University City

Businesses still attracted to University Research Park

A number of changes in University Research Park indicate that business interest in the area is still lively, University City leaders say.

Duke Energy will expand its presence in the park after a recent major property purchase, officials said, and three other facilities have changed ownership during the past six months.

Duke Energy paid $4.5 million for nearly 95 acres between Research Drive and Mallard Creek, one of the largest parcels of undeveloped property left in the park, said Darlene Heater, executive director of University City Partners.

Of the park’s roughly 2,200 acres, about 600 acres are undeveloped, officials said.

Paige Layne, a spokeswoman for Duke Energy, said many details about the future of the property, such as the time frame for development, aren’t decided yet. But over the course of the next seven years, the Duke acreage will become an office environment for engineers, technicians, support staff and other personnel.

“There’s still a lot to finalize,” Layne said, adding that much planning must be done toward developing the property.

Duke Energy already has a presence in the research park, Layne said: one of the company’s largest call centers and a number of Duke Energy offices.

While it’s still undecided exactly what positions and how many jobs will be housed at the new facility, those will be filled by relocated employees and won’t be newly created jobs, Layne said.

Streamlined office space

The new property will be among a number of Duke facilities in places with corporate-style office space such as Raleigh; Plainfield, Ind.; and Cincinnati, Ohio. Those spaces are being streamlined to create more of a standard work environment, she said.

“We’ve merged with other companies over the years … and these operation centers are all very different,” Layne said.

Creating a standard environment will make it easier for transferring employees to get accustomed to the new location, among other benefits, she said.

The seven-year timeline covers all locations in Duke Energy’s service area, not just Charlotte or North Carolina, Layne said.

More changes

Other changes in the park during the past six months include three facilities that changed ownership, according to University City Partners:

• H5 Data Center bought the former David Taylor Corporate Center for $19 million in March.

• Avago Technologies Wireless Manufacturing bought the DigitialOptics facility for roughly $7.6 million in August.

• Origin Capital bought Cambridge Corporate Center for $43.5 million in August.

Heater said that kind of property turnover reflects the demands of the real estate market. Several buildings around uptown and near Charlotte-Douglas International Airport also have changed hands during the past year, she said.

Other than physical improvements to the research park properties that have changed ownership – such as parking and building access – local officials don’t expect significant changes to those sites, Heater said.

“We’re very excited to see Duke expand its presence inside University Research Park and are looking forward to working with them,” Heater said.

“We’re encouraged to see the amount of activity in (the park) and expect more to come.”