Developments showcased at the 2020 ULI Carolinas Meeting included transit-oriented affordable housing, gleaming new downtown office towers, an opportunity zone development for technology tenants, and a new recreation center for Clemson University students using mass timber.
The projects were presented by Michael Rodgers, project manager with affordable housing developer DHIC; Elizabeth McMillan, senior director of development with Crescent Communities; Lang Tarrant, managing director of Tarrant Commercial; Ben Cuevas, development manager with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership; Pat Layton, director of Clemson University’s Wood Utilization + Design Institute; and Zac Vuncannon, managing director with the Fallon Company.
Willard Street Apartments (Durham, North Carolina)
A project by nonprofit affordable housing developer DHIC and Self Help Credit Union, Willard Street Apartments is an 82-unit affordable housing community with 5,000 square feet (465 sq m) of commercial space next to Durham’s downtown transit station. The six-story community, which is being constructed atop a two-story parking podium, is North Carolina’s first transit-oriented affordable housing project, said Rodgers.
“That’s a pretty big deal,” he said. “This looks like it fits right in with the rest of the urban fabric.”
The unit mix will include 21 units for households at or below 30 percent of the area median income (AMI) and 61 units for households at or below 60 percent of AMI. Resident amenities will include an elevated courtyard on top of the parking podium, a picnic shelter, a playground, a fitness center, and a multipurpose room.
Rodgers said that the developers are staying below their projected maximum rental rates.
“As AMI has increased, we have not seen wages at the lower level keep up with that, so it’s really going to be affordable to those people in Durham who are not able to find other options,” he said.
Local Start Dental, a nonprofit organization that provides dental services to low-income residents, is the project’s first commercial tenant, and a 51-unit senior housing project is planned for an adjacent parcel.
Ally Charlotte Center (Charlotte, North Carolina)
Developed by Crescent Communities, Ally Charlotte Center includes a 26-story tower with 720,000 square feet (66,900 sq m) of office space and 30,000 square feet (2,800 sq m) of retail space along with a 380-room JW Marriott hotel developed by White Lodging. Ally Financial will occupy the majority of the tower’s office space.
The mixed-use development is located on a three-acre (1.2 ha) city block at the corner of East Stonewall and South Tryon streets in uptown Charlotte, the city’s central business district.
Crescent originally went under contract in 2015 with White Lodging, a hotel management company based in Indiana, but had to pause that agreement until the office tower’s leasing activity caught up, McMillan said. That happened two years later, when Ally Financial signed on as the building’s anchor tenant, first committing to approximately 400,000 square feet (37,000 sq m) and since expanding to take the majority of the office space.
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again, and make sure you tell your general contractor there will be a hotel involved,” she joked. Ally Charlotte Center’s grand opening is scheduled for spring 2021.
Charleston Technology Center (Charleston, South Carolina)
One of the first ground-up opportunity zone developments in the Charleston market, the Charleston Technology Center is a six-story, 90,000-square-foot (8,400 sq m) class A office building with ground-floor retail space in the emerging NoMo area of Charleston.
The project is a public/private partnership between Iron Bridge Capital and the city of Charleston, which ground-leased the property to Iron Bridge. The ground lease obligates the developer to source office tenants that meet technology-related requirements. The building’s anchor tenant will be Charleston Digital Corridor, a community-sourced initiative to attract, nurture, and promote the region’s tech economy.
The Charleston Technology Center is adjacent to an 816-space parking deck owned and managed by the city. Tenant amenities include a city park next door, bike racks and showers, a sixth-floor rooftop terrace, and shared conference facilities.
Challenges associated with the project included structuring challenges due to uncertainty over the application of the qualified opportunity zone rules, according to Tarrant, who is leasing the project.
Crown Court Apartments (Charlotte, North Carolina)
A 103-unit, mixed-income residential project for seniors, Crown Court Apartments is being developed by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership, a nonprofit development firm focused on housing for low- and moderate-income families.
Located in southeast Charlotte, about 10 miles (16 km) from the central business district, the community will include 90 rent-restricted units for households with incomes below 30 percent of AMI and 13 market-rate units.
The Housing Partnership faced some initial concerns from an adjoining neighborhood but allayed those by positioning the building on the opposite end of the property and agreeing to install a privacy fence along the neighborhood border. The Housing Partnership also committed to using a certain percentage of brick and stepped the building down from four stories in the middle to three stories on the end.
“That exercise cost us 12 units, but ultimately the neighbors and community leaders accepted our concessions and dropped their opposition,” Cuevas said.
Resident amenities will include a community room, a cyber café with a kitchenette, a library with a reading room, an exercise and fitness room, and a covered picnic area.
“Our building has most of the amenities that you would expect from a class A luxury apartment,” Cuevas said.
Clemson Outdoor Recreation and Education Building (Clemson, South Carolina)
Expected to open later this year, the Andy Quattlebaum Outdoor Education Center at Clemson University will add 16,500 square feet (1,500 sq m) of dedicated outdoor recreation space as well as a pair of academic classrooms, boat and equipment storage, adventure trip rentals, and a covered outdoor patio overlooking Lake Hartwell.
“Students walk into our own ‘Clemson REI,’ as we say, pick out what they want, and go out for a camping weekend, or they pick up a paddleboard and hit the lake,” said Layton.
The $12 million project came in below cost, enabling the university to add an outdoor amphitheater and fire pit near the lake’s shoreline, and it is only the second facility in the country to feature mass timber sourced from southern yellow pine.
“The mass timber cost was the lowest-cost bid we had for the project,” she said. “We came in below the cost of traditional buildings.”
301 Hillsborough at Raleigh Crossing (Raleigh, North Carolina)
Breaking ground in September 2019, 301 Hillsborough is a 19-story office tower with 280,000 square feet (26,000 sq m) of office space and 12,500 square feet of retail space (1,200 sq m). It is the first phase of the Fallon Company’s mixed-use Raleigh Crossing development, which will ultimately consist of three towers.
“Our goal with these projects is to create special places for office tenants, residents, and visitors to share experiences with one another,” Vuncannon said.
Fallon purchased a nearly two-acre (0.8 ha) site located at the intersection of the city’s four downtown districts and secured software company Pendo as an anchor tenant when it agreed to lease 125,000 square feet (11,600 sq m) for its corporate headquarters. With a middle school and a law school as neighbors, community outreach was the next challenge for Fallon as it navigated the approval process.
“We believe that there’s a distinction between outreach and engagement, with the latter requiring good use of the ‘two ears, one mouth’ philosophy,” Vuncannon said. “As we worked through the approval process and design, our belief in relationships paid dividends, and our neighbors appreciated the personal touch.”
The 301 Hillsborough project will feature an expansive office lobby with communal gathering space, a spacious multipurpose amenity terrace, and a tenant-only fitness facility. The building is expected to deliver in the fourth quarter of 2021, and subsequent phases will include a hotel and apartments.