Toronto developer buys West Morehead Street properties

The strip of commercial buildings along West Morehead Street that David Laren’s firm is acquiring for redevelopment.
The strip of commercial buildings along West Morehead Street that David Laren’s firm is acquiring for redevelopment.

A Canadian developer has acquired a strip of low-slung commercial buildings at West Morehead and South Mint streets, and he plans to redevelop them into a block of restaurants, bars and gathering places.

Toronto-based David Laren said his firm has acquired four buildings and is in the process of buying a fifth. The company could own a total of seven buildings on the block just south of uptown when he’s finished.

“We envision a promenade of chic restaurants, lounges, sports bars,” said Laren. His company is working through designs and planning for ways to make the street well-lit and appealing to pedestrians. “We want to bring sort of a New York, Miami flavor – some rooftop patios, really hip.”

Public records show companies affiliated with Laren have spent just under $4.5 million over the past two months to buy about an acre, including 315, 223, 225 and 229 West Morehead Street.

The land is zoned for mixed-use development, and Laren said his long-term plan is to build vertically on the site. A high-rise on West Morehead could include residences, shops, offices, restaurants and other uses, Laren said. He doesn’t have a timeline for that full-scale redevelopment, and is focusing on his immediate goal of revitalizing the block.

“It’s an awesome location,” said Laren. Whiteside Industrial Partners was the listing broker and represented the sellers.

His company has been involved in acquiring other Charlotte property. The Larendale Group owns 402 West Trade Street uptown, as well as undeveloped land on North Tryon Street and commercial properties on Griffith Road and Independence Boulevard.

Redevelopment is sweeping the Morehead Street corridor from Dilworth to west of uptown. On East Morehead Street, Beacon Properties is building a new, seven-story office building and the Dowd Y is planning a $20 million renovation of the flagship facility.

On West Morehead Street, Southern Apartment Group is planning a new apartment building, CitiSculpt is planning a new office building and Budget Self Storage is planning to build a five-story self-storage building with offices and retail on the ground floor. Other businesses, such as Rhino Market & Deli, have moved into the neighborhood and are expanding dining options.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo