Whole Foods, apartments officially underway on Stonewall Street

The newest phase of a sweeping overhaul of Stonewall Street kicked off Wednesday, with developers and local officials digging silver shovels into red dirt to break ground on a new Whole Foods-anchored development.

Charlotte-based Crescent Communities is behind the project, which will connect to the nearby light-rail station. When the development opens in 2018, Crescent Stonewall Station will include the first full-sized supermarket inside the Interstate 277 loop, 450 upscale apartments in buildings that will reach 22 stories, and two hotels.

The hotel brands haven’t been announced yet, but they will total between 300 and 350 rooms.

The new buildings are part of a wave of redevelopment that’s surging along Stonewall Street’s whole length, from Bank of America Stadium to the eastern edge of I-277.

“This is going to jump-start the redevelopment of Second Ward in an unbelievable way,” said Deputy City Manager Ron Kimble.

Crescent paid about $23.5 million for the 5.4-acre site on Stonewall. A portion of leftover land from the construction of I-277 had been owned by the city. Charlotte pledged the leftover parcels as collateral for a $20 million construction loan to build the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Crescent bought that portion for $10.3 million.

The company bought the other part of the site, adjacent to the Blue Line light rail, for $13.25 million from CNM Enterprises, a company owned by the Melissaris family. The family had previously operated the Fountain restaurant on the site, which opened in 1985, a time when fine-dining restaurants were a rarity uptown.

“Charlotte was not what we see today,” said Costas Melissaris, the family patriarch, ticking off a long list of developments that have sprung up in the last three decades. At the family’s request, a Greek Orthodox priest blessed the site, chanting a prayer and sprinkling holy water on the ground.

A deed of trust filed last week shows Crescent has secured $92.1 million worth of financing from JP Morgan Chase for the project.

“We aspire to transform how residents experience uptown for decades,” said Ben Collins, Crescent senior vice president.

If all the proposed projects materialize, the Stonewall Street corridor will be unrecognizable in a few years. In addition to the Crescent development that broke ground Wednesday, from west to east, plans include:

▪ Redeveloping The Charlotte Observer building site at Stonewall and Tryon streets. Charlotte-based development firm Lincoln Harris is under contract to buy the 9.4-acre site, in a deal that hasn’t closed yet.

▪ A 19-story office tower at 615 South College, under construction by Portman Holdings.

▪ An office tower and hotel by Crescent, to be built at Stonewall and Tryon streets on the site of a former Goodyear auto repair shop. Crescent executives said they plan to start site work soon for the project, which will be called Tryon Place.

▪ A mixed-use development on a vacant parcel at South Boulevard and Stonewall Street that Charlotte-based developer Northwood Ravin is under contract to buy from the city for almost $14.2 million.

▪ Apartments on the Actor’s Theatre site. Profitt Dixon is planning to build a six-story building with 300 apartments and up to 10,000 square feet of retail on the parcel.

▪ Apartments at Stonewall and McDowell streets. A block away from the Actor’s Theatre site, Proffitt Dixon is putting the finishing touches on a 230-unit building called The Presley.

Center City Partners CEO Michael Smith praised the latest development, which he said would help create a dense, urban boulevard along Stonewall Street and draw more retailers uptown. In addition to the Whole Foods, the project will include up to 25,000 square feet of additional space for other shops.

“These are the kinds of moves that differentiate cities,” he said.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo