New office building to feature old style

Charlotte lawyer Jim Blane wants his new office building under construction on East Morehead Street to look like something that would have been built 200 years ago.

To make sure it happens, he's taking an active role as the developer and owner of the estimated $4 million to $4.5 million project.

Blane will occupy half the ground floor – about 2,500 square feet – of the three-story, 15,000-square-foot structure and lease or sell the rest.

The appearance of the building, at 1057 E. Morehead St. next to the Johnston Allison & Hord law firm, is of utmost important to the University of Virginia graduate.

Blane's years on a campus steeped in Jeffersonian architecture gave him an affection for traditional brick buildings accented by columns.

His, of course, will use old-style brick and mortar, Palladian columns and arches similar to the construction features the country's founding fathers would have employed.

Columns, niches, chandeliers and antique brass mailboxes will carry over the traditional architectural theme to the building's interior, as well.

Blane said his approach has been hands-on, with him sometimes choosing finer materials than recommended and insisting on extra touches.

Each 5,000-square-foot floor, for example, has four air conditioning units in case one goes out. “To get a quality tenant, you have to build a quality building,” Blane said.

East Morehead is a popular corridor for offices in the shadow of the uptown towers, and tenants value the location for its views of the skyline and neighboring Dilworth.

The third-floor tenant in 1057 East Morehead will have an unobstructed view of uptown from the rear windows.

Blane is impressed, but as the developer, he said, the wise financial decision was to make the prime floor available for a tenant and put his law office on the first level.

Metrolina Builders is constructing the building, designed by ADW Architects. First Trust Bank is the lender.

The shell is expected to be ready by September for tenants to finish out to their individual preferences.

Blane, who is occupying temporary space on Morehead, plans to move in during the Thanksgiving-Christmas holiday season.

He demolished an aging single-story building the firm had occupied on the half-acre site to make way for construction of the building, which includes a 45-space parking lot.

Will Whitley at New South Properties of the Carolinas is handling sales and leasing.

Class A space – considered the market's newest and finest – is available for lease in blocks as small as 2,500 square feet for $30 a square foot annually (net of electricity). The sale price is $365 a square foot.

The average annual office rate in the midtown area, which includes East Morehead, rose to $21.77 a square foot in the first quarter, up $1.39 from a year earlier. Real estate analysts say a shortage of office space in and near the center city is pushing rental rates higher, making projects like 1057 East Morehead more cost effective.