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monsoon

SouthPark vs Downtown Charlotte

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I went down to SouthPark area this morning since I was over that way and had some time to kill. I don't think I have been over that way since 2001 or so and certainly before we started this forum in 2003. I was completely stunned at the development that has occurred around that mall since then. In almost every other city in the Carolinas, SouthPark would rival the center city in these places though the quality of the development is very bad given there were thousands of people there an not a pedestrian to be seen. I can imagine that it must be quite congested with traffic most times of the day.

Why is it that this late 60's design shopping mall (yes I know it opened in '71) has, and continues to attract all of the unique retail in this city, and downtown Charlotte gets practically nothing? I can't help to think that if all of this retail had been built in downtown instead of out at a suburban mall, downtown would be a much different place than it is today. The streets would be packed with shoppers.

Is it a case that retailers don't think that people would go downtown to shop? What could be changed by city policy to change this situation? One think that I don't think will change this are the current set of condos being built downtown. The reason I say that is that SouthPark grew to what it is today surrounded by suburban 70s and 80s housing.

What do you think?

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They say nothing succeeds like success. And for a retail executive pushing an upmarket product, the strong sales history and proximity of compatible retail at SouthPark is a strong enticement.

Still, I think Uptown could get back some of its retail luster if they attact the right project to get things started. It's going to be hard, because major reatil companies don't tend to to take risks often, but it's not impossible.

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In sales and economics, I have learned a term refered to as "cluster marketing" and its impact to revenues by the big retailers. Southpark is Uptown's BIGGEST enemy in this regard. There is such a critical mass of affluent places to shop, that NO new-comer will dare to set foot within the 277 loop.

This is a reinforcing feedback loop that has crushed hopes of fine retail in Uptown in the near future.

Many that I work with that are from up north, especially the ones from Chicago, scratch their heads on why Charlotte did not plan the Uptown to be the hub for fine shopping, and instead allowed for SP (5 miles away) to have all the fun.

The reality is that Uptown did (once upon a time). Unfortunately, the timing of Urban renewal and suburban living/shopping did not cross at the right point in time to allow for this.

Southpark's expolsion was going on behind the scenes. Only now, since Uptown's "awakening", are we truly seeing the impact it is having on luring high end retailers back to the core.

Retialers could really care less about the cities wish list of Urban Shopping in the core. All they care about is one thing:

Money!

They could care less whether they are in a pedestrian friendly city, or enclosed in a stucco cladded, SUV attracting, suburban mall.

I have to be honest, if I were the CEO of a newly recruited, high-end retailer I would plop down my store right in the heart of SP. It is a tried and true market.

What Uptown is going to take is a determined, visionary to come back and anchor a development within the loop. I keep thinking that something along the lines of Belk moving back Uptown would do the trick.

If Levine would just jumpstart his 1st ward villiage , Uptown MIGHT have a shot. Even then it would still copmpete directly with SP. Charlotte is simply not big enough to have two high end markets 5 miles apart from one another. (nor is a city twice our size)

I think the best we can hope for is a Birkdale type of development anchored by a few big names (which I am favor of). This would in turn, help give the smaller retailers a shot at making it Uptown. This is still another 5+ years out from happening IMO, but with the proper vision, investment dollars, and the right development team (Pappas hope you are reading), something could happen.

A2

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A2, didn't you mention something a while ago about how you heard a department store like Macy*s or Belk might build a store Uptown?

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Although transportation capacity will eventually slow them down, I see a lot more residential density going into the SouthPark area over the coming decade. The mall expansion has been a big part of the development going on there. But we also have the Piedmont Town Center that was developed by Piedmont Natural Gas. There are a lot of corporate headquarters there, so dense residential development makes a lot of sense.

As for retail, it isn't downtown because the local retail giant, Belk, abandonned it long ago and seems to have no interest in returning. As there are no anchor retail, and no homogeneous demographics within a wide world of white wealth like SouthPark, uptown is left with just restaurants, bars, and some token stores for the businessmen.

