Park Road Shopping Center’s owner is shaking up the tenants at one of Charlotte’s most-recognizable retail landmarks, adding three upscale dining options and a “makeup bar.”
The new businesses announced Wednesday continue Columbia.-based developer EDENS’ multimillion-dollar efforts to make over Park Road Shopping Center, which was Charlotte’s first open-air retail center when it opened in 1956.
EDENS hopes to draw more customer traffic and turn Park Road Shopping Center into a destination that’s open from early morning to late night, said Jodie McLean, the company’s president and chief investment officer.
Last year, smaller merchants said they feared rising rents under the new ownership as EDENS upgraded large swaths of the center. Amid the changes, several longtime tenants have recently either closed or said they will close soon, including Rack Room Shoes, Roland’s Salon, a dry cleaning business and Piedmont Music Center.
EDENS is aware of the shopping center’s decadeslong history and appeal as a neighborhood retail spot, said McLean.
“What we really want to celebrate more than anything is really this great institution that has been a hub of the community,” she said. “We’re still just stewards for a moment in time.”
It’s hard to maintain a 1950s-style shopping center and still pull in 21st century profits, said Andrew Jenkins, Charlotte-based managing partner of Karnes Research, which studies real estate trends.
Some older shopping centers have been rejuvenated, he said, citing Raleigh’s 1940s-era Cameron Village as an example. However, it’s hard for “mom-and-pop” tenants to stay when developers raise rents to pay for renovations, or to recoup the cost of buying the property.
Cameron Village, he said, has moved toward a more modern shopping vibe. Power retailers like Benetton, Mattress Firm and Ann Taylor have moved in.
“You lose a lot of the throwback (feel), obviously,” he said. But from the owners’ perspective, “you’ve got to get a return on equity.”
New restaurants, makeup bar
Here are the new businesses coming to Park Road Shopping Center:
• Cantina 1511, a Dilworth fixture, is moving from its East Boulevard location to Park Road. Co-owner Dick Campbell said he decided to move Cantina 1511 because the Dilworth location has limited parking and less space. The new location, which will be in the Omega Sports space at Park Road, will be able to seat about 100 more people than the current restaurant’s 174 maximum. Omega Sports will move into part of the former Rack Room Shoes store.
“The location at East Boulevard has been a great location to us, but it really limits our ability to grow our sales,” said Campbell.
Campbell said the East Boulevard site will be rebranded as another restaurant, though he did not have details Wednesday. Cantina 1511 is set to open at the new location in late summer.
• A locally-owned gelato store called Va Da Vie is scheduled to open in February.
• A farm-to-table, seafood-focused restaurant called RockSalt will feature an outdoor patio and wood-fired grill. The restaurant is RockSalt’s fourth East Coast location, and its first in North Carolina. It’s owned by Rappahanock Oyster Co., an oyster farm.
• The LALA Girl, a locally-owned shop offering full-face makeup applications starting at $35, will join the trio of new restaurants. The store is set to open in the spring.
Park Road Shopping Center is being reorganized around specific “districts,” McLean said. The “theater district,” for example, will feature Cantina 1511 and the movie theater, and will be structured around the idea of dinner and a movie. The “market district,” clustered around Harris Teeter, features more casual restaurants, such as the Carolina Soda Shoppe.
McLean said EDENS hopes customers will visit Park Road Shopping Center an average of 3.5 times per week, for a total of five hours. Part of the goal is to make the center more pedestrian friendly and add more outdoor seating to encourage people to stay longer.
“How many people just pull up front, run in, run out?” she said. “How do we physically make this a place where people will make multiple stops and spend more time?”
EDENS has invested millions to renovate buildings, storefronts, outdoor areas, sidewalks and landscaping at the shopping center. McLean said that work will continue this year with more upgrades to facades and more subtle touches, such as lighting.
Adjusting to change
In 2011, longtime owner and philanthropist Porter Byrum donated the 425,000-square-foot center to Wake Forest University, Queens University of Charlotte and Wingate University.
The schools quickly sold Park Road Shopping Center to EDENS for $82 million. EDENS also owns the Kenilworth Commons and Atherton Mill shopping centers in Charlotte.
Some former merchants moved out because of higher rent. Roland’s Salon had been a fixture since the shopping center opened, but hairstylists said they couldn’t afford the rising rents.
Lygia Garrido-Burns and her sister, Tania Cox, shut down the shop their parents, Roland and Elizabeth Garrido, had grown into a south Charlotte staple.
The stylists scattered to different shops. After a nerve-wracking transition process, Garrido-Burns recently opened Roland’s Wig Salon, a new shop at 1810 East Blvd. focused on wigs and hairpieces, her specialty. Loyal clients have followed her.
“I’m here and I’m happy,” she said. “I feel my stress level going down and my sense of humor coming back.”
She isn’t sure what will become of her old space at Park Road Shopping Center, but said she does keep in occasional touch with acquaintances who still work there.
“They’re holding up pretty well. Change is kind of hard for all of us, but I think they’re trying to put a good face on it.”
Portillo: 704-358-5041; Twitter: @ESPortillo
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