The 14 top Charlotte news stories of 2015

The 14 top Charlotte news stories of 2015
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Do you think I missed one? Let me know at [email protected] 

(1) A Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer goes on trial for manslaughter.

Two years after fatally shooting Jonathan Ferrell — an unarmed black man — after a car accident, CMPD officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick went on trial. Jury selection was unusually fraught, and after weeks of testimony that centered around whether a reasonable officer should have believed himself in danger — the result was a mistrial.

A few days later, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced that the state would not pursue a retrial, saying it would be impossible to get a group of 12 to agree unanimously.

The case was national news and came during a summer when cities across the U.S. grappled with tensions between police departments and people of color. Only a few weeks earlier, Walter Scott was gunned down by an officer in North Charleston and bystander video discredited the officer’s story. The trial was also three months after a gunman killed nine people in a historically black Charleston church.

2) Charlotte gets a new mayor

Jennifer Roberts via Facebook

Jennifer Roberts via Facebook

Jennifer Roberts established herself as the clear leader in fundraising and in the polls, and delivered solid victories in the Democratic Party primary, second primary and general election. She’s the fifth mayor Charlotte has had in three years (Anthony Foxx, Patsy Kinsey, Patrick Cannon and Dan Clodfelter were before her, if you’re keeping score at home) and has the chance to be the first to finish out an entire two-year term in quite a while.

3) Boomtown: Apartments and beer

apartment-development-near-southpark-mall-charlotte

Sure, there are cranes uptown for a couple new high-rises, but 2015 will forever be known as the year of 10,000 apartments in Charlotte. Actually, it’s more than that. As of fall, there were more than 12,000 apartment units under construction, according to Real Data, with 13,500 more in the planning stages. South End, NoDa and Plaza Midwood were the hot spots for construction.

three-spirits-brewery-equipment

Not coincidentally, that’s where most of the beer boom came as well. New breweries on the scene in 2015: Legion Brewing, Three Spirits Brewery, Wooden Robot, Free Range Brewing. Red Clay Ciderworks diversified the city’s offerings. NoDa Brewing and Birdsong opened new, larger facilities. And bottle shop Pintville opened in Pineville.

4) Panthers go on an incredible win streak.

In January, the Panthers closed out a furious run to edge into the playoffs. And they didn’t lose another regular season game until December, cracking off 14 in a row to lock down a bye in the upcoming postseason. Here’s hoping this becomes a top story of 2016 as well.

5) The (controversial) streetcar finally opens

Boarding the Charlotte streetcar

A 1.5-mile stretch between Time Warner Cable Arena and Novant Presbyterian hospital opened in July and immediately surpassed initial ridership projections. But it’s expensive, and a lot of people think it won’t have the economic development effect promised.

6) I-77 toll lanes begin construction

Photo via NCDOT

Photo via NCDOT

Speaking of controversial development projects, this one really got people riled up in 2015. Basically, this project will add a lane on both directions of I-77 between uptown Charlotte and Huntersville — which is usually woefully congested — but will charge people a fee to use them. Only you won’t know what the toll price is until you get there, because it will rise and fall based on demand. On the plus side, developers are promising a 45 mph trip while you’re in there.

There’s been a lot of back and forth about whether North Carolina can back out of the contract, and it still may happen. Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain got voted out of office in November for her support of toll lanes and more political discord may be in the works.

Either way, construction began on the lanes in November.

7) Homicides rise

By the end of the third quarter, there were 47 homicides in the city of Charlotte, compared with only 32 in the same period the year before, according to CMPD data. Violent crime overall rose more than 17 percent.

One of the most troubling: A 7-year-old boy was shot and killed at a birthday party on a Labor Day weekend that ended with 12 people shot and five killed.

When you’re talking about crime rates, you’ll occasionally get a blip that ends up not being statistically significant. And maybe that’s what happened here. But in a year when mass shootings in Paris, California and elsewhere already had people on edge, it’s unsettling.

8) Greg Hardy case unravels

Last year, the former Panthers defensive end was convicted of domestic violence, but through some legal strategy he was able to secure a new trial. His accuser didn’t show up (she settled for an unknown amount of money) and the charges were dismissed in February. He now plays in Dallas.

9) Food Truck Friday is forced out

The gathering quickly became a staple of South End life, but the beloved Food Truck Friday was forced to find a new home after the property owner decided to sell the lot underneath it to a developer. It will become the headquarters of Dimensional Fund Advisors — though the design of the building also became a point of contention.

DFA-camden-elevation

Photo via Duda Paine/Cousins

Don’t worry, Food Truck Friday has already found a new home(s) for 2016. And food trucking in general in Charlotte has never been more popular.

10) Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools names a new (short-term) superintendent

A few months after the school board essentially forced former Superintendent Heath Morrison to resign, long-time deputy Ann Clark was promoted to the top spot in the state’s second-largest school district. But her appointment came with the contingency that she only serve until a new superintendent could be found. The decision continues to split the school board, and they haven’t made much progress on finding anybody new.

11) Park Road Shopping Center becomes a regional draw

park-road-shopping-center-sign

Smaller businesses left over the course of the year, and big brands are filling in: Chopt, J. Crew Mercantile and CO to name a few.

12) Charlotte cools on Pat McCrory

pat-mccrory

The long-time mayor was always beloved in the city — until, that is, he went to Raleigh to become governor. Now he’s become trapped between the Republican party statewide, his moderate tendencies and a Mecklenburg County becoming bluer by the day.

13) It was really cold

Remember winter? It’s kind of hard right now since December has been so darn tropical, but back in January and February the snow wouldn’t stop and temperatures fell into the single digits more times than, well, ever.

14) Google Fiber is coming

Back in January, Google announced that Charlotte would be one of the next cities to get its super-fast Internet service, and the project became a lot more real over the course of the year. Fiber has selected the old Dixie’s Tavern building as its local HQ and construction has already begun. The decision also sparked a community-wide conversation about how Charlotte can become more digitally equitable.

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