Development

3 years after fanfare, Chiquita sign comes down

The NASCAR Plaza building in uptown Charlotte Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. The Chiquita sign was recently removed from the building's facade.
The NASCAR Plaza building in uptown Charlotte Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. The Chiquita sign was recently removed from the building's facade. tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com

Three years ago, dozens of local business leaders and politicians gathered for a celebratory unveiling of Chiquita’s iconic sign at the banana company’s new uptown headquarters.

There was no fanfare this weekend when the sign was removed, erasing one of the last traces of a high-profile effort to lure Chiquita to Charlotte from Cincinnati. North Carolina, Mecklenburg County and the city of Charlotte offered Chiquita $22 million worth of state and local incentives, to be paid over a decade, in return for bringing more than 400 high-paying jobs.

But the company’s poor performance led to its acquisition in January by two Brazilian firms in a $681 million hostile takeover. They took Chiquita private and said they would close the Charlotte headquarters, dispersing the jobs to other locations.

Chiquita pledged to pay back the incentives money it had so far received: About $500,000 each to the city and county, and $1.5 million from the state.

Charlotte City Attorney Bob Hagemann said the company has until the end of the year to pay back its share of money to the city.

In January, when Chiquita announced it would close the headquarters, the company said it would take about a year to 18 months to shut down the Charlotte operations.

Parkway Properties owns the NASCAR Plaza building, a 20-story tower at South Caldwell and Stonewall streets. Chiquita leased about six floors of the building, whose other major tenants include NASCAR and Heels.com. The building is connected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo

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