We have a winner: Charlotte City Council voted Monday to award a 3.8-acre parcel of coveted uptown land to Charlotte-based apartment developer Northwood Ravin.
The vote caps a two-month auction in which four apartment or mixed-use developers put in bids for the land, demonstrating how heated the Stonewall Street corridor has become.
“First it was Pollack Shores. Then they were upset by Camden. Then they were upset by Northwood Ravin. Another company came in with an upset bid at the last minute,” said Deputy City Manager Ron Kimble.
The contest for the land goes back to five surplus parcels Charlotte received when the state built Interstate 277. The city has been working to sell the parcels since. This particular parcel, at Stonewall and Caldwell streets, has received four bids, each higher than the next.
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Northwood Ravin has developed apartment complexes in Charlotte and owns well-known apartments such as The Vue high-rise. The company had offered almost $14.2 million for the land, the highest bid at the time. Then, Morgan Bond LLC, a joint venture of Chicago-based Bond Companies and a California developer, offered an upset bid of $15.1 million.
But there was a catch: Morgan Bond’s bid did not come in with a fully funded escrow account before the deadline. So the highest bid didn’t technically qualify, while the qualifying bid was about $1 million less.
Each developer got a chance to argue their case Monday before council.
“The credibility of the process is dependent on fairness and consistency,” said Mike Wilson, representing Northwood Ravin. “The last bid ... was late.”
Morgan Bond executives pointed out that they have the higher bid, and the lateness funding their escrow account was because of a slow out-of-state wire transfer.
“Wires can become a logistical challenge,” said Ryan Morgan. He said the company was planning to build a mixed-use development including multifamily housing, a possible hotel and retail. “We are moving rapidly to create an iconic project that is a gateway to uptown Charlotte.”
Rob Bond, Bond Companies co-founder and president, said his company wants to invest more in Charlotte, and the deposit coming slightly after the 2 p.m. deadline shouldn’t disqualify them.
“Charlotte has been nothing but welcoming to us thus far,” he said. “Through good intentions but not perfect timing, we submitted the highest bid ... the city does not suffer any irreparable harm by our deposit being slightly tardy.”
In the end, council members said they felt they had to vote to follow the rules of the bidding process and award the land to Northwood Ravin. Staff had recommended that option.
“No one likes leaving $1 million on the table,” said council member Kenny Smith, a Republican. “But if you have integrity, you need to adhere to the rules.”
Stonewall Street is on the cusp of a major boom that’s set to transform the southern edge of uptown. Over the next several years, developers plan to build hundreds of new apartments and hotel rooms, two office towers and a Whole Foods grocery store along the mile-long stretch of road from Bank of America Stadium to I-277. And Lincoln Harris is under contract to buy and redevelop the Observer’s 9.4-acre site, which includes parcels adjacent to the stadium and Tryon Street.