Yesteryear: Atlanta and Charlotte and the rise of the urban South
What does the future hold for these urban centers in the 21st Century?
A brief timeline look back on a few events that changed Atlanta, Charlotte and the urban South via past newspaper articles on Georgia and North Carolina
March 24, 1986
Who’s on top in finance? Atlanta, Charlotte vie for title
Steve Matthews, Staff Writer
The Charlotte Observer
Atlantans can brag about having the nation`s second-busiest airport, three major-league sports teams and an infinite supply of soft drinks from Coca-Cola Co.’s headquarters.
Charlotteans, by comparison, must settle for the nation’s 23rd busiest airport, the minor-league Charlotte O`s baseball team and a major regional Coke bottler.
But boosters of Charlotte, long overshadowed – some would say envious – ofits neighbor 250 miles to the southwest, can now brag about having more of a most vital commodity: money. In the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court`s approval of regional interstate banking nine months ago, Charlotte has become the largest financial center in the Southeast, some Charlotte business leaders now claim.
But Atlanta’s financial leaders jeer at the boast as plainly preposterous.
More than civic pride is at stake in the dispute. Charlotte`s leaders believe the city’s emerging reputation as the region’s major financial center will assist greatly in recruiting new corporate headquarters to the city such as Royal Insurance, which is currently moving from New York.
Charlotte chamber officials are planning the pitch as a part of a $3 million image campaign for the city.
“Charlotte is the larger financial center,” says NCNB Corp. President Francis “Buddy” Kemp, who’s also this year’s chairman of the Charlotte chamber. What`s more, he says, Charlotte’s lead will grow with more interstate mergers. “If you look at the momentum, it seems much more likely that the N.C. banks would sustain their momentum as active acquiring banks than the Atlanta banks.”
Charlotte’s claim is based on two facts. First, of the half-dozen “super-regional” banks created by regional mergers, the largest and third-largest are headquartered in Charlotte. They are Kemp’s NCNB, with $22.1 billion in assets, and two blocks away on Tryon Street, First Union Corp., with $19 billion (including pending mergers).
By comparison, Atlanta’s SunTrust Banks Inc. places second in the region with $19.4 billion and its Citizens & Southern Georgia Corp. is fifth with $16.5 billion (also including pending mergers).
There’s disagreement on where First Wachovia Corp., with $17.7 billion, should be counted.
Charlotte leaders put it firmly in North Carolina. “First Wachovia’s holding company is headquartered in Winston-Salem and its chief executive officer is headquartered there,” says NCNB’s Kemp.
But John Medlin Jr., First Wachovia’s president and chief executive officer, says that’s just not so.
The newly created parent of Winston-Salem-based Wachovia Corp. and Georgia’s First Atlanta Corp. divides its headquarters, he says, with some corporate headquarters functions in Winston- Salem and others in Atlanta.
Charlotte’s lead in banking assets is the second basis for its claim to be the region’s financial center. For a bank, assets principally mean loans. The size of banks is considered important is lending money to large corporate customers. For example, Royal Insurance has moved most of its banking business to NCNB since announcing its move, NCNB officials say.
“To say you’re the banking capital of the Southeast is like saying we’vegot the prettiest sky,” acknowledges William Millett, Charlotte chamber vice president of economic development. “But you can’t argue with the numbers: we’ve got more banking assets.”
Adding the figures can be nearly as subjective as judging the sky, however. By the Charlotte chamber’s count, Charlotte has banking assets of $40 billion, compared to Atlanta’s $23 billion.
But the chamber’s research director, Tony Crumbley, includes only the assets of the commercial banks with facilities in each city, excluding out-of- state acquisitions. That’s based on the historical presumption that banks are mainly statewide institutions.
No one is happy with the figures.
“The numbers get flaky,” says NCNB’s Kemp, who says the chamber may understate the city’s importance as a banking center. For example, the Charlotte chamber excludes NCNB`s $7 billion in Florida assets and First Union’s newly acquired South Carolina, Georgia and Florida assets.
A better measure, Kemp believes, is assets of bank holding companies headquartered in each city. But this approach can cause problems, too, as Charlotte officials acknowledge.
First, by this approach, you must decide how to count First Wachovia’s assets. Second, how about BarclaysAmerican Corp.? Kemp would like to count the Charlotte-based finance company`s $3.4 billion in assets because BarclaysAmerican is a bank holding company. The chamber excludes it currently because it owns a bank in Delaware, not Charlotte. In any event, chamber researcher Crumbley says that however you count the assets, Charlotte comes out on top.
Atlanta business leaders don`t challenge the numbers – whichever are used – but say it`s a lot of baloney.
“Charlotte is a good town – a growing town – but it’s not the financial hub of the Southeast and it’s never going to be,” says Roy Cooper, manager of economic development for the Atlanta chamber.
“If assets is a financial hub, the financial hub of the country is Fort Knox. Money is so mobile these days. The concentration of assets is less important than it ever has been.”
John McIntyre, vice chairman of Atlanta-based C&S, says the Charlotte banks’ acquisitions in Atlanta indicate the North Carolina banks really believe Atlanta is the more important financial center. The banks are going to Atlanta, he says, because it`s the largest, fastest-growing city in the Southeast.
“Ask those (bankers) who have voted with their stockholders’ capital,” he says. “I can’t think of a single Atlanta bank that`s voted with their stockholders` capital to go to Charlotte.”
Medlin, First Wachovia president, won`t touch the question of whether Atlanta or Charlotte is more important as a financial center. But, he says, “If someone looks to the Southeast and says there’s only one place I’ll go, it’ll be Atlanta.”
Atlanta is also home to a Federal Reserve Bank, while Charlotte settles for a branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. As a practical matter, that makes little difference to bankers or other companies, Atlanta backers concede. But Atlanta banker McIntyre says, “It’s one more sign of a
recognized financial center.”
What’s more, Atlanta has offices of 29 foreign banks, compared to none in Charlotte. (Charlotte-based BarclaysAmerican is a subsidiary of Barclays Bank PLC of London, but, again, it’s not considered a bank in North Carolina.)
“The top banks of the world are all represented here,” Cooper of the Atlanta chamber says. Charlotte officials say those achievements are all less important than banking assets and they are especially incredulous about Atlanta’s foreign banks. “If I were in the (illicit) drug business, I’d look at Atlanta and Miami,” says Crumbley, the chamber research director.
Carroll Gray, Charlotte chamber president, says the irate reaction of Atlanta’s backers isn’t surprising.
“Atlanta`s leadership of the chamber has not thought of Charlotte as a competitor,” he says. “All of a sudden, Charlotte is a competitor. Their reaction is understandable.”
April 23, 1987
Charlotte joins NBA; Florida awarded two teams
Bill Robinson, Staff Writer
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
Charlotte, NC- Charlotte the longshot among seven cities seeking NBA membership, was officially awarded a franchise Wednesday. The NBA announced that Charlotte would begin play during the 1988-89 season, opening in the Atlantic Division.
“It’s a miracle, that’s all it is,” George Shinn, 45, owner of the team to be known as the Charlotte Spirit, said from New York.
The NBA announced that Charlotte would begin play during the 1988-89 season, opening in the Atlantic Division.
In a surprise, NBA commissioner David Stern said both Miami and Orlando, Fla., would be given franchises, along with Charlotte and Minneapolis.
Thus ended the so-called Florida civil war, brought about when the NBA’s five-man board of governors recommended April 2 that the league decide between Miami and Orlando. The governors were not expected to choose both.
Like Charlotte, Miami will be admitted for the 1988-89 season. Minneapolis and Orlando enter the following year.
“We’ve come a long way,” Shinn said of Charlotte’s efforts. “Today I just got word that we’ve gone over the 14,000 mark in season ticket holders.
“At one time, there were 11 cities talking about applying for a franchise, and we were considered to be 11th. When it got down to seven cities, we were seventh. And when it got down to four finalists, we were considered fourth.
“Now we’re in . . . and it’s just hard to believe. We now begin to keep some of that great native North Carolina talent home – in the heart of basketball country.”
Stern, in ending Florida’s “Mickey Mouse vs. Miami Vice” war, declared: “Much has been written about the deficiences of those two cities, but in fact the problem for the board was choosing between these two great cities.
“It’s like trying to choose between four great athletes. And in the end, we simply chose all four. Because of the support demonstrated in Miami and Orlando, and the civic pride and involvement by both government and fans, we couldn’t do anything but choose both.”
Each expansion franchise will pay an entry fee of $32.5 million. At least 18 of the current 23 teams had to vote to accept the expansion franchises.
After a year in the Atlantic Division, then another season in the Midwest Division, Charlotte “will come home to the Central Division,” Shinn said.
“We want a natural rivalry with Atlanta. And doing this in steps will be perfect for us. Charlotte and the Florida teams won’t have to be beating their heads against that Boston wall for two straight seasons.
“And we get to play Atlanta and Chicago two games at home the first year – as well as two games away. That means bringing Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins to their North Carolina homes, a great thing for our fans.”
Wilkins is from Washington, N.C., Jordan from Wilmington, N.C.
“The second year, we play Atlanta and Chicago two games each – one home, one away. After that, we’ll be in the Central and playing Atlanta six games a season.”
Shinn said Charlotte “will not choose a head coach for months.”
“The first thing we’ll do is meet with NBA officials and get some inside directions from the pros, the guys who’ve been there,” Shinn said.
Shinn dismissed any speculation on former Maryland coach Lefty Driesell and Atlanta assistant Willis Reed.
“We need a director of player personnel first,” he said. “And even that will take a lot of time. We haven’t talked to Willis Reed and we won’t. An immediate plan has to be developed first.”
The NBA was known to be worried about Charlotte’s population of less than 400,000, but Shinn convinced the Expansion Committee that the 5.6 million people who lived within a 100-mile radius of the city provided a sufficient base.
“We’re convinced it’s a major-league city in an area that hasn’t been given a chance to prove it,” said Shinn, who would share ownership with Cy N. Bahakel, Rick Hendrick III and Felix Sabates. “And very few people realize that the closest ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) school is a two-hour drive from Charlotte. ”
Charlotte will play in the new 23,500-seat Charlotte Coliseum that is under construction and is scheduled to be ready July 1, 1988.
The Miami Heat has the new 15,184-seat Miami Arena under construction. It is scheduled to be completed March 1, 1988.
The Timberwolves expect to play in a downtown Minneapolis arena that would seat 18,000. Construction has not begun, and until it is ready, the team will play in the Metrodome, home of baseball’s Twins and the NFL Vikings. It will seat 26,000 for basketball.
Orlando will play in the new 15,000-seat Centroplex Arena, scheduled to open in September 1988.
The principal owners of the other three franchises are Bill DuPont in Orlando, Ted Arison in Miami and Marv Wolfenson and Harvey Ratner in Minneapolis.
The last four paragraphs did not appear in the final edition. Photo: mug of George Shinn
February 8, 1987
SPECIAL REPORT: SOUTHEAST ECONOMIC SURVEY
Region overbuilt, but ‘momentum’ is favorable
Sallye Salter, Staff Writer
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
The heavy influx of national and international developers to the Southeast in the 1980s is evidence that this region does not lack momentum. However, while its growth glows in contrast to some other lackluster markets, another important factor in the flood of new developers to Southeastern cities is the commercial construction boom that has swept the country.
While the Southeast’s cities suffer from oversupply, as does most of the nation, the outlook for the region is better than for some markets. In real estate, a predominance of home-grown development does not necessarily signify success.
To the contrary, it may indicate that a region lacks the momentum to draw in the major development firms that ply their trade coast to coast.
The heavy influx of national and international developers to the Southeast in the 1980s is evidence that this region does not lack momentum.
However, while its growth glows in contrast to some other lackluster markets, another important factor in the flood of new developers to Southeastern cities is the commercial construction boom that has swept the country.
These combined forces – growth and construction boom – have accelerated the transformation of typical Southeastern downtowns from smatterings of home-grown, junior-sized skyscrapers, fertilized with Yankee money, into impressive urban centers surrounded by suburbs where business centers are emerging.
The older office towers, which tended to be monuments to local business and its leaders – the banking towers and historic structures such as Atlanta’s Candler Building and Hurt Building – are being upstaged and often overshadowed by new, soaring structures.
While the Southeast’s cities suffer from oversupply, as does most of the nation, the outlook for the region is better than for some markets.
A recent “momentum” index of the office market compiled by Landauer Associates Inc., a national consulting firm that specializes in real estate, gives several Southeastern cities a high ranking.
Devised to be “a composite indicator” that reflects underlying business cycles, market structure, growth in office employment and inventory growth, the measure shows New York City far outranks other markets. However, closely following second-ranked Philadelphia are Orlando, third; Tampa, fourth; Charlotte, fifth; and Atlanta, sixth.
Coldwell Banker, which has commercial real estate offices in 10 Southeastern cities, forecasts that across the region, office vacancy rates will decline, and rents will firm during 1987 as construction continues to slow and demand stays strong.
However, the firm said, “Like most of the fast-growing parts of the country, the Southeast still offers an excellent supply of office space at very competitive rates.”
And the region’s slowdown in construction is not a halt. The F.W. Dodge Division of McGraw-Hill Information Systems Co. reported that the value of contracts awarded to build commercial buildings in the seven-state region dropped 1.4 percent between 1985 and 1986 while nationally the decline was 2 percent.
“Although there continues to be a rather large amount of `proposed’ space on the drawing boards, the amount of under-construction space has dropped,” according to Coldwell Banker, which reports 20.3 million square feet under construction, 4 million fewer than a year ago, and another 25 million proposed.
Significant new development apparently will continue in Atlanta, the region’s undisputed commercial real estate capital, and several other strong markets.
In Charlotte, for instance, NCNB Corp. late in 1986 announced plans to build a 50-story tower that will be the tallest building between Atlanta and Philadelphia.
NCNB, the region’s largest bank holding company, and Charter Properties Inc., a subsidiary of Springs Co. of Lancaster, S.C., are developing the property as a joint venture. The structure will be part of a $300 million office-hotel-retail-entertainment complex in downtown Charlotte.
Already under construction in Charlotte is a 42-story building that will be the headquarters of the Southeast’s second largest bank holding company, First Union Corp. That structure is being developed by the Trammell Crow Co. and Norfolk Southern Corp.
Lincoln Property Co., a Texas-based developer, is getting ready to start a major Citizens & Southern banking tower in Columbia, S.C., and will soon open an office in Charlotte.
From that new office Lincoln plans to build also in North Carolina’s satellite markets such as Raleigh-Durham and Greensboro-High Point. In those markets, said Craig Scott, Lincoln’s Atlanta partner of commercial development, “There is a demand for Class A office projects that have not been delivered.”
In real estate circles, the postures of Nashville and Jacksonville, the newest darlings of the developers, are being likened to that of Atlanta a few years back.
Scott said that in every region of the country, developers are marching into cities that are a notch down from the very largest in the area.
In the Southeast, their path generally has been through Atlanta on to such cities as Miami, Nashville, Charlotte, Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville.
Strong absorption coupled with less construction resulted in a decline in the office vacancy rate in seven of the Southeast’s 10 largest cities during the the latter half of 1986.
Downtown Tampa led the nation in vacancy decline in 1986 with a drop of 11.4 percentage points to 14.5 percent, according to Coldwell Banker.
The U.S. metropolitan areas that had the greatest declines in vacancy rates were Nashville, down 4.3 percentage points to 15.7 percent; Orlando, down 3 percentage points to 17.3 percent; and Tampa, down 2.3 percentage points to 14.5 pe rcent.
Downtown Miami has among the highest vacancy rates in the nation with 22.9 percent, according to Coldwell Banker, and downtown Charlotte reported one of the greatest 1986 increases, up 4 percentage points to 11.1 percent, pushed up by substantial new construction.
Like office space, retail facilities have been overbuilt in several markets. On Landauer’s gauge of retail markets, Atlanta is the only Southeastern metropolitan area that is included among the most favorably rated markets. Ranking at the lower end of Landauer’s retail index are Tampa, Orlando, Nashville and Miami.
According to the research department of the International Council of Shopping Centers, retail development in the South “slowed significantly” during the latter half of 1986. In the third quarter, the rate of retail construction starts in the region was 20 percent below the level of a year earlier. At the same time, the South accounted for only 37 percent of center starts in the U.S., its smallest proportion since the recession of 1983.
April 19, 1987
Cities’ pride on the line in battle for new pro basketball team
Charlotte ready for the big leagues
Mayor Harvey Gantt says being an NBA city could help Charlotte’s economy
Hunter James, Staff Writer
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Topping National Basketball Association’s list of potential new franchises bolsters Charlotte’s claim of being North Carolina’s first city.
A little more than half a century ago, Charlotte was still only the second city in North Carolina, behind Winston-Salem. In those days it would have counted itself in good company to have been compared favorably with New Orleans, Memphis, Birmingham or even Richmond, Va.
Nowadays it scorns such indignities, grandly styling itself as not only North Carolina’s first city but as the second city in the entire Southeast, after Atlanta.
Others may challenge the claim. But now that Charlotte has become the No. 1 city on the National Basketball Association’s list of potential new franchises, civic boosters such as Mayor Harvey Gantt have a new and more persuasive talking point.
“It puts us in a different league altogether,” says Gantt. “I don’t think this community yet has assessed what it will really mean to it. But being an NBA city accelerates the potential for economic development far beyond the crowds that will fill the coliseum and pay for hotel rooms and eat in our restaurants.”
Adds Carroll Gray, executive director of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce: “When the news broke, the first thing we did was copy the article . . . and mail it to every one of our corporate relocation prospects as an improved case to consider Charlotte.”
If, as expected, the NBA awards the first of its new franchises Wednesday to the Charlotte Spirit, as the team tentatively has been named, the team will make its debut in the 1988-1989 season, playing its games in a mammoth 23,500-seat coliseum now taking shape along Billy Graham Parkway.
