Rezoning would turn mill near uptown into food hall, creative offices

A rendering of the mill complex
A rendering of the mill complex

A pair of real estate firms have filed a rezoning request that would transform a defunct mill just north of uptown into restaurants, a food hall and creative office space.

Charlotte-based White Point Partners is teaming with Atlanta-based Paces Properties on the restoration of the Highland Park mill, on North Brevard Street at East 16th Street, adjacent to the Lynx Blue Line light rail extension.

“That mill has character you cannot create from scratch,” said Merritt Lancaster, of Paces Properties. He wants to bring back “the glory” in the structure.

“You couldn’t build this today,” said Lancaster. “They don’t have any beams to use like they put this thing together.”

The project would be the most ambitious in a new crop of development that could dramatically reshape the Optimist Park neighborhood. Other developers are planning several new apartment complexes nearby.

The mill dates to 1891, when the first building there opened. Other additions over the years have added to the structure, and Levell said they plan to “peel back” many of the new parts of the building added in the 1970s and 80s. The building totals about 250,000 square feet now. That will go down to 160,000 square feet after the renovations. Here’s what the 12-acre site would include:

▪ Up to 60,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, including a food hall. That would include vendors for produce, coffee, drinks, charcuterie and other food items, with a focus on local businesses. A “cross between a series of restaurants and a farmer’s market,” is how Lancaster described the concept.

▪ Up to 100,000 square feet of office space. The offices will be loft-style, with large, open floor plans.

▪ A minimum of 449 parking spaces.

▪ A large courtyard and pedestrian plaza facing uptown. “We’re going to create some of the best outdoor space in Charlotte,” said Jay Levell, of White Point Partners. He said the large building’s large windows will be restored to bring light in to the mill and create an “indoor-outdoor” feel as well.

The developers plan to finish their adaptive reuse by the time the light rail extension opens in 2017. They are pursuing tax credits available for mill restoration projects. Lancaster said the light rail extension is key to making the site work.

“With the light rail you have the transportation component, which we think is critical,” said Lancaster.

The project would be similar to the Krog Street Market in Atlanta, another project by Paces Properties. Built in a warehouse and factory that date to the 1920s, Krog Street Market includes market stalls selling produce and prepared foods, restaurants, and other goods.

City Council is set to hold a hearing on the plans Feb. 15.

Other developers are also starting projects nearby, following the light rail tracks. NRP Group is planning to build a 351-unit apartment building on Parkwood Avenue nearby, and Wood Partners plans to build 280 apartments at 25th and Brevard streets. And a 50-unit multifamily complex is in the works at Parkwood Avenue and 17th Street.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo