May 29, 2024 - News

Renderings: Inside an Uptown office conversion

Rendering of Brooklyn and Church

The prospective, future corner of Brooklyn and Church. Rendering credit: Morris Adjmi Architects in collaboration with SK+I Architecture

Construction starts late this year to transform a gray block of Uptown into a lively retail destination and apartment tower overlooking Bank of America Stadium.

Why it matters: The $250 million Brooklyn & Church project would be the first of its kind in Uptown, converting the old 70s-era Duke Energy headquarters into a mixed-use building.

  • Charlotte-based Asana Partners and Washington, D.C.-based MRP Realty are behind the project.

Driving the news: The two real estate firms are trying to convince city and county leaders to approve tax incentives for the conversion. Representatives gave reporters a tour of the vacated building.

  • If incentives are granted, other developers may be motivated to accept the challenge of converting vacant buildings.
  • Charlotte City Council has been receptive to the idea, but Mecklenburg County commissioners are reluctant because the initial pitch didn't include affordable housing. Some commissioners suggest the project could even exacerbate disparities in the community.
  • As of now, the apartments — with their stadium views, rooftop pool and concealed parking — are planned at market rate.

State of play: Converting empty office space is a key strategy for many big cities to bounce back from COVID.

  • The Brooklyn & Church project would narrow Charlotte's office vacancy rate by taking around 800,000 square feet off the books while creating much-needed housing.

Yes, but: Turning buildings designed for cubicles into ones for residents has proven difficult in other cities. However, Asana and MRP view Duke's old building as an ideal candidate, for several reasons:

  • Duke Energy built the structure in phases, creating a narrow, L-shaped layout. Because there's no elevator running through the middle of the floor plan, it will be simpler to convert for residential than the typical office.
  • It has two levels of underground parking, which will expedite construction time by about 12 months. Below-ground parking is attractive to residents, but it's costly and thus, rare.
  • It will be easier to feed utilities through the building because, unlike most offices, there aren't cables running through the concrete slabs.

"We've actually brought some people in for tours that have done conversions in Washington, D.C. and other places, and they are just like, 'Wow,'" says Reed Kracke, of Asana Partners, "The setup of this is just like very unique."

The big picture: The vision includes tearing down roughly 215,000 square feet to make way for a low-rise retail building. Two connected, 13-story structures will be turned into 448 multi-family units.

  • The mix of one and two-bedroom lofts will be industrial-style with exposed ceilings, averaging around 880 square feet. Most units will have balconies.
  • The ground-floor retail will total around 55,000 square feet, lining the streets and alleys.
  • Between the underground garage for residents and a surface lot for retail customers, more than 500 parking spaces are on site.
  • The pedestrian-focused plan incorporates 20,000 square feet of public open space.

What's next: Construction will finish by late 2026.

Take a look around.

Rendering
The street shown here will be used for rideshare drop-off and valet. Rendering: Courtesy of Morris Adjmi Architects in collaboration with SK+I Architecture

The green marquee building will have retail spaces on the first floor. The second floor will likely be one to two restaurants, and the third level will have a full patio for a restaurant.

  • "We wanted to bring fresh urban perspective to Charlotte, and quite honestly, we wanted people to say: 'That's like nothing that exists in Charlotte today,'" Kracke says of the architecture.

They're aiming to bring on 15 to 18 businesses that appeal to the office and residential population in Uptown rather than the weekend or nightlife crowds. Prospective tenants could include boutiques, salons, health care, or casual lunch spots.

Building
The corner of Brooklyn and Church on May 29, 2024. Photo: Alexandria Sands/Axios

This is the lower part of 529 S. Church (the lobby/atrium), which will be demolished. That leaves 562,197 square feet of the existing tower.

Demolition of floor
Photo: Alexandria Sands/Axios

Demolition has started on the 13th floor to confirm where the structural columns are. It helps that Duke Energy had all the original construction documents, Kracke says.

  • Once the conversion is complete, there won't be a 13th floor anymore. The first two floors will become one so the storefronts have high ceilings.
Bank of America Stadium
Photo: Alexandria Sands/Axios

This is the view from the 13th floor.

  • "Great views into the stadium," Kracke says. "We probably don't need TVs on the rooftop deck."
rendering
Rendering: Courtesy of Morris Adjmi Architects in collaboration with SK+I Architecture

The towers will get new exteriors. They'll retain the original slabs, columns, roof and underground parking.

  • Kracke says people won't be able to tell it's a conversion or a new build.
Rendering
Rendering: Courtesy of Morris Adjmi Architects in collaboration with SK+I Architecture

Pedestrians will be able to walk through various breezeways to reach Romare Bearden Park, Bank of America Stadium, the Charlotte Convention Center and other hot spots.

  • Right now people must walk around the boxy building — and, in some areas, along narrow sidewalks — to reach opposite ends of the block.
rendering
Rendering credit: Morris Adjmi Architects in collaboration with SK+I Architecture

The ground floor of the apartments will be lined with retail, in addition to the three-story building. This helps create an activated street front, Kracke says.

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