About a mile north of the center city, a new neighborhood is taking shape that developers hope will become an anchor for an evolving Statesville Avenue corridor.
Developers say interest is strong and growing since the project opened for sales last year – reflecting recent housing reports that suggest the market is rebounding.
Buyers are even willing to plunk down a deposit for a home that hasn’t been built, something that wasn’t happening 18 months ago in the wake of the financial crisis and real estate meltdown that killed some projects and cost buyers.
Called Brightwalk, the neighborhood is an ambitious, $125 million public-private partnership among Standard Pacific Homes, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership and others to create a mixed-income urban village at the site of what was once the crime-plagued Double Oaks apartments.
The old barracks-like buildings are gone. In their place are single-family homes, town houses and apartments. Office and commercial space is expected to follow.
Last month, the housing partnership applied for a rezoning that would allow for two new apartment complexes on the 98-acre site, one for families and one for seniors. Already, two apartment complexes and one senior housing project are on the site. The partnership’s president, Pat Garrett, said plans call for potentially 150 new units. She also said the partnership has made an offer to an operator to run a day care on the site.
Garrett said momentum has been building at the project, which she believes signals that the local economy and housing markets are improving.
“Double Oaks had a bad reputation,” she said. “The fact the people are able to see beyond the reputation, the fact that things are moving, makes us feel good.”
Elliot Mann, Standard Pacific’s Carolinas division president, said he couldn’t provide specifics on home sales because, as a public company, Standard Pacific is in a quiet period before releasing earnings. But a chart in the sales office shows about three dozen homes have been sold.
Home prices start in the $120,000s and reach into the $300,000s.
Local home sale on rise
Charlotte-area home sales and prices have been rising. The amount of homes for sale, meanwhile, has been shrinking. Mann said the area’s shrinking inventory of homes and lack of lots near uptown are driving potential buyers to the project.
Mann also said buyers have been surprised to find that they’ve been able to get mortgages more easily than they expected.
Developers and city boosters see Brightwalk as key to what they call the north corridor, an evolving arts and cultural hub near the N.C. Music Factory and stretching to nearby neighborhoods such as NoDa. The housing partnership, a private nonprofit that creates affordable housing, acquired the site from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The partnership spent about $6 million of a HUD loan to improve Statesville Avenue, which was turned into a three-lane road to slow traffic.
Challenges remain. The area lacks services, including a grocery store. The corridor also is still heavily industrial.
But Charlotte-based real estate consultant Emma Littlejohn, who is working on the project, said that is changing.
For example, she said, the Arts and Science Council, which is working with an N.C. State University professor, will soon select sites around Brightwalk, the corridor and along the Greenway in which to place public art.
Littlejohn said Brightwalk is expected to grow and evolve during the next three to five years. She estimates that by the end of 2013, about 100 homes will either be sold or under construction.
‘Really another ward’
Homes include 1,200-square-foot town houses and 2,800-square-foot single-family homes.
They feature garages and open floor plans with the kitchen at the heart of the action. The single-family homes resemble bungalows with stone columns on the porch. The interiors are filled with sunlight.
“A neighborhood near the center city with some elbow room is very valuable,” Littlejohn said. “It could be a new Dilworth. It’s really another ward.”
On a rainy Thursday, two women chatted with an agent in the sales office.
“Have you bought a home yet?” Littlejohn asked.
“Not yet,” one woman replied. “I’m working on it.”