Local

High-rise spurs debate about uptown views

Five years ago, Bob Stern bought a 16th-floor condo in South End's pink building, mostly because its floor-to-ceiling windows provided “spectacular” views of uptown Charlotte.

But a new high-rise project slated for a neighboring property has Stern and some other residents worried that they'll lose their views, leading to a dip in property values.

Harris Development Group LLC has applied for a rezoning of the former Simpson's Lighting property along South Boulevard that would allow for an apartment tower at least 230 feet high. The development would fully block nearly three-quarters of The Arlington, the pink building's official name.

The estimated $200 million project, which also includes an office tower, hotel, parking deck and various retail, will go before the Charlotte City Council for approval July 21.

“I bought here strictly for the view,” Stern said. “There's no other reason to buy here. I believed, mistakenly or not, that the view was sacred.”

The development highlights a growing concern of new towers going up outside someone's window. The stalled 32-story 300 South Tryon tower, for example, is likely to block some scenery for residents in the existing 13-story 230 South Tryon building.

Doug Schlosser, an uptown Realtor and condo owner, said it's something nearly every big city deals with.

“Look at the New York skyline,” he said. “It just comes with the territory.”

Hundreds of thousands of dollars sometimes separate condos with views of the city from those without. At The Arlington, the available condos facing away from the city are larger and cost around $335 per square foot. Available uptown-facing units top out around $372 per square foot. Condos on sale range from $378,000 to more than $560,000 – and up to $2 million for the largest unit.

And The Arlington isn't without its own controversy. Some residents of the Factory South Lofts complained about their view being blocked when The Arlington was built. Critics of the window color dubbed it “Pepto-Bismol pink.”

Some even want a better-looking project to block the view of The Arlington from uptown, and the proposed development would nearly do that.

Bad standard?

The Arlington residents say they have a right to their views in the non-legally binding South End Transit Station Area Plan approved in 2005, about two years after the approximately 300-foot pink building opened. The plan caps building height at 120 feet.

Some residents worry that the proposed development could set a bad standard for future projects in South End.

“(The city) said The Arlington was the first and last high rise in the South End area,” said Kathy Gray, who has lived in the building since 2005, “and I think a lot of people bought here because of that.”

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Zoning Committee unanimously backed the Harris project last month, with some changes. Center City Partners also supports the plan.

Harris Development owner Steve Harris said the high-density project is ideal for property along the light rail, and that his company has met with residents throughout the planning process. He says a well done project could increase property values at The Arlington.

“I wish that we could please everybody, but that's kind of the nature of the beast that you can't,” Harris said. After closing on the property early this year, Harris said his company met with residents, but concerned pink building residents weren't willing to compromise enough.

The Arlington residents who oppose the development say the 120-foot height rule was adopted for a reason. They also worry that with a rise in construction costs, the project could go up in phases, leaving half-built masses that mar the scenery for years.

Some residents tried to submit a legal protest petition, which would have required nine votes for City Council approval instead of the normal six. But because The Arlington is a condo tower, the condo association or every single tenant would have had to submit the petition, said Senior Deputy City Attorney Bob Hagemann.

Doing research

As part of the project, the developer would add a traffic signal and crosswalk to South Boulevard.

Center City Partners president Michael Smith said that's one of the reasons he backs the plan. He, along with the city planning department, said the South End plan was written with future exceptions possible. The project's close proximity to the Carson light rail station, they say, is that kind of exception.

“That site can support that density,” said Charlotte-Mecklenburg planner Tim Manes. “Sometimes when you have density, you have to have height.”

New uptown buyers, Schlosser said, are doing more research into what's around them and what could happen in the future before committing.

“If (a view) is really important to you,” Schlosser said, “you might want to try to buy somewhere where you're looking over a church or something that can't be changed.”

Five years ago, Bob Stern bought a 16th-floor condo in South End's pink building, mostly because its floor-to-ceiling windows provided “spectacular” views of uptown Charlotte.

But a new high-rise project slated for a neighboring property has Stern and some other residents worried that they'll lose their views, leading to a dip in property values.

Harris Development Group LLC has applied for a rezoning of the former Simpson's Lighting property along South Boulevard that would allow for an apartment tower at least 230 feet high. The development would fully block nearly three-quarters of The Arlington, the pink building's official name.

The estimated $200 million project, which also includes an office tower, hotel, parking deck and various retail, will go before the Charlotte City Council for approval July 21.

“I bought here strictly for the view,” Stern said. “There's no other reason to buy here. I believed, mistakenly or not, that the view was sacred.”

The development highlights a growing concern of new towers going up outside someone's window. The stalled 32-story 300 South Tryon tower, for example, is likely to block some scenery for residents in the existing 13-story 230 South Tryon building.

Doug Schlosser, an uptown Realtor and condo owner, said it's something nearly every big city deals with.

“Look at the New York skyline,” he said. “It just comes with the territory.”

Hundreds of thousands of dollars sometimes separate condos with views of the city from those without. At The Arlington, the available condos facing away from the city are larger and cost around $335 per square foot. Available uptown-facing units top out around $372 per square foot. Condos on sale range from $378,000 to more than $560,000 – and up to $2 million for the largest unit.

And The Arlington isn't without its own controversy. Some residents of the Factory South Lofts complained about their view being blocked when The Arlington was built. Critics of the window color dubbed it “Pepto-Bismol pink.”

Some even want a better-looking project to block the view of The Arlington from uptown, and the proposed development would nearly do that.

Bad standard?

The Arlington residents say they have a right to their views in the non-legally binding South End Transit Station Area Plan approved in 2005, about two years after the approximately 300-foot pink building opened. The plan caps building height at 120 feet.

Some residents worry that the proposed development could set a bad standard for future projects in South End.

“(The city) said The Arlington was the first and last high rise in the South End area,” said Kathy Gray, who has lived in the building since 2005, “and I think a lot of people bought here because of that.”

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Zoning Committee unanimously backed the Harris project last month, with some changes. Center City Partners also supports the plan.

Harris Development owner Steve Harris said the high-density project is ideal for property along the light rail, and that his company has met with residents throughout the planning process. He says a well done project could increase property values at The Arlington.

“I wish that we could please everybody, but that's kind of the nature of the beast that you can't,” Harris said. After closing on the property early this year, Harris said his company met with residents, but concerned pink building residents weren't willing to compromise enough.

The Arlington residents who oppose the development say the 120-foot height rule was adopted for a reason. They also worry that with a rise in construction costs, the project could go up in phases, leaving half-built masses that mar the scenery for years.

Some residents tried to submit a legal protest petition, which would have required nine votes for City Council approval instead of the normal six. But because The Arlington is a condo tower, the condo association or every single tenant would have had to submit the petition, said Senior Deputy City Attorney Bob Hagemann.

Doing research

As part of the project, the developer would add a traffic signal and crosswalk to South Boulevard.

Center City Partners president Michael Smith said that's one of the reasons he backs the plan. He, along with the city planning department, said the South End plan was written with future exceptions possible. The project's close proximity to the Carson light rail station, they say, is that kind of exception.

“That site can support that density,” said Charlotte-Mecklenburg planner Tim Manes. “Sometimes when you have density, you have to have height.”

New uptown buyers, Schlosser said, are doing more research into what's around them and what could happen in the future before committing.

“If (a view) is really important to you,” Schlosser said, “you might want to try to buy somewhere where you're looking over a church or something that can't be changed.”

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