Some civic officials worried that the building of so huge an arena in a city that had no professional sports teams would prove a financial disaster. But without it, Charlotte might well have lost its NBA bid. “The NBA needed the coliseum,” says George Shinn, majority partner in the four-member ownership group seeking the franchise. “And the coliseum needed the NBA.”
The coliseum, located near the junction of two north-south interstate highways, will put professional basketball within a 1 1/2-hour drive of 5.5 million people. Even the Atlanta Hawks don’t have that big a potential audience.
“That, to me, in talking with a few of the NBA folks, was the surprise,” says Gantt. “People started to look at those numbers. Demographically, the city is very deceptive.”
With its glistening, futuristic skyline, Charlotte has begun to throw an impressive shadow across the Carolina landscape. A Muhleman Marketing Inc. study ranked Charlotte the fifth-largest financial center in the nation and the sixth-largest distribution center. And though the boundaries of Charlotte itself contain only about 366,000 people – not an impressive number even by comparison with other large Southern cities -the population of its seven-county metropolitan area now exceeds 1 million.
The “surprise,” as Gantt calls it, was that more than 5 million people live within a 100-mile radius. The Muhleman study that helped sell the NBA on Charlotte included figures showing that no other Southeastern city could compare with Charlotte in this respect. Atlanta, for example, has only 4.8 million within the same radius.
North Carolina, the nation’s 10th most urbanized state, owes that status not only to large cities such as Charlotte but to hundreds of small and medium-sized municipalities that sprung up in the late 19th century along the Piedmont fall line. Most began as textile mill villages, created by risk-takers who found the many quick-falling streams that traverse the Piedmont were ideal for generating cheap electric power.
But the same population pattern that impressed the NBA could cause trouble if Charlotte ever gets hungry – and some already are talking up the idea – for a major-league baseball or football franchise. The problem, says the Chamber of Commerce’s Gray, is that Charlotte isn’t yet the “state of mind” that Atlanta has become.
Gray says that Bowie Kuhn, the former major-league baseball commissioner, once told him that Charlotte had “plenty of people to support major-league baseball” but that the state was too torn by sectional rivalries for the sport to succeed here. Baseball or football franchises would be far more difficult to obtain than basketball, says Gray, and would require support from the entire state. “But somebody from Winston-Salem is not going to drive down here to watch Charlotte play baseball.”
It was Shinn’s desire to own a major-league baseball franchise that eventually led to what appears to be a successful NBA bid. Final approval awaits a vote by the NBA’s board of directors Wednesday.
Shinn, an amiable and energetic 45, is a self-made millionaire with investments ranging from auto dealerships to a chain of business schools that he personally supervises. He delivers inspirational talks, writes motivational texts patterned after Norman Vincent Peale’s “Power of Positive Thinking,” and 11 years ago became the youngest man ever to win the national rags-to-riches Horatio Alger Award.
After long talks with other major-league baseball owners, Shinn finally had to concede that his hope of owning such a franchise was unrealistic. He then turned to football. Two USFL exhibition games sponsored by Shinn in 1985, the league’s last season, played to full houses and convinced him that Charlotte would support a major sports franchise. If the USFL had prospered, Shinn might realistically have hoped to land a spot in that league.
When he turned his attention instead to the NBA, nobody took him seriously.
Shinn is fond of calling himself the “Spud Webb of the NBA expansion cities.” Webb, a 5-foot-7-inch guard, starred for North Carolina State before making it big with the Atlanta Hawks. “Here’s this little guy who does everything so well that he’s overcome his size,” Shinn says. “We were the same way: To succeed we had to do everything exceptionally well. I realized that not only did I have to get the best lease of any of the other cities, I had to make an impact. I wanted to get a lease as good as anything in the league.”
Shinn’s lease hardly could be better. He and his ownership group will pay the coliseum authority only $1 a year for the first five years. The city will get proceeds from parking and concessions. After the first five years, if the Spirit is still in business, Shinn’s group and the city will divide the profits on a sliding-scale basis.
Shinn says he sought and got an “extremely conservative” estimate of what an NBA team would mean to Charlotte’s economy. The economist he hired to do the study estimated the impact at about $30 million a year. “My estimate all along has been that it’s going to be around $100 million a year,” Shinn says. “But I didn’t want anybody to be able to shoot holes in our projections.”
Shinn’s penchant for detail moved him quickly from a long-shot contender to a favored position. When he wanted to know how travel time to the Charlotte coliseum compared with travel time in other NBA cities, he went to those cities and rode in taxicabs to find out. He discovered that, from 15 or 20 miles away, travel time to a typical NBA arena was never less than an hour. “Well, with our new coliseum located between I-85 and I-77,” he says, “it’s incredible the area you can take in.”
But the perception of Charlotte as a long shot remained almost till the end. The turning point, Shinn says – though it wasn’t realized at the time – came in October 1986, when he and his associates made their first presentation to the NBA expansion committee.
Shinn describes the experience as the most trying of his life. “I’ve been a public speaker for at least 15 years. I’ve spoken to groups of 15,000 people. But I can never remember a time when I was so tense and nervous. I stayed up all night practicing my speech. My wife sent me into the bathroom because I was keeping her up.”
Then, after about two hours of sleep, he rose to read a newspaper story in which a reporter unceremoniously dismissed Charlotte’s chances, saying, as Shinn remembers it, “that the only franchise we would get was the one with the golden arches.”
“I was already nervous, and I said, `Oh Lord, what am I doing here? This is crazy.’ But, anyway, I was determined to make a good presentation. We made an eight-minute video presentation, and I told them about the coliseum and our lease, and you could just hear the oohhhs and ahhhs. I heard one owner make the comment, ‘My God, I’m moving my team to Charlotte!’ ”
Shinn isn’t saying who will coach the Spirit – and he won’t until after this week’s vote by the NBA directors. But a likely candidate is Lefty Driesell, who lost his job at the University of Maryland after the cocaine-related death of his star forward, Len Bias. “You would go to watch Lefty kick a chair in a heartbeat,” says Gray.
But it will take a lot more than the antics of a Lefty Driesell for Shinn and his three partners to recoup the $32.5 million they’re paying for the franchise.
Says Shinn: “I honestly believe that I’m going to get a return. I know that I could take this same money – just like my partners – and buy more auto dealerships and make more money quicker. But there are teams in this league that are very successful, and the greatest majority of them are making a profit.” Then he adds, a bit wistfully, “But most of them aren’t paying $32 million in debt service.”
Meanwhile, Shinn already has assured himself of at least one profitable season: his first. He astounded even his own booster-minded townsfolk by selling 13,500 season tickets for the Spirit’s first year -3,500 more than he was required to sell in order to qualify for the franchise. His success at nailing down commitments from that many people apparently was another reason for the NBA selection committee’s vote of confidence.
“Orlando couldn’t believe that Charlotte was picked over them,” says Carroll Gray. “But they had offered refundable deposits. With George, you buy the ticket. That separates the men from the boys. I bought two. My wife and I sat over coffee one morning, and I said, `Honey, this is $1,500.’ And she said, `Let’s go with it.’ ”
Whether that kind of support will endure in the face of what everybody concedes will be a string of losing seasons is the big question.
“I doubt if there has ever been an expansion team that was a winner,” says Mayor Gantt. “And you may lose a lot. You may not win 15 games in the whole first season. But this expansion team, in a new area, is bigger than the issue of winning or losing. If we were an expansion team moving into New York and we lost a lot, we’d probably have a real problem. But an expansion team in a new area, where this type of basketball hasn’t been played, is another matter.”
August 21, 1987
Hitting new heights First Union gets tall bragging rights
David Perlmutt, Staff Writer
The Charlotte Observer
CHARLOTTE, NC- Come noon today, workers will begin pumping 250 cubic yards of concrete 41 floors straight up One First Union Center and the Carolinas will have a new tallest building.
For Danny Palu, it will bring back memories of a drizzly day last November. Palu’s crew of carpenters was soaked working on the uptown Charlotte tower, then only four floors. It was time, he thought, for one of his lectures on safety. “We’re going high up,” Palu, a supervisor for Demiro West Coast Inc. of Atlanta, told his carpenters. “High-rise work is dangerous and tiring. We’ve got to be careful.”
Looking three blocks north, and up at the towering NCNB Plaza, Palu paused and said: `”When we see the roof of that building, we’ll be in good shape.”
Today they’ll see NCNB`s rooftop.
And, at least for now in a city reaching for new heights, they can brag of being a part of history.
By 5 p.m., most of the concrete for the 41st floor will be poured and the $110 million building will stand 518 feet from College Street. That is taller than the 40-story NCNB Plaza – since 1974 the Carolinas’s tallest – which stands 503.5 feet above South Tryon Street at The Square.
“We’re very proud of the building, but we’ve worked on taller buildings,” said Wendell Martin, project manager for Charlotte-based J.A. Jones Construction Co. The company is building the First Union tower and a smaller, eight-story wing that will house a parking garage, offices for the YMCA and
First Union`s computer center.
“So, if you’ll excuse us, this historic moment won`t mean as much to us as the people of Charlotte.” Once topped late next month with an arch-shaped vault, the granite-sheathed tower will rise 590 feet and be the tallest building between Philadelphia and Atlanta.
But it won`t be for long.
NCNB Corp., ever the competitor, has announced plans for a 50-story office tower at Trade and Tryon streets. It will be built over the next five years. Until First Union`s 42nd floor is in place, NCNB’s Plaza will be higher because it sits on a slight hill, 1,268.1 feet above sea level. The First
Union tower, which sprouted from a gaping 25-foot-deep hole, will be 1,255 feet above sea level at its 41st floor, but at its 42nd, 1,271 feet above sea level. When finished, it will stand 1,327 feet above sea level.
Although taller, One First Union Plaza won’t be much bigger than NCNB Plaza. First Union will have 1 million square feet, compared with NCNB’s 880,000 square feet.
The First Union tower has risen swiftly since spring, at one point – during construction of floors 24 to 39 – going up two floors every six days, Martin said. As it reached the 40th floor, where First Union Corp.’s executive offices will begin, the construction became more complicated. And the pace slowed.
Many of those working on the First Union tower have remained emotionally detached from the structure – including Richard Hathaway, J.A. Jones project engineer.
Thursday, the building looked like a mere skeleton on the skyline. A freight elevator carried workers to the 35th floor. Crude ladders took them to the top, where the noises of the city were a rich blend of coughing buses, blasting car horns and a slight afternoon breeze.
Palu’s carpenters nailed together plywood forms into which the concrete would be pumped from 41 stories below, Hathaway explained.
By 6 p.m., it was quitting time. And the tower would have to wait another day for its place in history.
September 27, 1987
Charlotte Bankers take battle to new heights
The Charlotte Observer
CHARLOTTE- Officially, there is no war between First Union and NCNB to see which of the two banking giants will have the tallest building in uptown Charlotte.
Unofficially, of course, most bank watchers agree there is. If you ask bank spokesmen and uptown developers about a building war, they will deny, deny, deny. They will say height is the fourth most important consideration in a new building, after construction quality, tenant service and good management.
Or, they’ll say the crucial thing that pushes new buildings skyward is the high cost of uptown land. Either buildings go up – or rent goes up.
Unofficially, you know and I know that if NCNB Corp. Chairman Hugh McColl Jr. has to look upward at the office of First Union Corp. Chairman Ed Crutchfield, McColl feels the pain in more than his neck.
You bet there’s a building war, and another volley will be fired at noon tomorrow.
More than 1,100 guests, counting construction workers, have been invited to the topping-out ceremony for First Union`s new 42-story headquarters building at College and 3rd streets. Mayor Harvey Gantt and others will comment on the bold new peak in Charlotte’s skyline.
The new building will be two stories taller than NCNB’s current home. All the press releases will point out that the new building, scheduled to be completed next spring, will become the tallest building between Atlanta and Philadelphia.
For a while.
In the early 1990s, NCNB will top out a new building on the northeast corner of Trade and Tryon, the Eckerd’s corner, that will be taller.
After that, presumably, Crutchfield will get a crick in his neck. Topping out ceremonies are the big battles in the building war. But if you`ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed some of the skirmishes, too.
When news of NCNB’s plans broke late last year, the story said the building would be at least 50 stories tall.
In early spring, it was referred to flatly as a 50-story building.
By midsummer, the building was labeled 50-plus stories.
Ground hadn`t even been broken on the new NCNB building – but the blasted thing was going up, anyway.
First Union responded with a trivia quiz about its new building.
The building contains 283,500,000 pounds of concrete – more than four times the total weight of every person living in Mecklenburg County.
There are 537 workers on the job now – the same as the population of Bat Cave, N.C.
The 78,500 cubic yards of dirt excavated from the site would fill a line of wheelbarrows stretching 320 miles, or roughly from Charlotte to Richmond.
My bet is that even now, NCNB colonels in their basement strategy room are plotting a counter punch.
Expect to see guys in gray suits and white shirts pushing wheelbarrows beside I-85 and I-75, all the way from here to Florida.
I asked a friend who worked for one of the banks whether the war between them is fought only at the highest levels.
He said Mr. Crutchfield and Mr. McColl are both bright and competitive, which helps explain why their respective banks have been so successful.
Crutchfield is a former Davidson football player, McColl a former Marine. My friend said the competition is keenest at the top, since the biggest difference between football players and Marines is the shape of their helmets. But he said the feeling reaches down at least halfway through the ranks.
First Union and NCNB tellers don’t go at each other hammer and tong – but if Crutchfield and McColl are generals, then vice presidents are sort of like majors and captains.
The building war is more than just fun for onlookers and sport for bankers, of course.
New office space translates to new jobs, as the banks expand not only their payrolls, but also the boundaries of banking.
Each of the projects will contain a hotel. The YMCA will open a new branch in the First Union complex; an arts center is planned for the NCNB block.
New workers will mean new shops and restaurants, not only in the new buildings, but also in the surrounding blocks. With luck, there’ll be another place uptown serving country-style steak and homemade biscuits.
Heaven knows how much all the development will increase the tax base, which will benefit even those who never come uptown.
If you’re guessing I have a personal stake in all this, you`re right. I’ll confess, I will profit directly from the new buildings.
Some days, I walk up the street and ride the elevators in Charlotte’s tallest skyscrapers. I eavesdrop shamelessly on the conversations among other elevator occupants.
The taller the building, the longer the ride and the more I hear.
I call it keeping my finger on the pulse of the city.
I’m going to be able to do some serious research in the 25 elevators of the 42-story First Union building. When the 50-plus stories of the NCNB building are completed, why, I’ll do such a fine job I might even ask for a raise.
November 15, 1987
If the Atlanta Braves are out of the Dome, maybe Turner’s other team isn’t
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
Amid all of the caterwauling coming from the Braves over being shut out of the proposed new domed stadium, something was lost: The Braves aren’t the only team in town owned by Ted Turner.
He also owns the Hawks, who conceivably could benefit mightily from any new domed stadium. Imagine the Celtics, the Lakers and playoff games in a dome rather than in The Omni – 40,000 or so seats as opposed to 16,000.
Pontiac’s Silverdome is home to the Pistons. The SuperSonics did nicely in the Kingdome during their glory years.
Hawks/Braves president Stan Kasten sidesteps the notion of the Hawks in a dome, but he isn’t quite as strident as he was when complaining about the Braves being left out in the cold.
“We’re committed to The Omni,” he said the other night before a Hawks game. “We don’t want to lose any home-court advantage we may have.”
But. . .The Atlanta Hawks were committed to The Omni the season they played a dozen games in New Orleans. They were committed when they left for a few games in Charlotte, N.C.
So, would the Hawks definitely not play in the dome three or four years hence when the club should be at its zenith?
“Well,” said Kasten, “we wouldn’t rule it out completely.”
IN PURSUIT OF TRIVIA: While on the subject of the Hawks, what was the team’s starting lineup its first game in Atlanta?
THE ANSWER: That first night, in Alexander Memorial Coliseum against the Cincinnati Royals and Oscar Robertson, the Hawks opened with Zelmo Beaty at center, Bill Bridges and Paul Silas at forwards and Walt Hazzard and Lou Hudson at the guards. Joe Caldwell was the first man off the bench.
Democratic National Convention will be in Atlanta in 1988
WASHINGTON- Democratic Party Chairman Paul Kirk announced Tuesday that Atlanta will host the party’s 1988 national convention, saying Democrats must “send a message to the nation from the South” and unite that region with others for victory in the next presidential election.
Kirk chose the Georgia capital over Houston, the other finalist in the running for the massive meeting to be held July 18-21, 1988, where the party will select a national ticket to try to reverse the Democrats’ dismal showings in recent presidential balloting.
“If we’re to be a competitive national party, we have to be competitive in the Southern part of this country,” Kirk said. “I think people recognize that the capital and hub and heart of the South is Atlanta.”
The Democratic decision made it a clean sweep for the South in the 1988 political convention sweepstakes, for the Republicans announced last month that they are going to New Orleans for their Aug. 15-18 convention. It will be the first national party convention ever held in Georgia. “We guarantee you a successful convention,” Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young told Kirk in a telephone call. ”We guarantee you that the Democrats will select a winner in 1988.”
“Atlanta will be great in ’88,” read the sign held up by Democratic Ntional Committee staffers here after the decision was announced.
Democrats have won only once in the last five presidential elections. And that victory came the only time the party carried most of the South – with Georgia son and regional favorite Jimmy Carter in 1976. Other than in 1976, the national Democratic ticket has carried only one southern state since 1964.
Kirk talked of reaching out to the South, particularly after the party’s good showing in the 1986 elections in the region helped win back the Senate from the Republicans.
Atlanta “provides an opportunity to have a site where we can send a message to the nation from the South and uniting that region and others for the Democratic Party,” Kirk said. “There is a Democratic base there from which our party can reach to the rest of the nation.”
But even Kirk doesn’t think the choice guarantees “that where one holds a convention means that one automatically carries that state or region,” he said. For example, in 1984, Democrats didn’t even come close to carrying California, despite their San Francisco convention.
The site choice ultimately was Kirk’s alone. But the final act of the process was played out in public Tuesday when the party’s site-selection committee voted 44-13 in favor of Atlanta over Houston. The vote came after a private breakfast where Kirk told the committee members he wanted the convention in Atlanta.
The choice left a bad taste with some Houston boosters, who rejected Kirk’s characterization of Atlanta as the capital of the South.
“I didn’t necessarily know that. I always thought Houston was a southern city as well,” said Houston Mayor Kathy Whitmire. “It’s my understanding that the chairman’s decision was based on … his feeling that Atlanta would be a better representative of the South…. We were all disappointed.”
“In light of overwhelming support for Texas, he pursued his own agenda,” said Joe Russo, chairman of the Houston host committee effort, said of Kirk. “It seems to me that the Democratic National Committee is going to have a lot of difficulty in Texas because of the chairman’s heavy-handedness.”
But Houston boosters on the committee were conciliatory. “I think the process has been fair,” said Sam Dawson, political director of the United Steel Workers of America. “If Houston will not be great in ’88, I’m sure it will do in ’92.”
And after the decision was made, Russo and other Houston backers swarmed around the Atlanta supporters to offer their congratulations.
Kirk rejected the criticism of the selection process, saying it was a “deliberate, thoughtful and reflective process.”
Texas Republicans were clearly pleased by the Democratic friction. Texas GOP Chairman George Strake, of Houston, gave his reaction:
“After weeks and weeks of shake-downs and run arounds, the DNC finally gave Houston the back of its hand. It is absolutely incredible to me that the national Democratic Party has chosen Atlanta, Ga., as the site of their convention after leading on the city of Houston for so long.”
Kirk said that he was swayed in part by “the solid Democratic phalanx of public officials from top to bottom in Georgia” and the “remarkable comeback in 1986″ in which Wyche Fowler won back a Georgia Senate seat for the Democrats.
He brushed aside concerns about the lack of 20,000 seats in the Omni arena, saying the facilities ”provide a workable site for an exciting convention.”
Atlanta- 1988 Democratic National Convention
The 1988 National Convention of the U.S. Democratic Party was held at The Omni in Atlanta, Georgia from July 18–July 21, 1988 to select candidates for the 1988 presidential election.
Democratic presidential candidate Michael S. Dukakis (third from left) and his running mate Lloyd Bentsen (second from left), stand with their wives on the podium of the Democratic National Convention on Thursday, July 21, 1988 at the Omni in Atlanta. At left is Beryl Ann Bentsen and at right is Kitty Dukakis. Dukakis went on to lose to George H.W. Bush in 1988. Delegate vote: Dukakis 70%, Jesse Jackson 30%
July 23, 1988
Atlanta’s image post hosting the Democratic National Convention
January 22, 1989
Charlotte Abuzz Over Fledgling Basketball Team
Keith Graham, Staff Writer
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Like many who populate the urban and suburban sprawl of this unofficial capital of the North and South Carolina Piedmont region, Dan Young splits his spare time between religion and basketball.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. A few days ago, for instance, the fervor moving Mr. Young was for the Charlotte Hornets, the city’s fledgling franchise in the National Basketball Association. So what if miracles will be necessary to keep the Queen City Stuffers – as they are sometimes called – out of the league’s netherworld by season’s end? Sporting teal, purple and white Hornets shirt and cap, Mr. Young was keeping the faith.
“They’re great. The Hornets are the best team in the NBA,” the true believer testified. And in Charlotte, at least, he was preaching to the converted, even on the most devilish of nights when the half-time scoreboard showed the home team trailing the visiting Utah Jazz 60-33.
Earlier this season, even though Cleveland ruined Charlotte’s home opener with a 40-point blowout, the Hornets loped off the court to a standing ovation. And in the stands, if not in the standings, they’ve been on a roll since.
As the Utah game’s second half began, Mr. Young – a 26-year-old clothing salesman who ministers in the evangelical Young Life program -stood shouting for a rally and brandishing his rooter rag, a towel bearing the Hornets’ logo.
“It’s just Hornet mania around here,” whooped Robin Garner, the 29-year-old general manager of a janitorial supply company. “This is the best thing that’s ever happened to Charlotte.”
Defeat, it seems, has lost its sting at the buzzing Charlotte Coliseum, just a layup from a parkway named for evangelist Billy Graham, a three-point shot from the empire that Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker built. Even though the team has played far better than the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) other expansion team, the Miami Heat, and has demonstrated its ability to pull an upset here and there, the Hornets are not likely to prey on their opponents with any regularity for a long time to come.
Even Coach Dick Harter, a former assistant with the Indiana Pacers, says his team, which had its first date with the Hawks in Atlanta on Saturday night, will be lucky to win 15 of its 82 games this season. But the Hornets are No. 1 in attendance throughout the NBA. And, in this bustling Sunbelt community sometimes touted as the next Atlanta, the Coliseum – where fans are gaining a reputation as their team’s best sixth man – has become the place to be seen.
Once a long shot to win any franchise other than one with golden arches, Charlotte solidified its claim on a place in the big league when more than 15,000 citizens rushed out to buy season tickets in the 23,388-seat Coliseum, the NBA’s largest. Even more tickets could have been sold had management not wanted a reserve for single-game sales. After just 15 home dates, the franchise slam-dunked the league’s attendance record for an entire season for a first-year franchise. A team likely t o go nowhere – and already playing there, in the opinion of some bigger-city sophisticates – the team has averaged more than 20,000 paying customers a night with 12 sellouts in its first 17 outings, and there is already a waiting list of 400 for season t ickets for next year.
Located in the heart of rabid Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) country, Charlotte long has been a hotbed of college basketball. But no one, with the possible exception of owner George Shinn – a one-time winner of the national Horatio Alger Award for his rags-to-riches life story – expected this kind of reaction to the professional game.
Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues, the only player from the vaunted ACC on the Hornets’ roster, put it this way as he pulled on his bright green alligator shoes after a recent game: “The fans here support you when you’re up or when you’re down. It’s great playing in Charlotte.”
Mr. Bogues, who played college basketball at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C, stands only 5 feet 3 inches, making him the shortest player in professional basketball. Early in his career, he was advised to give up the sport and find himself a paper route. But his perseverance is a symbol for the Hornets – a team of castoffs and rookies – and for Charlotte.
In their 26th-floor headquarters suite in a downtown tower, Hornets staff members are still pinching themselves after their successful courting of the NBA to score the franchise in April 1987. Furnished with all the flair of a Conyers dentist’s waiting room, the offices bustle with visitors raving about the team, and the phones – ringing constantly with requests for tickets or personal appearances by players – keep receptionists jumping.
Charlotte’s far-from-cynical fans are “a big story everywhere,” said Sam Russo, the team’s assistant vice president for business, who came here from the Denver Nuggets. “It’s a surprise to everyone. We’re doing better than anybody expected.”
Charlotte proper is one of the league’s smallest cities. But, Mr. Russo said, the market is much bigger than many think, because fans can be drawn from a 100-mile radius, an area with a population of 4.5 million.
“What you’ve got is a city with a small-town atmosphere,” said Hornets fan John Burgess, a 33-year-old construction superintendent. “I’ve been to a couple of Hawks games in Atlanta, and I’ve noticed that the people in the cheap seats care about the team. The ones on the good seats can give a damn. Here, everybody’s into it.”
“Everywhere you go in business, you talk about the Hornets,” agreed Chas Schaffernoth, a 29-year-old regional sales manager for a frozen-food firm. “At the YMCA working out, you talk about the Hornets.”
Signs of Hornet mania abound. When the team won two straight games, the Charlotte Observer ran a front-page story crowing “Winning Streak!” When Robert Reid, a player cast off by the Houston Rockets, commented that he missed home cooking, he was barraged by invitations to dinner in the homes of the faithful. Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants offer chances on a Hornets basketball. “We Support the Hornets,” proclaims a marquee at Todd’s Flowers. Not far from the Coliseum, Chili’s Grill and Ba r peddles a Hornets Slam Dunk drink, a $3 concoction of blue curacao, orange juice and vodka stiff enough to make out-of-towners cry foul. A just-opened bar dubs itself The Hornet’s Nest. And during the Christmas shopping season, stores such as Belk’s an d the Hornets Home Court -selling team hats, sweatsuits, warm-up jackets, clocks, mugs and Christmas tree ornaments – faced a full-court press from shoppers.
“Sales of this stuff have been pretty good,” acknowledged Bill Robbins, a vendor at one of the Coliseum’s souvenir booths. “You see ’em wearing it everywhere.”
“People just don’t care what they cost,” said Hendrick’s Sports Wear’s Janice Siomacco, whose own children just have to have Hornets pajamas. Temporarily helping out at the Hornets Home Court last week, she sighed, “We just don’t have anything to sell. Everybody bought it all.”
With a marketing strategy that would make the Harvard Business School wince, the Hornets are attracting both traditional sports fans and people who never paid much attention before, said the lawyerly general manager Carl Scheer, who held a similar post with the Los Angeles Clippers. “We have been supported by a broad-based cross section of society.”
Most fans come from Charlotte and nearby towns, but the following is swelling throughout the Carolinas and into Virginia, thanks to an 11-station television network and 33 radio outlets broadcasting the games.
Of the season-ticket holders, the bulk are 18 to 45 years old. Prices of $7 to $50 per game ensure that the majority are middle class, but at least one is a garbage man and another operates a hot dog stand. Many, such as Robin Garner, say they now consider the cost a necessity in their budgets.
“When I first looked at the season, I said there’s just no way you can go to 41 games,” said Mr. Garner, who also cheers for the 49ers of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in the Sun Belt Conference. “Now I wish there were more. I really miss them when they’re out of town.”
Vacationing in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, he caught a home game of the powerhouse Lakers but found the crowd ho-hum in comparison. “Lakers fans are just so used to winning and expect to win,” he said, shaking his head at such a notion. “Everybody just sat in their seats. Nobody got wild.” In contrast, he recalled opening night in Charlotte. “At one point we cut it to 25. I was jumping up and down. The crowd just never gave up.”
Especially for season-ticket holders, the Hornets have become a way of life. For games that tip off at 7:35 p.m., they avoid massive traffic jams by arriving around 6. Some, like Mr. Schaffernoth, pay an extra $400 a year plus $15.95 per meal to eat from the buffet in the Hornets’ Crown Club before games. More often than not, with as many as five customers in tow, he still manages to make it to his seats in time to watch pre-game warm-ups.
Other fans precede their jaunts to the arena with treks to local bars, where shuttle services get them to the games. True Legends, a sports bar and restaurant that opened earlier this year, operates five 15-seat vans and three buses taking 300 or more fans to each game. The fans, mostly yuppies packing American Express cards, munch or gobble from the restaurant’s Hornets’ Express menu before tip-off and stop in for a drink or two afterward. Even players from opposing squads – including Brad Daugherty, the former University of North Carolina standout now with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and most of the Dallas Mavericks – have taken to dropping in for the after-game parties.
In addition to leading the league in attendance, the Hornets are judged by many to be first in fashion, with their bold uniforms designed by North Carolina’s own Alexander Julian. Not to be left behind, the bulk of the fans make a fashion statement of their own by showing up for games dressed in teal clothes bearing the team’s distinctive emblem. Exceptionally fashion conscious, 18-year-old Darren Brooks – nicknamed Rambis in his church league after the Hornets’ bespectacled hulk, forward Kurt Rambis – went all the way at a recent game with Hornets cap, T-shirt, rooter rag and even Hornets boxer shorts, visible by an inch or two below the hem of his gym shorts.
If Hornets fans cheer lustily for their team, they also cheer for the ball boys and the half-time entertainers. One impromptu cheering squad has dubbed itself “The Swarm,” another, “The Buzz Club.” When the visiting Washington Bullets were introduced, Hornets fans held newspapers in front of their faces to show their lack of interest. Then they erupted into deafening noise for the home guys. When Rony Seikaly, a Miami rookie who had voiced his lack of interest in playing for Charlotte, cam e to town, he was booed loudly every time he touched the ball.
And when the team is away, its fans still play. True Legends often has a waiting list for reservations on the nights of televised away games. Once the five wide-screen television screens flash on, the atmosphere is almost like the Coliseum’s. And even the avid pool players, who generally keep the balls rolling on the bar’s 10 tables, pause to watch.
“God knows,” said the bar’s sports-mad co-owner Tom Wicker, “Charlotte’s gone crazy.”
The Hornets are the first professional team many of the Charlotte fans have seen in person, but a fair number of the fans are transplants from other NBA cities, especially New York and Boston. Surprisingly few have any difficulty determining where their loyalty lies, however.
“The Boston Celtics, they’re great,” said Bean Town transplant, Mark Fallowes, who wore a Hornets warm-up jacket to a recent game. “But I’ve got to support the home team.”
“At first, I bought season tickets to see all the good teams play, like the Hawks,” said Mr. Burgess, who previously spent most of his sports dollars on Clemson University football games. “Now it’s to see the Hornets. This town was starved for something to be going on.”
Arguably the most popular basketball player in North Carolina is former Tarheel great Michael Jordan, now with the Chicago Bulls. “The first night Chicago was here, when they introduced Jordan, he got a standing ovation,” recalled Jeff Gryder, 35, an assistant electrical engineer. “But as soon as the game started, there was a swing in attitude and everyone was for the Hornets.”
Whether Hornet mania will continue remains to be seen. But Coach Harter – who calls Charlotte fans “the loudest and the most enthusiastic I have ever heard” – said some honeymoons turn into long marriages.
So far, the team is clearly doing something right. And most fans praise the management, which never stops promoting even while avoiding overselling its product.
“We pay attention to small details and try to really be concerned about the two words I stress in all our staff meetings: customer service,” conceded Mr. Scheer, who never answers questions about how many games the team might win.
That attitude extends to the players, a bunch of overachievers, as Mr. Scheer described them, who have managed to stay in most games even though their talent falls short.
In addition to Mr. Bogues, Mr. Rambis (once the blue-collar laborer doing the dirty jobs for the Los Angeles Lakers) and Kelly Tripucka (an ex-Utah bench warmer who has blossomed into the Hornets’ top scorer) are crowd-pleasers. And the team’s first choice in last year’s college draft, Rex Chapman, who left the University of Kentucky after his sophomore year, has a growing following.
“Our fans reach out to these very real misfits, and I use that term affectionately,” said Mr. Scheer. “Our players are recognized like rock stars in this town, and they are a good group of guys.”
Attempting to present a “complete entertainment package,” the Hornets don’t stop when the team takes a timeout. The management also emphasizes half-time shows – a Dixieland jazz band on the night the Utah Jazz played – and skits by the feisty mascot, Hugo the Hornet. To razz the Utah Jazz’s star Karl Malone, nicknamed The Mailman (because he delivers), Hugo danced and chased an actor dressed as a mailman around the Coliseum, while loudspeakers blared “Please, Mr. Postman” and “Return to Sender.” Then Hugo trotted over to a line of children waiting to be hoisted in the air.
“It’s a real happening,” said Mr. Scheer.
The attractive arena, a $52 million temple for basketball with teal and blond decor and a cozy feel despite its size, has been another plus. “As Al McGuire said, there are no Bob Uecker seats in that building,” said Mr. Russo.
Nevertheless, filling so many seats is a task that may prove formidable after the newness wears off. The Jazz, for instance, began their first season in New Orleans wanting to win 23 games but endured losing seasons for 10 years – and moved to Salt Lake City – before managing to field a winner. Spoiled by the success of area college teams, Charlotte fans may not be willing to wait as long before growing restive.
“I’m not convinced this is a long-term [success] story,” Mr. Scheer said. “The day, the hour, that we begin thinking that it is, we begin to fail. This is so early to tell how long it’s going to last.”
The look of concern that stole onto his face vanished quickly, however, as he began to discuss future players who might be brought to Charlotte. “If we were to get a Danny Ferry [now starring at Duke University] or a J.R. Reid [the University of North Carolina star] or a Michael Jordan look-alike, you’d see Winston-Salem and north to Raleigh and south to Columbia would intensify their support,” Mr. Scheer said. “We haven’t even scratched the surface in the outlying ar eas.”
When the Hornets do, the question may be where to put those new fans. Mr. Schaffernoth, for one, believes the new converts will have a hard time making their way into the current congregation of the faithful.
“Everybody I know that holds season tickets is increasing the number next year,” he said. “If they let the Coliseum be sold out next year, it would be for the whole year.”
Photo: Andy Warnstaff of Charlotte, an 8-year-old Hornet fan, plays with the basketball team’s mascot / Louie Favorite
Photo: Nat Helms sells programs at the game / Louie Favorite Photo: Carl Scheer (left), team general manager, meets with Sam Russo, assistant vice president for business / Louie Favorite COlor photo: The Charlotte Hornets mascot (left) plays with Ryan Howe, 4, of Charlotte, during the team’s game against the Utah Jazz / Louie Favorite Color photo: Hornets fan Dan Young (below) cheers during the players’ introduction / Louie Favorite
Color photo: North Carolina’s own Alexander Julian designed the new uniforms of teal, purple and white (left) / Louie Favorite Color photo: Above, team members sporting the new colors are (from left) Rickey Green, Rex Chapman and Dell Curry / Louie Favorite
March 12, 1989
Southeast Economic Survey
Overbuilding Puts Construction Boom in Peril
Sallye Salter Staff Writer
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
A tower with a top that resembles a crown is rising in the heart of Charlotte, N.C., a city named for a queen. Its noted architect, Cesar Pelli, calls the design “a youthful gesture appropriate to the city a city that sees itself as being very progressive and going places” in the same manner NCNB Corp., which will occupy the tower, sees itself as “a very fresh young corporation going places.”
The 870-foot tower, to be the tallest building in the Southeast, is part of perhaps the tail end of a construction boom that has swept across the region’s ambitious cities as developers fled less attractive U.S. markets.
As typically happens in the real estate industry, however, they created too much of a good thing in many of those cities, and their excesses are compounded by sharply lower job growth.
In fact, it will be at least 1991 or 1992 before builders across the Southeast need to hoist cranes and crank concrete mixers again.
That’s how long it will take demand in the region as a whole to catch up with the supply of offices, stores and apartments.
W. Bethel Minter, an economist for Trust Company Bank, predicts “two more years of depressed real estate, unless there is a recession in 1990 – it’s touch and go whether there will be one – and if there is, the real estate recovery will be pushed out to 1992 from 1991.”
The region’s metropolitan areas “experienced phenomenal growth from 1983 through 1987 . . . [a level of growth that is] unsustainable over a long period of time,” according to Georgia State University’s Economic Forecasting Center.
Evidence of that can be found in the fact that five of the seven Southeastern states experienced a decline in the value of construction contracts awarded in 1988, compared to 1987, according to the F.W. Dodge Group of McGraw-Hill Information Services Co.
Yet the health of the real estate industry in the region’s cities varies widely. Some, such as Fort Lauderdale and Jacksonville, Fla., remain relatively attractive to developers.
Some of the cities where job growth was strongest, such as Nashville, Tenn., and Atlanta, attracted swarms of developers – often from less vibrant parts of the country – but are now increasingly drawing attention because of their excesses of development.
Atlanta, along with Phoenix, Ariz., was placed at the top of a list of “ten worse” markets for 1989 by Kenneth D. Rosen, chairman of the Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics at the University of California, Berkeley.
Nashville, which two years ago was touted as the next “Atlanta” [the next boom town] of the region, has slumped.
Nashville, which Georgia State said “may prove to be a good case study on how fast a city’s economic prospects can change due to speculative overbuilding,” has had a commercial vacancy rate in the 20 percent range since the spring of 1985.
In Atlanta, by far the region’s largest metropolitan area, real estate problems are beginning to show up in increasing foreclosures and loan delinquencies. It suffers primarily from too much development in the face of much slower job growth.
The office vacancy rate is in danger of rising substantially by the end of 1989 “due to potential double counting inherent in pre-leasing arrangements,” warned Georgia State. “The several million feet currently under construction may displace [tenants in] currently utilized space. If this occurs, the vacancy rate will easily surpass 20 percent by the end of 1989.”
Coldwell Banker, a national brokerage firm with offices across the Southeast, reported the vacancy rate fell during 1988 from 17.5 percent to 17.1 percent, but some other firms report it is a couple percentage points higher.
In metro Atlanta’s residential segment, building permits for single-family homes declined 12.5 percent from 1987 to 1988, while apartment permits rose 24 percent.
For Georgia as a whole, the total value of construction contracts awarded was down 5 percent in 1988, according to F.W. Dodge.
Among other Southeastern cities, Charlotte ranked as the Southeast’s fastest-growing city outside Florida in the first half of 1988, and faces the possibility of becoming overbuilt.
“With construction in a general regional decline, it would not be surprising to find investors and developers rushing to Charlotte,” cautioned Georgia State.
Indeed, many are already there. More than 2 million square feet of office space was completed last year, reported Cushman & Wakefield, another national brokerage firm active in the region. The firm said 1988 was the city’s third consecutive year of slow leasing and expects tenant concessions to continue to increase this year.
Coldwell Banker said the vacancy rate climbed to 17.1 percent from 14.5 percent during 1988. At the same time, demand for speculative office space in Charlotte is being curbed by a trend for companies to own their own buildings or have them constructed to their specifications.
North Carolina was one of the two Southeastern states where construction activity increased in 1988. The value of construction contracts awarded last year was 6 percent higher than in 1987, although the residential segment decreased 1 percent. F.W. Dodge reported that the value of construction contracts awarded in the state in 1988 decreased 3 percent from 1987, with the biggest drop, 14 percent, in construction of infrastructure, utilities and public facilities. Residential contracts, which include hotels as well as homes, rose 2 percent.
Jacksonville is ranked by Georgia State as a “bright spot” among Florida cities. Its office vacancy rate declined to 13.3 percent by the end of 1988 from 15.6 percent a year earlier, according to Coldwell Banker statistics.
Jacksonville’s residential building declined continuously from 1985 through the first half of 1988.
In Fort Lauderdale, where Coldwell Banker reported that the metrowide office vacancy rate tumbled from 28 percent to 20.9 percent during 1988, five downtown office buildings have been proposed.
Current absorption and tenant activity indicate that the Fort Lauderdale area “will be able to support the level of proposed and current construction,” according to Cushman & Wakefield. The firm expects the office market to continue to strengthen in 1989 as both vacancies and tenant concessions decrease.
Orlando, whose source of prosperity is continued Disney development, experienced a decline in office vacancy to 19.8 percent at year-end 1988 from 23.1 percent a year earlier, according to Coldwell Banker.
Regulations restricting development will intensify in 1989, keeping a lid on additional building, predicts Cushman & Wakefield.
Alabama, the only Southeast state other than North Carolina to show an increase in construction activity, saw the total value of contracts awarded there rise 13 percent in 1988. The commercial sector was up 45 percent.
Alabama’s residential activity slowed sharply, with building permits declining throughout 1987 and the first half of 1988. The value of residential contracts was down 14 percent for the year.
Birmingham, known as one of the Southeast’s most industrialized cities, “should continue to grow at a moderate but slowing pace through most of 1989,” according to Georgia State researchers. It has sizable commercial construction projects downtown, but the volume of housing permits has been declining sharply since mid-1987.
Mr. Minter predicted that developers across the Southeast will be slow to pick up the pace again, just as they were slow to react to rising vacancy rates.
The mounting vacancies have “been obvious in surveys for three years or so,” he said. And even now, he worries, “there probably is still too much [construction] going on.”
Yet for an area’s economy as a whole, contends Mr. Minter, “it is entirely conceivable that the net effect [of overbuilding] on the economy is a wash over a period of time.” The negative effects on developers, financiers and constructi on workers are offset by the positive effect of plentiful, cheap space, he said.
May 17, 1989
To Pelli, Atlanta Looks to Future
Architect Plans Tower Here
Tom Walker Staff Writer STAFF
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
SECTION: LOCAL NEWS
Atlanta is a city whose greatest times are in its future, unlike Manhattan – a great city with its best times past. That’s how nationally renowned architect Cesar Pelli sees the city for which he is designing a landmark skyscraper – a building slated to be as many as 70 stories tall on Peachtree Street.
“In Atlanta, one senses the great period is going to be the 21st century,” Mr. Pelli told an audience at Archifest ’89, the Atlanta architectural community’s annual celebration of urban design this week.
“I like to work in a city that is in the process of making itself,” said Mr. Pelli, who has started preliminary design work on the skyscraper which Toronto-based Bramalea Ltd. plans to build in the northern part of downtown Atlanta, across from Peachtree Center.
Bramalea’s building will contain more than a million square feet of office space.
Mr. Pelli, the former dean of the Yale School of Architecture, cited Los Angeles and Houston as other examples of “21st century” cities, contrasting them with cities like Boston, Manhattan and San Francisco that have “the character of having had their day of glory some time in the past.”
He made a strong case that Atlanta’s downtown – not its suburbs – is where the action will be in the future.
“You only have one hope of creating a reasonable urban area in Atlanta, and that is downtown,” he said. “It will never happen in the suburbs. They [suburbs] don’t create a ‘place.’
“One of the important things urban life offers is to be able to go somewhere with no purpose in mind and still be rewarded. The suburbs don’t do that,” he said.
The Bramalea site is the triangle where Peachtree and West Peachtree streets converge downtown. It is across from the site of Atlanta architect-developer John C. Portman Jr.’s planned 60-story office tower, and just a few blocks from the 50-story 191 Peachtree Tower, already under development by a partnership between Cousins Properties Inc. and Gerald Hines Interests.
The two buildings “will move the center of gravity of downtown north very fast,” said Mr. Pelli.
Douglas N. Salter, president of Bramalea USA Urban Properties Inc., the Dallas-based U.S. subsidiary of Bramalea Ltd., said he could not talk about the status of the project.
But Mr. Salter, in Atlanta to attend Mr. Pelli’s Archifest lecture, said a project of this scale looks ahead to a downtown office market well into the 1990s, presumably when Atlanta’s huge surplus of vacant office space will be shrinking.
Mr. Pelli has become prominent especially during the 1980s with his designs for such projects as New York City’s World Financial Center and Winter Garden at Battery Park.
He is also the architect for NCNB Corporate Center, a 60-story office tower in Charlotte, N.C. At 870 feet, it will be the tallest building in the Southeast, surpassing Atlanta’s 813-feet-tall IBM Tower in Midtown.
His New Haven, Conn.-based Cesar Pelli & Associates was this year’s recipient of the coveted Architectural Firm Award presented annually by the American Institute of Architects. The award is given to a firm that “has consistently produced distinguished architecture for at least 10 years.”
March 18, 1990
SOUTHEAST ECONOMIC SURVEY
Charlotte’s Queen City-size task: Managing its good fortune
Joe Drape Staff writer
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – For now, what is to become the Southeast’s tallest building is just a mudhole on Tryon Street, a vast playpen for hard-hatted construction engineers and jutting cranes. Still two years away from touching the Carolina skies at 60 stories, the NCNB Corporate Center is already a symbol of New South prosperity. While those in the pit spend the early part of the 1990s wrestling the logistics in putting up such a visible monument to growth and riches, city officials will tackle an even more cumbersome problem: How to put in place an infrastructure equipped to handle the byproducts of sustained good fortune?
“This is a finance, insurance and real estate town. Those industries are not cyclical and will continue to do very well in the 1990s,” says John Connaughton, an economist at the Universtity of North Carolina-Charlotte.
“In a sense though, Charlotte is at a crossroads in managing growth.”
It is fitting that $150 million, Cesar Pelli-designed colossus – one of several new downtown skyscrapers under construction – is being built by one of the region’s most aggressive and successful financial institutions, NCNB Corp.
The Charlotte-based bank, along with cross-town rival First Union Corp., have been the major catalysts in thrusting the so-called “Queen City” onto the growth charts and into the financial world’s conciousness.
Together they account for the bulk of $100 billion in assets that makes Charlotte the 6th-largest financial center in the United States.
Their presence certainly was a draw for some 383 new and expanded businesses in 1989, totaling $627 million in capital investment in Mecklenburg County and nearly 7,500 new jobs, according to the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce.
Charlotte’s blossoming economy and burgeoning population, along with its ranking as the 24th-largest air-transport center, have been used in regional pitches to land such plums as the National Basketball Association’s Charlotte Hornets.
Some of the city’s economic fat has spilled over into such high-profile endeavors as stalking an National Football League franchise -with a downtown site already approved by the City Council and available for construction of a privately-funded $125 million dollar stadium.
And the NCNB tower will also include a $38 million state-of-the-art performing arts center.
Still, many Charlotteans worry that city and county officials have too long neglected the more mundane, but necessary, areas such as criminal justice, traffic and development.
“It is essential that we put in place a planning apparatus,” says Cyndee Patterson, a third-term City Council member. “We’ve been aware of this and working toward it, but our rapid growth has made it difficult.”
A recent citizens commission report sternly warned that the Mecklenburg County criminal justice system lacked prosecutors, jail space and organization to cope with an already increasing crime rate. Snarled traffic has long been the bane of Charlotteans who have tired of slow-moving city efforts to address rush-hour congestion.
A $1 billion, 63-mile loop, or “outerbelt,” around Charlotte, meanwhile, is haltingly making its way through the rounds of public meetings and land use studies – leaving frustrated homeowners, developers and state and local officials in its wake.
City Council member Ms. Patterson says the future of Charlotte lies perhaps in a cooperative, new-thinking balance between the business community and the pu blic sector.
“Some of the development community wants to build cities like they did in the 1960s and 1970s – with sprawling sub-divisions and no through streets, having to get everywhere by car. That will doom us,” she says. “We hope we’ve all learned our lesson.”
photo: Things are great and apparently getting even better for Charlotte. And the Queen City’s optimism probably could be reflected no more dramatically than in the right photo, in which workers are laying the groundwork for the 60-story NCNB Corporate Center, adding to an already-gleaming skyline. But there’s also the task of putting in place an infrastructure equipped to handle the byproducts of sustained good fortune. Bumper-to-bumper traffic on Independence Boulevard (left photo) – along with a rising crime rate – are among the other challenges facing Charlotte. / Jim Gund / Special
September 18, 1990
The Atlanta Olympics
World-class! Proud city brings home the gold
Athens defeated on 5th vote
Bert Roughton Jr. and Karen Rosen Staff writers
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
TOKYO – Atlanta’s Olympic dream has come true. Promising to stage the best Olympics the world has known, Atlanta today won the right to play host to the 1996 Games, which will mark the beginning of the second century of the modern Olympics. Atlanta will be only the third U.S. city to host the Summer Games.
The nearly 400 Atlantans scattered around the enormous, ornate ballroom of the New Takanawa Prince Hotel exploded into cheers as International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Juan Antonio Samaranch made the simple announcement.
“The International Olympic Committee has awarded the 1996 Olympic Games to the city of . . . Atlanta,” Mr. Samaranch said.
Atlanta Organizing Committee (AOC) President Billy Payne embraced former Mayor Andrew Young and Mayor Maynard H. Jackson, who were sitting on the front row, in front of a stage where 86 IOC members were standing.
Charlie Battle, an AOC member whose personal skills at lobbying IOC members were a key to Atlanta’s win, said he was “stunned.”
“I’m excited. I’m elated. I’m shell-shocked,” he said. “I can’t express it, I’m at a loss for words.”
Martha Payne, Mr. Payne’s wife, sat on the edge of her seat until the announcement and then hugged their daughter, Elizabeth, and son, Porter. Vince Dooley, Mr. Payne’s former football coach at the University of Georgia, had tears in his eyes. Mr. Young sat and wept quietly. Mr. Payne leapt on the stage and was mobbed by TV crews and reporters.
Mr. Payne, Mayor Jackson and Gov. Joe Frank Harris signed the IOC contract at a table onstage within minutes of the announcement.
A year ago, Atlanta was given virtually no chance of winning because of the emotional advantage held by Athens, which hosted the first modern Olympics in 1896. The Games were in Los Angeles only six years ago, which some felt made any U.S. candidate a longshot.
However, the handicaps were overcome by a cadre of Atlanta volunteers led by Mr. Payne, who fathered Atlanta’s Olympic dream in 1987. The IOC members also were swept away by the outpouring of public support they found in Atlanta.
“People, people,” Mr. Payne shouted above the din to a reporter asking him what won the Games for Atlanta. For a time, there was pandemonium. The stage was packed with Atlantans chanting, “Atlanta, Atlanta . . . Atlanta ’96” and “BILL-LEE, BILL-LEE.”
“Somebody asked me did I think Billy Payne was crazy,” Mayor Jackson said later. “I said, no, Billy Payne was born to do the Olympics.”
In what has been described as one of closest competitions ever, the IOC took five rounds of votes to reach a decision. Atlanta trailed Athens on the first ballot, 23-19. Belgrade was knocked out, then Manchester, then Melbourne. When Toronto, which held 22 votes, was eliminated in the fourth round, Atlanta soared to 51 votes.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Horace Sibley, one of the AOC’s key players. “I leaped out of my chair 40 feet in the air, thanked my lucky stars and thanked the people of Atlanta for the wonderful job they’ve done the past four years. I know that we will put on the best Olympics ever.”
Later, in the calmer atmosphere of a brief news conference, Mr. Payne explained what Atlanta had told the IOC. “We assured them, we promised the members of the International Olympic Committee that we would stage the best ever Olympic Games in 1996. And first and foremost, we’re going to honor that commitment.”
“If you believe that if you surrounded yourself with enough talent, enough good friends, enough people willing to push or pull all in the same direction, there can be absolutely no limitation on what you can achieve,” Mr. Payne said.
“About three years ago, when we won the designation for the Democratic National Convention,” Mr. Harris said, “I thought that was great. Earlier in the year, when we won the ’94 Super Bowl, I thought that was outstanding. But tonight, I don’t know that there’ll be the words in my vocabulary to explain the feelings that I feel and the emotionalism that came to the fact that we’re going to have the ’96 Olympics in Georgia.”
The Games are expected to have an economic impact of $3.48 billion, the equivalent of more than 50 Super Bowls, during the next six years.
“I remember the little things,” Mr. Young said. “I remember the kids in the square in Savannah singing, the people in the hotels who just made everybody who visited Atlanta . . . feel they were in a special place.”
When asked if the IOC had sold out to the prospect of more money with a U.S. host city, Mr. Young introduced the world press to a Georgia saying: “That dog won’t hunt,” he said.
In the days leading up to the vote, Atlanta seemed to be gaining momentum, and on the morning of the city’s final presentation, some observers declared Atlanta the clear front-runner.
Atlanta, Toronto and Melbourne had attempted to become viable alternatives to Athens, and all were well received by the IOC.
Dick Pound, an IOC member from Canada, said the historical argument for Athens simply had not been enough. “Really, your centennial Games are the launch of the second century, not a celebratory mass,” Mr. Pound said.
It has been an emotional week in Tokyo leading up to today’s vote. Some of the Atlantans were overcome with emotion after the crucial, final presentation this morning. Mr. Payne was in tears.
“It went real good,” Mr. Payne said. “It hit on all four cylinders. We could have done it a thousand times, and it couldn’t have gone any better.”
In the presentation, the Atlantans, who have been seen as the high-tech candidate, stressed the themes of youth, hope and trust.
“In a world seemingly more uncertain and unpredictable every day, there will be no uncertainty about the Atlanta Games, no question about our ability to prepare and no doubt that the driving force and motivation behind the Atlanta effort is that same volunteer spirit and love of sport which gave birth to the Olympic meovement and which gives hope for the future,” Mr. Payne told the IOC members.
