MoRA endorses Selwyn’s 2017-016 project.

This list should give you an idea of the five-month effort that led us to support the petition:

  • In addition to e mails, MoRA had six in-person meetings with Selwyn Property Group and its representatives, beginning before the case was filed and including reviews of the development notes, site plan and renderings.   We found Selwyn to be open to our views and thank them for the changes they made to make the project more appropriate both for that key intersection and for Charlotte’s changing development patterns.
  • MoRA either met with, or were in communication with, a number of City Departments to understand issues impacting the project.   Those externals included the proposed path of CATS’ Silver Line and the still-being-designed intersection project.  We are grateful to those departments as well as to the Planning staff for their time ensuring we understood both the process and how existing, and, in some cases, evolving plans were affecting the site.
  • Throughout the process, area stakeholders, the MoRA board and its Land Use Committee were in constant communication including holding a second MoRA-sponsored community meeting where attendees were surveyed as well as repeated Facebook, MoRA website and NextDoor postings inviting input.

MoRA asks both City Council and the Zoning Committee to approve 2017-016.

Anytime Fitness opening on Monroe Road in May

Southeast Charlotte is adding their most convenient workout facility, the uber popular 24-hour fitness club Anytime Fitness. No more excuses about inconvenient gym locations or limited hours, now that the gym will be opening in Galleria Village shopping center between Boardwalk Billy’s and Lucas Jui Jitsu.

Galleria Village has been filling up recently, with a European deli and catering company to go along with the new gym. We talked to franchisee Mike and Sharon Fields, who are opening the almost 5,000 square-foot workout space.

“We selected our location based the upswing in growth along Monroe Rd corridor” said Fields.

The gyms are staffed roughly 9 hours a day, but members can access the club whenever they like – even during unstaffed hours – using a computerized key-fob system. The gym will include circuit and resistance training machines, free waits, cardio equipment, small group exercise classes, small group training, personal training, and massage therapy packages.

“We make it easy for our members to exercise whenever and however they like,” said Fields. “We’ll have personal trainers available to help you learn how to use all of the equipment and to develop an individualized workout plan, if you like. We’ll also have massage therapy and nutrition classes that allows members to add to their healthy lifestyle. We are all about helping people overcome the barriers to healthier lives.”

We have some rendering that are pretty close to what the new gym will look like.

The tentative soft launch is planned for May 1, with a full launch coming sometime this summer. Prior to opening, Anytime Fitness Sardis Rd in Galleria Village is offering a free month and 30 min massage. Membership information is available by calling 980-800- 2347 or by emailing Charlottenc5@anytimefitness.com.

Behind the scenes on MoRA’s First Big Zoning Case

No doubt about it. Tackling a rezoning case is hard work.  First of all, the process is long and tedious, requiring constant attention.  It is also full of arcane language, a few unforeseen twists and baffling procedures.  Add to that, the petition proposed by the Selwyn Property Group (case 2017-016) was impacted by two external projects that are not designed and will not be completed until 2021 and beyond.

MoRA’s Land Use Committee took on the challenge and deserves your appreciation.

Committee Chair James Scanlon, a Virginia Tech graduate in Environmental Policy and Planning, has impressive skills so he slipped easily to chairing this review process. His PowerPoint presentation at the Jan 31 community meeting brought the project and its intricacies to life.  His co-presenter was local bankruptcy attorney Jack Miller whose passionate support for improving the area’s bike and pedestrian accessibility has enhanced stakeholder appreciation for how attention to that increases both the livability and value of neighborhoods like ours.  Jack also has spoken on MoRA’s behalf before the Metrolina Transit Commission.

Three more members deepened the committee’s expertise.  If you read our Facebook posts and Tweets you already know Matt Chambers.  With his mad social media skills and willingness to pitch in where needed, he served on this committee as well as leading efforts on the Hendrick rezoning.  Marc Seelinger is another invaluable MoRA volunteer.  He helps with surveys, newsletter postings and is our go-to person on Planning’s efforts on a Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). Marc and his wife Cherry organized the October Government Open House with its land use and transportation sessions.  Last but by no means least, talented local architect Mike Doyne provided his knowledge of site plans, building materials and design elements.

Together this team contributed hundreds of volunteer hours. They asked good questions and paid careful attention to community comments they heard both at the petitioner’s meeting in December and MoRA’s own meeting in late January as well as opinions expressed both online and in the paper survey collected at the January 31 meeting. And they have been careful to update the board as their work progressed. With the feedback from area residents and stakeholders, they had the confidence to arrive at their own conclusions.

The ultimate outcome is that MoRA showed that, between a dedicated group of volunteers that will master new skills and is willing to keep checking in with area stakeholders to ensure that their efforts reflect the community’s vision, MoRA is growing into a formidable organization.

Next steps: Because there have been three site plan updates, and negotiations with staff as well as with MoRA continue, the date of the public hearing is now scheduled for March 20. A formal MoRA position has not been reached pending additional information. MoRA will use the MoRAclt.org website and Facebook page to keep you informed and gather any additional thoughts you might care to share.

Site updates on the plans so far include pushing the new grocery store directly to Monroe Road, improving accessibility throughout the site, and improved shielding of the parking lot.

This article was written by Mary Hopper, an invaluable MoRA Advisor who has been guiding and encouraging the Land Use and Transportation Committee as they learned the system.

Cross Charlotte Trail’s Protected Bike Lane Update

Charlotte is making strides in becoming a safer and easier place to bike. There has been a lot of buzz about the Cross Charlotte Trail, which will run from Pineville through UNC Charlotte and to the Cabarrus County line once completed. We have previously spotlighted the Independence Trail project that will run through parts of MoRA and is in planning stages now.

The project that may be closest to becoming a reality will come out of the Uptown Connects Study. At a public workshop at 7th Street Public Market last night, dozens of people showed up for a first-hand look at the plans for this project. The Uptown Connects Study has looked at ways to connect Little Sugar Creek Greenway to Irwin Creek Greenway through use of protected bike lanes through Uptown Charlotte.

Protected bike lanes would provide a two-way cycle track completely separated from auto traffic by concrete or flexible barriers. Last night the City revealed that the proposed route of this protected bike lane would run along 6th Street (from Little Sugar Creek Greenway to around Johnson and Whales) and 5th Street (from around Johnson and Whales to the Irwin Creek Greenway entrance behind Ray’s Splash Planet). When completed, cyclists will be able to ride from Freedom Park all the way to West End neighborhoods like Wesley Heights without having to ride in traffic.

While this project doesn’t directly impact MoRA, its success could lead to similar projects elsewhere, perhaps making the Independence Trail a higher priority for the City.

MoRA needs YOUR help! VOLUNTEER with us on important community projects. Can’t volunteer? DONATE to help make our public art dream a reality. Even a $20 tax-deductible donation will help give the neighborhood a beautiful, defining sculpture that will make residents proud.