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Posted: Wednesday, Sep. 10, 2008

CMC activity worries residents

By Dan Tierney
Published in: Local News
  • Part of the Carolinas Medical Center's expansion is to create a regional campus of UNC Chapel Hill medical school. Earlier this year, the UNC Board of Governors endorsed a plan to send third- and fourth-year medical students to CMC in Charlotte, one of the largest U.S. cities without a four-year medical school.

    Fifty UNC students are expected to arrive at CMC in 2011 to complete their last two years, which involve more apprenticeship than classroom training. CMC plans a $62 million, 110,000-square-foot building near the hospital to house a medical library, classrooms, an auditorium and a simulation lab.

    CMC spokesman Scott White said the hospital is still unsure where the medical school will be constructed, but it won't go on the nearby residential streets around East Boulevard because the streets are too far from the hospital. He also said there's still no funding allotted from the state Legislature for the medical school.

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    Neighborhood residents have long called East Boulevard the “backbone” of Dilworth, both for its central location and bustling activity.

    Many worry, though, that the scenery could change forever.

    Carolinas HealthCare System, parent of Carolinas Medical Center, and its real estate representatives have bought dozens of nearby homes and some businesses over the years, spurring rumors of home tear-downs and medical school construction.

    Those worries grew in June, after an affiliate of Lincoln Harris, a real estate firm, purchased properties along East Boulevard, which included the site of neighborhood hangouts Bruegger's Bagels and Caribou Coffee, for $3.6 million on behalf of the health care giant. Last year, another Lincoln Harris affiliate bought properties that held East Boulevard Bar & Grill for $3.1 million.

    On quiet neighborhood streets behind East Boulevard such as Fountain View Street, Garden Terrace and Lombardy Circle, houses have been bought by the hospital's real estate representative. That includes two on Fountain View in July.

    Scott White, a spokesman for CMC, said the hospital doesn't currently intend to tear down any structures, won't build a medical school on the three neighborhood streets and doesn't have any specific plans for the area.

    “We need room for expansion when it's needed,” said White, who added that the hospital buys properties all around Charlotte when available. “Hospitals have to worry about getting landlocked.”

    At least four residential property owners say they believe the hospital and property management company haven't made fair offers for their property.

    Neighbors also fear that removing gathering spots would go against the spirit of a street redevelopment plan that widened sidewalks and added bike lanes.

    White said the hospital has failed to actively communicate with the neighborhood recently.

    The hospital hasn't filed with the state for a Certificate of Need to expand into the neighborhood, said state analyst Angie Matthes. That kind of certificate is required for health care projects that are more than $2 million.

    CMC or its real estate representatives now own 10 of the approximately 26 properties on Fountain View and 23 of the approximately 29 properties on Garden Terrace. Some were purchased in the late '70s. Some have medical uses, some are rented and others sit empty. Those used as medical facilities aren't subject to property taxes. Jubal Early, a senior vice president with Lincoln Harris, said the firm and its affiliates don't discuss clients or purchases.

    East Boulevard Bar & Grill hasn't closed, but owner Frank Deal plans to move to nearby Latta Pavilion in January. Bruegger's has “every intention of staying, and it's business as usual,” a spokesperson says.

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