Living Here Guide

Ballantyne: Red hot and growing

Cullman Park is one of several spots in Ballantyne Corporate Park to take pictures, enjoy an outdoor meal, take a casual stroll and even fish.
Cullman Park is one of several spots in Ballantyne Corporate Park to take pictures, enjoy an outdoor meal, take a casual stroll and even fish. Observer File Photo

It’s hard to believe that when developer Johnny Harris made public his vision of creating a community on his family’s hunting land in 1992, he had difficulty convincing peers and state and local officials that the area held promise.

Now, new residents are pouring into Ballantyne each year, and the area can best be described by two words: red hot.

Red, because there’s so much red-clay earth moving around this place, it seems that at every turn, new homes, retail, offices and houses of worship are springing up. Hot, because it remains one of the most desirable suburban zip codes in the region – so much so that its schools and roadways are constantly struggling to keep up.

The past year has seen considerable road changes to accommodate the growing number of vehicles entering and leaving Ballantyne each day. A new flyover gets drivers on and off I-485 at Johnston Road, major thoroughfares are improving: Rea Road, Johnston Road and Ballantyne Commons Parkway. And a new bridge connects what were two disjointed segments of Community House Road.

But driving through the area during morning or afternoon rush hours is still a challenge. All the ongoing tree clearing and earth moving aimed at making room for more homes point to more congestion ahead.

Ask the people who live here, and you’ll hear what the fuss is about.

The area’s public schools boast high test scores and active PTAs. Plenty of private school options also round out the mix for families with kids.

Business is booming, with thousands of employees from corporate big-hitters like MetLife, SPX and Bank of America working each day out of the Ballantyne Corporate Park’s 4 million square feet of office space. Central Piedmont Community College opened a 10,000-square-foot Ballantyne Center in the corporate park in July.

There’s plenty to do off the job, as well. For families like mine with young kids, there are tons of free-time activities within easy reach.

On sunny days, we enjoy disc golf at the Elon Park Recreation Center, biking or walking the Lower McAlpine Creek Greenway or the Four Mile Creek Greenway, visiting Big Rock Park in the Thornhill neighborhood or enjoying a picnic lunch in Cullman Park in Ballantyne Corporate Park. When the weather turns sour, we often head to Sports Connection, a giant facility on Ardrey Kell Road that boasts a bowling alley, laser tag, a ropes course, a room full of bounce houses and an arcade.

Children into sports or the arts can get top-notch instruction without leaving Ballantyne, at a variety of athletics programs, dance and music schools and even sewing and art studios that offer instruction and fun parties. The Morrison branch of the YMCA has a myriad of programs for kids and adults, and a new Sara’s Y is set to open inthe corporate park in 2016.

It’s easy to go days without leaving the Ballantyne boundaries, thanks to all the nearby conveniences.

The 28277 zip code is home to five Harris Teeters, as well as Earth Fare, Trader Joe’s and Publix supermarkets. A new Whole Foods, the city’s second, is due to open off Providence Road near I-485 in 2016. Two large shopping centers, Blakeney and Stonecrest, are just 2.5 miles apart on Rea Road, both boasting Targets and Harris Teeters, in addition to other local and national shops and restaurants. For mall shoppers, Carolina Place Mall is a 10-minute drive and SouthPark sits 20 minutes away.

There are two theaters to catch a movie in Ballantyne – Regal Stonecrest at Piper Glen Stadium 22 is one of the region’s bigger theaters, and the more intimate Regal Ballantyne Village Theatre in Ballantyne Village offers an art-house movie experience for adults, complete with wine and beer.

If you’re hungry, Ballantyne has a diverse mix of national and local restaurants, from newcomers Bahn Thai and Viva Chicken in Toringdon to our veteran favorites Jade Asian Fusion and131 Main in Blakeney, and Miro Spanish Grille in Toringdon Market.

Worship is big in Ballantyne. St. Matthew Catholic Church is one of the largest Catholic congregations in the country, at more than 9,500 families.

The nondenominational Elevation Church, which already has a large facility on Rea Road in Blakeney, is now developing a massive worship and office space on 21 acres at Lancaster Highway and Johnston Road. More than a dozen other religious congregations call Ballantyne home, and the numbers are growing.

Cristina Bolling, who writes about style and fashion for The Observer, has lived in Ballantyne for 12 years.

The essentials

Be a guest at the Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge (for a night, a meal, a massage or a round of golf): The luxury hotel, which hosted President Barack Obama during the 2012 Democratic National Convention, is perfect for a splurgy, in-town getaway. Or, celebrate a special occasion at the hotel’s Gallery Restaurant, treat yourself to a massage or pedicure at the spa or a round of golf at the Golf Club at Ballantyne’s PGA course. During the Christmas season, take a free tour of the Gingerbread Lane local gingerbread house competition.

Stare up at the four monuments at Johnston Road and Ballantyne Commons Parkway: Veteran residents will remember when the four, 30-foot square-shaped monuments had vast fields behind them. Now, they’re at the center of the hustle-bustle and welcome thousands of drivers into the area each day. Themed etchings on the monuments echo those on the four monuments at the intersection of Trade and Tryon streets uptown: transportation, finance, technology and the human spirit.

Be a farmer: Decades ago, this land was home to a host of farms. One that still stands, Hall Family Farm on Providence Road West, has a thriving agritourism business where you can take hayrides and pick your own pumpkins in fall and strawberries in spring, as well as climb on tractors and a retired firetruck, and munch on funnel cakes and freshly made smoothies.