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Uptown employers still adjusting DNC plans

Most await Secret Service’s decisions knowing closures, security will crimp travel

With less than a month before the Democratic National Convention, many of uptown’s biggest employers still haven’t announced their final plans for dealing with road closures, parking restrictions, security barriers and changes in public transportation.

Many are still waiting on the Secret Service to release its security plan, which would include road restrictions during the Sept. 3-6 convention.

Charlotte’s transportation department is taking the lead in creating a response plan to those restrictions, with help from state transportation officials.

The Secret Service recently released its security plan for the Aug. 27-30 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., with a list of detours and closures, including a section of a toll expressway.

Included in Tampa’s response plan: longer green time on traffic signals to alleviate congestion, and the use of message boards to update commuters on delays, lane closures and detours.

A Secret Service security plan for Charlotte will likely come next week, if not sooner, officials said. Charlotte’s large uptown employers, including Bank of America and Wells Fargo, say they’re continuing to work out details for operations during the first week of September, including ways of maintaining security for their employees and customers.

“Wells Fargo will be open for our customers during the DNC, but it will not be business as usual,” said Josh Dunn, a spokesman for Wells Fargo.

“Based upon anticipated lower customer volume and probable difficulties getting in and out of the immediate uptown Charlotte area,” he said, the bank will close its branch at Third and Tryon streets, and the Wells Fargo Advisors location in One Wells Fargo Center.

Plans for additional staff changes during the DNC may not be made public, Dunn said.

However, news is spreading of uptown companies encouraging their staffs to telecommute during the convention. “Most people in my immediate area, we all know we’re working from home,” said Joy Vickers, who said she is a Wells Fargo employee. Duke Energy, which has about 3,000 employees uptown, is encouraging its nonessential uptown staff to work from home or from other Duke Energy locations. The company is asking nonessential staff who choose to work uptown to arrive earlier and leave earlier than normal.

Secret Service requirements may also affect the availability of uptown parking decks used by company employees, officials said.

Among the other uptown changes announced or in consideration:

• Charlotte transit officials announced Wednesday that the Trade Street transit center (which sits near the heart of convention events) will move operations to South Mint and West Third streets, and uptown bus routes. Buses will run their normal schedules and routes will only change as the buses approach Interstate 277 and avoid streets blocked for convention security, officials said.

The Lynx Blue Line will stop at Stonewall Street, but riders headed toward uptown will be allowed to transfer to free buses going further into uptown.

• The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library will close its two uptown locations, Main Library and ImaginOn, to the public during the DNC. The library would normally be closed Sunday, Sept. 2 and Labor Day, Sept. 3. A plan (still not finalized) calls for both places to close Tuesday, Sept. 4 through Friday, Sept. 7 and reopen Saturday, Sept. 8.

• Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools are considering closing uptown schools for up to four days to accommodate the convention, under an alternate calendar recently approved by the school board.

Officials said Irwin Avenue and First Ward elementaries and Metro School, which serves severely disabled students, are close enough to the convention zone that it might prove difficult to get students in and out.

An additional 273 students who attend 22 other CMS schools live in the convention zone, which might require revising bus routes. The board authorized makeup days for those schools of Oct. 29, Nov. 21, Jan. 22 and June 10.

Meanwhile, other businesses that want to be open say they’ve been waiting for more information. Joel Houston with Flowers Plus, at College Street Shops inside Two Wells Fargo Center, attended a meeting earlier this week with representatives from the Secret Service and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

The message to him and other tenants and building managers? “They pretty much asked us to be flexible,” Houston said. “That’s all we could do at this point, is be flexible.”

He’s waiting to hear about the security plan and how uptown will be affected before deciding how he’ll conduct business.

“It’s really going to be based on availability … to get in and out of the building,” Houston said, and “whether it’s really going to be feasible for us to make the trip into uptown.”

Uptown buildings managed by Childress Klein Properties, including the Duke Energy Center and One, Two and Three Wells Fargo Center, will be open during the convention.

David Pitser, a Childress Klein partner, said while buildings will have enhanced security, tenants and authorized guests can use the buildings generally as they do today. Staff writers Claire McNeill and Celeste Smith contributed.

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