Mar 31, 2021 - News

Micro-retail and micro-apartments are coming to NoDa

Church on 36th in NoDa

Centro Cityworks and Ascent Real Estate Capital are developing a NoDa block into micro-retail and micro-apartments, similar to what they did in South End with Centro Railyard.

Details: Ascent filed a rezoning Wednesday for a five-story mixed-use project with up to 225 residential units and up to 15,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. It’s on the church property on 36th, between Alexander and McDowell. The development team also plans to have outdoor gathering space on the property.

  • “It’s a really significant site,” Jon Dixon, managing partner at Ascent Real Estate Capital, tells me. “We’re trying to get it right to achieve some density that needs to be there, given the location and proximity to the light rail.”

Why it matters: This’ll be a Centro-branded development with small apartments — 400 square feet or smaller — making them a cheaper option without all of the amenities of other high-end buildings.

Plus, the “incubator retail” removes barriers for small businesses, offering them a place to operate in hot, high-trafficked neighborhoods, developers say.

“The surroundings outside your front door are your amenities,” architect David Furman of Centro Cityworks told me a few weeks ago. “You’re willing to sacrifice your square footage for that relationship.”

The development will have 12-15 retail spaces fronting 36th. Each will have roll-up garage doors and will be fully finished.

Timeline: Ascent is under contract to buy the property (729 E. 36th) from Johnston Memorial Presbyterian Church. The rezoning is in July, with approval expected in November. Construction should begin sometime in early 2022, Dixon says.

  • The church is donating the proceeds from the land sale to charity.

Johnston Memorial Presbyterian Church said in a statement that attendance has dwindled in recent years. As a result, the church appointed a commission in 2018 to help in “making decisions about its future.”

“After a thorough review, it was determined that a sale of the church property was advisable. The Commission supports the sale and redevelopment of the property and looks forward to seeing the proposed project come to life,” the statement read.

Church on 36th in NoDa
New Centro site on 36th in NoDa (Photo: Katie Peralta Soloff/Axios)

Zoom out: The NoDa development will be the third Centro-branded development by Ascent and Centro Cityworks. The two others include Centro Railyard in South End and Centro Square on West Boulevard, currently under construction.

  • In South End, retailers include popular local operators like Glory Days Apparel, BW Sweets Bakery and CLT Boutique.

“There isn’t a mainstream retailer in the crowd,” Furman says of Centro Railyard’s retail lineup. “Most of these guys came from booths at popup festivals. They’re young, they’re diverse.”

Jacob Horr, NoDa Neighborhood and Business Association board member and land-use lead, says he’s heard enthusiasm from neighbors about ground-floor retail — especially for those kind of mom-and-pop operators. He sees adding density along 36th as an extension of NoDa’s central business district.

  • But he’s also heard some concern about the loss of green space on 36th and Alexander, which people treat as a park. “The loss of an amenity is difficult for a neighborhood,” Horr says.

In NoDa, Ascent also owns the Neighborhood Theater building at the corner of 36th and North Davidson. The developer bought the site in 2016 for $5.6 million, property records show.

Owning that site has helped Ascent get to know NoDa’s personality well, Dixon says. Now, his team is working with the neighborhood on gathering input on the new Centro project. “We want to make sure it fits in with the character and feel of NoDa.”

Neighborhood Theatre during Covid-19
Neighborhood Theatre. Photo: Michael Graff/Axios

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