With uptown being the same general market area, I think we'll only end up seeing retailers downtown that couldn't or wouldn't go to SouthPark. We're now getting some big box/high volume stores like Target, Best Buy, and a few others. But department store and standard mall clothing retail, I believe, will continue to be absent downtown.

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A2, didn't you mention something a while ago about how you heard a department store like Macy*s or Belk might build a store Uptown?

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I want to add one thing before I forget.

Don't think of Southpark as a bad thing. I know it is hard to deal with for us who are die hard Urban Junkies who want Michigan Avenue type of retial on Trade or Tryon, but I look at SP a bit different.

I see SP as an eventual extension of Uptown. It is only a mere five miles away. The Park road connection to Uptown is already seeing HUGE developments, from retail to residential. I MEAN HUGE. From Ghazi to Colonial, and everyone in between, Park Road is a developers dream.

This bleeding of development along Park and South will eventually merge Uptown, Dillworth, CMC, Midtwown, Southend, and Elizabeth into one over the coming years. In twenty years, SP, will be considered a neighborhood of Uptown, instead of Suburban. It is almost there now. I look at SP as quasi-urban. There are already highrises, and more are soon to follow, both resi and office.

As I look out from my perch in Uptown, I see the cranes and developments continuing, and see the two areas merging. This is alright with me, especially with Transit heading down South Blvd. This will make the development stay withing boundries (TOD), and create for a unique experience for resident and visitor alike. It will be a polarized area with the CBD on the North end and the Retail laden SP on the South end of this highly devloped axis. (Think Peachtree in ATL). Or think of it as a barbell :P .

There will be densly packed corridors for retail, residential, and office all along South AND Park. This is ok, since there is already mature neighborhoods in the wedges.

Be positive, and know that in the end game SP will be considered a crown jewel of the total downtown* experience.

*NOTE: I said Downtown. I want to emphasize that the more we bleed development along the axis of Park and South, the less 277 will become a border. Uptown wll simply be used to describe the CBD and immediate neighborhoods within the 277 loop.

A2

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2 big principles of retail, at least in my view and that I've read are:

1. People shop where they live, not where they work (and Uptown has only about 1/3 of Charlotte's office space, so people largely work elsewhere anyhow).

2. Critical mass is key in retail success; the larger retail development will thrive more than a smaller one will, all other things being equal.

Another thing I also think is:

3. Downtowns are coming back, but only as entertainment/dining centers; most growth still occurs at cities' peripheries.

Now that SouthPark Mall is enormous, principles 1 and 2, which helped build it up, will ensure its dominance for a long time to come. With principle 3, Uptown will largely be an entertainment/dining center rather than a retail center from now on, at best.

A2, you're spot on about a Birkdale-type development uptown; I think that's the best Uptown will be able to get for a long time to come, absent Saks or another elite retailer opening a small branch uptown. Northlake Mall is so close to uptown (12 minutes from my place) that there'd be too much overlap for a regular mall-type development to come uptown, I think.

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There was, not too long ago, a very serious RFP for a open mall development on North Tryon in First Ward. Levine and a New York developer both created proposals. The New York developer won the RFP, but then pulled out. With SouthPark's expansion, and the building of NorthLake, those plans fizzled. Now, Uptown isn't even trying to get a mall. It has shifted its strategy to build on its strategy of entertainment retail (Epicenter) and big box like Target, Expo, Best Buy, Staples, Marshall's (Metropolitan midtown), as well as attempting to build up the environment for smaller scale street retail (Brevard, Founders Hall, Ruth Chris, Emerson Joseph, and ground level retail on most new condo and office projects).

I don't view SouthPark's expansion as a bad thing. Even though it has affected the type of retail in uptown, I don't view it as a "vs" thing. I shop at malls so rarely that driving 5-10 miles isn't such a big deal. I would far rather have the restaurants, bars, and big box retailers near me. That's not to say I wouldn't also like the mall brands here, and certainly I want a department store like Saks or Belk. But I think the current strategy and the status quo are both reasonable and acceptable.

