Developers note that mixing uses in a project complicates the design, limits financing options, and requires intricately choreographed timing, making such projects much more challenging. Yet mixed-use developments add a vitality to cities that is hard to match with single-use buildings. A panel at the ULI Carolinas Meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, featured five developers describing some of the most dynamic mixed-use developments in the region, as well as the complexities, quirks, and outstanding characteristics of their projects.
The discussion, led by moderator Bogue Wallin, owner of Blue Wall Real Estate, included T.J. Barringer, managing director for development for Kane Realty; Johno Harris, president of Lincoln Harris; Phil Hughes, president of Hughes Investment; Ben Liebtrau, senior director for development for Greystar; and Michael Tubridy, regional director of the Carolinas for Crescent Communities.
Crescent Stonewall Station, Charlotte, North Carolina
The redesign of the entrance ramps to Interstate 277, which encircles downtown Charlotte, created tracts of vacant land in Center City. The result is a building boom along downtown’s Stonewall Street.
Among those developments is Crescent Stonewall Station, being built by Crescent Communities. Located next to a light-rail station, the $150 million project will include 450 upscale apartments in buildings that will reach 22 stories, as well as two hotels and a new Whole Foods Market—the first full-sized supermarket within the downtown loop.
“What sparked our interest was millennials’ living preferences,” said Tubridy. “Millennials want to move to urban locations, and that led us to a bold vision to transform Charlotte to an 18-hour city rather than a 12-hour city.”
Still, Crescent Communities worried about how its project would stand out among a swath of new development. To address this, the company is aiming for an industrial look on the project’s lower stories and glass on its higher stories, with a public art piece that ties the two sections together.
The Dillon, Raleigh, North Carolina
How does a developer transform a low-lying brick warehouse into a 17-story office tower while still preserving a sense of history and architectural detail? Kane Realty has grappled with that quandary since starting its redevelopment project, the Dillon, in downtown Raleigh’s warehouse district. “We took a lot of responsibility to incorporate history but still be progressive,” said Barringer. Many design elements aim to echo the building’s industrial origin, he said.
In addition, the architects took their design inspiration from a cubist painting, he said. “It’s about how the buildings overlay, not necessarily about the individual buildings.” The $150 million project will include 225,000 square feet (21,000 sq m) of office space, 300 apartments, and 35,000 square feet (3,200 sq m) of ground-floor retail space.
Kane also took great pains to incorporate the ethos of the changing neighborhood into the project, Barringer said. “We decided to bring the building to the street and the street into the building,” he said. Among other elements, ground-floor retail space will connect with an open courtyard across a street. “Hopefully, that’ll keep the street alive,” he said.
Falls Park Place, Greenville, South Carolina
When Hughes Investment encountered the small lot on Main Street, just across from the popular Falls Park in Greenville, it was serving simply as a parking lot with a small transformer box on it. “It was difficult to figure out what to put on the site,” said Hughes. It offered great views of the park, so he and his colleagues envisioned a structure with a deck or balcony.
The result is the six-story Falls Park Place, which recently opened. The ground floor features retail businesses—Lululemon signed the first lease—and a restaurant takes up the entire second floor, featuring a wraparound balcony and a 40-foot-long (12 m) bar. The middle stories are offices, six “super upscale” apartments occupy the fifth and sixth floors, and the seventh floor holds a rooftop club, he said.
And that transformer box? “We could not move it,” Hughes said. “To proceed with our development, we had to replace it with a giant box, plus a new giant switchgear, and contain it all in a blast-proof enclosure with a 17-foot-tall [5 m] access door.”
Former Charlotte Observer site, Charlotte, North Carolina
Harris could not discuss the specifics of what his firm has mind for its redevelopment of the former location of the Charlotte Observer, which moved last year, but he freely explained why the firm was attracted to the ten-acre (4 ha) property. “It’s the gateway from South End into Center City, and there’s the proximity to the Arts District and the convention center,” he said.
The property was not perfect: it was a brownfield that had to be cleaned up. But its topography will allow Lincoln Harris to build a parking structure that is effectively underground without having to do any actual digging. And that is useful: “Parking drives every development that we have,” Harris said.
The company, which is partnering with Goldman Sachs on the project, drew up more than 20 master plans before settling on one. The development will include office, hospitality, and residential spaces, but Harris said he does not yet know what the combination will be.
Courier Square, Charleston, South Carolina
Greystar is working on a five-year project to develop a 12-acre (4.9 ha) site owned by the parent company of Charleston’s daily newspaper, the Post and Courier. A $100 million development that covers a large city block, Courier Square will include 266 residential units, 90,000 square feet (8,400 sq m) of commercial space, and a 600-space parking deck.
“It’s been no small undertaking,” said Liebtrau. Announced through a 2012 request for proposals that emphasized the need for a tasteful design, the project was not a typical one for Greystar. But the company is based in Charleston, its principals share the newspaper’s grand vision, and, an important point, they understand the city’s complicated Board of Architectural Review process, which wound up taking 18 months.
“We designed it from the outside in. I wouldn’t recommend it,” said Liebtrau, explaining that the massing’s design wound up much farther along than the interior plans. Still, he said, the company is proud of the project, which includes a seventh-floor pool deck overlooking the Charleston Harbor. “We’re going to move our entire global headquarters into the building,” he added.