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Each week, WFAE's "Morning Edition" hosts get a rundown of the biggest business and development stories from The Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter.

Renovation Coming For Abandoned Building On Independence Boulevard

You've probably seen the Varnadore Building -- a tall, beige cube with graffiti on top -- if you've ever driven on Independence Boulevard near uptown Charlotte.
Courtesy of The Charlotte Ledger.
You've probably seen the Varnadore Building -- a tall, beige cube with graffiti on top -- if you've ever driven on Independence Boulevard near uptown Charlotte.

Charlotte's Varnadore Building is set to get a makeover. While you probably don't recognize the name, you most likely have seen the building. It's that abandoned seven-story, cube-shaped building sort of by itself on Independence Boulevard near the intersection with Albemarle Road. For more about the plans for the building, we turn to Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter for our segment BizWorthy.

Marshall Terry: First, Tony, give us a little history of this building, which thousands of people drive by every day.

Tony Mecia: Yeah, Marshall, is probably one of those things a lot of people pass and maybe don't give it a lot of thought, but you've probably noticed it if you've driven on Independence. Graffiti on the top — big yellow graffiti — busted-out windows, graffiti on the side of it. Really run down. It was built in 1962, has been vacant for a number of years. I think maybe some people living in there that maybe that weren't supposed to be there. There was a crew that went in a few years ago with a video camera at night — it look kind of like the "Blair Witch Project." It's just a bunch of old furniture and trash. I mean, it's been kind of an eyesore. There's a neighborhood right back there. But it looks like finally something's about to happen there.

Terry: And what are the plans for it?

Mecia: Well, let me tell you. The company behind it, Gvest Capital, didn't return our calls or emails, but there are a bunch of permit filings that show what's going on there. They've taken out a demolition permit and some permits to remove asbestos. And there are some plans that are being circulated around town that show basically renovating that building, turning it into a modern office. Building a side structure on the site, maybe putting it in some retail, a parking deck. I mean, the renderings look very nice. Contractors have been spotted out there. And so there's work, it looks like, about to go there to kind of maybe make it look much more presentable — and maybe get some office tenants in there.

Terry: Tony, we've spoken often on this segment about Charlotte's apartment boom. You recently sat down with the head of one of the city's largest developers to talk about what apartments in the future may look like. What did you find?

The VUE Charlotte is one of Northwood Ravin's well-known projects in uptown.
Wikimedia Commons
The VUE Charlotte is one of Northwood Ravin's well-known projects in uptown.

Mecia: I talked last week, Marshall, with David Ravin, who's the CEO of Northwood Ravin, they actually developed the most square footage of any real estate developer in Charlotte last year. They have a number of well-known spaces — The VUE, Uptown 550.

He said basically they have a team that looks ahead and says, what are apartments going to look like in the future? And some of the things that they've started introducing in some of their properties include baristas who will make you a cappuccino — included in your rent. Private bars, private rooftop bars that are exclusive, that are members only. And then he said one other thing that I thought was interesting, he said they're looking at the possibility of putting schools into some of their apartment projects, particularly in the suburbs, as they sense that people are going to maybe be starting families and would want somewhere close by for their children to go.

So a lot of ideas. These tend to be sort of at the top of the market. So they're not going to be everywhere, in every apartment complex in the future. But those are some of the things that Northwood Ravin's looking at.

Terry: The Ledger this week reports the owners of the longtime Charlotte costume shop Morris Costumes has sold part of its business to a Warren Buffett-backed retailer. Which part did it sell, and why?

Mecia: Morris Costumes, a lot of people know has been around Charlotte for decades. You always see the stores around Halloween, you know, gorilla costumes and Bigfoot and all that. They actually have a really big web business in which they say they're the largest costume supplier in the world. They have a big warehouse in University City, distribute all over the place.

And this week they told us that they've sold that off to a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway called Oriental Trading Company. A lot of people might know that, it's an online supplier of party supplies. But Morris Costumes has offloaded its web division, they'll still be operating their main store on Monroe Road and the pop-up shops that they have around Halloween.

Terry: What was the sale price?

Mecia: They're not saying, but they said that they certainly seem happy with it.

Aline Ponce

Terry: Finally, here's a Ledger headline that grabbed me this week: "Why a Charlotte cereal bar is crushing it." So, Tony, I have to ask you, what is a cereal bar?

Mecia: Well, Marshall to a lot of people, I think the idea might sound a little bit silly, that there is now a place in Charlotte called Day & Night Cereal Bar— uptown in Brevard Court, which is near Latta Arcade — and they sell bowls of cereal. They will mix bowls of cereal, pour in some milk. They also sell milkshakes. And the bowls of cereal are $7.

Some people might say, why are they doing that? Who would pay $7 for a bowl of cereal when you can buy a box of cereal at the store for $3.50? But I was out there recently, there were lines out the door. There was a wait of 45 minutes to get in. I talked to one woman who said she likes cereal, she likes cold milk, wanted to give it a try.

Terry: Is it artisan cereal or is it just the same sort of cereal that you do get in boxes at the grocery store?

Mecia: Some of them are rare, I think. But a lot of them put together a mix of Froot Loops and Frosted Flakes and gummy bears, that sort of thing. So it's a little bit of a novelty, I think. I talked to the owner and he said, hey, people are paying $10 for coffee at Starbucks. You know, why wouldn't they pay $7 for a bowl of cereal and some milk?

Terry: All right, Tony. Well, we will leave it there this week. Thank you.

Mecia: All right. Thanks, Marshall.

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Marshall came to WFAE after graduating from Appalachian State University, where he worked at the campus radio station and earned a degree in communication. Outside of radio, he loves listening to music and going to see bands - preferably in small, dingy clubs.