Monday, November 24, 2014

New reporter coming to development beat

Hi all. Just a quick note to let you know that I've moved on to become associate editor of the Observer's editorial pages. Ely Portillo ( has replaced me on the development beat. Please send him your thoughts and story ideas on real estate development in Charlotte.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Half-million dollar Saussy Burbank homes coming to Cherry neighborhood

There's been a lot of debate lately surrounding proposed rezonings in the historic Cherry neighborhood near the Metropolitan. Now comes news today that Saussy Burbank will be the builder of 39 single-family homes and two duplex lots there, with prices ranging from the high $400s to the low $600s.

Cherry, a working-class African American neighborhood near Myers Park, has been facing increasing gentrification pressures as the area around the Metropolitan redevelops. Earlier this year, City Council approved a rezoning for real estate developer Stoney Sellars' StoneHunt Development Group to build on 5.71 acres in the neighborhood. Some residents protested that decision, saying Sellars' plan to bring market-rate housing to the area would change the character of the neighborhood. Sellars has said he has upheld a commitment to keep some affordable housing by building Cherry Gardens, an apartment building for seniors.

Saussy Burbank will be the builder working with Sellars on the project. The homebuilder said today that lots will be made available for purchase in phases. The first phase will include six lots at the corner of Baxter and Main streets, with homes ranging from 2,900 square feet to 3,500 square feet and priced from $550,000 to $625,000. "The architecture will pay tribute to the style and vernacular of the surrounding neighborhoods," said Jim Burbank, a partner in Saussy Burbank. "It's important to us that we respect what's there. The real benefit for buyers is a new home -- and all the elements that go along with it -- in an older, close-in neighborhood."

A sales office and model home is expected to open in May 2015.

Read more here:

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Another high-end townhome project for empty-nesters headed to SE Charlotte

Real estate firms around Charlotte pretty much stopped building condos during and after the recent mortgage crisis and real estate meltdown. While apartment construction has come roaring back, and sales of new homes have as well, condos seem to remain out of vogue among developers. What seems to be replacing them, especially in well-established Southeast Charlotte neighborhoods, are high-end townhomes aimed at empty-nesters.

Among the latest in that line is MECA Realty's Rea Court at Colony project, a 10-unit townhome project on Rea Road, across from the Colony Place Shopping Center. Units there will start in the high $400s next week, with customizable New-England style architecture. MECA Realty's Jason Noblitt says the project is aimed at the sizable population of Southeast Charlotte empty-nesters who are growing tired of maintaining big homes in neighborhoods like Myers Park or Eastover and would like to downsize, but don't want to sacrifice high-end living touches for the convenience of a townhome.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Check out these aerial pictures of the First Ward park construction

Developer Daniel Levine's taken some interesting aerial pictures of the construction under way at the new First Ward county park near the UNC Charlotte Center City building. Check it out:

When I first got these from his PR person, Colleen Brannan, my first thought was, 'Boy, that helicopter sure was flying low over the site.' Silly me. In today's Age of Gadgets, I should have realized it was an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (Attention FAA: I didn't use the D-R-O-N-E word).

Levine, answering my questions via email through Brannan, said he shot the photos in about 9 minutes with his DJI Phantom, which cost about $1,500. "Before, it would have cost me about $1,000 and two weeks to get those images," he said.

He's had it for about five weeks. Ben Wilhelm with Shiel Sexton Construction turned him on to the idea by giving him a live demo with a UAV. Levine thought they were some of the best aerial shots of the city he's seen in three decades. Levine said he's always been a photo enthusiast; his mom was one of the founding members of The Light Factory and had a darkroom at their house.

The photos show the park and related infrastructure work is well under way. The asphalt demolition is complete, Brannan says, and grading and utility work is in progress.

Friday, October 24, 2014

SkyHouse apartment tower construction tops out at half-way point

If you drive into uptown on the Brookshire Freeway, you've no doubt noticed construction on the SkyHouse apartment tower on North Tryon Street. If you're like me, you've been marveling at how fast they've been throwing that thing up. Yesterday, they topped it out at 24 floors, officially signaling the half-way point of construction that broke ground just in March.

Developers are expecting to finish in June, and the on-site leasing gallery will open for pre-leasing activity in January. "SkyHouse Uptown is on schedule," said Jim Borders, president of Novare Group, which is developing the 336-unit tower with Grubb Properties and Batson-Cook Development Co. "Batson-Cook, through the use of lean construction techniques, has perfected the ability to methoically and expediently deliver a very high-quality high-rise community."

The development team has built 11 of the SkyHouse towers in cities across the Southeast, including Atlanta, Orlando, Tampa and Raleigh. Mecklenburg real estate records show the team is planning a second tower right next to the one going up on North Tryon. The second one 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.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Study: N.C. ranks No. 3 in business climate

If New York-based Development Counsellors International is right, North Carolina and the Charlotte region should feel good about their economic development prospects. The firm, which handles economic development and travel marketing for cities, regions, states and countries, recently released a study that asked more than 300 corporate executives and site selection consultants what they thought of different areas. They named their top five states for business climate as:

  1. Texas
  2. Florida
  3. Georgia and North Carolina (tie)
  4. South Carolina
  5. Tennessee
When the site selection consultants were asked to name "best in class" regional or community economic development groups, they said:

  1. Kansas City Area Development Council
  2. Charlotte Regional Partnership, Columbus 2020 (tie)
  3. Greater Phoenix Economic Council
  4. Greater Houston Partnership, Nashville Chamber of Commerce (tie)
It appears from the survey that, despite the state's top ranking, North Carolina's Department of Commerce has some image-polishing of its own to do. Or, more precisely, it would have if it were still in the business of recruiting jobs. As of this month, that job now falls to the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, the new public-private agency designed to market the state and pursue jobs more aggressively than the commerce department did. When survey participants were asked which state-level economic development agencies they found "best in class," this is what they said:

  1. Georgia Department of Economic Development
  2. Louisiana Economic Development, Texas Governor's Office of Economic Development (tie)
  3. South Carolina Department of Commerce
  4. Michigan Economic Development

Monday, October 20, 2014

Goodyear auto repair shop uptown closes

When I went to get my routine oil change at the Goodyear auto repair shop uptown this morning, I discovered some unexpected breaking news: the repair shop, at Stonewall and Tryon streets, has closed down.

