Pricey penthouses will cater to pricey passions

The developer of uptown's 20-story Encore condo tower wants to create five of the most unusual and most expensive penthouses Charlotte has seen.

The Encore 5 – five 7,000-square-foot units priced from $4.5 million to $5.5 million within the high-rise – are designed to appeal to five specific buyers: the art collector, the food enthusiast, the wine connoisseur, the technology buff and the consummate entertainer.

“We've talked to owners and potential buyers and these are the things that they are interested in,” said developer Jim Donnelly of Pursuit Group Charlotte. “These five things came up again and again.”

The Encore already is different enough, with elevators that will hoist residents' cars up to their condos, but, Donnelly said, “You're not going to get a chance to build many buildings like this in Charlotte. We said, ‘Let's really go hog wild and make it special.'”

Million dollar-plus penthouses are rare in the center city, and local housing analysts say they haven't seen any sales completed in the $5 million range.

Donnelly believes he has a shot. “I think I can sell one of anything,” he said. “You just have to find that one person in the Southeast who would absolutely love one of these homes.”

The estimated $65 million Encore project, announced in September, incorporates and preserves the 81-year old Carolina Theatre at North Tryon and East Sixth streets.

The complex would include three floors of offices, a restaurant level, a theater lounge floor, an amenities floor for residents and 1,400-seat auditorium for movies, live entertainment, charitable benefits and corporate events.

Donnelly said he has contracts on nine units priced from $1.75 million to $5.5 million and probably needs one or two more sales to break ground, he hopes by July.

The project, designed by Charlotte's Liquid Design and being developed with Camden Management Partners, likely will take about 18 months to complete.

Donnelly is still fleshing out how The Encore Five penthouses will be designed and built.

For The Epicurean unit, he said, the developers probably would seek out “the ultimate authority” – a master chef – to help design a cooking zone and equip it with the most sophisticated appliances and cabinetry.

But for The Gallery unit, “You have to have the buyer with you to customize it,” Donnelly said. “It will depend on the type of art collection the buyer has.”

The idea behind The Encore Five concept, he said, is “if you have an interest in your life you can build the interior of your penthouse around it.”

The Connoisseur would feature a vineyard aesthetic with wine displays and extensive wine storage and vault.

The iPad would integrate technology into the living experience and be “a home Steve Jobs or Bill Gates would be proud of,” Donnelly said.

The Cosmopolitan would be “the ultimate entertaining home” for bachelors and bachelorettes.

Donnelly plans to unveil the units one at a time starting with The Gallery at in invitation-only reception Thursday at Joie Lassiter Gallery on South Tryon Street.

Andreas Bechtler, a retired Charlotte businessman whose offer of a modern art collection to the city sparked the Bechtler Art Museum construction in Wachovia Corp.'s First Street Cultural Campus, was enthusiastic about Donnelly's plan.

“This is an exciting concept that will create a new awareness in the realms of art collecting in Charlotte,” he said. “It is a new level of thinking, in terms of creative possibilities for the residents of our city.”

Donnelly said that “if we are going to have world-class art museums, we need to have world-class art collectors. We are going to have to have homes for them.”

Donnelly's Pursuit Group is completing conversion of the former Home Federal Savings and Loan Building at 139 S. Tryon St. into The Trust condominiums.

After 2 1/2 years, seven of the building's eight $1 million-plus condos are sold, and Chima Brazilian Steakhouse will occupy the lower two floors and basement by late summer.