Ominous news for downtown Carrboro

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Part of the latest Weaver Street Market newsletter states that Weaver Street Market has sold their property at the corner of Greensboro and Main Streets to Mark Pantlin of Raleigh. (This was the former location of WCOM and Community Realty.) Apparently they had high hopes for this high-profile property in the center of Carrboro, but finally resigned themselves to just taking the money and avoiding the hassle of a new venture and new development. I keep hearing the word "Walgreens" come up in discussions of this corner, so this makes me nervous.

Mark Pantlin on CorporationWikiA friend and I did a little research to see if we could find out more about this developer. Pantlin lives in Cary, and on a LinkedIn profile he says he is President of Pantlin Development. (But he only has one connection on LinkedIn, and the NC Dept of State says Pantlin Development was dissolved in 2009.) I found him on this neat CorporationWiki network map (at left), which also lists some other companies to which he may be related.  It also looks like he donated to the Republican National Committee in 2001 and to George Bush in 1999.  

Of more concern is the possibility of a national chain not just locating, but developing a lot (or multiple lots, probably) in the heart of Carrboro. Since it would be right across the street from an existing chain drug store, you can't even really argue that it's meeting some community need.

Here is the message from WSM:

Weaver Street Market Sells Corner Property
 
Weaver Street Market has sold the property on the corner of Weaver Street and Greensboro Street in downtown Carrboro. “The corner
building served us well,” said Ruffin Slater, Weaver Street Market’s General Manager. “It provided Weaver Street Market with office and
meeting space and it allowed us to donate space to WCOM Community radio and Weaver Community Housing Association, two non-profits that Weaver Street helped to start.”
 
Weaver Street has not had a use for the property since it moved its office space from the building nearly two years ago. Weaver Street was able to help WCOM, the final occupant, move its studio in May to a new location next to the ArtsCenter. The co-op was not interested in becoming a long-term landlord and therefore decided to sell the property.
 
Weaver Street purchased the property eight years ago intending to make it part of a community-minded mixed-use project. Weaver Street
co-sponsored a town-wide forum on the future of downtown that was led by Dan Burden of Walkable Communities, and hired the Village Project, a local non-profit, to facilitate a community workshop about potential uses for the corner property. “We wanted to create a project in keeping with Carrboro’s vision for downtown,” said Slater, “but were ultimately unable to do so.” Changes in zoning, lack of interest from
adjoining property owners, and lack of consensus around the town’s vision slowed momentum for the project. Then the economy went sour and put a freeze on new development activity.
 
Weaver Street decided it could better serve the community by focusing its resources on its core business of selling local and organic food. The co-op has returned to break-even after a difficult financial year in 2009. “Our financial situation continues to improve,” said Slater, “and selling the property is another step in returning the co-op to a sustainable financial position. It allows us to pay back money we had to borrow last year when things were rocky.”
 
A Carrboro developer had an interest in purchasing the property, but was unable to obtain financing when the economy deteriorated. WSM
eventually signed a contract to sell the property to Raleigh developer Mark Pantlin. The sale was completed on June 1.

 

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39 Comments

His Politics? Why?

It also looks like he donated to the Republican National Committee in 2001 and to George Bush in 1999. 

 What does that comment have to do with anything?

Rhayader's picture

Ominous?

I agree that there's no particular need for a Wallgreen's, and I'm not really sure it would be a very successful business venture with the CVS already in a more convenient location for errand-runners.  But I have a hard time getting scared about a drug store.  And the developer's decade-old political donations really make no difference one way or the other.

Tolerance

Lambasting a developer for their political beliefs and/or donation practices certainly creates a slippery slope of intolerance in our community that I, for one, am not a fan of.In regards to the whispers of the development of the property itself, I've seen many successful campaigns of kicking unwanted corporate developments to the curb through petition and community action. If Carrboro wants as Walgreens, so be it. I can think much better uses for that location (as I'm sure many others can) - instead of rumors, perhaps open dialog with the developer is best suited?

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Carrboro values

I'm not saying the donations mean anything in particular, and I'm not lambasting anyone. It's just what I could easily find out online about the guy.  I do want to know about whether he understands and can build consistently with our local values/aethetics/principles, just as I would want to know of any developer.Does anyone know more about Mark Pantlin? I'm especially interested to see what other developments he's been involved with.

Republican = Ominous

It's pretty obvious that you were building your ominous case and your donation detective work was just icing on your cake.It's that final bigotted comment that really turns a lot of people off.  But you're in good company - I hear similar comments regularly from people all over town.I'm not taking offense, I'm just pointing out that you didn't need to bring up a totally unrelated topic to try to make your point.

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Walgreens = ominous

Actually I wrote that headline before I did the search to learn more about Mark Pantlin.I don't get what is "bigoted" about what I said, but I also really don't give a crap about the politics and don't find this argument very interesting.  What I'm concerned about a is crappy, careless chain store that could really mess up a very good thing for Carrboro. 

James Barrett's picture

to quote Dan Coleman

"Do you live in Carrboro?"  "Do YOU LIVE in Carrboro"  "DO YOU LIVE
IN CARRBORO?" Really, Ruby.  What business is it of yours
to be the arbiter of "Carrboro values" when you don't live there?  

George C's picture

We All Live in Orange County

First, Ruby created, maintains and moderates this blog for the use and enjoyment of a whole bunch of people who live not only in Chapel Hill, not only in Carrboro and even, not only in Orange County.  We have access to this forum because of Ruby and the immense amount of work she has, and continues to put into it.  But that aside, she never called it Chapel Hill Politics or Carrboro Politics but ORANGE POLITICS because she recognized a long time ago that the various municipalities and the various communities were all intertwined to some degree by the fact that we all lived in the same county.  And many of the issues that most interest readers of and posters to this blog are County issues:  schools, to merge or not to merge; trash; to deal with it locally or to send it out; Carolina North, a Chapel Hill issue or a county-wide issue; homelessness, a Chapel Hill issue or a county issue; etc.  You get the idea (I hope). So, IMHO, if anyone has a right to offer an opinion on something happening in Orange County - it is Ruby.  Thanks for all you do Ruby.

James Barrett's picture

first off, my quoting Dan

first off, my quoting Dan Coleman should have been seen as a joke.2nd, I'm not criticizing Ruby for taking a stance on the potential issue, just thought it was a poor choice of words to claim to know how a rumored drug store relates to "Carrboro values".  My wife or I drive through that intersection every school day twice to take our kids from our home to their school both in CH town limits but easiest to get there through Carrboro, so I fully understand how connected we are. 

Don't panic.

"Ominous" is a bit of an overstatement. Yes, it's a change, let's see what the fellow is thinking about before we assume he wants to plop a Wallgreens down on a lot that Wallgreens would probably say is too small.  I've voted Republican before, does mean I'm scary?

It's all relative.

I'm not sure a Walgreen's is worse than a lot that was rapidly becoming overgrown and hadn't really been commercially significant for decades. Shrug. Agree that the guy's politics shouldn't be an issue. 

Rhayader's picture

"Was", not "Is"

Did the occupants get forced out thanks to this deal?  Or is this just a sale of an unused lot?Correct me if I'm wrong, but there's a reason the past tense is being used to describe the occupancy of the lot.  In light of that, whether or not "what comes next" will be better than what used to be at the lot is really irrelevant.  The two choices seem to be leaving it empty or putting a business there; the location's history doesn't really have much to do with anything.

I made an hour-long attempt

I made an hour-long attempt at digging up some info on the developer as well, to no avail - I pretty much ran into the same info Ruby did.  I couldn't find any local projects, apart from a development in Clayton.  I did note the same political information, but I also feel that should he try to develop this property, he will have to go through the same rigors than anyone would.  The lot isn't going to end up getting turned into a burger joint anytime soon.  WSM has had a very tight year or two - I work in one of the stores.  I am very much in support of not letting this property stagnate, which it appears it would do if it's currently undevelopable, due to current economic circumstances.  While the building does have a history as a home for some valuable local institutions, this sale may enables WSM to negotiate its' economic realities (expansion costs, frozen salaries [which is a very, very serious matter given local costs of living], et. al. - all of which are very seriously deserving of some consideration in this matter as well) a bit more successfully.  If that's the case, then good.

James Coley's picture

I share Ruby's concerns.

I share Ruby's concerns. The lot at Weaver and Greensboro should be used in a way that best benefits downtown Carrboro and fits its needs. That does not necessarily align with what is most profitable for Mark Pantlin, or any other one person. Of course, this is a ubiquitous issue under market capitalism, but that is no reason to overlook such concerns in this particular case. And so I am glad Ruby brought it up.James Coley

Rhayader's picture

OK....

The lot at Weaver and Greensboro should be used in a way that best benefits downtown Carrboro and fits its needs. Isn't that exactly what's happening?  It's not as if some alternative garnered widespread community support.  From WSM itself:"Changes in zoning, lack of interest from adjoining property owners, and lack of consensus around the town’s vision slowed momentum for the [proposed WSM]  project....Weaver Street decided it could better serve the community by focusing its resources on its core business of selling local and organic food."Sounds to me like the strategy that "best benefits downtown Carrboro and fits its needs" was exactly the one taken here.(Need I also point out that "what is most profitable for Mark Pantlin" would likely not be an unwanted store?) 

James Coley's picture

Would it be a good idea for Pantlin to come meet the community?

"Isn't that exactly what's happening?" Well, it seems to me that we don't know yet. We don't know what Pantllin might do with the lot. I'm a little confused by your post, Rhayader. But thank you for your reply. Do you mean that it best benefits downtown Carrboro, and fits its needs, to have the lot developed rather than left undeveloped? Maybe. Maybe not. There are some things that might be done with the lot that would be worse than just leaving it unused.Yes, I agree that an "unwanted" store would in all likelihood not be profitable for Pantlin. But that does not mean that a profitable business at that location would be what is best for the community. It may be "wanted" by people who shop there, but that does not mean it would be wanted by a person carefully and impartially considering the needs, benefits and character of downtown Carrboro.A lot of people think that whatever the market and the profit motive give us is what is best. Progressives know better. Sometimes the market works great. But frequently, it fails. Having a Walgreens' to do battle with CVS would not prove to be an example of needed or beneficial competition, for example.One reason I am concerned about this is that we have seen recently a good example of a business person who is not part of the Carrboro community, but who, merely because of the social conventions known as "property" and "ownership," has had a major effect in matters he does not understand. A Mr. Brummett of Durham ordered the construction of the ugly fence by the railroad tracks between Village West and Estes Park Apartments, blocking the historic Merritt Crossing for walkers and bicyclists. He did it, he said, to reduce crime at Estes Park, but burglers can just walk around the end of the fence. Thus the fence is "Brummett's Folly." It makes matters less convenient and safe for law-abiding folks like me and Ruby on foot, but would not deter a thief. It is absurd that someone who is not part of our community should be able to make such a change. No one who understands or cares about how we live here would have wanted that fence built.So I am a little worried about what we might see at the corner of Weaver and Greensboro. Something that might be quite profitable from Pantlin's point of view living in Cary, but out of whack in Carrboro, like that fence.Would it be a good idea for Pantlin to come to a community meeting of some kind, perhaps sponsored by Weaver Street Market? If even a few people met with him for, say, lunch at Panzanella, there may be a way to find common ground that serves both his interests as a business person and the interests of the community.The idea that those two types of things automatically align is the Myth of the Market, but, as I said, Progressives know better. But does Pantlin share this point of view? That's how his politics might actually be relevant here.James Coley

Rhayader's picture

.....

It may be "wanted" by people who shop there, but that does not mean it would be wanted by a person carefully and impartially considering the needs, benefits and character of downtown Carrboro.Yeah, why let the foolish residents decide what they want?  Better to get some benevolent paternalist egghead to determine what the people need.  It's for their own good.Thus the fence is "Brummett's Folly."If Brummett was allowed to block a public thoroughfare or sidewalk, then the problem lies with whatever government agency allowed that to take place.  If it wasn't public space, then all you've described is a physical barrier to trespassing. Progressives know better. Yeah, and they never let you forget it either.  I'm a very socially "liberal" dude, but the term "progressive" is used with such smug satisfaction that it makes me want to vomit. Would it be a good idea for Pantlin to come to a community meeting of some kind, perhaps sponsored by Weaver Street Market?A good idea?  For whom?  Maybe so; I have no objection to people getting together and hashing things out.  Have at it. 

James Coley's picture

Reply to Various Points.

You wrote "Yeah, why let the foolish residents decide what they want?  Better to get some benevolent paternalist egghead to determine what the people need.  It's for their own good." This is a caricature of the Progressive view, and an implicit Straw Man fallacy. The fundamental error in your reasoning is that market success constitutes the residents deciding what they want. The market does not reflect what the people want. Only what they choose. From the options determined by others for them.You also wrote, in response to my remark that Progressives know better than to fall for simplistic thinking about markets and the profit motive, that  "Yeah, and they never let you forget it either.  I'm a very socially "liberal" dude, but the term "progressive" is used with such smug satisfaction that it makes me want to vomit." There is no substance to such remarks, and they do not advance intelligent, informed rational discussion. Also borders on argumentum ad hominem. As for Brummett's Folly, I disagree that it was the fault of government. Brummett thought to contact the railroad company to accommodate their needs, which he did by installing a fence. But he should have contacted the town hall to see about the needs of the people who, unlike him, live in the community affected by his reckless decision. James Coley

Rhayader's picture

Reply to reply to various points

The fundamental error in your reasoning is that market success constitutes the residents deciding what they want. The market does not reflect what the people want. Only what they choose. From the options determined by others for them.OK, so their "choice" isn't what they actually want.  And I suppose elected officials and government employees have some mysterious ability to divine what it is that residents really want?  I mean, I understand your point in an academic sense, but I'm curious as to what better means you have of determining "what the people want" than allowing them to choose.There is no substance to such remarks, and they do not advance intelligent, informed rational discussion.No disagreement; the remarks were clearly offered as an aside.  And it wasn't an ad hominem argument, because it wasn't an argument.But he should have contacted the town hall to see about the needs of the people who, unlike him, live in the community affected by his reckless decision.I don't understand; was this "folly" on public land or not?  If so, couldn't the government simply take it down if Brummett failed to obtain the proper permissions?  If not, why should he be obligated to talk to town hall for something that has nothing to do with public facilities?

James Coley's picture

Replies to replies to replies ...

You are right, Rhayader. People choose things they don't really want every day. Also, it is a caricature of the democratic process for you to dismiss it as "some mysterious ability to divine" community interests. Finally, it does not matter whether the fence is on private or public land. Owners of private lots do not have the right to do anything they want with their property.The underlying philosophical issue is about the nature of property rights. The popular but fundamentally flawed libertarian notion, also advocated by Rush Limbaugh and the like, is that the government has no right to intervene, in the use of private property, in the public interest. Rand Paul recently made use of this assumption in his criticism of the Civil Rights Act. That is the logical outcome of this kind of libertarian ideology.The Progressive view is that a property right means that the owner gets to decide, within a legal and moral space prescribed by the public interest, how the property is to be used. This is actually the institutionally accepted and established view of the nature of ownership, which is, after all, a social convention. Thus, it is Progressives who defend common sense; the libertarian view of property is simplistic, unworkable and extreme.As the new owner of the lot at the corner of Weaver and Greensboro, Mark Pantlin of Raleigh has a special responsbility to the Carrboro community.Would Mark Chilton and/or other community leaders step up to invite Pantlin to Panzanella to talk over how best to use that lot? It is at a very important location in the heart of downtown Carrboro. I would hope Pantlin would at least be presented with the results of the charette held back in 2003. All the work that into that charette should not go to waste.Rhayader, if you want to reply to the replies to the replies to the replies, that's fine. But we should take this offline, rather than take up more public thread here. Click on my name to go to my profile, and click on the Contact tab, to e-mail me privately.James Coley

Rhayader's picture

Nah

"Take up more pubic thread"?  This is an internet forum for comments and discussions; I'm perfectly comfortable keeping the conversation here.  I'm sure Ruby would pipe up if we were disrupting anything.I'm curious about what rights property owners do have according to this supposed "progressive" view.  If I buy a house, can I put a tool shed or swing set in my back yard without contacting regulatory authorities?  Can I start a garden if I'd like to?  Can I let my dog run around on my property?  Who is the arbiter charged with defining the "moral space" in which I am allowed to operate?  If your position is so in keeping with "common sense" -- whatever that means -- I assume you have an objectively consistent method of differentiating the cases in which property owners can treat their own space as they please, and the cases in which the government can dictate how private property is used.Also, it is a caricature of the democratic process for you to dismiss it as "some mysterious ability to divine" community interests. I don't think it is; to assume that majority rule -- or, even worse, government regulatory authority -- can properly decide for private individuals what they should do with their own property is arrogant and dismissive.  In fact, it's exactly the sort of thinking that has been used in the past to institute government-enforced segregation.  A defense of property rights under the 14th amendment gave the NAACP its first-ever SCOTUS win with the landmark Buchanan v Warley case.  GMU's David Bernstein wrote up a nice summary of the case a few months ago:http://www.scotusblog.com/2010/02/the-neglected-case-of-buchanan-v-warley/ Allowing the government to dictate how private property is used will eventually lead to unfair and harmful decisions.  While I'm not an absolutist seeking to abolish all zoning laws, I do think that cases like Buchanan v Warley are important reminders of the problematic outcomes that can occur when we allow the government to exercise unrestrained control over private property.

James Coley's picture

Final Comment on Property Rights.

There is, of course, no perfectly objective and consistent decision procedure for determining whether a particular use of land or other property is within the moral and legal space within which ownership operates. But it is a Straw Man argument to say that, for that reason, there are no limits on what people can do with their property. Of course there are limits.It also mischaracterizes the common-sense view I defended by using loaded language like "dictate," and to suggest that, on this view, the government will "exercise unrestrained control over private property." There are limits on both government power and private property rights. In any case, this will be my last post on this issue. Rhayader is invited to continue offline. But I think it is important in our public discussion of progressive political principles that we directly address the bizarre ideas about the extent of individual property rights that are still out there.James Coley

Wait a minute.  Is it only

Wait a minute.  Is it only the developer whp purchased the lot who is threatening Carrboro?  What about the people who sold the lot--the community owned grocery store whose Board of Directors had to approve the sale?  Do they get a pass on their decision to cash out?  How much profit did they make on the deal?

Geoff Green's picture

Concerned, yes, but ominous?

I understand the concerns about the possible redevelopment of the site. But I think that saying it's an "ominous" development is being a bit negative. I can think of a lot worse things which could go into the spot than a drugstore -- an empty lot or empty building, for one.

Walgreens?

Another chain druggist wouldn't be optimum for the block, but perhaps they would be a 24 hour store?Other suggestions:Another hardware or farmgoods supplier for the block?KFC/Taco Bell to bookend the Century Center?

Pointing fingers at the wrong place

The fingers in this case needed to be pointed straight at Ruffin Slater. 

Weaver Street Market had let the property become an eyesore, for years after their promised re-development of the lot.  Now, because of a series of really bone-headed business decisions (namely, poorly thought out expansion plans), Weaver Street Market had to dump the property in order to stay solvent, and they did it without consideration for who the buyer was.

Weaver Street Market has become profitable because of the people of Carrboro. Their current problems are certainly not as a result of the people not trying hard to prop them up.  Theres no reason that Weaver Street Market should have uncerimoniously dumped a key piece of Carrboro real estate in the lap of a developer that may not have Carrboro's best interests in mind.

 

Thanks, Ruffin!