According to the mechanic who walked up before I could exit the vehicle, the shop closed for good on Friday. The parking lot, normally full of cars left by busy uptown office workers like myself, was half-empty. Big oil barrels sat in one of the empty repair bays -- part, I supposed, of the process of tearing down and cleaning up the site. “We are closing that store,” Goodyear spokesman Jim Davis confirmed to me later. “It’s a difficult decision, but what’s going on there is it’s been an unprofitable store and we have an expiring lease.”

Photo by Mark Hames
The employees will scatter to other Goodyear stores, he said, but Goodyear will no longer have a shop uptown. Bad news for a lot of uptown workers, especially on the south end of Tryon, who enjoyed the convenience of dropping their car off, walking to work and just picking it up fixed in the afternoon at quitting time.

Ostensibly, the shop's closing helps set the stage for the 27-story Tryon Place mixed-use development Crescent Communities plans to build on the three-acre site. Crescent's plans for the site include office, retail and hotel components, but the company has said it won't announce a start date for construction until it lands an anchor tenant. I'll be checking in with them, and will update this post when I hear more.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Rising demand pushing Charlotte office rental rates to post-recession highs

Rental rates for office space in Charlotte have risen to their highest point in more than a decade, according to new third quarter figures from real estate firm JLL.

With the economy rebounding and employment gains accelerating, average direct asking rents have risen to $22.32 per square foot, according to JLL. The company said office rents haven't been that high in Charlotte since it started tracking the figure in 2000. (The figures cover Class A and Class B office space over 15,000 square feet).

What's pushing prices up? Simple supply and demand, says Charlotte broker Chase Monroe, JLL's market director for the Carolinas. "When the supply decreases, the demand increases, which allows landlords to increase rental rates," he said. According to the company's third quarter report on the Charlotte office market, there's just one block of office space greater than 200,000 square feet available. That means for companies looking to expand, it's becoming cost-effective to just build new rather than rent existing space, Monroe said.

He pointed to recent examples: fast-growing software firm AvidXchange, which announced last month that it is building a four-story, 115,000-square-foot headquarters building at the N.C. Music Factory; and Bubble Wrap maker Sealed Air, which announced this summer that it is moving its headquarters from New Jersey to Charlotte and spending at least $58 million on a new building somewhere in the city.

Charlotte Center City Partners CEO Michael Smith has been banging the drum for a while now about the lack of large blocks of available office space in the city. JLL's latest figures seem to support that contention, putting the Charlotte market's total vacancy rate at 12.3 percent -- the lowest point in at least nine years. It could mean Charlotte's a tough sell for companies looking to relocate quickly.

"Companies that are looking at Charlotte will sometimes cross Charlotte off the map because there isn't adequate space available for them to relocate to now," Monroe said. "Those are the ones that are looking to do something in 12 months. The ones that are looking at a little bit longer term, and Sealed Air is a good example of that, they will look at coming in and building a facility."

To fill its local space needs while it works on its new building, Sealed Air signed a lease early this month for 70,000 square feet in the Forest Park office complex in southwest Charlotte. John Culbertson of Cardinal Real Estate Partners, one of the brokers involved in that deal, said even though construction costs are rising, build-to-suit is becoming a more viable option for companies. That's at least in part because developers can erect buildings faster now than they could a decade or so ago. "The office developers are looking hard at pricing right now," he said, "and dusting off plans they probably haven't looked at for a decade."

We've seen more developers announcing plans for new office towers. There's three on the drawing board for South Tryon Street alone (1000 South Tryon, 300 South Tryon and Tryon Place, at Stonewall Street). Nearby, Portman Holdings wants to build a 15-story tower on top of the Westin Hotel's parking garage. And in SouthPark, Lincoln Harris has its twin 10-story Capitol Towers project well underway.  (Lincoln Harris was one of the few developers to start construction without an anchor tenant lined up. All of the others say they won't move dirt until they get that main tenant on board).

So how long will the office space crunch last? "For the next two years, for sure," Monroe said, "until the new product is delivered to the market -- assuming that we're going to continue to grow at the rates we've been continuing to grow over the last couple of years."

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

New Hilton hotel planned for First Ward district

Hilton hotels announced today that it is launching a new hotel brand called Canopy by Hilton, and a representative for Levine Properties says one of the first of the new hotels will land in the First Ward district the real estate firm is developing in uptown Charlotte.

Canopy San Diego

Levine Properties broke ground last month for the public park that marks the start of a 12- to 15-year development plan that hopes to bring as much as $1 billion in new offices, shops, residences and hotels to a nine-block area around UNC Charlotte's Center City building. Levine Properties has several possible hotel sites in the area; one sketch of its plan for the district shows a 175- to 200-room hotel going in at Caldwell and Seventh streets, near the new park. Levine spokeswoman Colleen Brannan said it's too early to say where exactly the new hotel would go.

Construction could start in 2016, she said, and would take two to three years to complete. Hilton says it hopes to open the first of the new Canopy hotels in 2015. It has signed letters of intent in Charlotte and 10 other cities, from London to Portland.

Levine Properties President Daniel Levine said the Canopy brand's emphasis on building in attractive neighborhoods and showcasing local food, art and design makes it a good fit for the First Ward project, which he has said he envisions as Charlotte's answer to New York's Greenwich Village. "Hilton's selection of Charlotte as one of only 11 markets for its new lifestyle brand ... is further evidence that the Queen City is a national draw," he said in a statement. "Levine Properties is looking forward to delivering more hotel rooms to the center city."

Monday, October 13, 2014

Construction costs rising in Charlotte

The cranes sprouting all over town offer ample evidence of what's becoming more and more obvious by the month: the slow-moving economic recovery is finally generating enough steam to lift the construction sector. Building permit applications are running higher than last year, especially in the hot multifamily sector. And employment in the labor sector that includes construction is up nearly 7 percent from last year in the Charlotte region.