Mr. Young, the most experienced orator to speak to the IOC, stressed the city’s emotional appeal. “I know that for you – and for all of the people of the world – it comes down to two overriding questions,” Mr. Young said.
“Where will the Olympic flame burn brightest? Who will make the Olympic spirit soar the highest? You know Atlanta. You know me. You know the rest of our organizing team. You have seen our credentials. You have seen our qualifications. You have asked many searching questions about our city – the answers filled five volumes,” Mr. Young said. “But there are things about Atlanta that could never be put into a credentials presentation.”
November 12, 1990
Southern cities vie for second ‘Hartsfield’
Economic health critical to choice
Charles Haddad Staff writer
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
SECTION: NATIONAL NEWS
PAGE: A/1 A/08
In 100 years of economic rivalry, there’s one loss that Birmingham, Ala., will forever hold against Atlanta. It is the day 49 years ago when Delta Air Lines chose Atlanta over Birmingham as the new headquarters for its burgeoning operations.
Delta’s decision transformed a busy regional airport into an international hub. The airport’s expansion helped catapult Atlanta over Birmingham – about equal in size and economic clout in the early 1940s -to become the South’s commercial center.
Now Birmingham and Alabama are plotting revenge. The state is studying the possibility of adding another airport to serve as an international hub, in direct competition with Atlanta’s Hartsfield International.
Alabama is the latest Southeastern state hoping to cash in on Hartsfield’s success. Airports from Nashville to New Orleans are gambling millions in the airport sweepstakes.
For some, the investment has paid off. Airports in Charlotte, N.C., and Nashville, Tenn., each pump more than $1 billion annually into their economies.
That’s tempting economic largesse. Now a second group – including New Orleans; Louisville, Ky.; and the state of Alabama – wants to embark on major airport expansions.
“Without question, airports can be engines of economic development,” said Drew Steketee, executive director of Partnership to Improve Air Travel, a group of airline executives promoting the industry. But he and other industry experts warn that airport expansions are not cure-alls for economic stagnation. What worked in Charlotte may fail in New Orleans.
There are two primary reasons.
One is that the South has more than enough hubs, industry experts agree. But they add that the second factor is more important: Kentucky, Alabama and Louisiana lack both the population and the economic base to support major new airports.
“You have to have a nucleus of development before an airport becomes an economic catalyst in its own right,” said Lawrence Cuningham, visiting professor of airline marketing at Duke University.
Neither Louisiana’s nor Kentucky’s populations grew during the 1980s, while the number of people living in North Carolina surged more than 500,000 in the past decade.
North Carolina added 81,300 new jobs in 1989 alone. Louisiana and Alabama added only 4,500 and 29,600 jobs respectively last year.
A thriving hub, says Mr. Steketee, needs two conditions: A metro-area population of at least 1 million and a local economy growing at a 3 percent clip annually, averaged over a decade.
Given those requirements, “Alabama doesn’t make sense,” said James Murphy, retired longtime vice president of the Air Transport Association, an industry trade group. “Where’s the market? Why go there when Hartsfield is already so close and so established?”
Nevertheless, the hunger remains. Birmingham is renovating its airport and state officials are studying where to build a new international hub. New Orleans officials are trying desperately -although unsuccessfully so far – to attract a major new airline to turn their airport into a hub.
They all find Hartsfield’s phenomenal success too much to ignore.
Every day, 1,100 flights depart from Hartsfield’s four runways, including 17 headed overseas. In 1989, the last count, airlines brought more than 44 million people to Hartsfield. Those travelers bought everything from soft drinks to legal services, pumping nearly $7 billion into the area and making Hartsfield the single most powerful cylinder in Atlanta’s economic engine.
The success didn’t go unnoticed – or unenvied. By the late 1970s, nearly every other major Southern city was considering ways to build its own Hartsfield. Airports in Orlando, Miami and Fort Lauderdale expanded rapidly, fueled by tourism.
Raleigh-Durham International Airport has spent $206.5 million on expansions – most by American Airlines, which made the city a hub by building a glistening, $120 million new terminal.
American Airlines has helped to more than double Raleigh’s daily departures, to 250, in the past five years. The airport pumps $800 million annually into the local economy, according to a 1988 master plan.
In Nashville, which American Airlines also decided to convert into a hub, $300 million has been spent in the past five years to add runways, build terminals and expand old ones.
And in Charlotte – Hartsfield’s biggest and most successful challenger – $100 million went to build a new terminal and redo the old ones. Today, the airport has 484 daily departures, with several non-stop flights to Europe.
“The perception used to be that Hartsfield had it all,” said Paulette Purgason, Charlotte International Airport spokeswoman. “But now businessmen in Spartanburg, S.C., who used to drive to Hartsfield, fly instead from Charlotte.”
And while airport directors deny that they are competing with Hartsfield, statistics show otherwise. In the past three years, annual arrivals and departures at Atlanta have fallen 16 percent, from a high of nearly 800,000.
Hartsfield and Atlanta city officials, who run the airport, are not taking their competitors lightly. Plans for a $100 million fifth runway for commuter airlines are meeting with neighborhood protests.
And the airport is about to build a $300 million international concourse, which, according to Delta spokesman Neil Monroe, “is essential to keeping Hartsfield the No. 1 airport of the South.”
But with completion of these projects, Hartsfield will run out of growing room. So state officials are debating where to build a second major airport.
While still arguing about where to build Atlanta’s second airport, most experts agree that it must be completed within 10 years. Otherwise, Hartsfield will become so congested that some airlines will consider going elsewhere – providing new ammunition for the competition.
Georgia’s effort to build a second airport also once again puts it head-to-head with Alabama, because the Federal Aviation Administration is expected to approve only one more major airport for the region.
This time, Alabama officials say they are determined to win.
Said James Durham, the state’s Air Transport Coordinator, “A lot of people here are still smarting over the loss of Delta.”
Challengers of Atlanta’s airport
A comparison of Atlanta’s airport with those in some of the cities that want a piece of its airline action:
………………………….. Daily …….. Most recent ……. Annual economic
Airport ………….. departures ……. expansion* …….. impact
Atlanta…………… 1,100 ……….. $650 million ………. $7 billion
Charlotte ………….. 484 ……….. $100 million ………. $1 billion
Raleigh-Durham …. 250 ……….. $206.5 million …….. $800 million
Nashville ………….. 241 ……….. $300 million ………. $1.3 billion
New Orleans …….. 152 ………… $23.5 million ……… $1.5 billion
Birmingham ……….. 70 ………… $125 million ………. $700 million
* Includes terminals, parking, runways
Sources: Individual airport authorities
photo: Raleigh-Durham International Airport in North Carolina has spent $206.5 million on expansions, and its departures have more than doubled since 1985. American Airlines has made the airport one of its hubs.
June 27, 1991
If two combine, new bank will be No. 2 in the U.S.
If NCNB Corp. succeeds in gobbling up C&S/Sovran, it will be a blow more to Atlanta’s ego than to its pocketbook.
The acquisition would take from the city one of its last big home-based commercial banks. And that loss probably would end Atlanta’s chances of becoming a regional banking center.
But C&S/Sovran’s Georgia operations would most likely remain based in Atlanta, with many of its 29,310 employees eventually occupying one of the city’s tallest buildings.
David McNaughton Staff writer
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
Can you visualize a North Carolina bank’s flag flying atop Georgia’s soon-to-be-tallest building, the C&S Plaza at Peachtree and North Avenue? Stranger things have happened than NCNB Corp. occupying C&S/Sovran’s new Atlanta headquarters. The Berlin Wall fell. Russia embraced democracy.
The last time NCNB offered to buy C&S, it was treated like a carpetbagger.
This time is different. It looks as if C&S/Sovran Corp., the nation’s 12th-biggest banking company, might be willing to become part of NCNB, the seventh-largest.
They would combine to form the nation’s second-largest bank. Only New York’s Citicorp would be larger.
The two companies announced Wednesday that they are talking about merging. It’s not a done deal, but this time NCNB looks like a more attractive partner to C&S/Sovran and its chairman, Bennett A. Brown. People who follow banking think the chances of it happening are good.
But what would it mean for Atlanta’s psyche? For the city as a banking center?
After all, the city’s success in race relations and its ability to become the home of the Braves and Falcons is credited in good part to C&S when Mills B. Lane Jr. was running the bank.
There are 5,500 C&S/Sovran employees, 111 branches, another 10 commercial offices and the headquarters in metro Atlanta. The company and the employees contribute $5 million a year in cash and time to the community.
“You have to say losing a major corporation is not only a perception loss, but there is some real loss in the community’s sense of muscle,” said Phillip M. Larkins, director of investments at Bank South Corp.
But people who study banking companies point out that C&S would probably still be run from Atlanta and that the new headquarters tower would still hold bank employees.
There are a lot of other questions – about employees, top executives, the other C&S/Sovran headquarters tower in Norfolk, Va. -that won’t be answered until and unless NCNB and C&S/Sovran agree to become one company.
What would a merger mean for customers?
The larger the bank, the more services and more advanced technology it should be able to offer, said John S. Poelker, a banking consultant with Edgar, Dunn & Co. in Atlanta.
Also unanswered is how Mr. Brown of C&S/Sovran and NCNB’s aggressive boss, Hugh L. McColl, would get along.
Two years ago, Mr. Brown declared C&S “is not for sale,” and rejected NCNB’s offer partly on grounds that C&S was a better corporate citizen in Georgia than NCNB could ever hope to be.
That was then
What has changed? The times.
Charlotte-based NCNB has gotten bigger and stronger. C&S merged with Sovran Financial Corp. of Norfolk and inherited a lot of bad loans.
Was the Sovran merger a bad decision for C&S? It’s hard to say.
“Timing is everything,” Mr. Poelker said.
“At the time of the original [$39-per-share NCNB] deal, I think he was making what he thought was the best and most logical decision for C&S shareholders,” Mr. Poelker said. “The situation has changed. It doesn’t suggest that the C&S/Sovran transaction was a mistake. But the facts have changed.”
If NCNB gets C&S/Sovran this time, the impact would reach far beyond Atlanta, creating a banking company with offices from Maryland to Florida to Texas.
The next step in this courtship is for Mr. Brown to talk to his directors about what NCNB is offering. That’s supposed to happen today.
If both banking companies can agree on a price and other details, banking regulators and shareholders would get their chances to approve or reject a marriage.
Color photo: C&S Plaza, under construction, will be Georgia’s tallest building / Walter Stricklin / Staff
August 23, 1991
No longer is Atlanta hub of the universe
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
Some 12 to 15 years ago it was common to hear air travelers around the country say they didn’t know whether they were bound for heaven or hell, but they knew they’d have to go by way of Atlanta. You don’t hear that much these days. Atlanta now finds itself up to its ego in competition with other Southeastern cities for airport business.
Nobody is more aware of that development than Ira Jackson, Atlanta’s aviation commissioner.
Mr. Jackson, in an interview this week, said the new reality is that Atlanta no longer sits unchallenged atop the airport business in the Southeast.
There are signs even at City Hall that the new reality may not have sunk in, where politics gets confused sometimes with economic policy.
“The old idea that everybody must go through Atlanta is a myth,” Mr. Jackson said.
Airlines serving the Southeast are placing hubs and other levels of service elsewhere these days.
“They include Raleigh-Durham, Charlotte, Nashville, Orlando, Cincinnati and Memphis out there now bidding for business . . . so many choices,” Mr. Jackson said.
And the situation at Hartsfield International Airport has changed too, from an airport where Delta and Eastern together had 85 percent of the traffic, to an airport where Delta alone has 82 percent, the commissioner said.
That dominance, he said, “means it will not be easy to transplant a rival hub carrier. Chances are, we’ll have to grow another hub carrier.”
As for Delta, which leaps to global size with its pending purchase of a substantial share of Pan Am operations, the change has been lightning-like – and its place in relation to Hartsfield may have changed, too.
Mr. Jackson, who has been criticized for appearing too sympathetic to Delta, points out that soon Delta will have in Cincinnati just 12 fewer gates than it occupies at Hartsfield.
And with its new overseas routes courtesy of Pan Am, Mr. Jackson said, Delta arguably could place international flights that would have been out of Atlanta, in Orlando or New York’s JFK International -especially if delays continue to hamper work on the new international concourse at Hartsfield.
On another front, of course, Delta has options in Florida for its now-needed maintenance facility for its A-310 aircraft.
Regarding the effort to make sure minorities have access to airport business and construction, Mr. Jackson said, given the tender competitive position of the airport, we need to negotiate with the airlines and contractors, and rely less on proclamations and decrees.
“I want to see minorities involved in the whole range of activities at the airport,” he said, “but we’re going to have to develop new approaches. I think quiet negotiation, rather than intimidation, will achieve the desired results more quickly.”
October 31, 1991
Atlanta’s skyline hits new heights
TOPPING the TOWER
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
The final section of the 50-ton, 90-foot gold-leaf spire is hoisted into place atop the C&S Plaza tower Wednesday as a helicopter hovers and the moon fades. Topping out at 1,023 feet, the building is Atlanta’s tallest. It will be renamed NationsBank Plaza following the proposed merger of C&S/Sovran Corp. and NCNB Corp. The spire is covered in 405 square feet of 23-karat gold leaf – much like the dome on the Georgia Capitol.
C&S Plaza at a glance
Height: 1,023 feet, 55 stories.
Site: Peachtree Street at North Avenue.
Completion date: Early 1992.
Comparison: One Peachtree Center, 842 feet; New York, Empire State Building, 1,414 feet; Chicago, Sears Tower, 1,454 feet.
December 18, 1991
’91 ravaging Atlanta, panel says
Tom Walker, Staff Writer
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
Metro Atlanta’s economy will take one of the worst hits in the city’s 154-year history this year because of the recession, a panel of economists said Tuesday. Georgia State University economist Donald Ratajczak, who as recently as October estimated metro Atlanta would lose 13,500 jobs in 1991, escalated his forecast Tuesday to 22,000 – the largest number of lost jobs “since Sherman burned Atlanta.”
That was the fourth revision Dr. Ratajczak has made in his job loss forecast this year, each one higher than the last as the economic slump persisted.
The latest number would represent 1.4 percent of the metro work force. Atlanta suffered a bigger percentage loss – 2.1 percent but fewer total jobs – in the 1974 recession when the local economy was much smaller.
Dr. Ratajczak attributed the losses to the recession’s impact on Atlanta’s large service sector – which has shielded the city from past economic slumps – as well as to several big business failures, such as Eastern Airlines, and the erosion of local manufacturing industry.
“We have given away too much,” Dr. Ratajczak said of metro Atlanta’s steady loss of industrial employment over the last two decades. He cited the loss of Eastern’s hub, the closing of an auto assembly plant and sharp cutbacks at Lockheed’s Marietta plant.
Dr. Ratajczak’s job loss estimate does not take into account the possible closing of GM’s Doraville assembly plant, which employs 2,500. But he said his long-range economic outlook for metro Atlanta is based on the assumption that plant will be closed in 1993.
Dr. Ratajczak, addressing the Atlanta Economics Club, also predicted that metro Atlanta’s economy will not begin to recover until the second half of 1992. For the year, he expects 14,000 new jobs will be created, all in the second half.
Other panelists echoed his pessimism. Don Sabbarese, co-director of the new Ekonometrics research center at Kennesaw State College, said he does not expect the local economy to improve “for the next six months.”
That outlook was based on the center’s poll of local corporate purchasing managers, who are often the first to witness the impact of a company’s decision to curtail – or increase – the output of goods.
He said new orders for manufactured goods improved in the spring, stalled in May and dipped by late summer. After a brief rise in September and October, new orders fell in November.
Even when the economy turns around, jobs will continue to be lost, warned Moncure Crowder, executive vice president and treasurer of Wachovia Bank of Georgia. He said U.S. businesses will continue restructuring and downsizing until they eliminate the excess jobs created by rapid growth in the 1980s.
February 23, 1992
Atlanta is to Southerners what New York is to everyone else
BYLINE: AUCHMUTEY, JIM STAFF
Jim Auchmutey, Staff
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
Like the sibling who made good and won’t shut up about it, Atlanta has always inspired mixed emotions in the Southern provinces.
With apologies to Carl Sandburg
Growing up in Birmingham, writer Paul Hemphill remembers, people hated the “snotty city” to the east as naturally as they loved college football. Up in Nashville, though, former City Councilman Vernon Winfrey (Oprah’s daddy) recalls a feeling of envy and admiration: “We used to call Atlanta ‘Li’l Young New York’ cause it was trying so hard to get ahead. You’d always hear people saying, ‘Why can’t we be like Atlanta?’ ”
That ambivalence toward the Deep South’s largest population center shows no signs of abating. It came through loud and clear in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Southern Poll as 1,140 adults throughout the region split almost down the middle over the question of whether Atlanta could even be considered a Southern city anymore. The state least likely to consider Atlanta Southern was South Carolina.
Think about it: Atlanta not Southern.
Did Deacon Burton stop pan-frying chicken? Did Travis Tritt lay down his guitar and go to work for IBM? Did Andrew Young take a course to lose his soft Southern accent?
What could these poll respondents mean?
Bobbie Byrd, a 40-year-old nurse, means that Atlanta’s traffic is so much worse than Alabama’s that she turned down a chance to work for more money at a hospital here. “I couldn’t move near a city my husband refuses to drive in.”
Charles Turner, 42, a salesman in Mobile, Ala., means that he dreads the no-longer-laid-back pace here. “That airport’s just like O’Hare, full of fast-moving people who act like they’re in Chicago. I guess Atlanta still has some Southern traits, but it sure is leaning toward the North.”
Carey Bates, 32, a manufacturer’s representative in Rock Hill, S.C., means that Atlanta has utterly changed since he lived here 20 years ago. “There’s such a mix of people now, the Southerness has worn off. I know several people in my industry have been mugged there during conventions. One of them was attacked by a big woman in broad daylight.”
