Construction cranes once dotted the Charlotte skyline, a testament to developers’ enthusiasm for the region’s seemingly endless growth. More than a dozen condo high-rises, office skyscrapers and posh hotels were planned for the center city in the mid-2000s.The recession came along, however, and scuttled many of those projects, sidelining developers who found themselves unable to get construction loans.While no one expects cranes to flock to the Queen City anytime soon, there are signs that the overall commercial real estate market is slowly improving. The apartment market, for example, has become a darling of investors and developers who expect more Americans to turn to renting instead of buying a home. Developers have announced plans to build more than 8,130 units as of February, according to the Greater Charlotte Apartment Association, up significantly from 524 units that were in the works a year earlier.New apartment communities are planned for uptown and the Elizabeth, South End and SouthPark neighborhoods, among others. The 51-story Vue luxury high-rise at Fifth and Pine streets was sold at foreclosure auction this summer, after the developer was unable to sell more than two dozen of the tower’s 408 units. The new owner has announced plans to turn the unsold units into rentals.Also promising for the commercial real estate market: International and national companies this year snapped up roughly half a dozen trophy office towers that went on the market, suggesting investors feel confident in the local economy, brokers say. And some projects that struggled after making it out of the ground are regaining their footing.The EpiCentre complex uptown – which boasts more than 300,000-square-feet of retail, restaurants and office space – emerged from bankruptcy protection this year with new owners who are spending millions on upgrades.A few blocks from the EpiCentre, the NASCAR Plaza office tower, which had struggled to fill space, nabbed a large tenant, the corporate headquarters of banana giant Chiquita Brands International.And office developer Bissell Cos. has been on a building spree that’s garnered national attention. The developer’s Ballantyne Corporate Park in south Charlotte has been building more speculative office space than any other project in the country.
Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012
Uptick in commercial real estate, rentals
Kerry is a business reporter for the Observer.
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