Charlotte EAST Matters–An Interview with Mike Sullivan, Board Co-Chair

Mike Sullivan is a new and dynamic member of the Charlotte EAST Board. Soon after joining the Board, he was elected to serve as Co-Chair, finishing the term of Kay Peninger, who left Charlotte to take a new job. Mike is a commercial realtor with the Nichols Company, though he’s also been employed by political campaigns and hosted his own television show. He has chaired the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, served on the Historic Districts Commission, and is currently on the Charlotte Mecklenburg Planning Commission, where he is a member of the Zoning Committee.

Mike is an enthusiastic champion of the East side, where he has been a resident of many of its neighborhoods. “East Charlotte is in an auspicious time,” he explains. “What people are trying to build elsewhere we already have – quaint neighborhoods with cultural diversity and affordable homes.”

Charlotte EAST began as an advocacy group for the former Eastland Mall site. Mike noted that the Planning Commission’s work toward a Uniform Development Ordinance (UDO) is relevant to such redevelopment. The UDO aims at promoting and guiding “smart” and focused growth using guidelines that help “places” in the city retain their unique character.  He wonders if the former Eastland site could be a first opportunity to implement the UDO – be it a private development or some type of a public/private partnership.

Mike’s real estate background leads him to think that it may be time for the City to “get out of the way” and put the former mall site up for sale. “We need to let Eastland be what it is destined to be.” He maintains that the City could put some restrictions on uses, and if we let the market determine what will become of the property, change will happen faster, and developers will manage transportation and other issues.

When I asked Mike how he sees the East side among other city sectors, he acknowledged there is bias against us by those who don’t know us. He believes we lack a cohesive political strategy but hopes that Charlotte EAST can be a broker for changing that. He envisions a very diverse Board that actively promotes conversations among East side residents about “who and what we are and what we want to become.” He is excited about the Board’s new broader mission to be an advocate for East side neighborhoods and schools.

Mike observed that the hardest part of making and keeping vital neighborhoods is bringing people together. While social media has a role to play, he believes physical proximity is important and hopes there will be many future opportunities to offer that. He cited Charlotte EAST’s Taste of the World as a step in the right direction and envisions other thematic festivals and pop-up events throughout the year. “These events help us point to our strengths and engage young people, and where there is youth, there is growth.”