Friday, February 28, 2014

Charlotte's commercial real estate outlook brightening

The commercial real estate market in Charlotte looks set for continued improvement in 2014, according to industry insiders participating in a panel discussion on the subject Thursday evening.

Mark Cagley, Bank of America's credit products executive for the eastern U.S., said banks are looking to increase commercial lending again after having weathered the economic downturn. "The market is very active. We're at a place now where there's an awful lot of debt capital of all sorts, not just banks ... We frankly haven't come close to absorbing all the pent-up demand."

He later added, however, that impending regulatory changes could drive up lending costs. "I think we're fine this year and our clients are fine, but there are a lot of headwinds coming at the banks in terms of how they're going to be financed and how capital for construction loans is going to be financed."

Bill Lane, senior director for real estate finance with TIAA-CREF, said he too sees increasing competition among lenders. Still, he said the Southeast's strong job and population growth should keep the commercial real estate market strong.

Stuart Proffitt of multifamily development firm Proffitt Dixon Partners said financing opportunities for apartment complexes remains strong despite fears areas such as the South End are getting overbuilt with multifamily projects. "The terms are much more favorable, and there are more options," he said.

UNC Charlotte economist John Connaughton told the crowd at the conference that the country has regained 86 percent of the jobs lost during the recession, and the improving residential housing construction market should help boost the recovery. The loss of good-paying blue-collar jobs in construction and manufacturing remains a problem, he added, but things aren't as dire as some of the media reports would suggest. "It's better than you think it is," he said. "I honestly believe 2014 is likely to be the best year of this recovery."

The panel discussion, held at the Ritz, was sponsored by GreerWalker accounting and the Katten Muchin Rosenman law firm.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

New luxury apartments headed to Park Road

The Stratford Apartments, located across Park Road from the Park Selwyn Terrace Shopping Center, are about to be bulldozed to make way for a 273-unit luxury apartment complex. Atlanta-based Pollack Shores Real Estate Group announced Thursday that it has bought the 6.75 acre property and plans to break ground on its new project in April. The firm said it expects delivery of the first units in the third quarter of 2015.

A Pollack Shores subsidiary bought the property Wednesday for $6.4 million, county property records show. Residents living at the Stratford Apartments, which front onto Park Road near Selwyn Avenue, were given 30-day notices, said Elyse Hammett, a spokeswoman for the developers.

The new community will include a path connecting it northward to Freedom Park and eventually southward to the Little Sugar Creek Greenway. It will feature interiors with designer finishes, granite and stone countertops, and a club room with a catering kitchen. Pollack Shores sees the property as "a unique opportunity for us to provide a high-design, high-quality multifamily community," said Michael Blair, managing director of development for the company.

Charlotte job recruiters pitching region's energy sector in Tokyo

A delegation from the Charlotte Regional Partnership is in Tokyo this week, trying to convince more Japanese companies to expand or relocate operations to the region. During an invitation-only event slated for today at the U.S. Embassy, they plan to promote Charlotte's growing energy sector with a presentation titled: "The Carolinas: America's Top New Energy Center -- What You Need to Know." Scheduled to help make the presentation were David Swenson, a senior vice president with the partnership, Mark Fecteau, CEO of Westinghouse-Japan and K&L Gates attorney Ryan Dwyer.

David Swenson (right) of the Charlotte Regional Partnership joined Leland Gaskins of the N.C. Department of Commerce in promoting the Carolinas at the World Smart Energy Week renewable energy trade show in Tokyo Tuesday.

The Charlotte region already has nearly 100 Japanese-owned companies, but the partnership wants to see more. Charlotte officials talked up battery technology, smart-grid development and other promising clusters of the region's energy sector. Also at the meeting: officials from the N.C. Department of Commerce, the S.C. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Commercial Service, the Japan-U.S. Business Council, and the Japan/Tokyo Chamber of Commerce.

The group's trip wraps up at week's end.

Monday, February 24, 2014

New Embassy Suites hotel going up in Ayrsley

The Ayrsley mixed use development in southwest Charlotte is set to add another hotel, officials say. Ayrsley Hotel Associates III and Ayrsley Development Corp. have broken ground on a 170-suite Embassy Suites hotel, with opening scheduled for April 2015.

Two other Hilton properties, the Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites, already operate in the 185-acre development at Interstate 485 and South Tryon Street. The new hotel will have more than 12,000 square feet of meeting space, including a ballroom that can seat 500 for dinner. Ayrsley Development Co. CEO Tom Henson said southwest Mecklenburg and northern York counties have lacked a full-service hotel that can handle substantial meetings, corporate events, rehearsal dinners and elegant wedding receptions. "We have been very pleased with the performance of the other Hilton properties we have at Ayrsley and we expect the Embassy Suites to build on that success while offering another level of service," he said.

