Joe Riddle

When Being "the Man" Ain't So Easy: Satyagraha, Yates Motors and the Greensboro Massacre

I spent most of Sunday afternoon out at the Haw River just outside the mill village of Swepsonville about five miles upstream of Saxapahaw.  I managed to enjoy most of my time out there even though I was there was because I have been having trouble there with trespassers.  The land I own out there is the hydro-electric power plant that formerly powered the cotton mill in Swepsonville.

My hydro-electric plant has been out of operation for about 40 years and the windows in the building are almost completely broken out.  Inside the building are huge, deep holes in the floor where the generators once sat atop the turbines.  I have been gradually working on making the interior of the building safer by covering over the huge holes in the floor, but the building is definitely not a safe place for unwary visitors.

Chapel Hill Police Violently Arrest Squatters at Yates (University Chrysler) Building

In a series of unfortunate events, a group of folks (who do not represent Occupy Chapel Hill) decided to break into and occupy the abandoned neglected University Chrysler building on West Franklin Street (between 411 West and Lantern). This is one of many properties owned by Joe Riddle that have been left vacant for years on end. While I think their encampment was probably an improvement to the space, I have to admit that if it was my house and someone decided to move in, I'd probably call the cops, too.

So that's what Riddle did, putting the town in the position of having to get the protesters out. I've been hearing a lot of reports about what happened, only some of which can be confirmed right now. But it seems as if the police were unnecessarily heavy-handed. Given that Police Chief Chris Blue has been very open and communicative with Occupy Chapel Hill-Carrboro group at Peace and Justice Plaza, this is somewhat surprising. But it also bears reminding that this group IS NOT the same as Occupy CHC and I doubt they were as interested in maintaining a good relationship with the town.

The Downtown "Riddle"

If you are interested in the Downtown "Riddle," you must read the May/June edition of the Chapel Hill Magazine.  On page 56, there is an interview with Fayetteville's own Joe Riddle, the well-known owner of some of our empty Franklin St. property.

In the "Letter from the publisher," Dan Shannon says the interview is "a lively mixture of raw honesty, combativeness, disingenuousness and skepticism."  The wary Riddle doesn't treat reporter Lisa Rossi with much respect and obviously doesn't believe that any interview will do him justice.

Who's filling the Gap

My favorite absentee landlord, Joe Riddle, has found a tenant for the vacant Gap/Carolina Theater space* at the corner of Franklin and Columbia Streets. However, he's being very tight-lipped about what is going in there. This makes me hopeful, but also nervous. This should be an improvement over the other vacant Franklin Street storefronts and lots that Riddle owns, but then again he doesn't exactly have a record of being terribly concerned about the well-being of our downtown.

The Daily Tar Heel reports that Riddle has signed a lease and begun demolition inside, but hasn't applied for any permits that might offer a clue as to at least what type of use this will be nor who the tenant is. Anyone want to guess?

The problem with downtown

I just drove through Eastgate, and and wow that place is really coming together. It looks quite nice and there are lots of appealing businesses there. However, almost none of them are locally owned. WomanCraft seems to be the only local business there now. I would so much prefer to spend my money at a business that supports the local economy and supports our downtown. I started to think about why our downtown is starting to struggle after so many years of vitality.

No, it's not the panhandlers, lack of parking, or drunk students. I think It's the landlords. Or at least some landlords, most notably Spencer Young who is actively driving tenants away from The Courtyard while piling on loans that he apparently can't pay, and Joe Riddle who is responsible for at least two empty store fronts and a vacant lot on Franklin Street. Riddle is a developer who lives in Fayetteville. He was arrested on felony drug charges in 2005, and he currently owns several properties in Northside and downtown Chapel Hill worth a total tax value of $1,795,460 (according to Orange County GIS).



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