A development company is under contract to buy a triangular parcel in South End that has seen the rise of Food Truck Friday and been the home to Common Market.
Cousins Properties plans to build an East Coast headquarters for Dimensional Fund Advisors on the site bounded by South Tryon Street, West Park Avenue and Camden Road. A land use attorney representing the developer said plans also call for street level retail.
Dimensional Fund Advisors said in July that it will bring 316 jobs when it opens new offices in Charlotte. The company will invest $105 million and plans to build a roughly 250,000-square-foot building. State and local incentives worth up to $18 million helped lure the Austin, Texas-based financial services firm.
“They greatly appreciate the special nature and the character of the South End area,” said Jeff Brown, an attorney with Moore & Van Allen. Cousins and Dimensional Fund Advisors are working with Duda Paine Architects, whose projects include Time Warner Cable’s Charlotte headquarters and the Gateway Village Technology Center uptown.
The companies have had preliminary talks with Common Market about possibly being an anchor retail tenant in the new building. The Common Market’s owners have also said they’re searching for a new site, possibly in the Johnson C. Smith area in west Charlotte.
The property needs to be rezoned for the building, and a petition hasn’t been filed yet with the city. A rezoning hearing in front of the Charlotte City Council could take place by the end of the year, with construction starting in late 2016 if the project is approved.
South End has boomed in recent years, with thousands of new apartment units opening along the Blue Line light rail. New developments have included a Publix supermarket, the planned redevelopment of the Sedgefield Shopping Center and a slew of new breweries.
Cousins and Dimensional Fund Advisors could face some public backlash to the plan. The Common Market, which also has a location in Plaza Midwood, is a popular eatery, beer and wine shop and gathering place. Food Truck Friday has grown into a regular event that draws more than a dozen food trucks and hundreds of customers to the vacant lot at Park Avenue and Camden Road.
Gaines Brown has owned most of the site for decades. Other businesses on the site include Black Sheep, two salons, Modern Fabrics and Blush Boutique.
Brown, who has turned down development offers for years, said he was impressed by the quality of the plans he saw from Cousins. The addition of office space is a “natural evolution” for an area that’s seen a surge of apartments, Brown said.
“The neighborhood has about maximum saturation on multifamily,” said Brown. “It seems like when the markets get saturated with residential, one of the next markets is office.”
Brown, an industrial designer, said when he started buying land in South End in the 1980s, the area was far from the red-hot neighborhood it is today.
“It was perceived as not only no man’s land but a dangerous area,” said Brown. He spent years throwing block parties and hosting concerts to try and convince people to visit the formerly industrial area, long before South End started attracting block-sized apartment complexes. It took decades, but Brown said the area has succeeded.
“I’ve done what I could do to make South End an interesting place to be,” said Brown.