But Stephen Keckeis, a vice president in Messer Construction Co.'s Charlotte office, said even such welcome growth can bring a few complications.  He pointed to the Cinncinnati-based company's recent market condition report, which takes the business temperature of the market in Charlotte and eight other cities where it operates.

It found that construction costs from May 2013 to this past May rose by 2 percent, higher than any other city. Keckeis said that's a function of growing construction activity. As more firms need more raw materials for their growing number of projects, the prices rise, buoyed by the increased demand.

Why are costs rising faster in Charlotte than the other cities? Keckeis responded by asking and answering a question of his own: "Where's all the growth in the country? Here, and in Texas."

Messer's index showed prices for lumber and softwood, gypsum products and fabricated structural steel up more than 7 percent.

Friday, October 10, 2014

400 South Tryon office tower sold to Trinity Capital Advisors, DRA Advisors

Just days after announcing that it is building a 14-story office tower at Morehead and Tryon streets, Trinity Capital Advisors announced Friday that it has bought the 33-story 400 South Tryon office tower in a partnership with a New York-based investment group.

Trinity Capital bought the 584,000-square-foot building in partnership with DRA Advisors. The tower is 92 percent occupied, mostly by Duke Energy. "This is a terrific acquisition for Trinity and DRA," said Gary Chesson, founding partner at Trinity Capital, citing the accelerating growth along South Tryon and near the BB&T BallPark.

Trinity Partners has been hired to lease and manage the building. Rob Cochran, Bill Collins, Jud Ryan and Craig Evans with Cassidy Turley brokered the sale on behalf of the undisclosed seller. The sales price was also undisclosed.

The tower joins other uptown landmarks that have changed hands in recent years. One Wells Fargo Center, the Hearst Tower and the Fifth Third Center were all sold in 2012. The 19-story 525 N. Tryon St. tower, owned by Parkway Properties, is currently listed for sale by commercial real estate firm HFF.

Read more here:

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Help improve Charlotte, win a share of $5 million

If you've got ideas for how to make Charlotte a more vibrant place to live and work, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation wants to hear from you. The foundation, which promotes civic engagement and quality journalism in 26 cities, today is kicking off its first Knight Cities Challenge. The foundation is seeking applications and ideas at, with winners receiving a share of $5 million in prize money.

The challenge comes with two rules: submissions can come from anywhere, but they must benefit Charlotte or one of the other 25 Knight communities. And the idea should focus on one or more of these drivers of city success: attracting and keeping talented people, creating economic prospects and breaking down divides, and spurring civic involvement.

Anybody can throw their idea in the ring, the foundation says -- activists, artists, city planners, students, educators, architects, neighbors. The deadline closes Nov. 14 at 5 p.m.

So if you've got a Big Idea, here's your chance. Care to give your idea (or your gripe) a test run? Hit us in the comments.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Money magazine ranks Charlotte No. 1 Big-City Bargain

If you're looking to move and want a city that will give you good housing and cost-of-living value, Money magazine highly recommends Charlotte. Its newly released 2014 Best Places to Live rankings list has Charlotte pegged as the Best Big-City Bargain in the country.

The magazine ranked Charlotte No. 1 in that category. Phoenix, Fort Worth, Tx., Boston and Chicago rounded out the top five. The magazine created the list by studying metropolitan areas with more than 500,000 in population, and by analyzing housing affordability, economic strength, home price forecasts and livabililty data. The researchers also, in each city, singled out several "promising, well-priced" neighborhoods.

In Charlotte, they pointed out Plaza Midwood, calling it "an interesting mix of the gritty and the pretty" for its mix of tattoo parlors and antiques shops. Mountain Island Lake also earned a mention for being what local Realtor Francine Dupont called "a thrifty alternative to Ballantyne."

Charlotte didn't make the overall top 50 best places to live list, though. Cary came in 19th, Chapel Hill 36th.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Aloft hotel at EpiCentre bought by investment group

A Los Angeles-based investment group has bought the Aloft hotel at the EpiCentre in uptown Charlotte. Lowe Enterprises Investors announced Thursday that it bought the 175-room hotel on behalf of an investment client. A subsidiary, Destination Management, has assumed management of the hotel, which will continue operating under the Aloft banner.

Terms of the transaction were not announced.

"Charlotte is one of the strongest markets in the Southeast and one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S., making it a very attractive area for investment," said Bleecker Seaman, co-CEO of Lowe Enterprises Investors.

This summer, McKibbon Hotel Management of Florida and Charlotte-based Vision Ventures and Mount Vernon Asset Management announced plans to build a 20-story, 302-room hotel tower at the EpiCentre. Vision Ventures and Mount Vernon Asset Management sold the EpiCentre earlier this year to Los Angeles-based CIM Group for $130.5 million.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

New owners for Carolina School Supply building on Morehead

A real estate investment group from Asheville has bought the old Carolina School Supply building on West Morehead for $3.7 million. John Vickers of KW Commercial represented the buyers.

East West Capital closed on the 30,000-square-foot office building last week. The 1927 building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was renovated in 2000. "We think it's been renovated really nicely so we don't plan any long-term structural changes," said Brian Nelson, managing partner of East West Capital.

He added that the purchase is his company's first in Charlotte. He and his partner, David Moritz, have mostly invested in Asheville and western North Carolina, but are looking to do more in Charlotte, especially its central business district. Vacancy is down to 8.6 percent and asking rates on properties have risen for six consecutive quarters, reaching their highest since 2009, he said.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Shopping in uptown Charlotte? New retail recruiter aims to draw stores

Charlotte Center City Partners, hoping to attract more retailers to uptown Charlotte, has created a new retail recruiter position and filled it with one of its existing staffers. Chris Hemans, the uptown development organization's director of business recruitment, will fill the new role effective immediately. Center City Partners CEO Michael Smith called Hemans "an exciting choice for this new vital role."

Hemans, who once handled retail duties as an assistant commissioner with the city of Chicago, will lead Center City Partners' effort to execute strategies laid out in its 2013 retail studies of uptown and the South End. The uptown study said that uptown Charlotte, with its growing workforce and residential population, can support a thriving retail presence of specialty retailers and clothing stores, as well as electronic, grocers and other shops.

Read more here:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Insurance firm signs new lease for Piedmont Town Center office space

Lincoln Harris has brokered a new lease for the Kansas City, Mo.-based insurance firm Lockton Cos. at Piedmont Town Center. Lockton will occupy 10,207 square feet at the mixed-use development adjacent to SouthPark Mall. Lockton, which advises companies on property and casualty insurance as well as employee benefits, opened its Charlotte office in 2011 and now has 35 workers, said spokesman Dean Davison. It had been subleasing 6,400 square feet.

Campbell Walker, senior vice president of leasing in Lincoln Harris' Charlotte office, represented the landlord, Piedmont Row Drive LLC. Brent Royall and Brad Grow of Colliers International represented Lockton.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

New leasing management for Fifth Third Center building uptown

Cousins Properties, the new owner of uptown Charlotte's Fifth Third Center, has tapped CBRE's Charlotte office to handle leasing of the 30-story tower. Cousins, which recently bought the building from Parmenter Realty Partners for $215 million, called it an "iconic office tower in the best submarket in Charlotte." The 697,000-square-foot building boasts renovations and updates to its lobby, courtyard, elevators and mechanical system. CBRE's Anne Vulcano and Jessica Brown will lead the leasing effort.

In other developments at CBRE, the firm's Patrick Gildea led in finalizing the sale of the Oakhill Business Park near Arrowood Road in southwest Charlotte. Four buildings, totaling more than 248,000 square feet, sold to Adler Acquisition Associates out of Miami, Fl., for $16.6 million on July 31.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Sedgefield among nation's hottest neighborhoods

Online real estate company Redfin has listed Sedgefield in south Charlotte among its ten hottest up-and-coming neighborhoods nationally. Redfin used its proprietary data to figure out which neighborhoods nationally were seeing the biggest jumps in pageviews on its site. The firm also took into account how many homes were marked as favorites.

Sedgefield, located adjacent to South Boulevard and the booming South End corridor, saw a 122 percent year-over-year increase in pageviews on the site, and a 133 percent jump in favorites per home. Charlotte real estate agent Marcy Prentiss explained why: "Affordability is a big reason Sedgefield is becoming such a hot area right now. The homes on the market don't cost as much as homes in other neighborhoods such as Dilworth and Myers Park, making it an appealing location for homeowners."

Median list price for homes in Sedgefield: $288,950, according to Redfin.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Ballantyne developer Smoky Bissell's firm marks 50 years in business

The firm that brought you Ballantyne took a pause Monday to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Employees of the Bissell Cos. marked the milestone by giving founder H.C. "Smoky" Bissell a sequoia sapling. Bissell spokeswoman Christina Thigpen explained: "We chose the world's largest tree as a gift, as it reflects Smoky Bissell's inspirational leadership while representing that we are only just beginning." She added that it also gives a nod to the firm's efforts toward sustainable development.

Left to right: Ned Curran, president & CEO; Clifton Coble, president, Bissell Development; Smoky Bissell, chairman; and Margaret Gragg Bissell
The Bissell organization cranked up as H.C. Bissell & Associates on Aug. 3, 1964. It's been a busy 50 years for the firm, which has developed Ballantyne Corporate Park. With office towers and other development still going up in the 535-acre park, and with Ballantyne enjoying explosive residential growth, it looks like the next 50 could be just as busy.

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.

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.

Monday, June 23, 2014

New developments coming to Davidson, Huntersville

Two Harbour Place, a 51,000-square-foot office and retail building at Jetton and Griffith streets in Davidson, will be the new regional office of the Valspar paint company, officials said Monday. The three-story building is a Childress Klein project. Construction has started and should be complete by February 2015. Valspar will move from its current location within Mooresville's Morrison Plantation.

"We enjoy the culture of Davidson, so when Childress Klein presented this opportunity to be so close to Interstate 77 but also internationally knit into the town, we knew this was the spot for our new office," said Kelly McGlynn, Valspar's operations manager.

Two Harbour Place

Two Harbour Place is part of a 50-acre mixed-use Harbour Place development Childress Klein launched in 2007. Wells Fargo, MSC Industrial Direct and Homewood Suites are already tenants.

Over in Huntersville, apartment developer Northwood Ravin has broken ground on the Apartments at Holly Crest, located along Sam Furr Road across from Northcross Shopping Center, between Statesville and Rich Hatchet roads. David Ravin, president of Northwood Ravin, said the 400-unit project will bring "a new level of finishes and amenities" to the area. It will include green spaces and gaming lawns as well as a sauna, golf simulator and private dog parks.

Apartments at Holly Crest

The first of the apartments are expected to be ready in late spring of 2015.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Ballantyne is nation's No. 2 'moved-into' ZIP code

You know how when you move into a new house you suddenly get inundated with direct mail packets with flyers from local businesses offering you coupons? One of the companies behind such packets, Welcomemat Services, has crunched its data on who's moving where and found that the 28277 ZIP code in Ballantyne ranked as the second most moved-into ZIP code in the country from May 4 to May 31.

The Houston suburb of Katy, Texas, was first with 596 move-ins during that time. Ballantyne's 28277 was second with 594. Charlotte's University area's 28269 had 511, ranking 6th. Huntersville's 28078 ZIP had 445 move-ins, ranking it 20th on the list. Cary's 27519 had 419, ranking it 36th. The data comes from change of addresses reported inbound to the ZIP codes, according to a spokesperson for Welcomemat.

Here's the full Top 5 cities, ZIP codes and number of move-ins:

  1. Katy, TX                77494    596
  2. Charlotte, NC         28277    594
  3. Chicago, IL             60657    576
  4. Virginia Beach, VA 23462    560
  5. McKinney, TX        75070   530
  6. Charlotte, NC         28269   511

Monday, June 9, 2014

Charlotte ranked 10th most dangerous city for pedestrians

A recently released study ranks Charlotte as the tenth most dangerous city for pedestrians. The report, "Dangerous by Design 2014," ranked cities according to how likely a pedestrian is to get hit by a vehicle. Compiled by Smart Growth America, a national nonprofit dedicated to fighting suburban sprawl, the report studied city-by-city deaths and numbers of pedestrian commuters to come up with an overall "pedestrian danger index."

The report ranked Charlotte just below the Phoenix area and just above Detroit. The Raleigh area ranked 16th of the 51 cities studied. The study said Charlotte had 254 pedestrian deaths from 2003-2012. About 14 percent of traffic deaths during that time involved pedestrians. From 2008-2012, the Queen City had an annual pedestrian death rate of 1.65 per 100,000 people.

Shannon Binns, head of Sustain Charlotte, a local nonprofit fighting suburban sprawl, said the report shows the city has much work to do to make pedestrians safer. He also pointed to the Observer's story over the weekend on pedestrian safety questions in rapidly developing South End.

The Smart Growth America report "highlights the serious danger to Charlotteans of poor street design and lack of infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists," Binns said. "It should serve as a wake-up call for accelerating what the city is already doing to improve the safety of our streets for all who use them, not just those who drive."

Another study, released late last year, showed Charlotte ranked dead last among big cities for walkability. The Walk Score ranking system, which studies nearly 3,000 cities in the U.S., Canada and Australia, found that out of the 74 U.S. cities with populations of 250,000 or more, Charlotte ranked 74th.

Read more here:

Friday, June 6, 2014

Ally Center tower uptown listed for sale

Two uptown office towers have been listed for sale by their owners.

The 15-story Ally Center has been listed for sale with real estate sales firm Eastdil Secured by Trinity Capital Advisors, which developed the office tower about six years ago. Walker Collier, a partner, said the firm typically invests in buildings with the aim of stabilizing, leasing up and reselling them in three to five years. The 15-story Ally Center, on South Church Street, is about 96 percent leased, he said. Major tenants include the HDR engineering firm and JELD-WEN Windows.

"We've achieved the objective here in that we've leased up and stabilized the asset. Now it's time to sell it," he said. "There's a lot of capital out there looking for real estate investments like this."

Also listed for sale: the 30-story Fifth Third Center on North Tryon Street. Parmenter Realty Partners, controlling partner of the ownership group, listed it for sale with CBRE. Parmenter managing principal John Davidson said the firm doesn't buy properties to hold long-term. It has owned the tower about two years, he said, and has improved the property by upgrading the lobby and restructuring a lease with law firm McGuireWoods. "We buy assets to built value," he said. "The environment is favorable for selling it."

Thursday, June 5, 2014

More jobs headed to Charlotte as Korean firm sets up shop

A South Korean tool manufacturing firm announced Thursday that it will set up shop in Charlotte, hiring about 53 people at an average salary of $63,111.

YG-1 USA, which the Charlotte Chamber said ranks among the top five cutting tool manufacturers in the world, will invest $13.8 million in the project. The new facility at 11001 Park Charlotte Boulevard in southwest Charlotte will build high-performance cutting tools for the aerospace, medical and power generation industries. It will also serve as a hub for the company's research, development and engineering of cutting tool technology.

"We chose Charlotte because of its optimistic growth and bright future business outlook both domestically and internationally," said H.K. Song, chairman and president of YG-1 Korea.

Chamber President Bob Morgan said the company's move to Charlotte further burnishes the area's growing international advanced manufacturing presence. YG-1's parent company, based in Seoul, employs more than 5,000 workers around the globe, the chamber said.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

What's the No. 1 day for pedestrian traffic at Trade and Tryon?

As this new graphic below from Charlotte Center City Partners shows, last year it was the Friday of the Food Lion Speed Street festival along Tryon Street. More than 91,000 people walked across Trade and Tryon streets that day, far above the 2013 daily average of 22,300 walkers. The uptown festival kicks off each year in conjunction with the weekend's Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race. (This year, it's the Coca-Cola Speed Street). Other interesting findings in the graphic: Fridays are generally the Square's most heavily walked days, and lunchtime, not surprisingly, is when traffic spikes each day.

Monday, May 19, 2014

New office, retail complex planned along South Boulevard

When you think about the development boom in the South End these days, the first thing you typically think of are the apartment complexes sprouting like mushrooms along the South Boulevard corridor. But commercial real estate firm CBRE and development firm Pappas Properties are hoping to add a substantial new office park to the mix. CBRE has just begun marketing a new mixed-use development planned for South Boulevard, near the Scaleybark light rail stop, according to Anne Vulcano, a senior vice president at the firm.

Billed in marketing materials as "Charlotte's next great TOD (transit-oriented development)," it would bring more than 487,000 square feet of office space spread across three six-story buildings located at South Boulevard, near Scaleybark Road. It would also include an unspecified amount of retail. CBRE is marketing the office space, while Pappas is handling the retail. "This is a fantastic location for the new 'urban' office tenant," Vulcano told me in an email. "Hop the light rail to amenities and the CBD (central business district). Drive to SouthPark if that is your flavor. The best of both worlds."

Friday, May 16, 2014

New restaurant, street-level retail coming to the Square?

A redesign is in the works for the base of  the  Bank of America Plaza tower, which sits at Trade and Tryon streets. Charlotte architectural firm Redline Design Group is seeking city approval for a redesign of the 40-story tower's base to bring in a restaurant and retail tenants. According to city records, the scope of work includes a possible new facade to the building's base, a new lobby, as well as new restaurant and retail entries and seating areas.

Photo courtesy of Trinity Partners
It also involves a redesign of the plaza, which includes city-owned property and the large, coin-shaped bronze sculpture "II Grande Disco" by Arnaldo Pomodoro. The existing fountain in the plaza could be converted to restaurant space. A project description on file with the city also suggests questions about cafe/sidewalk seating and valet parking will need to be addressed by the city's transportation department.

The tower, built in 1974 and renovated in 1992, already offers access to the Overstreet Mall and 20 on-site shops and restaurants. Charlotte Center City Partners and other groups have been calling in recent years for more street-level retail and restaurants in uptown Charlotte.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

More urban apartments breaking ground beside Veterans Park

I'm starting to feel a bit like a broken record with the flood of new apartment communities cranking up these days, but here comes another one. Northwood Ravin LLC, which oversees the VUE and Catalyst apartment towers uptown, has broken ground for a $50 million, 403-unit project that will overlook Veterans Park, in the Commonwealth neighborhood. This one comes with a bit of a twist from the many other urban multifamily complexes going up. It's designed to be less dense, with 384 flats spread across a variety of two-, three- and four-story buildings. The 21-acre project will also include 17 two- and three-bedroom townhouse apartments and two for-sale single-family homes.

