Construction underway on LendingTree HQ in South End, part of a $300 million complex

A rendering of LendingTree’s headquarters, part of a pair of office towers planned in South End. Developer The Spectrum Companies broke ground on the building Thursday.
A rendering of LendingTree’s headquarters, part of a pair of office towers planned in South End. Developer The Spectrum Companies broke ground on the building Thursday. Courtesy of The Spectrum Companies

Work is underway at LendingTree’s new headquarters, the latest project in a corporate shift for South End.

Developer The Spectrum Companies broke ground Thursday on the building, part of a pair of 11-story towers that will add to the local skyline.

The 5-acre project at South Tryon Street at Carson Boulevard will cost more than $300 million and include a 1 -acre urban park, a 200-room boutique hotel and ground-floor restaurants and shops. The two buildings will have a combined 577,000-square-feet of office space.

Spectrum expects to start construction of the hotel next summer.

LendingTree said in April it would move its headquarters from Ballantyne to South End, citing the area’s proximity to financial services firms in uptown and amenities like the light rail.

The financial technology company will occupy 175,000 square feet in the first office building, which is expected to be complete in January 2021.

LendingTree is an online service that lets consumers comparison-shop for a range of financial products, such as mortgages, personal loans and credit cards. CEO Doug Lebda launched the company in Charlotte in 1996.

The company recently said it employs around 500 in the Charlotte metro area. In December, it announced plans to nearly double its Charlotte-area footprint after receiving state incentives in exchange for maintaining its headquarters in Charlotte.

In that announcement, LendingTree said it would add 436 jobs that pay an average of more than $100,000 over the next five years. In return, it received an incentives package which included $8.37 million in state inducements.

Corporations move in

When the light rail opened around a decade ago, South End started adding apartments, breweries and restaurants at a rapid pace. But now, the area is starting to see more of a corporate presence.

In the first quarter of the year, nearly 600,000 square feet of office space was under development in South End and midtown, according to an April report from real estate services firm JLL.

In May, officials celebrated the opening of the East Coast headquarters for financial services firm Dimensional Fund Advisors. EY (formerly known as Ernst &Young) said last year it would bring hundreds of employees to the RailYard development, another pair of office towers under construction.

And in a major announcement last month, Lowe’s chose Charlotte for a 2,000-employee technology hub it will put in South End. The 23-story tower will be the largest outside of uptown.

The goal of projects like Spectrum’s is to create a seamless transition between uptown and South End, said Michael Smith, president and CEO of Center City Partners, a group that promotes development in uptown, South End, and the area just west of Interstate 277.

There will be a day not too far from now where you’ll walk from 10th and Tryon Street on the north end of uptown all the way down to West Boulevard, and you will not feel the interruption of our central business district,” he said. “You will feel that you’re on main street, you’re on Tryon Street.”

Still, Steve McClure, Spectrum’s Chief Operating Officer, said that while more corporate users are moving into South End, the area still has a distinct feel from uptown.

“Part of what South End is about is the authenticity of it,” he said.

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Danielle Chemtob covers economic growth and development for the Observer. She’s a 2018 graduate of the journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill and a California transplant.