Tens of thousands of spectators will stream down Gleneagles Road next week to the Wells Fargo Championship, a route that will carry them past one of Charlotte’s most curious construction sites: the hole.
For more than a decade now, the 19-acre property at Park and Gleneagles roads has sat empty. The Harris Land Company started construction in 2004 on what was intended to be an upscale development that would have featured a Saks Fifth Avenue and a Ritz-Carlton.
Workers dug a pit for an underground parking deck. But the project’s financing fell through, Saks announced they were pulling out, and construction halted that same year.
Now, the fenced-off site resembles a nature preserve: The hole meant for underground parking has filled in with water, creating a small lake. Birds swoop over the site, nesting in the scrub trees lining the hilly shores.
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This week I asked developer Dee-Dee Harris, president of the Harris Land Company, where plans for the site stand. She declined to comment, saying that might jeopardize the development.
And so the site remains in limbo, frustrating some neighbors.
Christopher Corcoran is the homeowners association president in Cameron Woods, south of the site. He said the community has been happy to see Quail Corners Shopping Center, across Park Road from the site, renovate and add new tenants in recent years – but Park and Gleneagles is a different story.
“The Board of the Cameron Wood HOA would like to see something done at that location so that it is no longer an eyesore,” said Corcoran, in an email. “It appears that their goal is high end mixed use, but the lack of movement for the project has been disappointing.”
Neighbors have been saying the same thing for years. In 2005, when the hole was still a new curiosity, the Observer quoted Marvin Wyant, then-president of the Quail Hollow Homeowners Association: “It stands out like a sore thumb, and people are really upset about it... Do something with it, instead of leaving it a mess.”
There was some movement toward restarting the development a little more than a year ago. In December 2014, Charlotte City Council approved an amended rezoning plan that would allow up to 350 apartments, a hotel, offices and a large retailer such as a grocer at Park and Gleneagles.
During the zoning hearing, Harris told City Council that she had partners for the apartments and hotel and was in talks with a partner for the retail portion of the development.
At the time, the plan was for the hotel to open by 2017, in time for the PGA Championship scheduled to be held at nearby Quail Hollow Club.
Council member Kenny Smith, who represents the area, said this week that he’s not aware of any new plans for the site.
A long history at Park and Gleneagles
The Harris Land Company’s ambitions for the site go back further than the short-lived construction in 2004 and the 2014 plan amendment. The company developed the adjacent Seven Eagles neighborhood, a gated community of spacious houses abutting the country club.
City Council approved a rezoning request for the site in 1989 – and then, as now, the project stirred controversy. According to an Observer story at the time, about 1,300 Park Road residents signed a petition opposing Harris’ plan to change the property’s zoning from residential to allow mixed-use, including a hotel, offices, shops and condos.
The protest petition required three-fourths of City Council members to vote in favor of the project, and the rezoning scraped through, 9-3.
But despite the rezoning approval, the project didn’t move forward. In 1993, longtime Observer development reporter Doug Smith wrote a story about where the plans stood, headlined: “Harris Land Co. to resurrect unique shopping center plan.”
At the time, Dee-Dee Harris said she was planning to build a 49,000-square-foot specialty shopping center, with Reid’s Supermarket as a tenant. At the time, she said she hoped to open the project in about two years.