Atlanta, it seems, is a sort of Rorschach test for Southerners. How they perceive the city speaks volumes about their attitude toward the changes that have swept the South since World War II.
Some look toward Peachtree and see skyscrapers, the Olympics, rapid transit, a tradition of tolerance – the stuff of progress. But others see traffic, crime, pollution, white flight, suburban sprawl – the byproducts of a Faustian bargain for growth and money.
Joel Garreau noticed this two-mindedness when he traveled the region for his 1981 book, “The Nine Nations of North America.” Southerners regarded Atlanta almost as extremely as Americans regarded New York. “Again and again,” he wrote, “I ran into this strange antipathy toward Dixie’s largest city.” He thought it reflected a fear that Atlanta-scale growth threatens the South’s small-town values.
That’s pretty much the same conclusion Nashville journalist John Egerton reached in his book “The Americanization of Dixie.” “Everyone looks to Atlanta with pride or horror,” he says, “because deep down inside they’re thinking, `That’s the future.’ ”
Atlanta has aspired to this role – the South’s most progressive city – for at least 100 years. W.E.B. Du Bois saw it when he came to teach at Atlanta University in the 1890s and discovered a black intellectual community unmatched in the region.
This was different from the Cotton Belt South, he decided, starting an essay on Atlanta with a memorable sentence: “South of the North, yet north of the South, lies the City of a Hundred Hills, peering out from the shadows of the past into the promise of the future.”
In Du Bois’s time, that promise had nothing to do with racial justice and everything to do with Atlanta’s willingness to hustle business like Yankees. Henry Grady, managing editor of The Atlanta Constitution, set the tone with his silver-tongued pleas for Northern capital and Southern industrialization.
Every city has its boosters, but Atlanta became known for them. It built statues of them. Soon people in Savannah were joking that if Atlanta could suck as hard as it could blow, it’d have an ocean port. “It’s brash and I like it,” Margaret Mitchell wrote.
People often cite that pushiness as an un-Southern trait. They’re mistaken, says David R. Goldfield, an urban historian at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. “That quest for identity is very Southern. It’s almost defensive – the little guy on the block, from a poor neighborhood, saying, `I’m gonna show you guys.’ ”
Mitchell’s Atlanta hadn’t shown a lot; it wasn’t much of a city. With barely half a million residents in the metro area, the Atlanta of 1940 saw Memphis and Birmingham and Louisville as its rivals. New Orleans dwarfed them all.
“Atlanta was a charming Southern city until World War II,” says former Birmingham Mayor George G. Seibels Jr. “Then it broke loose and went bananas.”
The key was probably the establishment of Atlanta as the South’s air hub. To this day, Mr. Seibels says, Birmingham residents resent having to drive east to Atlanta to fly back west over their hometown. The trip reminds the former mayor of Birmingham’s lost opportunities. “Atlanta has become very irritating to us,” he says.
Air service isn’t the only reason. The peak of the Atlanta-Birmingham rivalry coincided with the civil rights movement. While Bull Connor’s police dogs were shredding pants on network television, Atlanta’s mayor was testifying for civil rights before Congress while its most famous citizen, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
If Atlanta’s new slogan, “The City Too Busy to Hate,” seemed a bit smug to Northerners, it must have seemed downright insulting to many Southerners. It was like Atlanta thought it was somehow superior to the rest of the region.
Atlanta still seems ambivalent about the South, and it isn’t just the fact that half of the metro area’s new residents are non-Southerners.
“I think of Atlanta as the perfect market city for Southern Living,” says Dan Carter, a South Carolina-born historian at Emory University. “It’s the South domesticated, a little nostalgic about the rural life it left behind but more embarrassed that anyone might associate it with those country bumpkins out in the South.”
But Atlanta can’t disclaim the South any more than it can rid itself of heat and humidity. For all its pretensions to internationalism, Atlanta’s principal market remains the South. Besides, much of the region wants to emulate the city’s success, even as it fears its excesses. Call it the Next Atlanta Syndrome.
Nashville had a bad case in the late ’80s, riding out an Atlanta-style development boom and bust.
Jacksonville shows symptoms, too, unsuccessfully courting pro football teams so many times that it’s become known as America’s Bridesmaid. “Jesus Christ, we envy Atlanta,” says former Jacksonville Mayor Jake Godbold. “It’s the city that showed the rest of the nation the South was coming out of the Stone Age.”
The most conspicuous Next Atlanta city now is probably Charlotte, which once billed itself as “The Greatest Church-Going Town in the World, Except Edinburgh.”
Charlotte has come a long way since writer John Gunther recorded that slogan in the 1940s. The metropolitan area has grown to more than 1 million people; in fact, the population of the city proper surpassed Atlanta’s in 1990, a fact The Charlotte Observer reported under the droll headline “City Dwarfs Atlanta, Kind Of.” (Metro Atlanta is almost three times bigger, the paper conceded, but braggin’ rights is braggin’ rights.)
In recent years, Charlotte has become a regional airline hub (U.S. Air), a major-league city (pro basketball’s Hornets) and the Southeast’s leading banking center (NCNB finally having roped Atlanta’s C&S/Sovran into a merger).
“The feeling up here is that we managed to grow without screwing things up as badly as Atlanta,” says Mark Ethridge, publisher of the Business Journal of Charlotte. “Frankly, you don’t hear as much talk about Atlanta as you used to. Maybe it’s a sign that Charlotte is maturing.”
Yes, maturity. That probably explains an untrue but telling story of skyscraper jealousy the Business Journal checked out recently. According to a rumor making the rounds in Charlotte, NCNB chairman Hugh McColl wanted to tear down the skeletal top of Atlanta’s new C&S tower so his new NCNB edifice would be, at 875 feet, the tallest building in the South.
If that isn’t a case of Atlanta envy, The Varsity isn’t the world’s biggest drive-in.
Chart: What our readers said
Do you think of Atlanta as a distinctively Southern city, or is Atlanta pretty much like other cities in the United States?
Distinctively Southern 47%
Like other cities 44%
Chart: Bragging Rights
The South has gone to town, and these lists of the biggest, tallest, busiest and richest show it. The lists were drawn from the 12 states included in The Journal and Constitution’s Southern Poll, minus one. Texas was dropped because, well, it’s too big.
South’s Biggest Metro Areas
1. Miami-For Lauderdale-3,193,000
3. Tampa-St. Petersburg-2,068,000
5. New Orleans-1,239,000
Source: US Census Bureau
South Tallest Buildings
Height in feet
1. NationsBank Plaza, Atlanta-1,023
2. NationsBank Corporate Center, Charlotte-875
3. One Peachtree Center, Atlanta-842
4. One Atlantic Center, Atlanta-826
5. Southeast financial Center, Miami-765
6. Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta-754
7. 191 Peachtree Tower, Atlanta-740
8. Georgia Pacific Tower, Atlanta-700
9. One Shell Square, New Orleans-692
10. Promenade, Atlanta-691
Source: Chambers of Commerce
South’s Busiest Airports
1990 Passengers in thousands
1. Hartsfield Atlanta-48,025
4. Charlotte Douglas-15,614
7. Fort Lauderdale-9,098
10. New Orleans-6,961
Source: Airport Associations Council International
South’s Largest Public Companies
1990 revenues in billions
1. Mobil, Fairgax, Va. $58.8
2. Wal-Mart, Bentonville, Ark.-$32.6
3. BellSouth, Atlanta-$14.4
4. Georgia-Pacifi, Atlanta-$12.7
5. Coca-Cola, Atlanta-$10.4
6. Winn-Dixie, Jacksonville, Fla.-$9.7
7. Delta Air Lines, Atlanta-$8.6
8. Ashland Oil, Russell, Ky.-$8.6
9. CSX, Richmond, Va. -8.3
10. Southern Co., Atlanta-8.0
Source Fortune Magazine
(Banks and insurance companies not included)
South’s Biggest Shopping Malls
Leasable square feet in thousands
1. Sawgrass Mills, Sunrise, Fla.-2,000
2. Tysons Corner, McLean, Va.-1,900
3. Hanes Mall, Winston-Salem-1,800
4. Altamonte Mall, Altamonte Springs, Fla.-1,764
5. Florida Mall, Orlando-1,614
6. Cortana Mall, Baton Rouge-1,588
7. Riverchase Galleria, Birmingham-1,561
8. Springfield, (Va.) Mall-1,500
Source International Council of Shopping Centers (Several Atlanta malls just missed the list)
South’s Poorest Metro Areas
Percentage of population in poverty
1. New Orleans
Source: Univ. of Michigan Population Studies Center
South’s Worst Traffic
Roadway congestion index
Source: Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M
South’s Worst Air Pollution
Number of days per year in violation of federal ozone standards, 1987-89
2. Greensboro/Winston Salem-7.2
4. Baton Rouge-4.5
7. Owensboro, Ky.-3.7
Source: U.S Environmental Protection Agency
South’s Worst Murder Rates
1991 Homicides per 100,000 population
1. New Orleans-70
8. Virginia Beach-7
Source: FBI (cities of 300,000 or more) Photo: Nashville / The Associated Press
April 25, 1992
Atlanta-Fulton Stadium’s demise will not be inexpensive
Mike Fish, Staff Writer
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
Delivering the final blow to Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium looms as a costly proposition, perhaps approaching a $10 million price tag. The 53,000-seat stadium, constructed in 1965 in anticipation of the Braves move from Milwaukee, is penciled for demolition before the 1997 season. Plans call for the Braves to occupy the proposed Olympic stadium after the 1996 Games.
Scott Braley, project manager for the Braves design team, estimated demolition of the existing stadium in the $7 million-$10 million range. The entire Olympic stadium project, including demolition of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, is estimated to cost $200 million to $225 million.
“The difference in range is dependent upon how you physically demolish it,” Mr. Braley said. “Because it’s steel you can’t implode it. You see these things out of Danny Glover movies where the whole building blows up and caves in on itself. Steel doesn’t do that. You’d have to take it apart, literally cut it into pieces the way you demolish a large ship.
“The concrete can be bulldozed or knocked down with a wrecking ball. The cost depends on how you take it apart and how much you salvage. You can’t leave steel. But concrete you can break up and use to fill under what will be the parking lot.”
Dynamite apparently is out of the question because it’s only used where structures will collapse inward. And with the stadium being in the city, there would be the extra trouble and expense of having to cordon off the area to do controlled blasting.
Mr. Braley said demolition specialists would probably start after the 1996 season so the site can serve as a parking lot for the following baseball season.
The most likely item to be salvaged are the stadium seats. Seats from the old Comiskey Park were sold after the facility recently was torn down.
Olympic stadium project still hinges on the Braves signing
Letters to architects who have expressed an interest in bidding on the design project could be in the mail as early as this coming week, Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games [ACOG] officials said. ACOG hopes to select a team to design the Olympic stadium by early June.
The stadium project hinges, however, on the Atlanta Braves signing an agreement to occupy the stadium after the Games. Progress has been made on a lease agreement, but it is doubtful negotiators will meet ACOG’s informal deadline of May 1.
Negotiators are trying to get the project’s cost in line with ACOG’s contribution of $200 million. Within the past week, they’ve been able to reduce the cost by $15 million to $210 million.
Kansas City-based designers Howard Needles Tammen & Bergendoff [HNTB] and Atlanta’s Turner Associates, the largest minority-owned architectural firm in the Southeast, formally announced this week the formation of a partnership to bid on the project. Structural and mechanical engineers, along with other consultants, will likely be added to the design team within the next month.
HNTB, which has an Atlanta office, earned its reputation in the late 1960s for designing the Truman Sports Complex [Arrowhead and Royals Stadium] in Kansas City. Turner Associates has served as architect on Underground Atlanta, Zoo Atlanta and the Fulton County Government and Judicial Center. The firms began their association in 1990 with the design of the Dunwoody rapid transit station for MARTA.
Resignation helped clear way for approval of joint venture
After a review by its ethics committee, ACOG has approved a contract with the joint venture selected last month to manage the construction program for the 1996 Games.
The contract came into question because Susan J. Ross, the city of Atlanta’s acting director of the Office of Contract Compliance, was on the board of one of the minority partners in the joint venture. Ms. Ross has since resigned her non-paying position with MHR International, which is owned by her brother, Michael.
The joint venture, headed by Charlotte-based McDevitt & Street, also includes New York-based Lehrer McGovern and minority partner Charles F. McAfee, a Wichita, Kan.-based architect. MHR is responsible for developing minority and female participation guidelines for the construction program.
October 18, 1992
It stands for Charlotte with the official opening, NationsBank Tower takes its place on the city’s skyline and in its history
Richard Maschal , Staff Writer
The Charlotte Observer
CHARLOTTE- During the day it’s a knight’s castle, its crenellated crown gleaming in the sun. With fog and gray skies, it becomes a mysterious confection floating above uptown Charlotte. At night, it is a beacon, a fractured cylinder of light holding its own against the dark.
NationsBank Corporate Center responds with an array of moods to changes of weather. But whether in sunshine or rain, the 60-story tower at Trade and Tryon stands as a new symbol for Charlotte and the region, giving us a sense of ourselves and of wonder.
Sheathed in stone, aluminum and glass, full of granite and marble and flooded with natural light in its public spaces, the $150 million building designed by acclaimed architect Cesar Pelli gets a gala opening Saturday with fireworks and dance performances. The building is the tallest in the South as measured by stories. The former C&S Plaza in Atlanta is about 100 feet taller by virtue of a spire added to its 55 floors.
Since the 1991 merger of NCNB Corp. and C&S/Sovran Corp., the Atlanta building is now NationsBank Plaza, owned by the corporation headquartered in Charlotte.
However, the context of the Charlotte building is broader than the region. It would be at home in Atlanta or Houston – or Chicago or New York.
“Buildings reflect more than architecture,” says UNC Charlotte historian David Goldfield, who has written about urbanism in the South. `”They reflect their society as well as the aspirations and pretensions of the people who built them.
“If you look at the great cities of the late 19th century and on into the present day, cities really have been identified by their architecture. And the architecture says generally the same thing: We have arrived as a major player on the American scene.”
Saturday marks the public opening of the project, which includes public spaces such as Founders Hall and a 1,600-space, nine-story parking deck on College Street, the total project costing $300 million.
Moreover, with this project, the Charlotte skyline is set into the next century.
Says Charles Hight, dean of UNC Charlotte’s College of Architecture, `”We have reached a plateau.”
The NationsBank tower ends a 21-year cycle. During that time, 10 tall buildings have been built in uptown, some good and some bad.
The NationsBank tower is a fitting climax – not only because it is by a name architect, cost a lot of money and is the tallest. It is fitting because the building aspires to be more than beautiful.
Pelli and his colleagues wanted the tower to fit the city, to help define it and help repair the frayed urban fabric. Judged on these criteria, the building is a success, although not an unqualified one. No doubt it sets a new standard for tall buildings in Charlotte.
Most skyscrapers are “spec” buildings, built on speculation, the hope that they’ll attract leaseholders and make a profit. NationsBank, however, is a headquarters building. From the beginning, the bank, working with its partners Charter Properties and Lincoln Property Co., wanted a structure that expressed its sense of itself.
Robert Patterson, a partner with Faison Associates, which has developed buildings in Charlotte and elsewhere, estimates $15 million – 10 percent of the cost of the project – was spent on extras such as the architect, marble- clad lobby, Ben Long frescoes, materials and finishes.
“It’s easy to spend that much money and more and not have the value (the building) has,” says Patterson, who has been in real estate for 23 years.
“The value is in the taste and the excellence of the finished product. That did cost money but the bank could have spent money and not got that.”
Pelli has said many times that people see a tall building in two ways, on the skyline and on the street. The NationsBank building can be judged from each perspective.
Designing the shaft of the tower, the architects accomplished a neat trick. The shaft soars, dominating the skyline, but at the same time it works like a good neighbor to fit in with surrounding buildings.
Not all tall buildings have a sense of rising. This one does. It gets lighter toward the top, with less stone and more glass, culminating in the crown. It tapers as it rises and the setbacks at various floors reduce bulk.
“As that symbol both of economic prosperity and the will to succeed as a city and as a corporate center, it`s a fabulous emblem,” says Charlotte architect Joddy Peer.
The building has a kind of sculptural purity, the same shape on all four sides. To keep it pure, the architects took pains such as putting the large vent that brings fresh air into the air-conditioning system in the plaza next to the sidewalk at Trade and Tryon rather than on the facade.
“It’s little bit harder to do but it makes your building nicer,” says George Johnston, an architect and NationsBank senior vice president who oversaw the project for the bank.
As a symbol, the building can be read several ways. It is a bank building, which, as Hight points out, is what Charlotte is about. It speaks of power and prosperity, is far more opulent, says historian Dan Morrill, than the city’s first skyscraper, the 12-story Independence Building erected in 1908.
“It’s a big tall totem pole of successful capitalism,” says Morrill. While the building is a symbol for the city, it was chosen not by the public but by a private company.
“The point at which we give over the making of meaning to the corporate structure is the point where we lose connection to it,” says Ken Lambla, an associate professor of architecture at UNC Charlotte. “(The building) becomes a very thin shell of meaning to the rest of the residents.”
But that’s not new in architecture. Institutions with money – once the king or the church – for the most part determined the look and function of buildings that came to have a public presence.
Over time, the people likely will make this building their own.
The shaft rises from a firm base. Although the walls at street-level, like the walls of the shaft, are not weight-supporting, they look heavy through the clever use of dark stone shaped to look like blocks.
At this level, the building seems solid, an important characteristic for a bank to project.
“The mirror glass building represents a certain design aesthetic but also represents a lightness and lack of permanence,” says Hight, referring to the bank’s previous home, the 40-story NationsBank Plaza across Trade Street. “The new building certainly talks about permanence.”
The plaza at Trade and Tryon seems skimpy, although the rippling fountain has its own charm.
