Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The coming apartment bust?

A lot of press releases cross my desk each day. Too many to write something about on each. But sometimes you'll get one where a sentence jumps out at you. That was the case with a release I received recently from Integra Realty Resources, which just released its mid-year report on Charlotte's commercial real estate market.

In discussing the apartment market, Integra says to expect "significant growth" to continue this year, but it will start slowing down at the end of 2014. The company "suspects it to flatten in 2015-2016 and start declining into the hypersupply market cycle," according to the release.

What would that mean for renters? Integra explains:

"It appears it will be a challenge for the Charlotte market to provide the necessary demand to absorb the amount of supply that has been added to the market. Because of the oversupply, vacancy rates will likely increase over the next few years, which in turn will keep rent growth most likely flat."

So, if Integra is correct, we could expect to see a lot more rent discounts and deals of the "one-month-free-with-one-year-lease" variety. Or, if the apartment developers are right, population growth among young single workers will keep spiraling upward so quickly that it will absorb the record-breaking pace of apartment-building we've been on.

Either way, time will tell. What do you think?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Hitachi opens new ink research facility in north Charlotte

Hitachi America Ltd. on Thursday announced the opening of a new ink research and development center in North Charlotte. Initially employing five people, the new facility, located at 5900 Northwoods Parkway, will help the company develop and manufacture new custom ink products faster. Food and beverage firms, as well as the pharmaceutical and automotive industries, serve as major markets for Hitachi's ink products.

"We've seen a very significant increase in the number of requests for specialized inks during the last several years," said John Malette, a sales manager for Hitachi. "This enables our sales channel to satisfy customer demands sooner, and packaging engineers are able to address unique product and package coding needs faster."

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Where will Bubble Wrap maker's offices go?

Now that the big news is out about Sealed Air Corp. relocating its headquarters to Charlotte, the biggest unanswered question seems to be: Where exactly in the city will the Bubble Wrap manufacturer's offices go?

At yesterday's press conference at the Charlotte Chamber, CEO Jerome Peribere said only that the firm will build a new office campus somewhere in the city, likely in its southern section. The Observer late Wednesday obtained a PowerPoint presentation on the project that City Council reviewed last month. It contains some clues.

It says the company plans to built a 250,000-square-foot office building for its nearly 1,300 employees, with room for future expansion. Sealed Air at that time was considering LakePointe Corporate Center, Whitehall Corporate Center, Ballantyne -- presumably Ballantyne Corporate Park -- and University Research Park.

Peribere said the company hopes to be done with the move by 2016. It's unclear (at least to me anyway) whether some of those possible landing spots mentioned in the PowerPoint might be temporary locations, to be used while the company's permanent offices are built.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Crescent seeks rezoning for Tryon Street tower project

Crescent Communities hasn't announced a groundbreaking date for its planned 27-story office tower and hotel at Tryon and Stonewall streets uptown, but the city planning documents released Monday show the real estate firm is seeking a rezoning for added flexibility in developing the site.

Crescent seeks to rezone its approximately three-acre parcel from uptown mixed-use district zoning (UMUD) to uptown mixed-use optional. Among the specific options Crescent is seeking:

  • Deviations from signage standards that would allow up to two attached video or LED boards of up to 300 square feet each.
  • Deviations from signage standards that would permit up to 3,000 square feet of wall signage per street frontage, in addition to the video or LED signs.
  • Permission for open fire pits as a permitted amenity in the property's open spacess.
  • Deviations to allow trees in open spaces to be planted in moveable planters.
Whit Duncan, president of Crescent's commercial group, called the rezoning request a standard step in the design process. "But it's an important milestone toward delivering our vision for Tryon Place," he added. "We are focused on creating a development that seamlessly supports the surrounding community and provides a dynamic mixed use environment that contributes to the city and the region." 

Arboretum apartment complex sold

Atlanta-based ARA Real Estate Investment Services on Monday announced the sale of The Arboretum Apartments in South Charlotte for $32.3 million. The 277-unit complex, located near the Arboretum shopping center at Providence and Pineville-Matthews roads, had an occupancy rate of 98 percent at the time of the sale, which was finalized in May. The seller, Denver, Colo.-based Simpson Housing, was represented by ARA Carolinas. The buyer was Arboretum Apartments Charlotte, an affiliate of  The Connor Group.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Update on South Boulevard's Queen Park Cinema sign

In the wake of the news that the landmark Queen Park Cinema sign on South Boulevard had been taken down, lots of readers have expressed hopes that the sign can be saved. I heard some Facebook rumors that the sign had been trashed, but apparently that's not true.

The sign came down Wednesday to make way for a new office and residential development Pappas Properties is building there. Peter Pappas told me his folks tried to incorporate the sign into the new project, but it proved too huge and costly to renovate.

Chad Drake, a division manager with D.H. Griffin Construction Co., said the firm plans to turn the massive base of the sign into scrap steel, but the sign itself (the part that sat up top with the giant "QP") remains intact. "The sign's still together. It hasn't been destroyed," he said. "More than likely we'll turn it back over to the owner, which would be Pappas."

If that happens, Pappas Properties might be hearing from folks who want to buy it. One effort on crowdfunding site Indiegogo hopes to raise $100,000, but had reached only $450 Thursday afternoon.

Got an opinion on what should happen with the sign? Take our poll.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

South Boulevard's Queen Park Cinema sign comes down

Several alert readers pointed out that the towering sign for the old Queen Park Cinema came down on Wednesday (see before and after photos below).

The huge sign, long a familiar landmark for South Boulevard commuters, first advertised the Queens Drive-In, which opened in 1962. After the drive-in closed, the tower was kept to advertise the Queen Park Cinema in the same location. The cinema was torn down in 2004 to make way for the Lynx light rail line.

The sign before
The sign after dismantling began Wednesday
The sign came down Wednesday as Pappas Properties moves forward with plans to create a transit-oriented office, retail and residential complex at the site, near Scaleybark Road. "It's always sad to see a familiar landmark, or icon, go away," said Rodney Gardner, the Charlotte resident who noticed the sign's dismantling Wednesday and snapped the photos.

He and others on social media were wondering what the developers of the site plan to do with the sign. Peter Pappas said the sign's massive size and the high cost of refurbishing it made it a challenge to incorporate into the new plans. "Our design team spent a lot of time and effort trying to come up with a way to incorporate it," he said. "We just couldn't figure out a way."

D.H. Griffin Construction Co. has the sign now, he said, adding that he is unsure what the contractor plans to do with it. The construction company couldn't be reached Wednesday evening.