CHARLOTTE, NC (Ely Portillo/The Charlotte Observer) - If 2016 was Charlotte's Year of the Crane, 2017 is set to see the next phase in the city's building boom: The Year of the Ribbon-cutting.
That's because many of the biggest projects that have been under construction for the past several years are scheduled to cross the finish line in 2017, from new mixed-use developments to the first post-recession office towers to the next leap in Charlotte's light rail system. Oversized scissors will be getting a workout as developers and city leaders inaugurate the next wave of new development.
Here's a look at five of the biggest new developments opening this year.
The Blue Line Extension
The 9.3-mile light rail project that will link uptown to UNC Charlotte and the University City area is set to carry its first paying passengers in August. At a total cost of about $1.2 billion, city leaders hope that the new leg of the Blue Line will do more than move people from Point A to Point B: They're counting on the extension to touch off a new building boom north of uptown on par with the wave that transformed South End over the past decade.
2,033 - Number of apartments planned so far between uptown and 36th Street Station along the Blue Line extension.
The private market is responding, with a surge of new development taking shape around some of the new light rail stations. Between uptown and 36th Street in NoDa, where the light rail route runs parallel to North Brevard and North Davidson streets, developers have announced plans for or started to build about 2,000 new apartments. There's also more retail coming: White Point Paces Partners is converting a century-old mill into a food court, restaurants and creative office space at Parkwood Avenue and 16th Street.
Farther north, University City Partners has crafted master plans for new pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use developments around the J.W. Clay and University City stations. And near the Tom Hunter station on North Tryon Street, Carolina States Regional Center is building 376 apartments.
A trio of new office towers
When the economic crash hit in 2008 and the recession followed, uptown's market for new office buildings went into a deep freeze. Now, almost a decade later, the first wave of new towers developed since the recession are getting ready to open, adding more than 1 million square feet of new office space to the market.
At 615 South College, an 18-story office building next to the Westin Hotel is set to open in March, with Regions Bank as the first tenant. A few blocks away, 25-story 300 South Tryon is targeting a mid-2017 opening, with anchor tenant Barings moving in to the top floors in around July or August. And just outside of uptown, 500 East Morehead is set for completion in the spring. Tenants there will include energy infrastructure firm CB&I and two new restaurants from the owner of the Mayobird on East Boulevard.
After those buildings open, two more big projects are on the horizon: At least 1 million square feet of office space in a tower at the former Charlotte Observer site on Stonewall Street and another office tower across the street from that. Called Tryon Place, the second office tower by Crescent Communities at Stonewall and Tryon streets is targeting a 2019 completion date.
The office market faced some uncertainty in 2016 from the fallout over House Bill 2, the law passed by the state legislature overriding Charlotte's local LGBT protections. That caused high-profile companies including PayPal and CoStar to drop plans to build major offices in Charlotte.
New uptown hotels
Another category that's seen a big boost following a post-recession stall: Hotels. Four new hotels are set to open in the next year, adding almost 1,000 rooms to the uptown market.
Across from Spectrum Center, SREE Hotels has developed a 195-room Springhill Suites on a triangular patch that used to be a grassy strip between a parking deck and the light rail line. That's set to open in April 2017.
Just down the street, a 22-story hotel atop the EpiCentre is under construction. The 300-room, dual-branded hotel by Vision Ventures and McKibbon Hospitality will be Residence Inn and AC Hotel by Marriott. Although the hotel is officially scheduled to open in early 2018, the developers have said parts of it could open in late 2017 if construction stays ahead of schedule.
And a few blocks away, across from the NASCAR Hall of Fame, a 250-room Embassy Suites by BPR Properties is set to open by March. On Church Street, across from Romare Bearden Park, a 217-room Kimpton Hotel is targeting an October opening. Charlotte's first Kimpton, the hotel is being developed by Spectrum Properties as part of the 300 South Tryon office tower project.
A new pattern for south Charlotte: Mixed-use
For decades, south Charlotte has developed along a mostly suburban and car-dependent frame. Now, on Providence Road south of Interstate 485, a new model is set to open soon: Waverly, one of first mixed-use developments on the city's southern edge.
Parts of Waverly, a 90-acre development by Childress Klein and Crosland Southeast, have already opened, including the apartments and the first few restaurants. But the biggest anchor – a Whole Foods grocery – is planning to open in March. Other components, such as an office building, hotel and dozens more shops and restaurants, are set to follow. Although the site is mainly accessible by car from outside, the idea is that visitors won't have to drive again once they get there. And residents will be able to shop, get dinner, grab drinks and even go to work without getting in their cars (If they work in the office building now under construction, that is).
Other developers are following the model. Across Providence Road, Lincoln Harris is developing a 190-acre, mixed-use project anchored by a Harris Teeter that will feature shops, restaurants, office buildings, apartments and houses, all on the same site. And just north of Waverly, Crescent Communities is building Providence Farms, another mixed-use project. Together, the projects could set a new template for development – although nearby residents are also concerned about the prospect of attracting thousands of additional cars and worsening traffic.
A major mixed-use project next to the light rail uptown – with a Whole Foods
There's currently one main option for groceries inside the I-277 loop in uptown Charlotte: An undersized Harris Teeter at Sixth and North Pine streets. That will change with Crescent Stonewall Station, taking shape next to the light rail stop on Stonewall Street. Developed by Crescent Communities, the mixed-use development is adjacent to and directly connected to the light rail. The project includes 450 apartments set to open starting in late 2017. Anchoring the development is a Whole Foods, now under construction.
There could be another grocery store coming soon to uptown after that. Developer and architect David Furman is working on a building called 10 Tryon, on North Tryon Street between Ninth and Tenth streets, that will include a grocery store on the ground floor. The store has long been rumored to be a Publix, the fast-growing Florida chain pushing aggressively into the Charlotte market.