The Trade Street side of the project shows the progress in moving away from ’70s architecture. Pelli and his colleagues worked to animate this facade, with different materials, colors, textures and scaling. They avoided the blank, dehumanizing walls on the Radisson, NationsBank Plaza and Civic Center across the street.
The main lobby off Tryon is a marvel. A large space with exceptionally rich materials such as veined marble and stained glass, it could have been an echoing cave, but instead is intimate and friendly, as grand as a church and as comfortable as a living room.
The most problematic part of the complex is Founders Hall, a 187,000- square-foot space in the center of the complex with an open plaza, shops and restaurants. Zoning ordinances require that 50 percent of the street level of an uptown building be devoted to retail. Rather than clutter the lobby, the architects arranged shops and restaurants around this central space.
It is grand, with two levels connected by a curling staircase, benches, a fountain and a vaulted skylight supported by exposed steel trusses, a kind of high-tech virtuosity.
But none of this is visible from the street. As Peer says, “It’s splendid but it does nothing for the pedestrian experience.”
In some ways, Founders Hall resembles a suburban shopping mall, more an extension of the overstreet walkway system than a truly urban solution to the problem of retail uptown.
Pelli intends Founders Hall as the city`s living room. NationsBank is committed to making it a public space, and has booked events for it through 1994. While it surely will contribute to the city, it remains a private space. March through it with a sign denouncing capitalism and you’ll probably be
asked to leave. “You’ll be asked to leave if you have the wrong clothes on,” Lambla predicts.
Founders Hall and the lobby together do set up a wonderful pattern of circulation. Perhaps the true genius of this design is how it moves people through the complex, with many different ways to get in and out, knitting together the street and the overstreet walkways.
The NationsBank tower was six years in the making. Nothing like it is now on the drawing boards. Likely, Charlotte won`t see another tall building, even in the 30- to 40-floor range, until the next century. Uptown has a lot of empty space that must be rented before demand would justify more vertical growth.
It took 13 years for a previous height-record holder, the 40-story NationsBank Plaza, to be surpassed by the 42-story One First Union Center in 1987. It lost the crown to NationsBank Corporate Center in just five years.
Who knows when a building will surpass this one in height. But that is not the point. Likely, this building will occupy a special place hereabouts well into the next century, as our grandest skyscraper, as Lambla says, “the best high-rise we could ever hope to get.”
It will be the city’s and the region’s Empire State Building, a statement of who we are and what we aspire to. It will be special even when one day a World Trade Center passes it on the skyline.
“The Empire State stood as a symbol for a long time and still is,” says Peer. “You don`t get a sculpture of the World Trade center when you go to (a New York) gift shop.”
Construction tops out on the then NCNB Corporate Center (now Bank of America Corporate Center) World Headquarters in Charlotte. Photographed from the arm of the crane at dawn, it was the tallest freestanding structure in the Southeast.
December 6, 1992
Think tank helps shape South of tomorrow
Joe Earle, Staff Writer
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
More than two decades ago, North Carolina Gov. Terry Sanford took a trip through the North to entice executives to move their companies to his state. As his train crossed an industrial wasteland, he suddenly realized he didn’t want North Carolina to turn into a Southern version of New Jersey.
“My impulse was to turn around,” he said, recalling how he saw “streams colored by chemical wastes, the back side of a city with dingy streets and dingy tenements.” He thought, “Why do we want it? Do we really have to kill our land?”
Back home, Mr. Sanford and a group of like-minded politicians, writers and academics began trying to find ways to guide the Sun Belt boom they believed would transform the South.
The result was the Southern Growth Policies Board, a North Carolina-based think tank financed by the governments of 13 states and Puerto Rico to examine Southern economic problems.
To better understand the region’s economic troubles, every six years the board calls together a panel of prominent Southern politicians, academics and business executives to ponder the future.
The reports put together by those panels, formally called Commissions on the Future of the South, have been among the most widely read studies of the region, Southern academics and politicians say.
“I think it is probably the most significant single document that is issued relating to public policy in the South,” said William Winter, former governor of Mississippi and chairman of the 1986 Commission on the Future of the South.
This week about 200 politicians, policy advisers, academics and business executives are to gather in Atlanta to chew over the recommendations of the 1992 commission, the fourth that has taken a look at the region’s economic problems since Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter picked the first panel in 1974.
The 1992 commission’s report won’t be completed and published for about another four months, board members say. It is being rewritten because commission leaders felt the first draft was not specific enough in the changes it proposed. The dozen broad issues the 1992 commission wants to call to public attention will be debated during the gathering.
The 1986 report claimed that the days of industrial recruitment by “buffalo hunting” – luring big businesses to the South by promising cheap labor – were over. Instead, the commission argued that Southern states needed to develop their own economies by improving their education systems, attacking social service problems and developing home-grown industries.
“That was a fine report. In a very few pages, in very well-written language, it set out the issues for these communities,” said sociology professor Vaughn Gresham, who heads the McLean Institute for Community Development at the University of Mississippi.
Dr. Gresham was so impressed by the 1986 report that he asks local officials and community leaders to read it before starting a development project.
The 34-page report influenced South Carolina officials as they redesigned their state development board. Ray Mabus used the report in his successful gubernatorial campaign in Mississippi in 1988.
“What the commission did is raise our horizons and let us get a handle on our problems,” said George Autry, director of MDC Inc., another North Carolina think tank specializing in Southern economic issues.
Not everyone embraced the 1986 report’s recommendations.
“The previous report’s findings probably went overboard in knocking down industrial recruitment. It was wrong. The `buffalo hunt’ is not dead,” said Douglas McKay, executive assistant to South Carolina Gov. Carroll Campbell.
Mr. McKay says that since 1987 his state has recruited more than $16 billion in new and expanded business, including a high-profile BMW plant. “That’s all those dead buffaloes,” he said.
One reason past reports have grabbed the attention of public officials and policy-makers across the South is simply the clout of the people involved.
The list includes two men who went on to become president: Mr. Carter appointed one commission and Bill Clinton picked another.
chart: The Future of the South
Here are the officers and members of the 1992 commission:
Ray Mabus, former governor of Mississippi
Dr. Thomas W. Cole Jr., president of Clark Atlanta University
John Clendenin, chairman and chief executive officer of BellSouth Corp.
Dr. Jesse L. White Jr., consultant
Dr. L. Thomas Bulla, president and chief executive officer, Charleston (W.Va.) National Bank
Dr. Patsy M. Causey, dean of basic studies at Southeast Louisiana University Arkansas state Sen. Charlie Cole Chaffin
Lawton M. “Bud” Chiles III, president and chief executive officer of Chiles Communications
Former Kentucky Gov. Martha Layne Collins, now president of St. Catharine College
Alfonso L. Davila-Silva, agriculture secretary for Puerto Rico William C. Friday, president emeritus of the University of North Carolina and president of the William R. Kenan Jr. Fund
U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia
Edwin Lupberger, chairman and chief executive officer of Entergy Corp., one of the country’s largest utilities
Mahlon Martin, president of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation Alan Moore, lawyer
William E. Porter, vice president of Century Technologies Inc. Irby Simkins Jr., president and publisher, Nashville Banner Wayne Sterling, director of the South Carolina Development Board G. Robin Swift Jr., former Alabama finance director, now president of Swift Lumber Inc. of Alabama
Dr. Rachel Tompkins, associate provost of West Virginia University Sheila Tschinkel, senior vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta Richard A. Vinroot, mayor of Charlotte, N.C.
Liles B. Williams, vice president of Stuart C. Irby Co. of Mississippi Ronald N. Yordi, founding member of Leadership Oklahoma, now president of Yordi Properties
November 9, 1993
Charlotte relishes NFL team as springboard for business
More tourism, lure for big firms are expected
Chris Burrit, Staff Writer
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
Charlotte, N.C.- Leaders in this city that long ago shucked its textile and truck-stop image say that the unanimous vote by NFL owners two weeks ago to expand here galvanized Charlotte’s reputation as a business-minded city that knows how to win. And the leaders hope that reputation proves as valuable as a Super Bowl ring in recruiting big companies such as Hearst Magazines and Moody’s Investors Service, lured in recent years by the convenience of Douglas International Airport and the relatively low cost of doing business. Charlotte, N.C. – In the newest National Football League city, ticket broker Rick Fearrington smiles broadly when he considers that the Carolina Panthers will play 10 home games a year.
Over a beer at All Sports Cafe, contractors Greg Dufor and Curtis Trenklebach figure to stay busy building restaurants and offices.
“It’s positive, real positive,” gushed John Capousis, who owns a hot dog stand in uptown Charlotte, just a few blocks from where the Panthers will play in a stadium seating 72,302.
It doesn’t seem to matter here that the first home game is three years away. Excited talk of making a buck from Panthersmania is sweeping the city that views itself – not Atlanta – as a shiny symbol of New South commerce and boosterism.
Sure, Atlanta has more professional sports teams and it will host the Super Bowl next year and the Summer Olympics in 1996.
Major banking center
But Charlotte has risen to be the nation’s third-largest banking center (after New York and San Francisco) at the expense of three Atlanta institutions. In recent years, Charlotte-based NationsBank Corp. has acquired Citizens and Southern Corp., while First Union Corp., also of Charlotte, has gobbled up Georgia Federal and Decatur Federal.
“We look forward to the competition with the Falcons,” said a grinning Hugh McColl, NationsBank chairman and a key player in Charlotte’s six-year bid for the Panthers.
Leaders in this city that long ago shucked its textile and truck-stop image say that the unanimous vote by NFL owners two weeks ago to expand here galvanized Charlotte’s reputation as a business-minded city that knows how to win.
And the leaders hope that reputation proves as valuable as a Super Bowl ring in recruiting big companies such as Hearst Magazines and Moody’s Investors Service, lured in recent years by the convenience of Douglas International Airport and the relatively low cost of doing business.
“You can count on one hand the number of cities in the Southeast with professional football teams,” said Mark Vitner, an economist for First Union. “It moves us up a notch.”
John Connaughton, an economist at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, claims that, starting in 1996, the Panthers will have an annual economic impact of $281 million in Mecklenburg County, home of Charlotte.
Of that, he says fans will spend $92 million on tickets, souvenirs, food and hotel rooms. That spending, in turn, is estimated to generate another $189 million in expenditures by Richardson Sports, which owns the Panthers, hotels, restaurants and other businesses that supply goods and services to fans.
Those figures are substantially higher than the estimated impact of the Atlanta Falcons, at $93 million a season, and the Braves, at $203 million.
Connaughton, while not acquainted with the estimates for those Atlanta teams, said he believes the Panthers’ impact will be relatively high because of the big influx of out-of-towners to games.
Fans outside the county
According to his study, 51.2 percent of the 70,000 fans expected to attend each game will come from outside Mecklenburg. Of that percentage, 37 percent will come from outside the seven-county metro Charlotte area.
This out-of-town spending “represents new dollars” for Mecklenburg that will ripple through the economy more so than local spending, Connaughton said. That’s because Mecklenburg residents who buy Panthers tickets will likely cut other entertainment expenses.
On the downside, the infusion of money into Charlotte could also bring greater problems.
“I am afraid of another level of crime, prostitution and gambling,” said Capousis, echoing a general concern. “That is my one worry.”
The Oct. 5 slaying of two police officers shocked the city, prompting newly re-elected Mayor Richard Vinroot to pledge: “My first, second and third initiatives will be to make this city safe again and make this city safe again and make this city safe again.”
In a story about the best U.S. cities for doing business, Fortune magazine recently concluded that Charlotte “still must repair its school system.”
While the city’s pro-business attitude ranked high, it did not make the overall top 10 list – topped by the Raleigh/Durham area.
Oleen McLeod, director of St. Peter’s Soup Kitchen in uptown Charlotte, said she does not expect any of the millions generated by the Panthers to trickle down to the city’s only soup kitchen, which feeds 60,000 people a year on a budget of $85,000 in donations.
She added that expectations surrounding the Panthers could, sadly, attract too many people “looking for the end of the rainbow.”
A few days before Charlotte won the team, a couple with a baby from West Virginia arrived here out of money but full of hope. “I’m getting a job next Tuesday,” the husband told McLeod. “They are building a stadium here.”
Ground won’t be broken for the stadium until next spring.
Yet such hard-luck stories aren’t nearly as plentiful as the high hopes riding on the Panthers, who will play the 1995 season in Clemson, S.C., before moving home games to Charlotte in 1996.
Local economists point to the success of the Charlotte Hornets, a National Basketball Association (NBA) team that has sold out Charlotte Coliseum since its first season in 1988. The coliseum generated an operating profit of nearly $4 million last fiscal year.
Even a Chicago economist who contends that professional sports teams are overrated as an economic catalyst thinks Charlotte could benefit from the Panthers.
That’s because the team is expected to draw fans from a 150-mile radius of Charlotte, bringing an influx of money that otherwise would not be spent in the city.
In a forthcoming study, Robert Baade, an economist at Lake Forest College near Chicago, concludes that only one of 36 cities with a pro sports team or a stadium from 1959 to 1988 registered statistically significant personal income growth from the investment. That one city was Indianapolis.
The reason, he said, is that aside from high-paid athletes and coaches, many of the jobs created by pro teams are relatively low paying. In the case of jobs such as stadium ushers and vendors, they are seasonal.
Baade also argued that public money invested in stadiums – $57 million in the case of the Charlotte stadium – could be better spent on business investments, such as manufacturing plants, with greater potential to create high-paying jobs.
Connaughton, the UNC-Charlotte economist, doesn’t buy that argument, at least as it relates to Charlotte. The Panthers team, he said, is another incentive for businesses to locate here.
“Charlotte is putting together an amenities package better than most cities have,” he said. “It is all designed to lure national-headquarter firms here. That is the bottom line.”
The Carolina Panthers expect to draw spectators from a 150-mile radius, including major cities in both North Carolina and South Carolina
Construction of a 72,000-seat stadium on a site near uptown Charlotte will begin in the spring. The Panthers are scheduled to play their first game there in 1996.
December 18, 1994
Part of the continuing series
Notes on Cities: This installment of Urban Notes focuses on Detroit and comparisons that might be made with Atlanta.
Is Atlanta the next Detroit?
By: Darryl Fears, Staff
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution
Atlantans who think of Detroit as the poster child of failed American cities might cringe at the comparison, but both are majority-black cities with more than a quarter of their residents living in poverty.
The question remains whether Atlanta can escape the fate of Detroit’s downtown and crumbling infrastructure.
Sobering similarities: The two cities are plagued by high crime rates, middle class migration and laws that hamper growth.
Detroit – Every weekday, Dr. William Schaefer is forced to look at the wound.
There is no way to avoid it. He drives through it on his way to work at the state Red Cross headquarters. Officially, the wound is called Brush Park, one of many communities in this troubled city that is in desperate need of help.
“It is in real bad shape,” said Schaefer, the senior executive officer for the Red Cross in Michigan.
His diagnosis is an understatement. Brush Park is so sickly that it gives credibility to those who compare Detroit to Beirut. It is full of hollowed-out brick houses that slump freakishly toward the ground and of poor black people who were left behind when white people like Schaefer left for the suburbs.
In truth, Detroit as a whole looks nothing like Beirut. It looks and acts more like the city of Atlanta. Atlantans who think of Detroit as the poster child of failed American cities might cringe at the comparison, but both are majority-black cities with more than a quarter of their residents living in poverty.
Both cities have violent crime rates that are among the highest in the nation, and both have suffered from the migration of middle class black and white residents to the suburbs.
Detroit has slightly more than a million residents, but it has lost more than 40 percent of its population since 1950. Atlanta, which grew until 1970, has lost 17 percent of its people since then, down to 397,000.
The similarities are no surprise to urban consultant David Rusk, who analyzed the two cities and their long-term outlooks for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Rusk, a former New Mexico state legislator, former mayor of Albuquerque and author of the book “Cities Without Suburbs,” reached a sobering conclusion: “Detroit is on the ropes, and Atlanta is in trouble.”
That, despite Atlanta’s image as a growing, thriving city that is moving proudly toward its most important event ever – the 1996 Olympics.
But like Detroit, Atlanta suffers from what Rusk calls “inelasticity.” Because of strict annexation laws and the many local jurisdictions that abut them, the cities have no room to expand their borders and annex growth.
New mayors Bill Campbell in Atlanta and Dennis Archer in Detroit, who followed pioneering black mayors into office, know they face daunting challenges in solving their cities’ critical problems. They also understand that solutions will be difficult without cooperation from their suburban neighbors.
Rusk goes even further. “The states must get involved,” he said. “The states can help forge regional solutions and improve annexation laws to facilitate continuous city expansion. They can enact laws to encourage city-county consolidation.
“They can require all local governments in metro areas to have `fair share’ affordable housing laws so the burdens of public housing and poverty aren’t the central city’s alone,” he said. “And just as important, the states can establish metrowide tax-sharing arrangements so individual jurisdictions don’t have to fight one another over growth but can all benefit from it anywhere in the region.”
Rusk said inelastic cities such as Detroit and Atlanta are endangered because they can’t capture the growth that comes to their regions, and they lose residents, businesses and jobs to their own suburbs.
Atlanta has a decade to go
There is hard evidence to support Rusk’s analysis in each city. Major department stores that were retail anchors have closed in both downtowns.
In Detroit, two professional sports franchises that drew people downtown moved to the suburbs. Atlanta is dealing with the threat that its National Basketball Association (NBA) team, the Atlanta Hawks, will leave the city for the northern suburbs.
Dana White, an urban studies professor at Emory University, said Atlanta is about 10 years behind Detroit in the slow disintegration of its downtown. The closing of the Rich’s department store three years ago in Atlanta followed by about a decade Dayton-Hudson’s closing of its big store on Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit.
“I was in Detroit four years ago and couldn’t believe it,” White said. “I tell you, downtown Atlanta could become like Detroit’s. I don’t think it would be as dramatic. But Five Points has gone down significantly.
