The expanse of skyscrapers and cranes outside Michael Smith’s window was once a string of parking lots.
“(It) was really great for tailgating — that was about it,” he said.
Since he moved to Charlotte just over two decades ago, the Charlotte Center City Partners CEO has seen the city grow and transform. According to the organization’s latest annual State of the Center City report, this decade is on pace to be the most productive in office, residential and hotel construction in Charlotte’s history.
Surrounded by a view of the sun setting on the uptown skyline, the organization unveiled the report’s findings to a group of city officials, developers and others involved with shaping Charlotte’s future on Wednesday night.
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“The sky is the limit now,” Mayor Vi Lyles told the crowd. “We’re in a good place to really compete, to be a part of something that I think a number of communities haven’t been able to achieve: a place where people can live and afford to live here.”
The organization reported that there’s currently $1.7 billion invested in construction projects in the center city, which the organization defines as uptown, South End, midtown and an area just west of Interstate 277.
Now, his organization, a nonprofit that works to promote economic development in the center city, is starting to look ahead to the next decade.
“You don’t want to lose that pattern, he said. “If you lose a decade, I mean it’s literally like a generation. And then you have to almost start over.” Here are several key numbers from the report that show the area’s continued growth:
That’s the number of square feet of office space under construction or planned in center city. At the same time last year, the organization reported 5.1 million square feet under construction. That figure reflects multiple towers going up around uptown, including the Legacy Union development on the former Charlotte Observer site, the Ally Charlotte Center, the FNB Tower on South Graham Street and the Duke Energy Tower on South Tryon Street.
That’s the number of hotel rooms planned or under construction. A number of high-profile hotel developments are underway, including the luxury Grand Bohemian at Trade and Church streets; the Intercontinental tower; a 350-room hotel in the Ally center office tower; and two hotels next to the Whole Foods on Stonewall Street.
From 2000 to 2009, the city added 1,495 hotel rooms. Smith said luring visitors to the center city outside of work hours was historically a struggle for hotels.
“Our hotels did really well during the week, but on the weekends, they were giving away hotel rooms,” he said.
That’s the estimated residential population in the center city, which has grown 46 percent in the past five years. And Smith said while big cities like New York and Chicago might gain more residents overall, Charlotte retains its new inhabitants.
“They come here for the jobs, but then they stay for the relative affordability,” he siad.
That’s the median monthly rent in Charlotte compared with its peer cities, where median rent topped $2,000 a month. Those savings aren’t just for renters — office space rented in Charlotte for 21 percent lower than its peer cities.