Before construction, new look for condos

A South End condo development inspired by modernistic European architecture is getting a makeover before the first shovel goes into the ground.

SouthHaus, unveiled last summer at South Boulevard and Ideal Way, has a new look featuring a rooftop terrace and 89 two-and three-level lofts instead of 198 units and an interior courtyard.

Developer Eric Vargosko of BlueSky Partners LLC said his project team revised the estimated $30million complex to control rising construction costs and respond to feedback from potential buyers.

“Everybody wanted a view of the city or a view of south Charlotte,” he said. “The courtyard view units were slower to sell.” The revised plan includes 56 condos with a skyline view, 10 more than the original design.

Also, Vargosko said, the chic, contemporary lofts originally were “a little too European” at about 10-feet wide. “The narrow box has been widened and shortened,” he said. “Most are now about 15 feet wide.”

The building has 11 floors above ground and a parking level below ground.

The edgy European flavor has been retained, Vargosko said, with steel spiral staircases, high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling glass walls that fold to transform an entire loft into an open balcony.

Prices range from $179,000 for the smallest one-bedroom unit, about 560 square feet, to $750,000 for the 2,000-square-foot penthouse, which is under contract.

Vargosko said 50 percent of the units are priced at roughly $200,000 or less, a range he believes will attract people in their 20s and 30s.

Residential sales and construction are slowing in the Charlotte area, which is feeling the effects of the nation's housing downturn.

But Vargosko said he's optimistic about SouthHaus because most buyers can still get loans in its price range and its preferred lenders are offering favorable financing terms.

About 60 percent of the units are under contract from the initial offering, and project sales broker Terry Childers said his team is contacting the buyers about converting.

So far, he said, about a third of the buyers have been shown the new plan and 90 percent of them are staying in the project.

The development also will include about 15,000 square feet of offices and 15,000 square feet of retail on the lower levels.

Des Roberts, who is handling retail leasing at The Carolina Group Partners LLC, believes the space will appeal to restaurants and specialty shops.

He's quoting an annual rate of $36 per square foot for first-floor retail and $29 per square foot for second-floor. BlueSky is asking $22 to $24 per square foot annually for the office space.

Vargosko plans to start work when the project is 50 percent sold. He hopes that will be no later than the first quarter of 2009. Construction is expected to be completed by 2011.

BlueSky had a financing commitment from Huntington National Bank on the initial concept, and, Vargosko said, he plans to re-present to them after the sales goal is met and other project details are finalized.