Morningside Village, as it's being called, will sit about a four-block walk along McClintock Road from the Harris Teeter at The Plaza and Central Avenue. It will include more green space than typical infill projects, the developers say. It will have inner courtyards, private gardens, dog parks, and even garden plots for residents. In a press release, David Ravin, president of Northwood Ravin, called the project "part of the next generation of apartment homes that will bring all the modern amenities in a convenient, urban location but will provide more living space within each apartment and the community as a whole."

The first of the apartments are expected to be completed in early spring of 2015.

Plaza-Midwood's Vyne apartments finishes second phase

Vyne on Central, a residential project that began as condos but got whacked by the housing meltdown, completes its resurrection as an apartment community this weekend. The community, located at 3220 Central Avenue, will celebrate the completion of its second phase Saturday with a 10 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Developers unveiled plans for the project in the Plaza-Midwood neighborhood just before the recession hit. They'd conceived it as an environmentally conscious 33-unit condo project. By 2009, with the housing market decimated, its backers resorted to offering potential buyers a free overnight stay in hopes of convincing them to sign contracts. Development group 759 Ventures, which also owns Edgeline Flats in NoDa, acquired the project and converted it to rentals last year. The new phase includes 65 one- and two-bedroom apartments.  The developers say the new phase, with rents starting at just over $1,000, is one-third pre-leased.

Chris Needham, the local principal of 759 Ventures, said the group is pleased with how the project turned out, and added: "The success of the leasing shows people love living near the fun environment of Plaza-Midwood."

Monday, May 12, 2014

Is Charlotte gobbling too much of N.C.'s job-recruitment pie?

A new report out today from the N.C. Justice Center, a progressive public policy think tank in Raleigh, is raising questions about whether bigger cities such as Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro and Asheville are gobbling up a disproportionately large percentage of the state's job-recruitment incentives since 2007.

Of the $840 million in incentives given out since then to recruit or grow industry, the majority went to the more urban and prosperous areas of the state, the study showed. Mecklenburg got 55 job development projects during that time and pulled in more than $303 million in incentives -- or more than a third of the state's total incentives for the period. That money came with promises that companies would create or retain more than 24,000 jobs in the Charlotte area. By contrast, rural Sampson County, located just east of Interstate 95, received merely $238,000 for two projects. Those projects promised to create or retain 187 jobs.

The state has been trying to do more to boost job growth in economically hard-hit rural areas. But as urban areas keep sprinting ahead, the challenge seems to loom increasingly large.

"North Carolina needs to spend less money on incentives in the most prosperous metros in the state, and start investing more in the roads, schools and job training programs most likely to create jobs and improve economic conditions in the state's most distressed and rural communities," said Allan Freyer, the report's author.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Charlotte makes top ten among best cities to start a career

Charlotte has landed at No. 9 on a new list of best cities to start a career in. Wallethub, a personal finance social network, released the list today. Wallethub analyzed 150 cities to come up with the list, studying everything from entry-level pay and job opportunities to "mating opportunities" -- i.e., the share of the population that has never been married. Charlotte ranked No. 7 in quality-of-life factors, No. 63 in professional opportunity factors, and came in at No. 9 overall, just below Dallas and above Houston.

Here's the top 10:

  1. Washington, D.C.
  2. Denver, CO.
  3. Irving, TX.
  4. Seattle, WA
  5. Minneapolis, MN
  6. San Francisco, CA
  7. Austin, TX
  8. Dallas, TX
  9. Charlotte, NC
  10. Houston, TX
Let's hear what you think. Is Charlotte one of the top cities to start a career in, based on your experience?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sustain Charlotte honors 70 for green-friendly efforts

Sustain Charlotte, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting sustainable social, economic and land use policies, recognized 70 Charlotte area citizens and organizations Tuesday evening for their efforts. 

Eleven winners received the top awards before a crowd of more than 250 at the Third Annual Community Sustainability Awards + Earth Day Celebration at UNC Charlotte's Center City campus uptown. They were recognized for helping to advance ‘Charlotte 2030:  A Sustainable Vision for Our Region, which Sustain Charlotte launched in 2010.

Among the winners:
  • Outstanding Overall Leader,  David Walters, director of UNC Charlotte's Urban Design Program
  • Oustanding Educator, Cindy Moss, director of global STEM initiatives, Discovery Education
  • Transportation, Charlotte Department of Transportation
  • Land Use, Charlotte Center City Partners
  • Energy, N.C. Sustainable Energy Association
  • Waste Reduction, Eaton Corp.
  • Air Quality, Clean Air Carolina
  • Food, Go-Go Fresco
  • Social Equity, MGR Charlotte
  • Water, Charlotte Public Tree Fund
  • Sustainable Economy, PPRE Forevergreen

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Charlotte rising on lists of top cities for millennials, new college grads

If you've been wondering what's up with the surge in apartment complex construction in Charlotte, particularly in and around uptown, a couple of new studies might help explain why developers have pushed apartment-building numbers locally to an all-time high. is out this week with its Top 10 cities for recent college graduates, and Charlotte landed in the No. 2 spot, behind only Denver, Co. The list factored in both affordability of average rents for one-bedroom apartments, plus median income and unemployment rates. It also assessed whether a city had "a vibrant culture catering to active young professionals," according to a press release from the site.

Also out this week is's analysis of best cities and neighborhoods for millennials., which grew out of the college rating site, offers rankings and reviews of neighborhoods, schools and metro areas. Charlotte landed at No. 18 on its analysis of the 25 best cities for millennials. (Raleigh came in at No. 12).

Every time I ask a developer about the risk of an apartment bubble locally, they point to the kind of demographic trends animating both these reports. The young folks are coming in droves, the developers say, and they aren't ready to buy houses.

