Feb. 28, 2023; last updated March 1
Malcomb Coley offered to talk about how Mayor Lyles’ Racial Equity Initiative came together. As a campaign chair of the $250 million fundraising project, Coley had much to report on.
But one of the things that Coley chose to disclose was a development project by Bright Hope Capital, in which he is an investor. Bright Hope, which includes former Bank of America Chairman Hugh McColl, has, over an undisclosed number of months, sought land now owned by Johnson C. Smith University to construct a $50 million building adjoining the J.C. Smith University campus, using private funds. The building would house a variety of economic development support efforts that would be free to companies operating in the Beatties Ford Road corridor.
The site the Bright Hope partners chose was the old A&P grocery store site, 1600 Beatties Ford (shown in bottom right inset in photo above), which was donated to JCSU by the Duke Endowment two years ago. Coley is not a JCSU alumnus. He told the Forum that he will be honored in April for his personal donations to JCSU.
Coley’s story was that Bright Hope had a deal with the board of Johnson C. Smith University to buy the land. Then the board retracted the deal. Then approved it again. Then retracted it. Late in the meeting this morning, he said the JCSU board thought it could get more money for the site if it held off selling. That conclusion appeared to be confirmed in a JCSU statement after the meeting, issued after media requested comment.
The statement, according to both Business North Carolina and the Charlotte Business Journal, acknowledged turning down the proposal but said the property could still be sold for development.
Was Coley explaining a private deal gone awry to create public pressure on the university to get the deal back on track? Alternatively, is it in JCSU’s best interest to hold its land as the corridor redevelops, as even Coley’s comments suggest?
Business North Carolina’s report is here. There is another report on the meeting behind the Charlotte Business Journal paywall. The Business North Carolina story has been updated a number of times since Tuesday, and by Wednesday afternoon the report said JCSU had acknowledged that its board had turned down the project “at that time. The property is still available for development. JCSU will continue to review proposals, including proposals from Bright Hope Capital, in consultation with our advisors.”
Forum participants from the Beatties Ford Road corridor, who have been waiting for decades for such uptown initiatives in their struggling part of town, were aghast at what they saw as lack of communication on the project, and what they took to be a lack of involvement by corridor residents. Coley said 90 people were consulted, including representatives from faith communities on the corridor, but did not list them.
Coley made his presentation without notes, slides or PowerPoints. Details behind Coley’s summary of the Racial Equity Initiative may not become public until a report is issued. No publication date for the report was mentioned this morning.
As for the details on the Bright Hope-JCSU negotiations, plans by other owners of commercial property (chiefly the Griffin family) to redevelop in that area of the corridor, how commercial development impacts the gentrification that is already putting pressure on longtime area homeowners, and the age-old redevelopment question – who will go first? – may be explored in future media focus on the corridor.
Or perhaps other people will offer to come talk to the Forum.
– Steve Johnston
The JCSU statement from March 1:
“As owner of the West Trade Street property that houses the former A&P grocery store, Johnson C. Smith University engaged with representatives of Bright Hope Capital to explore the possibilities of Bright Hope Capital developing the property. After giving thoughtful and careful consideration to several options, including an outright sale of the property, a long-term lease of the property and even a joint venture with Bright Hope Capital and JCSU to develop the property, the JCSU Board of Trustees decided not to move forward with development at that time. The property is still available for development. JCSU will continue to review proposals, including proposals from Bright Hope Capital, in consultation with our advisors.”