Here’s why new buildings in Charlotte still don’t have a 13th floor

There’s no thirteenth floor at the Charlotte Observer’s building, the NASCAR Plaza offices.
There’s no thirteenth floor at the Charlotte Observer’s building, the NASCAR Plaza offices.

If you crane your neck to look skyward at some of the newest towers going up in Charlotte, you might notice an interesting quirk: Most don’t have a thirteenth floor.

It’s a quirk that harkens back to old superstitions, real estate traditions and a bit of marketing savvy. I noticed it when I was touring the new 300 South Tryon office tower: The spray-painted numbers on the side of the building that guide the freight elevator skipped straight from 12 to 14.

I’ve seen this before, of course – the NASCAR Plaza building, where I work on the twelfth floor everyday, skips a floor numbered 13. But I was still surprised to see new buildings going up without a thirteenth floor.

Aren’t we past such superstitious beliefs? The answer, it turns out, seems to be no.

There’s no thirteenth floor at the new 615 South College, an office tower going up next to the Westin hotel. Molly Carroll, a spokeswoman for Trinity Partners, which is leasing the building, said there’s also no floor numbered 13 at the other newer office buildings Trinity leases, which include the Ally Center, Bank of America Plaza, and the Carillon.

The Mint Museum apartment tower, a 43-story building at 525 South Church street set to open early next year, skipped 13. So did the Element apartment building next to Romare Bearden Park in Third Ward, which jumps straight from 12 to 14.

Maxwell Hanks, managing director of 300 South Tryon developer Spectrum Properties, is in charge of leasing the new building. He said they started with a thirteenth floor, but changed it to the fourteenth after negative feedback from potential tenants.

“Some will absolutely not go on a thirteenth floor,” said Hanks. As a result, the highest occupied floor in the 25-story tower is labeled floor 26 – a common mismatch in buildings that omit the thirteenth floor.

Brian Leary, president of commercial and mixed-use development at Crescent Communities, has developed commercial real estate projects coast-to-coast. In Charlotte, Crescent is building two uptown projects with high-rises: Crescent Stonewall Station, a Whole Foods-anchored project with a 22-story tower and apartments, and Tryon Place, a mixed-use office tower that will be at least 27 stories at Stonewall and Tryon streets.

“Of all the buildings I’ve ever built, none have ever had a thirteenth floor,” said Leary. He said more than superstitions and worries about bad omens are at work. Marketing also plays a big role: “Considering the financial risk associated with building anything over 13 stories, you can’t take the risk that a floor number “13” will be less marketable, desirable or competitive.”

And as a side benefit of cutting out the thirteenth floor, the top floor of the building gets to be one floor taller, Leary said, at least on paper. That can help with marketing, as higher floors sometimes command higher rents.

It’s not just Charlotte, of course, where developers omit the thirteenth floor. CityRealty, a New York-based real estate data firm, reported last year that only 9 percent of the residential condominiums in Manhattan with 13 or more floors actually listed the thirteenth floor as such.

The New York Times reported this week that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and longtime developer Donald Trump commonly omits floors to make his buildings “taller” and help with marketing. Trump Tower, for example, was built with 58 floors but omits 10 of those from its numbering, meaning the top floor of the building is listed as the 68th.

And not all buildings in Charlotte follow the convention. Hanks said he hasn’t been through and counted, but he estimates about half of uptown’s office towers have a thirteenth floor, while the other half don’t.

At the recently opened SkyHouse tower on North Church Street, you can lease an apartment on the thirteenth floor if you so choose, for example. Longtime Charlotte architect and developer David Furman has built two uptown condo towers: The 28-story tower at Trade and Poplar streets, and the 17-story Courtside condominiums at Sixth and Caldwell streets.

“We have a thirteenth floor in all two of the tall buildings we have developed,” said Furman. “Personally, I think skipping a floor is confusing, and I don’t think that many people are that superstitious. I’m surprised it’s still an issue.”

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo