The changing look of Charlotte’s Plaza Midwood neighborhood
Charlotte’s historic Plaza Midwood neighborhood is getting a new look as Crosland Southeast and Nuveen Real Estate recently started construction on the Commonwealth development. The 12-acre site at the intersection of Pecan and Central avenues will become a “transformative mixed-use” space on land that housed Cole Manufacturing Co. for much of the 20th century, the developers say.
Two Cole brothers started the company in 1900 to make seed planters and other farm implements. In recent decades, the site included a variety of retail operations and a large parking lot that became famous for “booting” cars. The lot was popular with illegal parkers frequenting nearby bars and restaurants in the popular neighborhood just northeast of downtown Charlotte.
Cole family descendents sold the site to Charlotte-based Crosland Southeast for nearly $50 million in 2020, according to property records. One of the developers’ first moves was to stop the car “booting.”
Phase one of Commonwealth will be the neighborhood’s first mid-rise office building, a six-story 150,000-square-foot structure being built by Choate Construction. The building will include a roof terrace and is expected to be completed by spring of 2024. Phase two is expected to start in spring of 2023 with project completion in 2026.
“Our primary goal throughout the design process is for this project to be a natural extension of the surrounding neighborhood,” says Bobby Speir, senior vice president of mixed-use investment with Crosland Southeast.
Two vintage Cole Manufacturing facilities, which Speir calls “diamond in the rough” buildings, will be rehabbed and become a center of the project. The goal is to “marry grit with gloss, old with new, and vintage charm with modern sensibilities,” he says.
Other development plans call for the addition of a 383-unit luxury apartment complex, restaurants and other retailers, a boutique hotel and some office space. The project is slated to include “copious green space, neighborhood programming and large-scale art installations,” according to a press release.
The neighborhood is a hot area for development due to its proximity to Charlotte’s center city, says Clifton Castelloe, co-owner of the Moxie Mercantile gift shop in Plaza Midwood. He is president of Plaza Midwood Merchant Association, a nonprofit that represents about 70 small businesses along the Central Avenue corridor.
The area’s diversity, historic architecture and artistic community makes Plaza Midwood “a place where anyone can feel they can find a place to fit,” Castelloe says. Charlotte historian Tom Hanchett has described the neighborhood as the city’s “most diverse streetcar-era neighborhood.”
“We recognize and appreciate the unique character of Plaza Midwood, and are confident that what we deliver will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood and the greater Charlotte community for decades to come,” Jessica Trombold, Nuveen’s director of mixed-use investment management, said in a press release.
Atlanta-based Choate, general contractor for the first Commonwealth building, has a significant Charlotte presence. Its local projects have included the Red Ventures corporate headquarters in Fort Mill, S.C., a Staples distribution center and the Barclay at SouthPark retirement community.
Planned transit expansions on the city’s Gold and Silver light rail lines, slated to be established near Commonwealth, may make the site more accessible to many Charlotte residents over the next decade.
“[The project] is a big stepping stone toward future transit,” Castelloe says. “It’ll bring a lot of traffic to Central Avenue.”