“The next question will be answered in what happens north of Five Points, in the Peachtree Center area,” he said. “If that were to go, I think you’d see the same thing that happened in Detroit.”
A dominant city’s decline
For those who don’t believe that a mighty city can suffer a dramatic decline, Detroit’s history is instructive. At one time, it dominated the Midwest the way Atlanta rules the Southeast. Detroit was home to three of the richest corporations on Earth: Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Corp. and General Motors.
When the auto industry slipped and the working class lost jobs by the thousands, wealthy Detroiters turned their backs on the city.
The exodus exacerbated racial tensions between Detroit and its suburbs. Then-Mayor Coleman Young went as far as to curse Detroit’s white elite. At every turn, he belittled the suburbs as “the Cornfields” and the “Ku Klux Klan stronghold.”
In the Young era, the Detroit Lions football team made good on its threat to leave the city. In 1977, the Detroit Pistons basketball team followed the Lions to Pontiac, Mich.
“I think it’s undeniable that it hurt the city,” said Larry Ledebur, a professor in charge of urban studies at Wayne State University in Detroit. “Those two teams brought people downtown. Many of them paid to park. They ate in downtown before the games. They stayed to do entertainment types of things.”
Crime breeds fear
With the Lions, Pistons and Dayton-Hudson gone, downtown Detroit was barren by 1985. The once popular Greektown tourist district was all but forgotten. In desperation, Young planned and built a subway-like “People Mover” to carry visitors to sites around downtown.
But there were too few visitors. They were becoming fearful of Detroit. In the early 1980s, the homicide rate soared. Between 1983 and 1987, more than 700 people were slain each year.
On No Crime Day in Detroit – a 1986 event sponsored by basketball star Isaiah Thomas to prove his city was still safe – a police officer was shot dead.
As Christmas approached that year, Detroit’s newspapers started keeping a running tab on the number of slain children age 16 and younger.
Clemetine Barfield, who founded a group called Save Our Sons and Daughters (SOSAD) after her son was shot to death in 1986, said things are slightly better now.
“The numbers of children being shot has consistently gone down,” she said. “But what has gotten worse is how people kill each other. Eight years ago, people were shot two or three times. Now they are shot eight times. They spit on the bodies. There’s such disregard.”
Atlanta’s crime is worse
But Atlanta’s crime rate is much worse.
Last year, there were 3,859 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in Atlanta, compared with 2,531 in Detroit, according to FBI statistics. The national rate for violent crimes was 746 per 100,000.
But Truman Hartshorn, a Georgia State University professor of urban geography, doesn’t think Atlanta is headed down the same road as Detroit.
“We don’t have the polarization,” he said. “Detroit has become a ghost town as far as employment. Atlanta has done a lot of things to keep a vibrant core.”
In Hartshorn’s view, downtown is already preserved. “Atlanta is a stronger convention and sports town than Detroit,” he said. “We’re a major employer in the government center area.”
But that may not be enough, according to Rusk. With the emergence of Nashville and Charlotte, Atlanta now has strong rivals in the Sunbelt. Those rivals are likely to grow faster than Atlanta, Rusk said, because they have been able to capture growth through annexation or consolidation.
Mayor Bill Campbell’s opportunities
Urban experts in Atlanta and elsewhere urge Campbell, a respected negotiator and former attorney, to be cautious in dealing with Atlanta’s prosperous suburbs.
He is already trying to make improvements in the city that might keep Atlanta from suffering Detroit’s decline. He has pushed through a bond referendum that will allow the city to at least start repairing its crumbling infrastructure.
He also is trying to foster the kind of ambience that will encourage more people to move downtown, while trying to persuade the Hawks to stay. He has made crime a top priority, pushing community policing as a tool to help crime-riddled neighborhoods and public housing projects.
And with the Olympics, he has a once-in-lifetime opportunity to generate positive change.
For his part, Archer has made it known that while he seeks racial harmony with the suburbs, he also is seeking revenue sharing. He is urging a merger of the city and suburban bus systems, which would give job-seeking Detroiters easier access to work in outlying communities.
He also is a major proponent of a regional tax on concert and sports tickets that could raise millions for the city’s art museum and other cultural facilities. But talk of a new tax is greeted with disdain. Detroit has been forced to compensate for eroding revenues over the years with tax increases. Its taxes are almost seven times the state average.
The disparity is not that dramatic in Atlanta, but the city does have higher taxes than its suburban neighbors, and that makes increases harder to sell.
A pizzaman’s dream
Archer has said that one of his top priorities is the development of a new baseball park as part of an entertainment complex called Foxtown. The 80-acre development would include museums, restaurants, condos and a casino hotel.
Foxtown is the dream of Little Caesars Pizza magnate Mike Ilitch, who owns the Detroit Red Wings hockey team and the Tigers baseball team. Ilitch wants the state to be a major financial contributor to Foxtown.
Even if Detroit gets all that, it could still play second fiddle to Oakland County, home to the best malls, with stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, and rich communities such as Birmingham, Farmington Hills and Bloomfield Hills.
Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, a longtime nemesis of Coleman Young, believes Detroit must recognize that it’s likely to remain a shrinking piece in the southeast Michigan puzzle.
“I don’t think you’re going to restore Detroit to its former greatness,” Patterson said. “I don’t think Detroit is ever going to be 1.8 million people again.”
Walls fall to bridge-builder
But Patterson, whose race-baiting political barbs easily rivaled Young’s, has changed as well. Like Schaefer in Brush Park, he supported Archer’s candidacy after Archer extended an olive branch to the suburbs.
Now Patterson and Archer are being called pals. They appear together on the “Dennis and Brooks” television show with Wayne County executive Edward McNamara. Patterson even broke his promise to never cross the Eight Mile Road border to Detroit, and during a special cleanup day, helped sweep trash and dead rats from a neighborhood.
“Dennis [Archer] made it possible for us to feel welcome,” Patterson said. “What we’re accomplishing with the TV show is to begin to tear down 20 years of walls built by Coleman Young. Archer comes along and builds bridges.”
Closer to downtown, Schaefer said the Red Cross will do all it can to dress Brush Park’s wounds.
“We’re committed to Detroit,” said Schaefer, who rallied the Red Cross to build a blood lab that will bring 100 workers to the area. “People will say, ‘Yeah, you’re white. What do you care about the city of Detroit?’ Well, I love Detroit. It’s a great place to live.”
Chart: Tale of two cities
Detroit was once a city with a manufacturing base that grew jobs at a steady rate, before a decline of manufacturing, foreign competition, racial tensions, and white flight pushed it into serious decline. Despite Atlanta’s surface success, experts warn that it could wind up on the same road.
Here’s a comparison:
Size…………………………. 132 sq. mi………….139 sq. mi.
Population…………………..397,000……………. 1.03 million
Black pop……………………265,990 (67%)……..770,000 (77%)
Metro population…………. 3.1 million………….. 4.4 million
Metro white population…. 2,081,310..(77)%…. 3,630,000 (93%)
excluding city population
…………………….17% (since 1970)….. Over 40% (since 1950)
Poverty rate………………..27%………….. 32%
Black families……………. 32%………….. 32%
below poverty line
White families……………………………….. 7%………….. 18%
below poverty line…………..
White families median income………. $59,673………… $26,997
Black families median income………. $18,451………… $21,283
Conventions……………….. 2,000………….. 475
Hotel rooms………………..55,000………… 28,000
Violent crimes 100,000
National metro…. 852.2
* per 100,000
Fair share poverty index 100%
being the norm
Cost of living index 100 as national average
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Urban Consultant David Rusk, both cities’ convention/visitors bureaus, Federal Bureau of Investigation Color photo: Open wound: The hollowed-out brick houses in the 300 block of Erskine Street in Detroit, behind Dr. William Schaefer of the Michigan Red Cross, evoke comparisons with Beirut.
May 7, 1997
NHL: Whalers Land in Raleigh as Carolina Hurricanes
RALEIGH, N.C. — The NHL broke into new territory Tuesday, with the Hartford Whalers moving to North Carolina and taking the name Carolina Hurricanes.
Although there is a remote chance the deal could fall through because of political obstacles in Connecticut, the Hurricanes are expected to begin play in Raleigh’s new $120-million arena by the 1999-2000 season.
“This isn’t a new phenomenon,” team owner Peter Karmanos said. “This isn’t some kind of new-age owners’ greed thing. This is the economic facts of life, and they have been going on in sport for a long, long time.”
Karmanos said it’s still unclear whether the team would move to a temporary home in the 21,500-seat Greensboro Coliseum this year or next season before going to Raleigh.
The Hurricanes will join the NBA Charlotte Hornets and NFL Carolina Panthers–recent expansion teams–in the booming sports state.
“It’s going to do great things for this area,” North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt said. “It puts us on the map. It gives us a whole new dimension in the area of sports.”
Karmanos, who purchased the Whalers in 1994 for $47.5 million, lost a reported $15 million on the team last year. His search for a new site began more than a month ago. The search was narrowed to Raleigh and Columbus, Ohio, before the North Carolina capital emerged the clear favorite a week ago.
The Hurricanes’ immediate future hinges on Connecticut politics. The Connecticut Development Authority plans to vote on a $20.5-million exit agreement by the end of the week, Gov. John Rowland said Tuesday.
House Speaker Tom Ritter has been crusading to get the fee doubled, but Rowland said he was confident the negotiated amount would be approved.
Earlier Tuesday, the Centennial Authority, which oversees Raleigh’s new arena, voted 11-1 on a memorandum of understanding with the NHL team over lease terms.
The agreement calls for a 20-year lease, with two 5-year options. The team also would pay $3 million in rent minus about $250,000 a year in game-day operating costs for the first three years.
February 1, 2011
Democratic Party selects Charlotte to host 2012 convention
By Jeff Zeleny
The New York Times
WASHINGTON — President Obama signaled Tuesday that he would try to follow the same path to re-election that he charted in his first campaign, selecting Charlotte, N.C., to host the 2012 Democratic convention in a decision that instantly confirmed the state as a new presidential battleground.
In choosing Charlotte, Mr. Obama rejected bids from Cleveland, Minneapolis and St. Louis. The selection was the White House’s first major strategic decision of the presidential race, and displayed the desire of Democrats to retain some of the states they carried in 2008 for the first time in a generation.
“We’re looking at an expanding map rather than shrinking back to husband our resources and play defense,” said Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. “We were very excited about winning North Carolina in 2008. Putting our convention there is a very serious sign that we intend to compete there again.”
St. Louis was widely seen as the next choice to Charlotte. Though St. Louis has been host to four Democratic national conventions, and was recommended by the leading hotel workers’ union for having the most unionized facilities, there were broader concerns raised about Missouri. The state has slipped out of the Democratic Party’s reach in recent presidential elections and it is not expected to be among the top tier of places where Mr. Obama will compete in 2012.
One of the country’s most competitive Senate races is also taking place in Missouri, with Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, singled out by Republicans as she seeks a second term.
Ms. McCaskill, one of the president’s closest friends in the Senate, publicly supported having St. Louis host the convention, but she raised several concerns to the White House, according to party officials familiar with the selection process. She questioned whether her re-election would be complicated if the convention were held in St. Louis.
In a statement on Tuesday, Ms. McCaskill said she was “bitterly disappointed” that St. Louis had been passed over. She added, “I’m incredibly proud of the bid put forth by St. Louis and how bipartisan the support was.”
The selection of North Carolina also underscored the hope of Mr. Obama and his advisers that they have a better chance of organizing supporters — and finding new voters — in a conservative-leaning but demographically evolving Southern state than in a traditional battleground like Missouri. The advisers believe the advantages of North Carolina include a population that is 22 percent black, an influx of new residents because of research and banking jobs, and laws that allow last-minute voter registration.
In 2008, Mr. Obama won the state’s Democratic primary over Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and became the first Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter to carry North Carolina in the general election by building a diverse coalition of voters.
A key selling point for North Carolina, officials said, was its proximity to Virginia, which Mr. Obama also carried. Democratic leaders said they intended to make Virginia an integral part of the convention by busing in activists and volunteers.
The selection process was overseen by the president’s top political advisers. The finalist cities lobbied aggressively to be awarded the convention — and the multimillion-dollar rush of business that accompanies a winning bid — even as some state political figures raised questions about how they would be affected by a convention in their state.
The announcement of Charlotte was made by Michelle Obama in an e-mail to members of Organizing for America, the network of supporters from the 2008 campaign.
“We want this to be a grass-roots convention for the people,” Mrs. Obama wrote, adding, “This will be a different convention, for a different time.”
September 16, 2013
Southern Growth Policies Board: RIP
The News & Observer
The Southern Growth Policies Board, a think tank based in the Triangle for more than 40 years, is being dissolved, on the recommendation of North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (Republican).
The board, the brainchild of former Gov. Terry Sanford, has since 1971 spun out reports on how to improve the economy of the South on such subject as innovation and technology, globalization, and the changing nature of the workforce.
But in July, McCrory, the chairman of the board, suggested the think tank be dissolved and absorbed into the Southern Governor’s Association. McCrory’s recommendation was unanimously adopted by the group’s board representing its 12 Southern states, according to Ted Abernathy, the board’s executive director.
“It was decided to strengthen both organizations, it was decided that the Southern Governor’s Association would start doing policy and research as part of their work,” Abernathy said. “The board voted to dissolve the interstate compact for growth and the Southern governors will integrate some of their work into activities. We have officially ceased as an organization.”
The policies board went out of existence Sept. 9. The last four professional staff members will lose their jobs on Sept. 30. Two were previously laid off in June in preparation for the shut down. The policies board will close its offices in Research Triangle Park.
Abernathy said there had been discussions about shutting down the growth policies board over the let few years.
“I think over the years, it’s become a natural thing for people to look for efficiencies in government,” Abernathy said. “Governors’ times have more demands on them. It was felt it was way to strengthen SGA.”
The think tank has a $1 million budget which is shared among Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia s well as through corporate, nonprofit and academic institutions.
Among other things, the think tank produces its annual Future of the South report which is an in-depth look at the issues facing the region.
September 20, 2013
Southern Growth Policy Board and its founder was ahead of its times
The News & Observer
When the Southern Growth Policies Board quietly expired Sept. 9, few mourned its passing, because few today know of its coming. Not so in 1971, when this brainchild of then Duke University President Terry Sanford garnered national attention.
Sanford and a covey of like-minded Southern governors saw in the SPGB an opportunity, as the former North Carolina governor put it, to avoid Northern mistakes in a Southern setting.
In other words, how to avoid a shake-and-bake Southern rust belt with all its attendant ills. Traveling by rail to New York City, Sanford had been repulsed by the polluted, smoke-belching industrial corridor from Baltimore to the Big Apple.
Sanford, always prescient and ahead of the curve, understood before most other Southerners that the New South did not have its origin in the 1880s, but in the game-changing Voting Rights Act of 1965.
By the time the SPGB was created, the South – famously described by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s as “one-third of a nation, ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished” – was beckoning the future. The Voting Rights Act had liberated blacks, to be sure, but in some respects it was more liberating for whites.
Sanford likely found his intellectual inspiration for the SPGB in UNC-Chapel Hill sociologist Howard W. Odum. Sanford soaked up Odum’s ideas as a UNC-CH student in the 1930s.
In his early career, the Georgia-born Odum had endorsed the racial status quo in the South. But as he matured as a researcher and thinker, Odum evolved into the paradigm of the New Southerner. He threw off the debilitating weight of Jim Crow and emerged as one of the most progressive voices in the 1940s South.
Sanford was not alone in creating the SPGB, of course – he had help from the likes of Reuben Askew, Dale Bumpers, Linwood Holton and other governors –- as well as an influential but now little-remembered organization of liberal Southern elites, the LQC Lamar Society.
Former Duke University economist and Lamar Society cofounder Thomas H. Naylor, now in Vermont (where he is active in, of all things, a nascent secessionist movement) was among prominent Southern academics who believed that the SPBG could help steer the South toward the sunlit uplands.
Thus Sanford deftly managed the confluence of events set in motion by the civil rights revolution and the Voting Rights Act, creating what he and others hoped would be a rudder for economic development in 12 states.
The endeavor had three primary components: education, education, education. That was as true 40 years ago as it is today, and Sanford believed in the mantra so much that he had goaded the General Assembly into passing the notorious food tax, knowing he would suffer politically for it.
He did. But he never looked back.
So, over the course of four decades, did Sanford’s initiative rise to his vision?
In its direct impact on individuals, no. But in its impact on a generation of Southern policymakers, yes.
It did so at remarkably little cost, about $1 million a year, apportioned to the 12 state signatories.
Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, pressed without opposition for dissolution of the SPGB and its rebirth under the Southern Governors Association. That is a better home for it than Research Triangle Park.
I’ll bet that even Terry Sanford, a Yellow Dog Democrat if ever there was one, would agree.
2015 Metropolitan Combined Statistical Area population:
Atlanta–Athens-Clarke County–Sandy Springs: 6,365,108
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport -2015
World’s and Nation’s 1st busiest by passengers
World’s and Nation’s 1st by total flights
Atlanta is the largest hub for Delta Airlines
2015 Metropolitan Combined Statistical Area population:
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Charlotte Douglas International Airport -2015
Nation’s 5th by total airport by total flights
World’s 6th busiest airport by total flights
Nation’s 9th busiest by passengers
World’s 27th busiest by passengers
Charlotte is now the 2nd largest hub for American Airlines (the airport was the largest hub for US Airways before the merger with American)
Population (July 1, 2015): 10,214,860
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Metros (2015 US Census Bureau):
|Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC: 590,146
Population (July 1, 2015): 10,042,802
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Metros (2015 US Census Bureau):
|Charlotte NC-SC: 2,583,956
Video: Atlanta tour in mid-1980s
Video: Atlanta 1987
Video: Atlanta 1991
Video: Aerial view of current Atlanta
Video: Charlotte 1986
Video: Charlotte 1987
Video: Aerial view of current Charlotte
Video: A Charlotte architect predicts what the city will look like 40 years from now