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5 Things to Know: Centene Corporation Drops Plans for Charlotte HQ

...ad four more stories from Aug. 14-20, 2022

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A look at plans for Centene’s planned University City campus, which will now sit empty until new tenants are found. (Photo courtesy of Centene)

Centene Corporation Drops Plans for Charlotte HQ

The Charlotte Business Journal broke the news on Thursday that the Centene Corporation will ditch plans to build a large campus in University City. Centene announced in July 2020 that it would build its new East Coast headquarters in Charlotte, creating more than 3,200 new jobs in the city.

The health-care intermediary was set to invest more than $1 billion to develop a corporate campus in northeast Charlotte and, in return, Centene would receive around $388 million in tax incentives from the state, $26 million from Mecklenburg County and between $23.6 and $31.6 million from the city.

The city will now need to find new tenants for the 800,000-square-foot office building that has been under construction for nearly two years now and is set to finish in the coming weeks. Centene had reportedly not yet received any of the incentive money promised in return for its Charlotte campus.

There have been conflicting reports about the reason for the change of plans, but an executive told CBJ that it was due to a preference for working from home among the company’s employees, and a realization that such a policy has been working better than expected during the pandemic. A statement from the company later confirmed a desire to keep employees in a work-from-home or hybrid model as the reason for this week’s announcement. 

“Centene saw the value University City presented for their investment plans in the Charlotte region,” read a statement released by University City Partners on Friday. “While it is disappointing to learn about their change of course, this offers a great opportunity to another company that desires to relocate or expand to an area that offers access to a turnkey campus with all the amenities that today’s workforce is looking for in an employer.” 

Longtime Centene CEO Michael Neidorff passed away in April, less than a month after handing the reins of the company over to new CEO Sarah London, who was expected to take a more collaborative approach to the “Office of CEO” alongside other top execs at the company.  


Statewide 20-Week Abortion Ban Reinstated

Federal judge William Osteen Jr. issued a ruling on Wednesday reinstating enforcement of the state’s ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The ban had been halted by a federal judge in 2019, extending the limit to fetal viability (24-28 weeks), following a ruling in Bryant v. Woodall that barred enforcement of the ban.

Following the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade in June, allowing state legislatures to pass their own rules regulating abortion, Republican leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly sent a letter to Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein demanding that he reinstate the 20-week ban, which he refused to do. 

A woman stands in a crowd holding a sign supporting abortion rights that reads, "Not your body, not your life, not your choice.:"
Pro-choice protesters gathered outside of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in June. (Photo by Justin LaFrancois)

Following Wednesday’s news, North Carolina Democratic Party Executive Director Meredith Cuomo released the following statement: “Today’s ruling is a direct result of Republicans’ decades-long attack on reproductive rights. Now more than ever, we must elect Democrats up and down the ballot who will fight to protect women’s fundamental freedoms and ensure that we maintain Gov. Cooper’s veto power come November.”

Hours before the Wednesday’s ruling was handed down, Planned Parenthood advocacy and political organizations named North Carolina as one of the nine initial target states in their combined $50-million electoral program. The $50 million in promised spending represents the groups’ largest-ever investment in a campaign cycle.

Planned Parenthood organizations launched the 2022 electoral program, titled Take Control, to “help elect champions for sexual and reproductive health care and rights up and down the ballot and all across the country,” according to a release. In North Carolina, Planned Parenthood Votes will focus on electing Cheri Beasley to the U.S. Senate.


Social District Vote Set for Monday

Residents addressed Charlotte City Council on Monday to speak about potentially implementing social districts around Charlotte. Social districts are areas in which alcohol can be consumed outdoors on public streets within certain borders. Speakers on Monday were overwhelmingly supportive of implementing social districts, though some did speak in opposition, citing a potential plan to serve alcoholic drinks in single-use cups inside social districts. 

social districts
Residents opposed to single-use cups in social districts attend the Monday, Aug. 15, city council meeting. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

Despite some reservations, social districts are just about a sure thing for Charlotte. However, the process is taking longer than in some surrounding municipalities because of the complexity of the issue in a larger city. Places like Monroe and Kannapolis have mapped out a few blocks, made some rules, and voted to approve a social district. Unlike those towns, however, Charlotte has multiple neighborhoods vying for their own social districts, some of which are not near each other.

At a city council meeting on June 6, City Manager Marcus Jones stated his staff’s goal to open an application portal to gauge interest in different areas of the city. Each potential district would need separate approval of its boundaries. Before any of that can happen, the city will need to pass an ordinance to allow for social districts in the first place, which council is expected to do during its upcoming meeting on Monday, Aug. 22. 


Man Killed After Hitting CATS Bus

Investigators are unsure what exactly caused a man to rear-end a CATS bus in southwest Charlotte on Wednesday, as he was killed in the incident.

At about 9:21 a.m. on Wednesday, first responders were called to a motor-vehicle collision resulting in injuries. Upon arrival, officers located a green 2001 Dodge Dakota with heavy front-end damage and Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) bus #2128 in the roadway with rear-end damage. The driver of the Dodge, 37-year-old Robert Compton, was not wearing a seatbelt and sustained serious injuries.

The CATS bus did not have passengers on board and the driver was the sole occupant and was uninjured. CFD and Medic responded and assisted Mr. Compton, but eventually pronounced him dead at the scene.

A preliminary investigation indicated that the CATS bus had just dropped off two passengers and was stopped at a bus stop in the right lane closest to the curb. Compton was traveling south in the right lane and failed to stop before colliding into the rear of the CATS bus. It’s unclear if impairment, speed or phone use played a role in the incident. 


Four People Killed in Gun Violence This Week

Four men were killed in separate incidents of gun violence over the past week, including a local rapper who had been recognized by Queen City Nerve multiple times in recent years. Three of the incidents occurred on Saturday, Aug. 13, within about an hour of each other. 

Shortly after 1 a.m. on Aug. 13, police responded to a call about people in one vehicle shooting at another in front of Northlake Mall in north Charlotte. Responding officers found three men who had been riding in a car together when suspects in a separate vehicle opened fire on them. All three were struck by gunfire. Two of the victims were transported to the hospital while the third, 21-year-old Armani Spencer, was pronounced dead at the scene.

 

Just before 2 a.m. on Aug. 13, police responded to a shooting call on Sumter Avenue in the Seversville neighborhood of northwest Charlotte, where they found 27-year-old Catoine Funderburk suffering from a gunshot wound. Medic pronounced Funderburk dead at the scene. 

Shortly after 2 a.m. on Aug. 13, police responded to a call about a vehicle collision on South Tryon Street near the Whitehall Commons shopping center in southwest Charlotte, where they found the driver of the vehicle, 22-year-old Jamir Rucks, suffering from a gunshot wound. Medic transported Rucks to the hospital, where he died a few hours later. Rucks was a rapper who performed as Jaah SLT and received a record deal in 2020 thanks in part to his use of social media. Queen City Nerve recognized Rucks with the “Biggest Buzz” award in our 2020 Best in the Nest issue. 

Shortly after 2 a.m. on Aug. 18, police responded to a shooting call on South Tryon Street near the Whitehall Commons shopping center in southwest Charlotte, where they found 26-year-old Dermaine Perea suffering from an apparent gunshot wound. Medic transported Perea to a hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. Investigators believe the man was shot while driving on I-485 and pulled into the gas station to find help.  


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