Charlotte, NC

Queen City Roundup 12/15: New med school named, park gets new facelift, first responders criticize mandate

Collin Cunningham
Renderings of the college building depict a bustling, glass-covered hub of activity in a 1960s Art Deco style.(Courtesy of Atrium Health Foundation)

Morning, Charlotteans! Today is a new day, so we have a new roundup, which tells you about the new name for the new medical college Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist is set to start building next year and how much it cost donors. A park originally built to accommodate Charlotte's Black community has some new features and first responders in the Queen City uttered new words of criticism against a looming COVID-19 vaccine and testing mandate. And we've got something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue in Part Six of our Charlotte Gift Guide, which selects local thrifts for bargain bin gifts.

It is Wednesday, Dec. 15, and here's what every resident of the Queen City needs to know

1. $25M donation names building set to house Charlotte's first medical school

What happened: The Wake Forest University School of Medicine will be located in the Howard R. Levine Center for Education after a foundation named for the former Dollar General CEO donated $25 million. Also in the center will be the Wake Forest University School of Business, Wake Forest University School for Professional Studies and Carolinas College of Health Sciences.

Crews are expected to break ground on the school in 2022. It will be housed in the recently approved Atrium Health Innovation District, which received the go-ahead from Mecklenburg County commissioners last week. The group approved using $36 million in tax money to fund the surrounding infrastructure.

Why it matters: Charlotte is the largest city in the country to lack a medical school, and Atrium's new building will solve that problem when it begins enrolling students in 2024. Atrium and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have been partnered since 2019 with the intent to create the school, which will be located at the corner of South McDowell Street and Baxter Street in Midtown Charlotte.

2. Charlotte's first park for Black residents, Pearl Street Park, reopens after upgrades

What happened: Mecklenburg County reopened Pearl Street Park on Tuesday, introducing guests to new basketball and pickleball courts, an open-air pavilion and a landscaped creek. The park has been closed since 2017 when Mecklenburg commissioners invested $4.75 million in the 11-acre recreational area, located in Midtown.

Why it matters: First purchased by the city in 1943, Pearl Street was Charlotte's first park intended for Black residents who were unable to coinhabit the same parks amid segregation. The area was previously home to Charlotte's largest Black neighborhood, Brooklyn, but that was torn down in the 1960s and '70s to make room for new developments. But Pearl Street Park remains, and the latest renovations hope to prolong its existence after the construction of Interstate 277 in 1981.

3. 'We asked you to stop any future health mandates': Charlotte first responders ask city to drop COVID-19 vaccine requirement, weekly testing

A homicide detective with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and a local firefighters' union president used the public comment period at Monday's City Council meeting to criticize Charlotte's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for new employees and weekly testing requirements. The testing doesn't start until Jan. 9, but Charlotte Fire Fighters Association Local 660 President Tom Brewer said local firefighters are afraid the requirements will cause people to leave their jobs.

“There is an army of city employees praying you will see the light and stop this intrusion,” added CMPD Detective Matt Hefner, per WSOC. “You’ve pushed many of us into a corner forcing us to choose between our health freedoms and our long-invested careers.”

In other news related to COVID-19 in North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper encouraged vaccinated residents to get a COVID-19 booster shot in preparation for the holidays on Tuesday. The FDA issued an emergency use authorization allowing anyone over the age of 16 to get Pfizer's booster on Dec. 9, per STAT.

It was the Governor's first public update since WRAL reported a student of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte became the first person in the state to test positive for the omicron variant of the virus on Saturday.

4. Timely Queen City Holiday Preview: Charlotte Gift Guide, Part 6

Thrift stores often carry a negative connotation because they carry used items, but many secondhand stores curate their collections with the best donated items they receive. Here are three such spots in Charlotte to find gifts for Christmas and other giving holidays without eviscerating your wallet.

Open every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., AL Charlotte's thrift store at 3405 S. Tryon St. allows you to shop for inexpensive knickknacks, toys and clothing while putting your money towards philanthropic programs that aid the Queen City. Charlotteans can also clear room for a rash of gifts under the Christmas Tree by donating old items to the store, with drop-off and priority pickup options available.

Over in Matthews, a nonprofit has transformed one of its office buildings into a thrift shop that offers everything from antiques and collectibles to and jewelry and housewares. Backporch Treasures is about 20 minutes southeast of Charlotte, but it' worth the trek to explore and shop in an inviting atmosphere. Money spent in the store is used in Matthews, and the shop is open Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Money spent at this retail boutique at 1914 Beatties Ford Rd. also sets out to make a community impact, with funds going towards Friendship Community Development Corporation and My SIster's House Transition Living program, a nonprofit focused on helping homeless women in Charlotte. Prices range from low to high, and many of Great Things' great things are available for purchase online. Shopping hours are from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

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I cover the city of Charlotte, North Carolina for NewsBreak's Creator Program. Check back often for daily headline roundups to learn what's happening in the Queen City!

Charlotte, NC

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