Future of big uptown project uncertain
So there's some pretty big development news in uptown Charlotte this week. A $600 million project in the area around Tryon and 7th Street has been called off. That's after the developer that had been working on the project with Mecklenburg County pulled out. For more, we turn to Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter for our segment BizWorthy.
Marshall Terry: OK, Tony. Before we get into what's going on with this, remind us of what the plans were for this project.
Tony Mecia: Here, Marshall, this is an entire city block uptown — pretty big amount of space, has been in the works for several years. The county had been working on this along with the city of Charlotte (and) the developer in Washington, D.C. And they had plans for a hotel, apartments, an office tower, retail. It's a big mixed-use project. This is on the site people might be familiar with. The library is on the site, Spirit Square, and they had talked about sort of redeveloping that into a mixed-use development. This was envisioned to be a pretty big project for uptown.
Terry: OK. So what happened with the developer pulling out?
Mecia: It's not entirely clear, but the Charlotte Business Journal reported this week that the developer — called the Metropolitan Partnership — based in Washington, D.C., and the county had parted ways, that they couldn't reach an agreement on extending the timeline for developing the project. And they said, well, the market conditions weren't quite right. And, you know, when you say ‘the market conditions’ — that's sort of code word for it's not really a great time to be building, certainly office towers, but some other forms of commercial real estate are having a tough time now getting financing. As we've talked about, this remote work, so it's it's a very difficult time to try to finance some of these projects. So that could be part of the thinking behind it.
Terry: So what happens now with this project? And should we read anything into this for other major public-private projects that have been slow-going or stalled, like Brooklyn Village in Second Ward?
Mecia: Yeah, you never really know what's going to happen until you see the buildings actually coming out of the ground. You know, developers always like to sort of look ahead and make plans and release really good-looking renderings. But a lot of times, especially nowadays, those don't materialize — or at least not on the schedule that they wanted them to materialize. And so, yeah, I would be, you know, looking at projects that have been announced with sort of a wary eye and say, ‘OK, are these really going to happen?’ And it's like I say, it's difficult in the current environment. When things could turn around in a year or two, we could see Charlotte return to its typical rate of growth that we've seen, you know, in previous years.
But as far as this project, the county tells the Charlotte Business Journal and The Observer that it is looking at selling the parcels off in pieces, as opposed to developing it all as one. So still a lot left to be seen on what's actually going to sprout up there.
Terry: OK. Let's go outside of Charlotte now to rural parts of North Carolina. That's where new data show people have been moving recently in unprecedented numbers. Are we seeing the reversal of the long-standing decline in rural population?
Mecia: Well, a little bit. It's interesting, Marshall. The Charlotte Ledger, we looked at some of the census numbers that came out recently, crunched the numbers and you do see an increase in a lot of these rural counties. Now, these aren't big increases because these are small counties. So in some cases we're talking about just a few 100 people — but that's more than had been moving into a lot of these rural counties in previous years. I'm sure, you know, WFAE has done plenty of stories of closing of textile factories, lots of other factories, people moving away from rural areas to the big city. That's all certainly true. This isn't necessarily a deluge of people going into rural America. But it's a little bit of an uptick, and we'll have to see whether it continues.
And Marshall, the reason that this appears to be happening, it's a number of different things. Number one is that you have remote work that's still continuing, and so there's something in that if you could work from anywhere, some people don't want to live in a city, and so they're moving out to more rural areas. They can get more house for their money. It's a little more affordable. You know, the traffic is not as bad. They perceive that people are friendlier, or there's a number of reasons that people … or for a little more space, for example. So, you know, that's some of what's behind this little bit of a shift into the rural areas in North Carolina and around the country.
Terry: Finally, the Chick-fil-A on Randolph Road in Cotswold is no more. A crew demolished it over the weekend. So where on earth are people now going to wait in a ridiculously long drive-thru line to get lunch, Tony?
Mecia: Well, that's a very good question. If you like waiting in long drive-thru lines, you're not going to have that option in Cotswold for the next few months at least. The Chick-fil-A there on Randolph Road has been leveled, turned to rubble. It's being redone to expand the drive-thru lanes. Incidentally, I know we've talked about this before, Marshall, but the Bojangles right next door, it's also being renovated. It’s currently closed. There's also work on a Chick-fil-A in Grier Heights, just a couple miles away. It has been dubbed a 'relief Chick-fil-A.'
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