The jarring sights of Charlotte’s building boom have become familiar: New apartments seemingly springing up overnight. Cranes dotting the skyline to hoist new skyscrapers. Vacant lots suddenly transforming into red dirt.
But don’t get too comfortable. There’s a whole new round of major new developments just over the horizon, set to reshape even more of the city in the next five years. And these aren’t just a handful of isolated projects. They’re the sort of mega-projects that will have old-timers scratching their heads and asking, “Wait, what used to be there?”
Of course, the development of these projects hinges on the current strong economic cycle continuing and Charlotte avoiding another recession like the one that hobbled the city’s new building for years after the 2008 economic crash.
Any downturn could stall these projects, and others – you need only to look at the empty fields at Wilkinson Boulevard and Suttle Avenue, or remember the rusting steel rods that used to poke out the top of the EpiCentre to be reminded that a boom doesn’t last forever. But it’s worth noting that even those stalled developments have since restarted, with hundreds of new apartments coming to Wilkinson Boulevard and a new hotel tower under construction atop the EpiCentre.
Here are the five biggest, most transformational projects you’ll see coming together over the next few years in Charlotte. I’ve left off some of the most prominent projects already well underway (The office towers, hundreds of new apartments, hotels and Whole Foods under construction on Stonewall Street come to mind) and stuck with developments that are either in their earliest stages or on the cusp of starting construction.
What’s there now: A disused former Ford factory, missile assembly plant, munitions dump and Rite Aid distribution center that totals 1 million square feet, along with vacant land where the Tryon Hills apartments once stood.
What’s coming: The centerpiece of the new development will be called Camp North End. That’s at the former industrial property on 75 acres between Statesville Avenue and North Graham Street, which New York-based developer ATCO purchased for $13.5 million last year. The company plans to reuse many of the industrial buildings, the oldest of which dates to 1924, refurbishing the space and developing 1.5 million square feet of office space, up to 1,500 apartments, a hotel, shops and restaurants.
Nearby, a Nashville-based developer is seeking to build about 300 new apartments between 24th and 26th streets, along North Pine Street.
When you’ll see it: Rezoning petitions to allow the new apartments and the ATCO development are pending before Charlotte City Council, which will vote on them in the coming months. ATCO has already signed its first tenants at Camp North End, including co-working office space Hygge and the nonprofit Goodyear Arts center, expected to open there later this year.
What’s there now: A 17-acre chunk of uptown’s Second Ward is mostly occupied by Marshall Park, the shuttered Board of Education building and the aging Bob Walton Plaza, used for county services. The area was once the site of the African-American community called Brooklyn, which was demolished in the 1960s and ‘70s in the name of urban renewal.
What’s coming: Last year, Mecklenburg County commissioners voted to sell the land to a development joint venture called BK Partners. The developers plan to build a $683 million project that will include more than 1,000 new apartments, almost 178 condominiums, new shops and restaurants, two hotels and 680,000 square feet of office space.
When you’ll see it: Mecklenburg County is finalizing terms of the deal with BK Partners, and staff should update the board of commissioners in the coming months. Then, assuming the sale, rezoning and permits goes through on schedule, construction could start in early 2019, with additional phases of construction running through 2025.
What’s there now: Nearly 1,400 acres of largely undeveloped, wooded land west of Interstate 485 and Charlotte’s airport, known as the Dixie-Berryhill area.
What’s coming: Charlotte developers Lincoln Harris and Crescent Communities are gearing up to build one of the biggest master-planned developments in the city’s history. The River District will include 8 million square feet of office space (That’s twice as much as Ballantyne Corporate Park) and about 5,000 new residences, along with hotels, shops and restaurants. The plans include leaving about 40 percent of the site undeveloped to preserve woods, ravines streams and wetlands.
When you’ll see it: City Council voted to approve the development last year. The developers are planning to build some bicycle trails in the woods this year to get people interested in coming to the rarely visited area, before more intensive development starts in the coming years. The full plan is expected to take 20 years or more to build.
New Bern Station, South End
What’s there now: South End’s boom has opened up new parts of the area for redevelopment. One of the hottest right now is the area near New Bern Station on the Blue Line light rail, where the former Pepsi Bottling plant, parts of Sedgefield Shopping Center, the Radio Center apartments and the one-story commercial building at South Boulevard and Poindexter Drive were all recently demolished.
What’s coming: Lennar Multifamily is building 432 apartments, along with new shops and restaurants, where the Pepsi Bottling plant stood. Sedgefield Shopping Center owner Marsh Properties is redeveloping the shops and duplexes behind them into a new Harris Teeter, about 1,000 apartments and townhouses, office space and more retail.
When you’ll see it: Construction or demolition has started on these projects. The Sedgefield Shopping Center redevelopment will move in phases, with construction starting on separate parcels over the coming several years.
University City, along the light rail
What’s there now: While much has been made of the explosive growth coming to the Blue Line extension just north of uptown, less has been announced for the northern terminus around UNC Charlotte. Much of the development there is decidedly suburban, and there are still large tracts of undeveloped land along the light rail.
What’s coming: Developer interest has already perked up. Oxford Properties is planning 320 apartments and rental townhouses across from the University City light rail station. And University City Partners has unveiled plans to transform the area into a more walkable, denser and less suburban part of town over the next few years.
When you’ll see it: Oxford Properties plans to start construction this summer. Retrofitting parts of University City’s older shopping centers, building more greenways and walking trails and adding more pedestrian-friendly infrastructure is expected over the next few years.