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.