Small and midsized banks looking to open or expand in Charlotte have opted for SouthPark in recent months, drawn to the area known for affluent neighborhoods and ritzy retailers.
In February, Greensboro-based NewBridge Bank unveiled plans for its first full-service location in Charlotte: a branch that is expected to open in SouthPark this year.
Greenville, S.C.-based CertusBank last year chose SouthPark for its first North Carolina-based retail branch. The banks president said it also is considering opening an administrative office in SouthPark.
Late last year, High Point-based Bank of North Carolina opened Southern region headquarters in SouthPark, across from Piedmont Town Center.
And Raleigh-based Paragon Bank, which has been leasing space in SouthPark for about seven years, announced in January that is relocating that operation to a SouthPark building that will give it room to expand.
SouthParks very desirable. Every bank wants to be in SouthPark. Were always open to being in SouthPark, said Cindy Wolfe, Charlotte-area president for Bank of the Ozarks.
In March, the Little Rock, Ark.-based company opened its first full-service branch in Charlotte, at 4200 Park Road. Its about 2 miles from SouthPark, and Wolfe said that if Bank of the Ozarks had found land to buy in SouthPark, it would have.
The banks recent SouthPark announcements dont surprise J. David Simpson, a commercial broker for NAI Southern Real Estate, who has helped banks scout for sites in the Charlotte area.
I think every bank of any size has to have a presence in SouthPark, he said. You have (financial services) companies, like little under-the-radar companies, and they do business with crème de la crème of executives in the eastern half of the United States.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income in Mecklenburg County is $55,994. For ZIP code 28211, where SouthPark mall is, the median household income is higher: $69,334.
But with the large demand for SouthPark land, finding locations especially those that can be bought rather than leased has not been easy for banks.
Its very difficult to find any land in SouthPark, and its as difficult to find a free-standing building where you can buy it and control it, said Phillip Jurney, president for Paragons Charlotte division.
Jurney said Paragon, which specializes in commercial clients, looked at about 10 SouthPark-area office buildings when it was hunting for a new home to relocate its operation at Two Piedmont Town Center. But the office buildings were all for lease, not for sale, and housed other tenants, he said.
Paragon managed to find a building for sale at 6337 Morrison Blvd. In December, the bank paid $4.2 million for it.
Banks looking to lease space will find fewer options in SouthPark compared with other parts of Mecklenburg County. According to first-quarter data from research firm Karnes, the average vacancy rate for SouthPark office space was 11.1 percent, compared with the countys average of 16.6 percent.
Angela Webb, president of CertusBank, which in addition to its branch has two other offices in SouthPark, said the bank is looking for a place in SouthPark to put an administrative building.
For bank operations, being in a stand-alone space is always good, she said. Theres not a lot of available real estate in SouthPark, and so we have brokers who are actively looking for space.
SouthPark would be our first choice. Ballantyne would probably be our second choice.
Raleigh-based VantageSouth Bank, which focuses on small-business lending, announced that it will open its first full-service branch in Charlotte in SouthPark late this year.
We know that its one of the fastest-growing areas in Charlotte, said Blair Kennedy, marketing manager for VantageSouth.
She said her company picked SouthPark because it will be easy for customers and the banks employees to access the branch there.
Also, this year, SunTrust Bank said it plans to occupy 43,500 square feet of the Sharon Square mixed-use project set to be built in SouthPark. The bank is moving its regional headquarters to the building.
Jurney can tick off a list of banks that have a presence in SouthPark, from big ones, like Bank of America and Wells Fargo, to smaller companies, like his.
Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services has corporate offices in Piedmont Town Center. PNC took over RBC Banks Raleigh-based U.S. business last year.
Jurney said hes been working in banking in SouthPark since 1990 and has watched banks pop up all around him.
If you look back, theres probably five banks that were here in the SouthPark area back in the early 90s. Now youve probably got 15.
Is there room in SouthPark for more banks?
If you can find space.
Roberts: 704-358-5248; On Twitter: @DeonERoberts
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