University City could get a major new entertainment district, with bowling, bars, movies

Strike City, a new combination bowling alley-bar-restaurant-hangout is in the EpiCentre.
Strike City, a new combination bowling alley-bar-restaurant-hangout is in the EpiCentre. GARY O'BRIEN - gobrien@charlotte

Developers are planning to build a big new entertainment district in University City, on a piece of land that’s long been either vacant or used for industrial buildings.

Jay Priester of Cambridge Properties said the project would be located near the intersection of Ikea Boulevard and University City Boulevard, backing up to Interstate 85. That’s also near the University City light rail station, where the Blue Line extension is expected to start carrying passengers to and from uptown by March 2018.

“It’s all about creating a sense of place for the University City area,” Priester said. The location could appeal to the area’s large base of corporate employees, UNC Charlotte students, local residents and people who no longer have to worry about fighting traffic to get to University City once the light rail opens.

In 2013, his company worked with Parks Chevrolet to rezone the site for an auto mall with up to five dealerships, a plan critics said ran directly counter to the promise of mass transit and was wrong for a location near the Lynx.

Now, Parks Chevrolet is planning to open a relocated dealership there next month. But Priester said Parks doesn’t want to move other dealerships there, and the site is more viable as an entertainment district with a mix of uses.

The plan would combine the leftover auto mall land, about 14 acres, with another 20 acres owned by Reeves Floral Products, which operates a warehouse there. Priester said they’ve filed to rezone part of the land for mixed-use development, and want to reuse the existing 100,000 square-foot industrial building on the site, which the developers are under contract to buy.

“It doesn’t make sense to have industrial zoning there today,” said Priester, as the area changes and light rail promises to accelerate development. He said the developers aren’t looking to build apartments, because there is already such a surge of them nearby.

Priester said they’re talking to interested tenants, and the entertainment district could include:

▪ A nine-screen movie theater with a full bar, restaurant and brewery.

▪ Other restaurants, especially those catering to corporate entertaining and daytime use. The focus won’t be entirely on nightlife, Priester said.

▪ A rooftop bar on top of the existing industrial building, with views of the Charlotte skyline.

▪ A hotel.

▪ A bowling alley.

▪ An outdoor golf venue, such as a driving range.

Charlotte City Council will consider the rezoning request and vote on it over the next several months.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo