Thursday, May 30, 2024

The state’s best new structures

A new, sprawling multiuse space in the Queen City’s trendy South End neighborhood. A 22-story tower in downtown Raleigh that boasts the title of “most green” high-rise in the U.S. A 3,023-seat performing arts center in Greensboro that will soon host some of the world’s top entertainment and musical acts. The seventh annual Building North Carolina awards highlight some of the state’s most impressive commercial real estate projects completed between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020, based on design, innovation and impact on their communities.

The Railyard


Developer: Beacon Partners, Charlotte
Contractor: Edifice, Charlotte
Architect: RBA Group, Charlotte
Cost: Not disclosed
Size: 326,000 square feet of office and retail space; 91 apartments

Beacon Partners and RBA Group considered 30 different plans before settling on the design of the RailYard mixed-use project, says Beacon Senior Partner Mike Harrell. “We wanted to try to do something with a new development that also honored the neighborhood’s history.” The area, just south of downtown Charlotte, was mostly industrial historically but has been dominated in the last decade by new apartment complexes filled with bankers, lawyers and accountants with center-city jobs. The resulting RailYard emerged as the South End neighborhood’s first major multitenant office project following the East Coast headquarters of Dimensional Fund Advisors and, within the next year, major installations for LendingTree and Lowe’s. The dual eight-story buildings feature unobstructed views of downtown and lots of common areas with standing desks and communal tables. The RailYard leased up quickly, with insurer Allstate filling the north building as it expanded with a pledge for as many as 2,000 new jobs. The south building’s major tenants include accounting giant EY, the Parsons engineering firm and coworking leader WeWork, which Harrell says is doing fine despite its struggles in other markets. “There’s not much other coworking space in South End.” The RailYard is up for sale, a Beacon official said at a real estate conference in early October. A few blocks away, the firm has another 10-story mixed-use project under construction, scheduled to be completed in mid-2021.

The RailYard also includes restaurants, boutique shops and 91 apartments that range from about 400 to 1,000 square feet with monthly rents of about $1,000 to $2,400.
FNB Tower


Contractor: Choate Construction, Atlanta
Architect: JDavis Architects, Raleigh
Developer: Dominion Realty Partners, Raleigh
Cost: $120 million
Size: 326,000 square feet of office space; 239 apartments

Developer Andy Andrews says the 22-story tower is the most “green” high-rise in the U.S. based on certifications from the Green Building Initiative, which rated its fresh air ventilation, air filtration and other technology. The environmental improvements won’t result in higher rental rates, he says, but there are other advantages. “With the pandemic, being green is better than ever because when people go back to work, these are the things that really matter,” Andrews says. It also increases the price that potential buyers might pay because of the increasing popularity of environmentally friendly structures, he adds.

The tower is adjacent to the Raleigh Convention Center and the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, giving it what Andrews calls the city’s best downtown location. It’s also the first N.C. combo office-residential high-rise, a property type that is common in many bigger cities. As of early October, the apartments were 70% leased, and 60% of the office space was taken. Key tenants include McGuireWoods law firm and FNB, the Pittsburgh-based bank that Andrews credits with making the project a reality. New York Life is Dominion Realty’s investment partner.

Steven Tanger Center


Contractor: Barnhill Contracting, Rocky Mount
Architect: H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, New York; Osser International, Atlanta
Owner: City of Greensboro
Cost: $85 million

Steven Tanger Center
Rendering of the Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts

About eight years after the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro kicked off a task force to consider a performing-arts center, the city was ready for a grand opening of the 3,023-seat venue in late March with events featuring Josh Groban, Tony Bennett and Jay Leno. Unfortunately, the pandemic upended those appearances and plans for a big first year of productions, including a touring Broadway series that has sold 16,100 season memberships. Once the crisis concludes, the center is poised to become one of North Carolina’s most popular live-entertainment operators. About $45 million in public funds and $42 million in private funds was raised for the center, including a $7.5 million pledge from the name sponsor, who is stepping down as CEO of Greensboro-based Tanger Factory Outlet Centers in January. The city’s contribution includes ticket fees, parking revenue and a tax on hotel rooms. The building’s exterior is made of limestone, glass and stucco, and it’s near LeBauer Park in downtown Greensboro.

