Plaza Midwood, known for its artsy vibe and lively nightlife, is in the midst of a transformation into an urban neighborhood.
One of Charlotte’s first streetcar suburbs, Plaza Midwood is home to stately houses, and for years, its main thoroughfare, Central Avenue, was a haven for small businesses seeking affordable rent. But an influx of new residents has created a surge in demand, and prices, and drawn developers to the area.
Plaza Midwood’s changing identity has been best epitomized by the Thirsty Beaver, a dive bar that has remained while luxury apartments were built around it several years ago. But that was just the start of a wave of development to sweep the neighborhood.
In less than a year and a half, the iconic Dairy Queen has closed and developers have purchased two major shopping complexes along Central Avenue. A hotel, offices, more apartments and even possibly condos are planned in the coming years.
“I think what you’re seeing now is the tip of the iceberg,” said Sink Kimmel, a broker with Selwyn Property Group.
The changes will bring taller buildings with more dense development. Here are five of the biggest projects reshaping the neighborhood and surrounding areas.
Central and Pecan shopping center
The new owners of a shopping center with a sea of parking on Central Avenue are planning a pedestrian-friendly revamp of the site.
Crosland Southeast and Nuveen Real Estate purchased the property, once known for its strict parking enforcement, at the corner of Central and Pecan avenues for $50 million in March.
Their plans call for constructing a walkable street lined with retail running diagonally through the site, from the corner of Central and Clement to Pecan and Commonwealth avenues. There would also be ground-level retail along Central and Pecan avenues in addition to the existing shopping center, Bobby Speir, senior vice president at Crosland Southeast, said in an emailed statement.
Above the retail, in the first phase of construction, the firms would build an apartment building with 385 to 400 units, wrapped around a parking structure, Speir said. A second building would house 150,000 square feet of offices atop retail space.
Charlotte City Council is also set to decide next month on a rezoning Crosland filed for an approximately 2-acre portion in the back of the site. Speir has said it is being considered for multifamily, office and hospitality uses.
He said the greater density the rezoning allows for would make it financially possible for the firm to preserve two early 20th century buildings on the property. The goal is to start construction in the spring or summer of next year, according to Spier.
Post office changes
A crane rises above the modest, brick U.S. Postal Service building.
The new owner, SORS LLC, purchased the property for $3.4 million last January. Now, the corporation is building on top of the post office, in a project that will be a total of four stories when complete. The building will be around 30,000 square feet in total, with about 19,500 of that available to lease, and have 33 parking spaces.
Kimmel, with Selwyn Property Group, is working with the owners for leasing, and said he’s marketing the second and third floors as office space. He said the fourth level could be either offices or a restaurant, depending on the demand. The development is scheduled to be complete in the second quarter of next year.
Plaza Midwood has historically lacked newer, higher-quality office space known as “Class A,” Kimmel said. He said it’s been encouraging to see other developers start to build offices in the area.
“What we sensed was a missing opportunity in the neighborhood,” he said.
An independent hotel
A Chapel Hill hotel development and management company is planning to build a local, independent hotel just outside of Plaza Midwood, on the edge of the Belmont neighborhood.
A corporate entity affiliated with Wintergreen Hospitality purchased the building that houses La Autentica Mexican restaurant as well as a lot behind it for $4.5 million last December. Jay Patel, president of Wintergreen Hospitality, said his firm also plans to open a five-room hospitality establishment in the space next to La Autentica, which used to house Kickstand Burger Bar.
Patel said he’s still in the research and development phase for the hotel, which will be built behind the existing building, and doesn’t know how many rooms it will have yet. He said the culture and the diversity of the neighborhood drew him to the area, and he wants to ensure the hotel is relevant to the community.
Other development that has been announced since his firm’s purchase of the site showed that others see value in the area too, Patel said. But he said he wants to be mindful of all of the rapid change.
“We understand that all of this change and all of the impacts are pretty significant,” he said. “We want to make sure we come into the community and join the community in a really thoughtful way.”
He’s planning to start construction in 2021 if the demand is there, given the impacts COVID-19 has had on the hospitality industry. If not, he said he’ll wait until economic conditions improve.
More offices too
Across from the Harris Teeter, along Central Avenue, developers Boulevard Real Estate Advisors and The Boykin Management Company are building three stories of office and retail space.
The 26,816-square-foot building has leased to one retail tenant, and has just over 3,000 square feet on the first floor left for retail or offices. The office spaces are designed for small- to medium-sized businesses, the firms said in a release last month.
Chris Branch, founder and owner of Boulevard, said in the release that his firm chose the area because of its “character and authenticity.” The project is expected to be complete next spring.
More homes ahead
The site that’s home to the Peculiar Rabbit restaurant, as well as several businesses next door, is slated to become residential units.
Rusty Gibbs, broker for The Nichols Company who represented owner Rob Nixon, told the Observer in July that the property was under contract with Sinacori Builders.
Sinacori filed a rezoning petition with the city in late June to accommodate a “transit-oriented development.” Emma Littlejohn, a consultant working with Sinacori, said they are still finalizing the plans for the site, and are meeting with neighbors and nearby property owners to seek feedback.
The closing of the sale will depend on the timeline for the rezoning, she said.
Sinacori is studying whether to build condos or apartments, Littlejohn said. And she said they are considering putting retail on the ground floor, and are in conversations with Nixon to keep some of his businesses on the site.
“The vibrancy of that neighborhood is so attractive and we want to support that,” she said.