Too Early for Pessimism

The property has been sold, and that's all we know so far.  I think some of the concern here is premature. Back in 2003 I and dozens of others participated in the Crossroads Charette for that property run by The Village Project. The excitement and good ideas generated at this event led me to get more involved and join The Village Project board.The Village Project has retained many of the materials from this event, and we are looking into whether or not we can meet with the new property owner to share some of the proposals that were made back in 2003.  Let's be clear- the only proper development proposal for this street corner is first and foremost an urban building, and probably a mixed-use building at that, with a reduced amount of parking compared to standard parking ratios in the town. Just because the new owner is from out of town doesn't mean he doesn't know that. In the past few years, the permitting of the 300 East Main Project, Roberson Square, and the Alberta have sent a signal out that Carrboro is not looking for run-of-the-mill suburban infill, especially downtown.  Developers who are tired of doing that (or never wanted to do it in the first place) are looking for jurisdictions that want to do better projects.  Mr. Pantlin may be looking to do something that fits well with Carrboro Vision 2020, or he may not.  We don't know yet, so maybe we should reserve judgment for now and hope for the best.

James Coley's picture

Hear, Hear!

Patrick wrote "the only proper development proposal for this street corner is first and foremost an urban building, and probably a mixed-use building at that, with a reduced amount of parking compared to standard parking ratios in the town."Hear, Hear! And I also agree that, with a hopeful and not pessimistic attitude, representatives of the town and the Village Project should try to contact and meet with Pantlin.James Coley

Ever on the market?

I am curious how this sale took place.  I never saw a for sale sign on the property, never heard about the property being available for purchase.  Was any effort made to find a local buyer or did Weaver street just go back to someone who had interest a few years ago and with deep pockets, without even trying to find a local buyer?  I own a downtown business and would have considered relocating to this spot, as I imagine other local folks would also, had I known it was on the market.  From appearances it seems like Weaver Street took the high dollar fast cash way out without a lot of consideration for the community.  I could be wrong and they sought out a local buyer and could not find one, but I sure never heard about it.  

LUO ???

Has anyone here ever heard of the Carrboro Land Use Ordinance????? I think that pretty much outlines what can and cannot be done with the property. Geez Louise...don't complicate matters. Read the ordinance.

Adjacent Center Street house also sold

Just so ya know.. Weaver Street also sold a Mill House on 104 Center Street to Mark Pantlin.  Its is behind the "corner" lot and the Dentist.  The house has been neglected for years, but is one of the original Mill Houses built around 1910.  That lot is still zoned residential.  My guess is that they would like to develop the whole block.  I am not happy about this since I just renovated my home on the other side of center street.  A develpoer would have to change the zoning of several properties on that block to put any sort of major building in that area.  Also there is no guarantee that CVS will be in its current location forever since I believe there building is owned by Harris Teeter... and they have pharmacies of their own.  This will be long process..

JeffH's picture

Mill house on 104 Center Street also sold

Just so ya know..  Weaver Street Market also sold 104 Center Street to Mark Pantlin.  This property has been neglected the past few years, but is an Historic Mill House built around 1910.  It is behind the corner lot and the dentist office. That property is still zoned residential (and the only one in that block still R7)..   Honestly, it needs a lot of work, but fustratingly the previous owners had not done much to fix the house.   I would guess a developer would want to develop the whole block.  That would require rezoning.. I'm not happy about this since I just renovated my house on the other side of Center street.  I consider Center street a historical residential street.  my house was the 1st school house in Carrboro.  That said I am hoping any development on that block would be confined to the corner lot..  This will be a long process..

Brooks Rainey Pearson's picture

Rumor Mill

I have hesitated to even include this information, because I can't substantiate either in any way, but the rumor in Carrboro is that Harris Teeter will not renew the lease to CVS, but plans to expand into that space.  If that is true, it makes sense that other drug stores are vying for space in the area.  The second rumor I have heard is that they do want the whole block, and that "Curl Up and Dye," the little hair salon on Center Street, is the hold out, demanding over a million.  Rumors...take them for what they are.*Brooks