Work began Wednesday on a 33-story tower in First Ward as officials hope to shape what’s seen as the largest remaining development opportunity in uptown.
The project, called The Ellis, will consist of 549 luxury apartments and 19,000 square feet of retail space. The project is being developed by Lennar Multifamily Communities, a subsidiary of homebuilder giant Lennar Corp.
The high-rise, at the corner of Ninth and College Streets, will contain 365 apartments, with penthouses on the top floors, along with a fitness center, pool deck and other amenities. Adjacent to the tower, the development will include a six-story building with the retail space and remaining apartments on a private road being constructed between Seventh and Ninth Streets along the light rail line.
Lennar is not releasing the cost of the project at this time, but property records show it purchased the property from Daniel Levine’s company for $23 million.
This is Lennar’s first major apartment project in uptown. The multifamily division, which is based in Charlotte, built what is now Marq Midtown 205 near Target and an apartment building alongside the New Bern light rail station, at the site of a former Pepsi bottling plant.
The latest project is part of the city’s North Tryon Vision Plan, which encompasses a 50-square-block area from Fifth Street to the Interstate 277 loop. The plan calls for high-density development, street-level retail and pedestrian- and bike-friendly areas.
“This is the final frontier inside 277,” said the area’s city council member, Larken Egleston.
According to the plan, the area also holds the greatest concentration of arts and cultural institutions in the region. The neighborhood is home to the Levine Museum of the New South, Discovery Place and other venues.
Bank of America, which has its headquarters on North Tryon Street, is a major player in the area’s future and was involved with the planning process.
“We’ve always felt like Tryon Street is an important address for us because that’s where our corporate headquarters is,” said Charles Bowman, the bank’s Charlotte market president, in an interview after an event marking the start of construction. “We have a vested interest in trying to make sure that it’s a vibrant place.”
The plan also calls for a mix of incomes in the area, though The Ellis is a market-rate project. First Ward has long been home to a mix of incomes, Egleston said.
Bowman pointed to Bank of America’s donation of two parcels of land for affordable housing in the area, one near the Charlotte Ballet and the other at Seventh and Tryon streets.
The high-rise is one of multiple projects underway to revitalize the area. The Foundation for the Carolinas is overseeing a $40 million revamp of the nearby Carolina Theatre, which dates to 1927. The theater will feature a 270-room Intercontinental Hotel on top.
A group of property owners including Bank of America, the Charlotte Housing Authority, the city and the county, are also looking for a master developer for the stretch between Sixth and Eighth streets.
Bowman told the crowd that he looked down from his office the other day to see the beginnings of the vision coming together.
“I saw this big red piece of dirt and it dawned on me what this was,” he said. “I’ve never seen a piece of red dirt that’s quite so beautiful.”