What do you think? Are enough young adults arriving in Charlotte to support the many new apartments going up around the city?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Report putting Charlotte in top five cities for sprawl a call to action, local groups say

Local groups concerned about suburban sprawl and congestion are taking note of a new report that lists the Charlotte-Gastionia-Rock Hill, S.C. area as the nation's fifth most sprawl-prone large metropolitan area. The report, out this week from Smart Growth America, a national research group fighting for sustainable growth and land-use policies, studied development patterns at 221 metro areas and 994 counties in the U.S. as of 2010.

Among metro areas with more than 1 million people, Charlotte ranked fifth in sprawl among large metro areas and 25th worst overall. Hickory ranked first overall in the study, which factored in residential and employment density, accessibility of the street network, strength of downtowns and activity centers, and the mix of homes, jobs and services in neighborhoods.

Shannon Binns, head of Sustain Charlotte, a group fighting for sustainable land-use and transportation policies locally, said it points out the need for the city to expedite the ongoing review of its zoning codes, which were last overhauled in 1992. The current ordinance is still predicated on suburban-oriented development, at a time when more young adults are preferring to live in high-density, transit-oriented areas such as the South End. The current ordinance "is so convoluted and lengthy," Binns said. "It's kind of like the tax code. It doesn't promote modern thinking about land use and development."

The Centralina Council of Governments, which works with government agencies in Mecklenburg and surrounding counties, also felt the study pointed out the need for thoughtful efforts to guide growth and development. It has been working on a three-year effort called Connect our Future that aims to build a 14-county regional framework for growth. The group has been holding meetings around the region, soliciting input from more than 2,000 people in its first phase alone, and more than 4,000 overall. When asked in one survey to name the transportation feature most important to them, about the same percentage of those responding mentioned having more sidewalks, trails and other safe places to walk (21 percent) as mentioned getting more roads (22 percent).

"What they support is exactly what Smart Growth America and other organizations have indicated is essential for growth that is healthy," said Jim Prosser, Centralina's executive director.

The project expects to publish by year's end a framework designed to give local governments guidance and advice on planning for growth. To give your thoughts, visit

Monday, March 31, 2014

Former Charlotte planner: City-county staff stands up to developers and politicians

Fairly or not, the FBI sting of former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon has cast a shadow over the interplay between local real estate developers and politicians. The FBI's case against Cannon centers on allegations that he was willing to accept thousands of dollars in cash payments, as well as trips and other benefits, in exchange for helping real estate developers fast-track their projects past city and county regulators.

City-county planning staff and real estate developers alike have been skittish about talking publicly about the case, but I recently spoke with a couple of veterans of the local planning and zoning scene. Both, like everyone else with ties to local government, were aghast at the allegations. Walter Fields, former land development manager for the planning commission, said he never felt undue pressure to approve a real estate project during his time there in the 1980s and 1990s. He said that while developers might press to get their projects approved, he and other staffers felt comfortable opposing them on the merits -- even if the planning board and city council later approved the project anyway. "I often got in hot water by maintaining my professional role and getting cross-ways with a public official," said Fields, who now does consulting work with developers.

The FBI says Cannon told undercover agents posing as real estate investors that he exercised enough sway over city-county staff in charge of planning, zoning, alcohol licensing and building permits that he could get their projects approved. Mary Hopper, a past chairwoman of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg planning commission board, said she found it  hard to believe such boasts would be anything more than empty ones. "I've seen the staff, whether it's the Charlotte Department of Transportation or city-county planning director Debra (Campbell's) people really put the screws to them in terms of, 'This is what we need' before approving the project.  And in a collaborative way. And if it didn't work, some of the developers walked away."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What should North Carolina's new slogan be?

The N.C. Department of Commerce, in the midst of a massive overhaul of the way it markets the states to outside industry, wants your help in coming up with North Carolina's new 'brand.' The department is launching the Brand North Carolina project, which will be handled by UNC Chapel Hill's Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise.

I suppose it makes sense that the state is doing this, given the waves of negative national press North Carolina has received in the past year or so over everything from the Moral Mondays protests to tough new voter ID legislation to aggressive cuts in unemployment benefits to new abortion restrictions.

It includes two contests open to N.C. residents. One is a creative expression contest in which you use photography, poetry, song, dance, video or other artistic means to convey what N.C. means to you. According to a commerce department press release, submittals should represent the values, culture and community of North Carolina. (Don't laugh. The winner gets $2,000).

The second contest, according to the press release, is a "case competition" in which student teams will tackle marketing issues around the state's brand and compete with other teams to recommend the new 'brand positioning' for the state. The state is also recruiting "brand ambassadors" to help spread the word about the project. Feeling civic-minded? You can register as a possible ambassador here.

In the meantime, why don't we start throwing some ideas around? What do you think North Carolina's new slogan or brand should be?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Apartment construction surges to all-time high in Charlotte

The newest report by multifamily research firm Real Data shows apartment construction has surged to an all-time high in Charlotte.

The new report, tracking activity in Charlotte's multifamily market over the past six months, shows 10,067 units under construction. Most of the new units are Class A properties in uptown and in neighborhoods such as the South End, SouthPark, NoDa and Elizabeth. Another 11,003 units have been proposed. Real Data's Charles Dalton says this is the most apartment development Charlotte has ever seen. The previous high came during the construction boom of 2000, when just under 8,000 units were under construction.

Officials broke ground last week for The Mint, one of the latest apartment complexes to begin construction uptown.
The city over the past five years has averaged 4,479 units under construction, so the latest figures show the multifamily development market has yet to cool down, despite concerns in some quarters that it might be getting overbuilt. The report says that as the newest units hit the market in the next year, vacancy rates that currently sit at 6.2 percent will rise to as much as 8 percent.

The average rent in Charlotte stands at $874 per month, with one-bedroom units going for about $781, two bedrooms going for $891 and three bedrooms renting for about $1029. Same-store rents are expected to grow between 2 percent to 3 percent during the next year, but Real Data says increased competition for renters could hinder that.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Could Stone Brewing choose Charlotte for East Coast brewery?

