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.

GOP crowing over CNBC study touting NC for business

A week after S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley's jobs-recruitment victory lap through York and Chester counties just south of Charlotte, N.C. Republican leaders are pointing to a new CNBC study as evidence that the Tar Heel State isn't getting crushed by the Palmetto State or other economic development rivals on their watch. The study ranked North Carolina No. 5 (Georgia was No. 1, followed by perennial development powerhouse Texas). The study measured a range of factors; North Carolina ranked most strongly on the health of its economy and the quality of its workforce.

South Carolina ranked a distant 24th, earning its strongest ranking for its low cost of doing business. N.C. Republican Party Chairman Claude Pope issued a statement calling the study proof that the GOP's legislative agenda, which includes rolling back tax rates and revamping job recruitment, is working. "North Carolina is getting back to work," he said.

Gov. Pat McCrory and his GOP allies have rewritten
the state's job-recruitment playbook
Critics -- including some insiders in economic development circles -- grouse that the state has traditionally ranked high in such measures, the effects of the recent recession notwithstanding. The new lower corporate and individual tax rates took effect in January, and it was just on Tuesday that McCrory signed into law the reorganization of the Commerce Department's job-recuitment function.

Republicans, the critics say, "fixed" a job-recruitment system that wasn't broken. Democrats, powerless in Raleigh after decades of wielding legislative power, say the tax cuts have benefitted the wealthy while weakening funding for schools and universities, traditionally areas of competitive advantage for North Carolina relative to its Southern neighbors. With such high political stakes riding on job production numbers in an election year, we're sure to hear plenty more of this debate in the months ahead.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Second SkyHouse apartment tower planned in uptown Charlotte

Less than two months after developers broke ground for SkyHouse Uptown, a 24-story apartment tower going up at West 10th and North Tryon streets, plans are on the books for a second tower right next to it.

Real estate records show the second tower would go in at West 9th and North Tryon, a parcel currently occupied by the former Day's Inn motel. It would include an expansion of the parking structure planned for the original SkyHouse. The planning remains in its early stages.

The property that would house the second tower has long been one city leaders have hoped to redevelop. It is owned by the Dalton family and is being leased to Hospitality Corp. of America through the end of this year, records show. Thornton Kennedy, a spokesman for Novare, the Atlanta-based developer of the first SkyHouse project, said: "All we can say at this point is that we do have that property, which is the former Day's Inn ... under contract, and we are in (due) diligence on a possible second tower on that site."

The first Charlotte SkyHouse project was developed by Novare Group, Batson-Cook Development Co. and Grubb Properties. The $70 million project, with 336 units, marked the 11th SkyHouse tower Novare Group and Batson-Cook have handled around the Southeast. The SkyHouse concept aims to attract young urban office workers.

Charlotte developer Clay Grubb told me recently that given the growing number of apartment-loving millennials flocking to the Queen City, he could easily envision building a second SkyHouse in uptown. Grubb couldn't immediately be reached for comment on the latest SkyHouse project.