Optimist Hall


General contractor: Barnhill Contracting, Rocky Mount
Architect: Perkins & Will, Atlanta
Developers: White Point Partners, Charlotte; Paces Properties, Atlanta; Confluence Real Estate, Atlanta
Cost: $60 million
Size: 147,000 square feet

Charlotte’s first food hall has given new life to the former Highland Park Gingham Mill, which once shined as the Queen City’s largest textile mill. Optimist Hall opened in August 2019 a mile north of downtown. It’s home to Duke Energy’s 83,000-square-foot office space and more than 20 local food, beverage and retail vendors, including Archer Paper, Dumpling Lady, El Thrifty Social Club, Felix Empanadas, Fonta Flora Brewery, Papi Queso, Spindle Bar and Suárez Bakery & Barra. The mixed-use development has an industrial feel with brick and beam interiors and includes the mill’s hardwood floors and 14-foot ceilings dating from 1892.

“When COVID hit in March, the developers behind Optimist Hall quickly adjusted their business model and launched a drive-thru only operation, keeping their many small-business tenants in operation while also ensuring the safety of the employees and guests,” says Anna Mintz, the project’s spokesperson. “Once given the green light to reopen for on-site dining, Optimist Hall implemented a comprehensive six-point plan to keep tenants and guests safe, which included enhanced cleaning measures, social distancing guides, modified seating indoors and expanded seating outdoors, and limited interaction between customers and tenants inside the hall.”

WSSU Sciences Building


General contractor: Rodgers Davis II, a joint venture between Rodgers Builders and Walter B. Davis, Charlotte
Architect: Design Collective, Baltimore
Owner: The State of North Carolina through Winston-Salem State University
Cost: $53 million
Size: 102,000 square feet

The five-story Sciences Building at the historically Black university includes additional laboratories and support spaces, a makerspace, classrooms, a divisible 240-person lecture room, conference rooms, student study areas, faculty offices, an IT data center, and a three-story central atrium. The new building will serve multiple science focus areas, including microbiology and biohazard, bioinformatics and molecular genetics, synthetics and medicinal, and bioanalytical. Winston-Salem State ranks as one of the top 50 producers in the U.S. of Black graduates with bachelor’s degrees in physical science.

“We’ve been waiting for this building for a very long time,” said Elwood L. Robinson, WSSU’s chancellor, in a release. “I know many of our science faculty have been waiting for it, and they are elated and delighted because they know that it will set a new standard for science, give our students an opportunity to have wonderful experiences in the laboratory and give our professors an opportunity to have state-of the-art facilities where they can continue to do their research.”

Peace Raleigh Apartments


General contractor: Clancy & Theys, Raleigh
Architect: Cline Design, Raleigh
Owners: Kane Realty, Raleigh; Williams Realty & Building, Raleigh
Cost: $192 million
Size: 400,000 square feet

Positioned in the heart of downtown Raleigh’s old Smokey Hollow neighborhood, the 11-story, mixed-use Peace Raleigh Apartments is anchored by a Publix, the capital city’s first full-size downtown supermarket. The complex boasts 417 apartments with quartz counters, plank flooring, stainless steel appliances and balconies with city views. Residents enjoy a pool deck with outdoor lounges and grilling stations, a sky terrace overlooking downtown, a two-story indoor/outdoor fitness center and other amenities. About 40% of the apartments are leased, with the first residents taking occupancy in May. The project includes retail and office space, an 83,000-square-foot underground parking garage and a seven-level parking deck. It’s among several big downtown developments of Kane Realty, including The Dillon mixed-use project that opened in 2018. Adding a downtown supermarket “is major for our city and this sub market,” says CEO John Kane. “This fills a need for downtown that positions the city for future growth to fuel more street retail, residential, office and hotels.”



General contractor: ATCO Properties & Management, New York
Architect: BB+M Architecture, Charlotte
Owner: Atco Properties & Management, New York; Shorenstein Properties, San Francisco
Estimated cost: $15.6 million for the land
Size: 1.3 million square feet

Camp North End is Charlotte’s largest assemblage of renovated and repurposed historic buildings. Plans call for the 76-acre site, located a mile north of the city’s central business district, to offer offices, retail, restaurants, hotels and residential development. Ford Motor operated the plant until World War II, when it was repurposed into a U.S. Army warehouse. New York-based Atco Properties & Management bought the property for $15.6 million in December 2016, then opened the first phase a year later by completing the 3,000-square-foot Raceway Building. The most recent development is the Gama Goat Building, named after six-wheel Army vehicles that were once assembled there. It features 140,000 square feet of office space and an outdoor area designed for “walking meetings” and recreational use. Camp North End hosts more than 40 office and retail tenants.


General contractor: New Atlantic Contracting, Winston-Salem
Architect: Walter Robbs Callahan & Pierce Architects, Winston-Salem
Owner: City of Winston-Salem
Cost: $11.5 million
Size: 33,714 square feet

The Union Station is going back to its roots. Built in 1926 as a collaboration among three railroad companies to bring passenger train service to Winston-Salem, the station was a transportation hub for what was then the state’s biggest city. Train service stopped in 1970 and the property was repurposed into an auto repair service. The city bought the property in 2012 and renovated it to house office and retail tenants. Although it is no longer a working train station, the project team restored the building’s distinctive elements while integrating them with modern amenities through a two-year, $11.5 million renovation. The original Beaux Arts train station was filled with high-end finishes and materials such as ornate cast-iron entrances, wood pivot doors, marble wainscot and quarry and porcelain tiles. Crews restored the original window frames, tile and cabinetry.


General contractor: TA Loving, Goldsboro
Architect: Little Diversified Architectural Consulting, Charlotte
Owner: Campbell University
Cost: $35 million
Size: 110,000 square feet

The Oscar N. Harris Student Union is a culmination of decades of planning, donations and growth at the university. The multipurpose student hub is 10 times the size of the old Wallace Student Center, built in 1978. The 110,000-square-foot facility opened in May with a virtual tour and physically opened this fall. The building offers multiple dining options, lounge areas, study and meeting spaces, a two-story fitness and wellness center, a student store, offices for student organizations, a multipurpose theater that seats more than 200, and an 800-seat banquet hall. The theater is the first of its kind in Harnett County, where Campbell University is one of the biggest employers and the only higher education institute. The facility was funded by alumni donations, fundraising and a U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded grant. It is named for the late Oscar Harris, a Campbell alumnus and longtime mayor of Dunn.


General contractor: Clearscapes, Raleigh
Architect: Balfour Beatty, London
Owner: Wake County General Services Administration
Estimated cost: $23.7 million
Size: 23,450 square feet

After 43 years of operating out of a single-story brick building on Academy Street, the library has relocated to its new 23,450-square-foot downtown home. The space houses 90,000 books, expanded programming, 32 public computers and free Wi-Fi. The first floor includes the children’s collection and a large activities room, and the second floor features the adult services collection, a community meeting room and study area. The project was a partnership with the town of Cary and included construction of a parking deck. The town plans to redevelop the library’s old location.


General contractor: Archer Western Contractors, Atlanta
Architect: The Freelon Group, Durham; Perkins & Will, Chicago
Owners: State of North Carolina (administered by the Department of Health and Human Services)
Cost: $154.7 million
Size: 480,000 square feet

After seven years of construction, patients moved into this state-funded psychiatric hospital in September 2019, five years later than initially expected. It replaces a historic building that opened in 1883 and once housed 4,000 patients. The new site includes 382 beds, plus classrooms and clinical facilities. Internal courtyards provide space for small group therapy and give the feeling of an apartment complex.

The hospital employs more than 1,000 people. Construction began in January 2012 and was originally slated for completion in September 2014, but the project encountered myriad design and engineering problems that delayed its opening for years. The state fired Archer Western Contractors in April 2017, citing delays and a loss of trust. Travelers Casualty & Surety of America, the insurance company that took over the build, hired the contractor back with the state’s permission. Archer Western then completed the project.

General contractor: Balfour Beatty, London
Architect: Gensler, San Francisco
Owner: Crown Realty & Development, Costa Mesa, Calif.
Estimated cost: $38 million
Size: 182,170 square feet

Corning Optical Communications, a fast-growing division of New York-based fiber-optics giant Corning, announced in 2015 that it planned to relocate its headquarters from Hickory to Charlotte, citing an improved ability to recruit top talent. Located in the Riverbend Village development in northwest Charlotte, the 650-employee headquarters has smart window technology, indoor and outdoor lounges, a cafe, on-site walking trails and a rooftop seating area. Original developer Beacon Capital Partners sold the building for $58.5 million to Crown Realty & Development less than a year after its opening. There were more than 30 bids for the property, which sold for $321 per square foot. Corning Optical, which was offered $2.35 million in state and local incentives as part of the move, has a lease through 2034.


General contractors: T.A. Loving, Goldsboro; Frank L. Blum, Winston-Salem
Architects: LS3P, Charlotte; AECOM, Los Angeles
Owner: UNC System
Cost: $60 million
Size: 93,000 square feet

East Carolina University is investing $60 million in renovations to its football stadium as part of its ongoing initiative to modernize and expand its athletic facilities. Since opening in 1963, the stadium has increased its capacity from 10,000 seats to 50,000. The latest improvements to the stadium include the TowneBank Tower, Ward Sports Medicine Building, and the Walter and Marie Williams Baseball Hitting Facility.

The four-story tower is named for Portsmouth, Va.-based TowneBank, which donated $3 million to the effort. It has floor-level ticketing and concessions and premium seating on the upper levels, including 22 lodge boxes, 24 suites, 550 Trade Club seats and a press box with more than 100 seats. The Trade Club also doubles as a banquet and event space.


General contractor: Williams Company Southeast, Orlando, Fla.
Architect: Gensler, San Francisco
Owner: Wegmans Food Markets
Cost: Did not disclose
Size: 104,000 square feet

The Wegmans Raleigh location is the supermarket chain’s 100th store and first in North Carolina. Anchoring the $20 million-plus Midtown East shopping center near downtown Raleigh, the facility is smaller than an average Wegmans but features a casual family-friendly restaurant, a bakery, and a food court with indoor and outdoor seating. The store has a cult-like following in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts. A second unit opened in Cary in July, while four more stores are planned for the Triangle area at sites in Cary, Chapel Hill, Wake Forest and Holly Springs. The Raleigh location has 475 employees. The family-owned business has been named one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For by Fortune magazine for 21 consecutive years.


General contractor: Crescent Multifamily Construction, Charlotte
Architect: Cline Design, Raleigh
Owner: Alliance Residential, Phoenix
Cost: Did not disclose
Size: 391,200 square feet

Alliance Residential’s eight-floor apartment complex in downtown Charlotte boasts 260 one- and two-bedroom units with monthly rents ranging from $1,340 to $2,900. It features a saltwater rooftop pool, sky lounge with views of downtown Charlotte, a courtyard, coworking space, coffee shop, pet spa and gym. It also has a robust arts program curated by Hope Cohn Projects, including commissioned works from local artists such as Matt Moore’s mural RIDE and Jourdan Joly’s purple gradient Crown Installation. Alliance is among the nation’s largest multifamily developers with 15 regional offices overseeing projects in more than 20 states. It delivered projects with 690 units in Charlotte and Durham last year.


General contractor: Edifice, Charlotte
Architects: Jenkins Peer Architects, Charlotte; CannonDesign, New York
Owner: UNC System
Cost: $66 million
Size: 148,000 square feet

UNC Charlotte’s Recreation Center officially opened in January, but was closed most of the year because of the pandemic, then reopened with limited capacity in the fall. The massive facility includes four multipurpose courts for basketball, volleyball, badminton and pickleball; outdoor basketball, pickleball and sand volleyball courts; indoor and outdoor pools featuring a four-lane lap swimming pool; more than 30,000 square feet of fitness equipment space; and three outdoor terraces. The new facility replaces two older recreation buildings that totaled a combined 10,000 square feet of recreation space. The design team drew inspiration from athletic complexes at James Madison University, Virginia Commonwealth University and Old Dominion University.


General contractor: The Christman Co., Lansing, Mich.
Architect: LS3P Associates, Charleston, S.C.
Owner: Elon University; operated by Charlestowne Hotels, Charleston, S.C.
Cost: $31 million
Size: 80,000 square feet

The boutique hotel opened in January on Elon University’s campus, with 70 rooms and 10 suites, a restaurant and lounge, fitness center, outdoor courtyard and firepits, indoor and outdoor event space, on-site parking, a gift shop, and complimentary bicycles. The university says the hotel will employ about 50 people and is intended to attract both university guests and the general public, while offering space for weddings, reunions, business meetings and other events. The 5,200-square-foot multipurpose ballroom accommodates as many as 340 people, and the outdoor lawn provides space for 440. Its restaurant, The Mark at Elon, serves upscale American cuisine “with a Southern twist.” All revenue beyond operating costs from the hotel will go toward student scholarships at the private university, which enrolled more than 6,000 students this fall.

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