Hold onto your frosted mugs, beer lovers. Local economic development officials are lobbying to make Charlotte the site for California-based Stone Brewing Co.'s new East Coast brewery. Stone is the maker of such popular (and colorfully titled) beers as "Arrogant Bastard Ale" and the "Sublimely Self-Righteous Black IPA. The Charlotte Regional Partnership has launched a web site and a social media campaign (#StoneGoToCUSA) to tout several sites around the region, from Rowan to Lincoln to Gaston, as well as several in Mecklenburg.

Local Stone lovers haven't been sitting on the sidelines. They've launched a Facebook site that's gotten more than 1,100 "likes" in hopes of showing the brewery that Charlotte should be its new East Coast home.

There is competition, however. Escondido, Calif.-based Stone is the 10th largest craft brewer in the nation and the biggest in southern California. According to this story, other communities from around the Carolinas, including Myrtle Beach, Wilmington, Asheville, Greensboro and Florence, S.C. are all in pursuit of the plant, which could bring an estimated 370 jobs with wages ranging from $12 to $48 an hour. Capital expenditures for the new brewery are projected to exceed $20 million for the initial phase of the brewer's business plan, with revenue projected to exceed $100 million by the fourth year, according to Sam Boykin, spokesman for the partnership.

The company is looking to pick a site and begin construction this year. Asked how many other communities have replied to the brewer's request for proposals, company spokeswoman Sabrina LoPiccolo declined to divulge a number. However, she added: "We definitely have seen quite a bit of interest and are pleased with the amount of proposals we've received."

According to the partnership, hundreds of other communities east of the Mississippi River have expressed interest. "It will take a special site to meet their requirements," Boykin wrote in an email, "and we're confident the Charlotte region is well-suited in terms of infrastructure, location and population density."

Monday, March 17, 2014

'Big data' firm opens headquarters in Packard Place uptown

Data archiving firm Infobelt announced Monday that the company has opened its new headquarters in Packard Place in uptown Charlotte.

The company said the new location gives it access to “like-minded, high-growth companies in the big data and information lifecycle management industries, as well as provides the infrastructure needed for further company growth.”

Infobelt specializes in intelligent archiving solutions that help regulated businesses reduce regulatory liability and save on infrastructure and storage costs.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Developer Peter Pappas honored as SouthPark Citizen of the Year

Noted Charlotte real estate developer Peter A. Pappas, whose body of work includes some of Charlotte's best-known mixed-use real estate projects, was honored today by the Charlotte Chamber's SouthPark chapter as its 2014 SouthPark Citizen of the Year.

Pappas, founder and president of Pappas Properties, received the award during a luncheon at Maggiano's Little Italy restaurant in SouthPark Mall. Among those present to congratulate him were businessmen Nelson Schwab and Johnny Harris, former Mecklenburg County Manager Harry Jones and Charlotte Deputy City Manager Ron Kimble.

Peter A. Pappas
Chamber President Bob Morgan introduced Pappas by noting his role in helping develop signature high-end projects such as the Metropolitan, Birkdale Village, Phillips Place, the Berewick subdivision in southwest Charlotte and the Sharon Square neighborhood in SouthPark.

"Anything we do, we want it to be an asset to the community," said Pappas, who is also CEO of Terwilliger Pappas, a firm he formed with Ron Terwilliger last year to develop multifamily properties. "We want to be able to look back on it and say, 'This has added value.'"

Pappas joined Morgan for a question-and-answer session in which the developer talked about the evolution of SouthPark and trends in the real estate development industry. Asked by Morgan whether he sees any lessons to learned for SouthPark in the demise of Eastland Mall, Pappas said areas shouldn't be taken for granted just because they're successful.

"That doesn't mean we should quit investing in that area," he said.

After the luncheon, Schwab called Pappas "one of the most hard-working guys you'll ever meet." He added: I think by sheer hard work, grit and determination he gets things done that otherwise wouldn't get done. I think we're the beneficiary as a community of some great projects."

Pappas said he is honored to join Tim Belk of Belk Department Stores, Allen Tate of the Allen Tate realty firm, Piedmont Natural Gas CEO Thomas Skains and real estate developer Johnny Harris as recipients of the award.

"I'm truly flattered to be a part of that group," he said.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Four Southwest Charlotte commercial buildings sold

Four southwest Charlotte commercial buildings have sold for $11.1 million to Virginia-based Medalist Properties. The buildings, on Arrowridge Boulevard, represent about 200,000 square feet total, according to Trinity Partners, which represented the buildings’ owners, a Florida-based investor group.

Trinity Partners leased and managed the portfolio for the past eight years, and Medalist Properties has retained Trinity to continue leasing the buildings. Medalist has in-house property management services.

Trinity said the flex buildings – 8107, 8227, 8301, and 8041 Arrowridge Boulevard – benefit from a strong tenancy, including Hobart Corporation, Bonsal American, Sears Home Improvement, CentiMark Corporation, and Miller Electric Company. The properties are 83 percent occupied, outperforming the market’s 81 percent occupancy rate.

Trinity Partners' Dunn Mileham represented the buildings' owners.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Windstream opens new data center in Charlotte

Windstream Hosted Solutions, which provides cloud computing solutions and managed services for businesses, today announced the opening of its fourth data center in Charlotte. The company said the new data center, its 27th nationally, will be nearly 40,000 square feet, with the possibility to expand to 60,000 square feet. Windstream's clients include Belk and Bojangles.

"The greater Charlotte area has become a major enterprise data center hub with continued market growth expected," said Kelly Morgan, research manager at 451 Research. "Key sectors driving demand include financial services, transportation, healthcare, energy and education."

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Japanese firm opens North American HQ in Charlotte

Yamada Dobby, a Japanese company that makes high-speed metal stamping presses, announced today that it has opened its new North American headquarters in Charlotte. The company, based near Nagoya, Japan, makes precision metal stamping presses for use in manufacturing electrical connectors, lead frames, motor cores and circuit boards.

The Charlotte Chamber said the company is looking to hire skilled mechanical and electrical field service technicians who can travel throughout North America to install and repair presses.

The chamber also announced today that an Austrian company that makes cutting, bending and seaming machines will open its first U.S. subsidiary in Charlotte. WUKO Maschinenbau will lease 2,500 square feet for sales and distribution. The company is starting with three employees and hopes to hire more in the next few years.