Tightening security net in Ballantyne irks many residents

Tightening security net in Ballantyne irks many residents

Credit: Jeff Willhelm / Charlotte Observer

Tightening security net in Ballantyne irks many residents

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by BRITTANY PENLAND / Charlotte Observer

WCNC.com

Posted on September 5, 2012 at 12:58 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- With expectations running high that President Barack Obama will stay nearby, Ballantyne residents are dealing with the effects of a high-security guest: road closures, traffic clogs and lulls in business.

By Tuesday afternoon, dump trucks were stationed along portions of Ballantyne Commons Parkway to create a mobile barrier along the perimeter of the Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge, where the president and first lady are rumored to be staying during the convention.

The president could arrive Wednesday; the first lady arrived in Charlotte on Monday. Their accommodations during the Democratic National Convention have not been made public.

Construction signs alerted drivers to road closings in effect Wednesday on Ballantyne Commons Parkway. Police were already patrolling the perimeter of the hotel, and concrete partitions had been set up to create a permanent blockade from motorists entering the back side of the hotel.

“I think everybody, whether they’re comfortable or uncomfortable with the (additional) traffic, will be appreciative of Charlotte being put on the map,” said Ray Eschert, president of the Ballantyne Breakfast Club, which typically meets in the Ballantyne Hotel.

As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, the public still could access the front of the hotel, although signs were posted along the roadway alerting commercial vehicles of restricted access.

“We feel a sense of excitement and pride for Charlotte,” said Christina Thigpen, spokeswoman for Bissell Companies. “Residents recognize that this is a historic time for our city, and it’s an unprecedented opportunity for us to show the world that Charlotte is a wonderful place.”

Rea Road resident Hannah Stanley said she is not bothered by the traffic caused by it all.

“I’m a huge Obama lover and this whole thing is exciting to me,” Stanley said. “To see all of these people is exciting.”

Businesses near the hotel say they are feeling the strain of road closures.

Krista McClelland, manager of Starbucks in the Ballantyne Quad, said business is slow because of road closures.

“I’m excited to have everyone here, but it’s hurting our business,” McClelland said. “I was worried our delivery truck wouldn’t get through to us this morning.”

At 4 p.m. on Tuesday, about six people were using the lobby in Starbucks, which is below normal, McClelland said.

Einstein Bros Bagels, near Starbucks, is also feeling the strain on business as people navigate around restricted areas.

“I don’t think people are going to be very happy about additional road closings,” said an Einstein Bros Bagels employee on duty. “This is not a forgiving group of people and they won’t be happy about unexpected road closings.”

Ballantyne resident Michael Black said he is planning to stay away from DNC-centered zones. He works from home and is avoiding center city for the duration of the week.

“I’m not really concerned about the convention,” Black said. “I’m not a Democrat or a Republican, so I could care less about it.”

When asked to give tips to people trying to navigate the Ballantyne area, he simply said: “Don’t.”

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