By Anne Marie DeCatsye, CEO
When our association leadership started looking at replacing our headquarters building, I traveled with several of our leaders to Austin, Texas, to see that association’s new site and learn tips from their leaders.
One of the Austin board members said the hardest part for them had been finding and securing the land. I remember thinking, “Well, we’ve got the land; that will make things move much more quickly.”
Famous Last Thought.
The association is selling its 5.2 acres in Midtown to create our new headquarters and parking deck and to spur an exciting mixed-use project for the area. We’ve had to be patient while all the agreements are worked out to make this possible. We could have sold our parcels piecemeal, but we believe a development that improves connectivity of the area and expands and improves a nearby park was better for the community.
For the last 18 months, we’ve been working with the developer we chose, Pappas Properties, as well as the city, the county, Park and Rec, and youth league leaders affected by the redevelopment of our land and land nearby. While our headquarters and parking deck will only be a small portion of the overall change, our land is the catalyst for the whole redevelopment.
Currently, Pappas plans a mixed-use project with a 170-room hotel, 250 apartments, retail and office, according to an Oct. 26 article in The Charlotte Observer. Our new building/deck will be a little west of where we are today, and most of the mixed-use project will be between our site and Kenilworth Avenue.
We selected Pappas as our developer in March 2015 and signed an Offer to Purchase with him in October 2015. Once all city and county approvals are in place for his overall development, we will be able to go to closing which will finally allow our project to begin.
Our building will be part of Phase 1 of construction, and we hope to close on selling our 5.2 acres no later than June 2017. Construction of our building/deck is estimated to take 18 months to two years. If all that holds, we would be in our new building in early to mid-2019.
Whew. Not in a million years would I have thought our project would take this long.
The biggest hurdle has been opposition from youth league leaders whose teams use fields at Pearl Street Park. That’s not part of our property, but it affects the extension of Pearl Street Way — which will run in front of our building and Pappas will construct — to Baxter Street in Dilworth.
On Oct. 4 we crossed a major threshold when the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners approved five resolutions that allow the project to go forward. The county owns Pearl Street Park just to the north of our property and sees this as a great opportunity to improve and expand the park and to work with the city to provide connectivity via Pearl Street Way to Dilworth. We share that view.
The county commissioners’ unanimous vote for the resolutions shows they are satisfied that the leagues are being taken care of, both in the concept of the renovated and expanded park and in the county’s willingness to find other fields for them during construction. As part of making sure the leagues have enough parking on weekends, we have agreed to let them use 50 spaces in our new deck, pending liability concerns being satisfied. Today they use spaces in our current lots.
Now it’s the city’s turn to approve their part of the scenario. On Nov. 14, the city council is expected to vote on a partial closing of Greenwood Cliff as part of the mixed-use project, as well as to vote on the city’s portion of tax-increment financing (the county approved its part Oct. 4). In early 2017, the city is also expected to address a zoning issue related to the height of the multi-family apartments in the mixed-use project.
The tax-increment financing, often called a “TIG,” is a $4.4 million tax rebate that reimburses Pappas for building the Pearl Street Way extension and other infrastructure improvements, all of which are called for in the city’s Midtown-Morehead-Cherry Area Plan that was approved in 2012. While city construction of these critical road improvements would take decades to fund, approval of the TIG would allow them to be constructed within a year from approval, in conjunction with the Greenwood Cliff development. The new roads are also essential to ensure adequate parking is available for the improved Pearl Street Park, which will be completed around the same time.
In addition, redevelopment of our property will involve a land swap with the Charlotte Housing Authority that will double the amount of publicly subsidized, affordable housing that can be constructed adjacent to Pearl Street Park. This would help expand the housing supply in Midtown for Charlotte’s most economically vulnerable residents.
We want the sale proceeds from our land to cover the cost of building our headquarters and deck, and that reality is on track. The building is slated to be 36,000 square feet, about 4,000 square feet fewer than we currently have, but we will still have rentable space in the new building to help provide non-dues revenue to help fund the association.
Our new building will face Pearl Park Way — which will have both a pedestrian and a bike path — and look out on the revamped and expanded Pearl Street Park. Our current building will be torn down, and in the interim, we are striving to minimize costs by keeping it functional without investing in major capital improvements.
Perhaps one day in the not too distant future we could hold our annual Candidate Fish Fry at the new Pearl Street Park. In late September we had a record crowd at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, where we moved the Fish Fry many months ago because we thought our property would be under construction.
Famous Last Thought No. 2, right?