Timelapses show 50 years of development, change in Charlotte
When developers roll out their next big project, they usually attract a flurry of attention — or provoke a furious fight with neighbors who don’t want to see something built next door.
In a fast-growing city like Charlotte, the excitement often fades away before the first bulldozer arrives. But sometimes, the wait before beaming officials symbolically break ground with ceremonial gold shovels can stretch into months or even years. When that happens, developers often go quiet as rumors and questions build up about whether a planned project will actually go forward.
Slow-moving projects often jump back on the fast track when market conditions change. Other times, a development becomes a zombie project, neither alive nor dead but lingering in limbo — like the pit at Park Road and Gleneagles Drive, where owners have been planning a luxury retail destination for almost three decades.
When a project isn’t officially canceled but also isn’t moving forward with construction, those who heard about the plans are left wondering what happened.
Developments are commonly delayed for all sorts of reasons: difficulty with permits, higher-than-anticipated construction costs, trouble getting funding from a lender, a critical tenant who’s slow to sign a lease.
Here’s the latest on four Charlotte developments — with an estimated value of well over $1 billion — that were announced with fanfare but haven’t seen much dirt move since then.
Jackalope Jacks apartments
Over the past three years, the triangular piece of land at Seventh Street and Caswell Road — once home to a popular Elizabeth bar and restaurant — has been the site of plenty of controversy.
In 2015, Charlotte-based developer Faison filed plans to demolish Jackalope Jacks and build 200 apartments, along with 15,000 square feet of bars and restaurants. Neighbors fought the plans, which they said were too dense, and former City Council member Claire Fallon said the design looked like “a barracks.”
In 2016, Faison won approval from City Council — but only after cutting the number of planned apartments in half, to a maximum of 100, and slashing the planned retail space as well. In 2017, the company demolished the buildings after paying more than $5 million for the site. But since then, the site has sat empty and fenced off, as neighbors wait for something to happen.
“When I moved here a year ago, I expected it would be done around this time,” said Brian Flynn, who lives nearby.
Kris Fetter, managing director of real estate for Faison, said construction bids came in 15 to 20 percent higher than the developer expected, making the project as planned no longer viable. A redesign that reduced the number of apartments to 47 didn’t solve the problem.
Now, he said, the developer is considering “all options” for the site, including different uses like building for-sale residences. That could require another rezoning, which would further delay the project.
“We’re going to try to keep looking at it,” Fetter said, but the cost of construction materials and labor remains an issue. “These are challenging times.”
When Horizon Development Properties, the developer arm of the Charlotte Housing Authority, selected Boston-based Fallon Company to redevelop a 16-acre tract of low-income housing in Dilworth, CEO Fulton Meachem Jr. predicted it would be “one of the most exciting projects in Charlotte.”
The $330 million redevelopment is planned to include 725 new apartments, 145 of which will be reserved for low-income renters. Shops and restaurants, 330,000 square feet of office space, a 180-room hotel and 20 townhouses would also be part of the project. The plans also call for a public park and an amphitheater.
Since the 2016 announcement, the low-slung Strawn Cottages between South Boulevard and Euclid Avenue have been torn down, leaving a large patch of empty land in their place. Groundbreaking for site infrastructure was supposed to begin in late 2017.
But Fallon hasn’t purchased the site yet, and it could be years before construction starts on the new mega-development.
CHA spokeswoman Cheron Porter said construction at the Strawn site will follow a $41.5 million stormwater infrastructure upgrade planned for the area. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services said construction will start this fall.
A Fallon Company representative said the company has been told the infrastructure work should be complete in 2019 but didn’t give any details on when the redevelopment could start.
“Our schedule will be dependent on their plan,” Porter said.
First Ward office tower, hotel
Levine Properties remains the biggest private landowner in First Ward, a corner of uptown where empty blocks and asphalt parking lots still occupy dozens of acres.
In 2014, Hilton Worldwide and Levine Properties announced plans to bring a Canopy by Hilton hotel to First Ward, and in 2015, Daniel Levine said he was planning to build a 20-story office tower on a vacant site next to UNC Charlotte’s uptown building.
Neither project has started. Levine said in 2015 that he wouldn’t build the office tower without an anchor tenant signed on to lease a big chunk of space. This week, through a spokesperson, he said there’s no update on the project.
The Canopy by Hilton also appears to be on indefinite hold. It no longer appears as an upcoming hotel on the company’s website, and a spokesperson didn’t respond to a message seeking more information. The company is building a Canopy by Hilton in SouthPark, on Fairview Road across from the mall, that’s expected to open next year.
Second Ward renaissance
The $683 million plan to revive Second Ward, uptown’s sterile government quarter, and turn it into a massive neighborhood of more than 1,200 residences, office buildings, shops, restaurants and hotels is arguably the biggest redevelopment planned in Charlotte. But it will still be at least a few years before construction starts.
Mecklenburg County commissioners voted this month to approve a redevelopment agreement with BK Partners, led by New York-based developer Peebles Corp.
It’s been more than two years since the county picked BK Partners to redevelop 17 acres in Second Ward, where the African-American neighborhood known as Brooklyn was before the city razed it in the “urban renewal” program of the 1960s and ‘70s.
There hasn’t been any work on the site so far. A timeline from county staff shows it could still be more than 2 1/2 years before the developers complete due diligence, planning and rezoning and actually buy the site.
After that, construction for Phase One of the new development is estimated to take three years, which means it could be in the mid-2020s before the first parts of Brooklyn Village are complete. The overall redevelopment is expected to take up to 10 years.
A Peebles Corp. spokesperson didn’t respond to a message asking for more information about the timeline or a groundbreaking date.
The land that will be redeveloped includes the Bob Walton Plaza south of Stonewall Street (across from the Mecklenburg Aquatic Center), the shuttered Board of Education building and Marshall Park between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Third Street.