In five years, Stonewall Street on the edge of uptown won’t look anything like it does now: A surge of construction is expected to bring hundreds of new apartments, a Whole Foods, hotels and office towers to what could soon be uptown’s most vibrant new corridor.
The explosion of growth, fueled by a booming apartment market and the sale of city land left over from building Interstate 277, is in its early phase. Empty lots and surface parking still dot much of Stonewall, though land survey markers and construction equipment have started to pop up.
“It’s pretty sterile right now, not a lot of pedestrian activity,” said Michael Smith, CEO of Center City Partners. “It’s very automotive-focused.” But he said the decision by the city and N.C. Department of Transportation to shrink the I-277 interchanges “really changed the chessboard.”
The excess land was in five big parcels, all nearly 2 acres or more, with ready access to the interstate, uptown, the booming South End neighborhood, midtown and Dilworth. The city used the land as collateral for the $20 million NASCAR Hall of Fame construction loan.
That strategy appears to be paying off. After a long lull following the recession, the city has sold four of the five parcels, with two still open for possible upset bids. Just this week, apartment developer Camden outbid Pollack Shores for a nearly 4-acre site, with a $13.3 million offer.
The sales total $31.5 million, and one parcel, the smallest, is still on the market. City officials say they’re talking to developers about that parcel, a crescent-shaped site abutting the Actor’s Theater of Charlotte.
“We’re in a good spot in the cycle,” said Tony Korolos, manager of the city’s real estate division.
Not all of the sites are equal, however, and development will still face some challenges. Paul Bell, who is leading a partnership that’s under contract to buy a 2-acre parcel at Stonewall and South Boulevard for $4.1 million, said he’s still working out how people will get in to the development. The freeway and existing Camden Grandview apartments block off most potential ways in to the site, which Bell said he hopes can accommodate apartments, hotel, offices or retail.
“Access is totally up in the air. We’re working with N.C. DOT as well as CDOT to get that fixed,” said Bell. “It doesn’t matter how good the site is if people can’t get to it.”
Although the south side of uptown is seeing a huge development wave start to crest, Center City Partners is also pushing to develop the North Tryon Street corridor. Smith said he’s not worried the interest in the south side of uptown will take away from the north side.
“All cities develop in cycles, and the clear champion right now is South End and the south part of uptown,” said Smith. “The good planning work going on is going to position the north part of uptown for growth in the later part of this cycle or the next.”
The city parcels aren’t the only places developers are building on uptown’s south side. Office towers and a hotel are planned on privately owned sites.
So, take a walk or drive down Stonewall, along the mile-long stretch from Bank of America Stadium to the I-277 loop. Keep your eyes to your right, the south – that’s the side of the road where all this construction will be. Here’s what you see now, and what will likely be there in the coming years:
▪ The Charlotte Observer site, 600 S. Tryon St.: Charlotte developer Lincoln Harris is in talks to buy the 9.4-acre site, which includes the Observer building and the adjoining parking lots on Church Street. The company hasn’t said what it would do to redevelop the Observer site and didn’t respond to a request for comment.
▪ The former Goodyear Tire site at Stonewall and Tryon streets: Crescent Communities plans to start work this year on a 27-story office tower called Tryon Place, along with a hotel tower. The office tower will include restaurant and retail space.
▪ 615 S. College St.: A block south of Stonewall, Portman Holdings plans to start work this summer on a 19-story office building atop the Westin Charlotte’s parking deck.
▪ Stonewall, across from the Charlotte Convention Center and NASCAR Hall of Fame: Crescent is building a Whole Foods, 450 apartments and two hotels on this largely vacant 5-acre site, with completion expected in 2017.
▪ South Boulevard and Stonewall: Paul Bell and a partnership are under contract to buy this 2-acre parcel from the city for $4.1 million. Bell said the site could accommodate a mix of uses, including apartments, hotel, retail and office space.
▪ Caldwell and Stonewall streets: Apartment developer and operator Camden USA Inc. is under contract to buy this nearly 4-acre site from the city for $13.3 million. The company outbid another apartment developer, Pollack Shores, which had offered $12.2 million, indicating the high level of interest in the Stonewall corridor.
▪ Stonewall, next to the Actor’s Theater: This 1.7-acre parcel is the only site left on the market from the construction of I-277. Korolos said the site has drawn interest, and the city is talking with developers.
▪ McDowell and Stonewall streets: Proffitt Dixon is building a six-story, 230-unit upscale apartment project called Fountains Uptown. The company bought its 2.2-acre site from the city in 2013, for $3.8 million. With completion expected later this year, Fountains Uptown is the first project people will see finished along the Stonewall corridor.
Ely Portillo writes about development and real estate. Follow him on Twitter @ESPortillo, or give him a call at 704-358-5041.