Development

This long-empty reminder of the Great Recession is about to be filled with new apartments

Sign for the never-built Bryant Park Drive, near Wilkinson Boulevard.
Sign for the never-built Bryant Park Drive, near Wilkinson Boulevard. mhames@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte City Council approved a plan to build new apartments at a development just west of uptown that’s sat mostly idle since the recession, where developers plan to lure tenants with lower rents than nearby luxury apartments.

Phoenix-based Alliance Residential’s plans call for up to 350 new apartments at Wilkinson Boulevard and Suttle Avenue, on 10 overgrown acres where the Radiator Specialty Co.’s plant once stood. The plant was demolished to make way for a major new mixed-use development, but those plans fell through after the 2008 economic crash.

Since then, most of the site has sat vacant, even as development around it picks up, with Mecklenburg County buying a new, adjacent office building and more houses, shops and restaurants built in the surrounding neighborhoods.

“The West End is really hitting its stride, with great restaurants, interesting office and retail, and a unique character we want to embrace,” said Donald Santos, head of Alliance Residential’s Charlotte office, in a previous statement. “Our goal is to reposition this former office park site into a cool residential project for the community and the city.”

The apartments will include a clubhouse and pool, but no ground-floor retail. Alliance said the lack of pedestrians on Wilkinson and the fact that it’s mostly a divided, one-way thoroughfare along that stretch would make attracting retailers tough.

Broadstone Bryant Park, as Alliance is calling the development, will aim for lower rents than many of the highest-end apartments that have sprouted up in recent years, where a one-bedroom can top $2,000. That’s part of their strategy to lure renters, though the apartments will all be market-rate, unsubsidized units.

At Broadstone, about 75 percent of the apartments will be studios or one-bedrooms, with an average rent of $1,144, about 20 percent would be two-bedrooms going for $1,515 and the rest would be three-bedrooms for $1,685. Those rents are still above the city’s average of $1,082, but less than the most expensive new high-rises. Prospective tenants, Alliance said, include people who make too much for subsidized housing but not enough to afford the new, highest-end apartments.

“Our goal is to provide the finest Class A housing stock to this ignored band of the rent spectrum where limited options push residents further from the communities in which they work,” the company said in a community presentation earlier this year. One reason the rents could be cheaper: The plan doesn’t include an expensive-to-build parking deck, and instead relies on surface parking.

The company has said apartments could break ground in late 2017 or early 2018.

The site is owned by a company affiliated with Charlotte developer MPV Properties. Before the 2008 crash and recession, the real estate development firm had planned to build a $250 million mixed-use project on the former Radiator Specialty Co.’s 40 acre site between West Morehead and Wilkinson. The plan called for 1 million square feet of buildings and up to 2,000 residences.

The company developed an office building, which was leased first by the Charlotte School of Law and acquired by Mecklenburg County for $16 million in 2015. The rest of the site has sat largely vacant since then.

Alliance has been pursuing other apartment developments in Charlotte, including a 275-unit apartment building at the corner of Tryon and Morehead streets near uptown. Another deal the company had been working on – to build 264 apartments on Seigle Avenue – fell through last year.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo

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