More apartments coming to Dilworth

Carolinas AGC, a chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America, has sold its 2.6-acre headquarters site in the heart of Dilworth at Euclid and Templeton avenues. The buyer, Marsh Realty Co., has successfully rezoned the property for a future multifamily development. City engineering and land development records show plans for 182 residential units. The site plan approved by the city last year shows a pool deck and five-foot privacy wall going in along Euclid.

Carolinas AGC, which had nearly 40,000 square feet spread over three buildings at the site, will move to 7,300 square feet at Three South Executive Park in SouthPark, according to Merrifield Patrick Vermillion, the real estate firm that represented Carolinas AGC in the sale.

Real estate records show the property sold Dec. 10 for $4.2 million.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Chinese firm bringing distribution hub, 30 jobs, to Charlotte

A Chinese company that makes ribbons used in fax and barcode printing announced today that it is bringing its ribbon distribution hub to Charlotte and hiring 30 workers over the next three years. Fujisan Thermal Ribbon USA (FJS) already has a fulfillment center in Charlotte for product storage and processing orders, but will add a distribution, sales and customer service center at its site at 299 Dupree St. in Charlotte.

“We believe that our U.S. operation will help us gain market share and increase profitability as well as support the North American and global business expansion in years to come,” said Paul Wills, vice president of U.S. sales & operations with FJS Thermal Ribbon USA Ltd. “Charlotte not only provides an excellent quality of life but also a logistical delivery advantage to more than 60 percent of our customer base.”

Headquartered in Dalian, China, FJS is a top leading thermal ribbon manufacturer in China and the only approved supplier for Panasonic and Philips in the Chinese market.

Apartment complex going up on Morehead Street uptown

Ohio-based NRP Group is about to start construction on a 298-unit apartment complex on Morehead Street at Church Street. The five-story complex, called the Quarters at Morehead, will be located on a 2.4 acre tract bounded by Morehead, Church and Winnifred streets and Carson Boulevard. NRP closed on the property Tuesday. "We're so ready to start," NRP's Mark Tipton said. "If I could get out there tonight with a hammer I would."

He said the new apartments will be aimed at the growing cadre of young professionals working uptown, but added that he imagines professionals of all ages will like its proximity to major employers such as Duke Energy and the fact that Bank of America Stadium is just down the hill and around the corner. The complex will have one-and two-bedroom units, and also will feature some townhouse units and units with two-story mezzanines. Tipton said workers should be on the site within a week starting the project, with an eye on finishing it next spring.

It will be the latest in a rush of new apartments sprouting in and around uptown Charlotte. Some analysts say Charlotte could find itself with an over-supply of apartments this year, but Tipton, like others developing the newest apartment complexes, doesn't sound worried. "Multi-family living has come of age. People want to be close to their work and don't want to drive," he said.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Italian valve manufacturer moves from Rock Hill to Charlotte

Italian valve manufacturer Bonomi North America announced today that it will move its corporate offices from Rock Hill, S.C., to Charlotte, bringing 11 new jobs and possibly five more jobs over the next three years. The company bought its new facility at 750 Imperial Court with plans to expand to add assembly operations.

"We chose to relocate to Charlotte after outgrowing our existing space in Rock Hill," said Alberto Malaguti, general manager for Bonomi North America. "Charlotte is the ideal location for us -- it's in the heart of our customer base, offering the international and professional setting a world leader like Bonomi requires for further growth."

No local incentives were given as part of the deal, Charlotte Chamber officials said. A spokesman for the N.C. Department of Commerce didn't immediately respond to an email seeking information on any state incentives.

Carolina Panthers' Steve Smith joins OrthoCarolina to open Matthews sports training center

Carolina Panthers player Steve Smith and two other NFL players, Josh McCown and Leonard Little, are joining with OrthoCarolina to open a new sports training center in Matthews this spring. The 20,000-plus square foot center, called D1 Sports Training, will have an indoor/outdoor turf field, college-style weight room and an OrthoCarolina physical therapy clinic aimed at athletes and common athletic injuries.

The facility will be located at 1205 Mann Drive, which is just off Sam Newell Road near Matthews Township Parkway. It is part of a growing chain of sports centers by D1, which has 20 locations around the country co-owned by well-known players such as Peyton Manning, Jason Witten and Tim Tebow.

The Matthews center will be the second in North Carolina. D1 Raleigh is co-owned by San Diego Chargers Quarterback Philip Rivers and retired Tennessee Titans player David Thornton.  Steve Smith, who is already a co-owner of D1's Greenville, S.C. location, said in a news release: "When (D1 CEO Will Bartholomew) approached me about the possibility of getting involved in a D1 Charlotte location years ago, I jumped at the chance."

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Construction underway on luxury Stonewall Street apartments uptown

Construction is under way on Fountains Uptown, a luxury apartment complex at East Stonewall and McDowell streets.
Work on the the six-story, 230-unit complex began in early January, after Charlotte-based Proffitt Dixon Partners bought the 2-acre site from the city of Charlotte for $3.8 million last year. It will feature a two-level clubhouse, an elevated saltwater pool and a rooftop patio with skyline views. The project’s first units will be completed by mid- to late-summer with full completion in 2015, said Wyatt Dixon.

The project comes amidst an apartment complex building boom, with 14 projects under construction in uptown and South End, according to Center City Partners.

“We certainly see a lot of competition out there over the next 18 to 36 months,” Dixon said. “While we don’t have plans to begin pursuing other infill opportunities right now, we believe that quality urban living in Charlotte is here to stay. This will bode well for Charlotte’s long-term prospects. It will certainly be more challenging in the short term, however.”

Monday, February 10, 2014

Mayor convenes job fair with 62 employers on hand

Mayor Patrick Cannon announced Monday that job-seekers will have a chance to interview with more than 60 employers at The Mayor’s Job Fair, to be held later this month. The city said that as of Monday, 62 employers had signed on for the event, to be held Feb. 22, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Sheraton Charlotte Hotel, 555 S. McDowell St.

“Although unemployment rates have fallen, we must not take that downturn in unemployment for granted,” Cannon said. “There are people in Charlotte who are skilled workers, but are still looking for a position. My goal is to connect people who need jobs with local companies that have jobs available right now.”
Cannon, who has been working with the Charlotte Chamber, the Hospitality and Tourism Association and other groups, said employers in the job fair will have entry-level and supervisory openings to fill.

The employer registration deadline is Wednesday.  The event is free for job-seekers but they must also register. To do so, go to, click on “Charlotte Mayor,” then “News.”

The 19 hottest hiring sectors in Charlotte

The latest unemployment numbers out last week showed that the Charlotte area's post-recession recovery is still gaining strength.  But many people are still out there looking for work. If you want to understand which sectors are doing the most hiring, this analysis by Economic Model Specialists Inc., an arm of the Careerbuilder job search firm, breaks down which industries are adding jobs the fastest. One noteworthy nugget: the much-discussed resurgence of Charlotte's (high-tech) manufacturing sector shows up on this list, with the Queen City ranking 9th out of the 50 biggest metropolitan areas nationally in percent growth in manufacturing since 2010.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Council member: Forget the streetcar, build east-west light rail line

After reading my recent story about the cautionary note Atlanta's recent snowstorm mess sounds for Charlotte's future growth, City Council member Claire Fallon called to say she's more determined than ever to push for an east-west light rail line. She says she can't see redevelopment coming to east Charlotte without it.

"I'd take it from Sunset (Road in northwest Charlotte) to Monroe (Road in southeast Charlotte) with a spur to the airport," she told me. "I don't think it's practical to even consider not doing it. This is getting to be a big city with a lot of people coming to it. You're going to have to find" ways to move them.

What about the much-debated east-west streetcar line, the first leg of which is already under construction? Not the long-term answer, Fallon says. She believes it's going to take light rail to reshape development patterns on the east and west sides. She supported the City Council's recent move to spend $12 million for engineering work on the 2.5-mile streetcar section running through the center city, but she's not sounding like she's on board with the long-term plan to extend the line from Beatties Ford Road in the west to the old Eastland Mall in the east. She says if she could have her way, she'd tie the current streetcar plan into an east-west light rail system.

To call it a longshot would be putting it mildly. Such a project would be eye-poppingly costly. And the city's already struggling to find money for the much less-expensive streetcar project. But she's scheduled meetings with CATS officials to talk about how to make an east-west light rail line happen. "I think they think I'm nuts," she adds, chuckling. "At least let's start the dialogue. I figure there's a 30-year build-out. I figure the first ten will be people talking and saying, 'This is ridiculous, we can't do it.'"

"But we're going to have to do something. We can't stay the way we are and move people."

Knowing the passions the streetcar alone has aroused, all I could think of to say in response was, "Well, good luck..."

What do you think of her idea?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Chinese TV report: Charlotte is new corporate mecca

Charlotte's apparently making a name for itself in Chinese business circles. We received fairly dramatic evidence of that recently when a Chinese yarn manufacturer announced plans to open a big factory in Lancaster County and employ 500 people.

Now comes this TV news report from China Central Television, a state TV broadcasting company in mainland China, that digs into the growing trend of Chinese firms setting up shop in Charlotte, and in the Carolinas more generally. The folks at the Charlotte Regional Partnership posted it on their site with good reason. It's virtually an ad for the business-friendly reception firms can get in Charlotte and the Carolinas.

With Chinese labor costs rising and American power costs sinking, experts say we can expect to see more Chinese firms setting up shop in the near future.