Johnny Harris discusses restoring retail and the Triangle’s big flub
Charlotte developer Johnny Harris announced plans last week for a $50 million redevelopment of the upscale Phillips Place retail center a few blocks from SouthPark mall. It’s a bodacious project befitting Harris, who has been making lots happen in Charlotte for more than 40 years. His family owned huge chunks of south Charlotte and developed the mall in 1970 along with retailers Belk and Ivey. The area eventually became the Queen City’s second downtown.
In an interview, Harris was super excited about the main attraction of the new Phillips Place: a 41,000-square foot, two-story Restoration Hardware store, with a restaurant attached. It’s the seventh such expansive site by the Corte Madera, Calif.-based company, which sells stylish furniture and goods. “They are one of the few retailers knocking it out of the park,” he says. To make the project happen, Harris bought out his 50% partner in Phillips Place, Jacksonville, Fla.-based Regency Centers.
Phillips Place needs a rehab after gourmet food retailer Dean and Deluca abruptly closed their store last year. It was thriving with annual sales of $900 per square foot, but the company’s new owner wanted to focus on Asia, Harris says.
As always, Harris had lots to say about various topics.
• SouthPark will have 5,000 apartments and condos open within the next two years, filling a big gap. “Housing was the one thing we were missing,” he says.
• Harris was “never comfortable building apartments,” though his commercial real-estate partner Lincoln Property Co. is among the nation’s biggest multifamily developers.
• Getting around SouthPark has always required a car, but that’s going to change. The Loop for walkers will change the area’s dynamic, and the first section will be near Phillips Place.
• Emerging plans for a train that consistently travels 120 miles per hour between Raleigh and Charlotte promises to have a big impact on the state. He cited a private project connecting Orlando and Miami as a model for the Tar Heel state.
• Duke University’s opposition to light rail continues “the single dumbest thing that has happened in North Carolina” — the Triangle’s failure to develop commuter rail between Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill. “The Triangle could have been the Silicon Valley of the East and nobody could have touched them. … You would have had Amazon in the Triangle.”
• The likely move of the Carolina Panthers’ headquarters to South Carolina reflects the Palmetto State’s hungrier attitude. “For some reason, South Carolina seems to understand how to get things like the Panthers better than North Carolina.”