Generally, I agree that now it is most important to grow the fundamentals of 'rooftops' and disposable income.

I also wonder whether mass transit will change things a bit. It seems like it would widen the market area served by retailers downtown. But maybe that is a while from now, too.

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I think the growth of Uptown as a retail hub will result from three things

1) Spillover of high-earners and business from SouthPark. As much as companies and residents want to be in the mix of things, they'll be priced out of that market but still wealthy enough to want nice homes ands stores nearby. We're already seing the first wave of this, however subtle.

2) The death of Eastland Mall. It's going fast, and there will be a big gap to fill between stores for Belk and others. The easiest way to maintain presence is to move to the next closest shopping area, which is Uptown.

3) Northlake is the new Eastland. It's not attracting the elite shoppers, and it's going to run into some major problems if I-485 doesn't start bringing those customers in. Many of the described shoppers will contiue to go to Birkdale and SouthPark, but there's a broad enough swath of them that will shop Uptown if given a reason.

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2) The death of Eastland Mall. It's going fast, and there will be a big gap to fill between stores for Belk and others. The easiest way to maintain presence is to move to the next closest shopping area, which is Uptown.

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Eastland inflicted its own damage on downtown as the downtown Sears closed when it moved to it's new wing at Eastland mall in 1979.

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So, with Belk, Dillard's eventually closing at Eastland, do you see uptown stores re-emerging?

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No, the stores will just move to the new mall at Mint Hill or where ever that mall is supposed to be.

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Retailers have been waiting on Uptown to hit a critical mass of at least 12,000 residents (apparently that's the magical figure in the sky) before they'll begin to consider moving retail into the Uptown area. With new construction Uptown has just passed that number (or is very close, last I saw was 11,700 residents a little while back).

I'm sold on this is why Levine has waited so long to announce his development plans (which are extensive) but are centered around being able to attract brand name street-level retailers in the development he's proposing.

As Uptown moves closer to a population of 15,000, I think you'll see a rapid movement in Uptown retail development as retailers trip over each other for square footage Uptown in a rapidly expanding market. The entire second ward master plan calls for extensive street level retail, coupled with Levine's plans, you should have quite a catalyst in pushing Uptown's retail market as well as the overall quality of life Uptown into the next tier.

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I went down to SouthPark area this morning since I was over that way and had some time to kill. I don't think I have been over that way since 2001 or so and certainly before we started this forum in 2003. I was completely stunned at the development that has occurred around that mall since then. In almost every other city in the Carolinas, SouthPark would rival the center city in these places...

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....

As Uptown moves closer to a population of 15,000, I think you'll see a rapid movement in Uptown retail development as retailers trip over each other for square footage Uptown in a rapidly expanding market. The entire second ward master plan calls for extensive street level retail, coupled with Levine's plans, you should have quite a catalyst in pushing Uptown's retail market as well as the overall quality of life Uptown into the next tier.

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Maybe, maybe not. As I said when I started this thread Southpark has and continues to attract development while it is surrounded by low density housing. I am not sure the addition of a few thousand more residents is going to mean support for that kind of retail. There has to be more to it than that.

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An Uptown retail chain relies on it's residents within a walkable distance, .....

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15,000 people is not going to support much retail. Certainly not the kind of retail that one finds at Southpark.

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15,000 people is not going to support much retail. Certainly not the kind of retail that one finds at Southpark.

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No, of course not, but it's a starting off point where you will start seeing retailers invest Uptown.

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But there is no evidence to support this. I realize it is a common thread put out by downtown boosters, but the day hasn't even come when downtown can support even a full sized grocery store. The purpose of this thread is to investigate why retailers continue to shun downtown and instead locate in places such as Northlake and Southpark. There is 700,000 sq ft of retail under construction at Northlake for example. Both are places that you have to drive to get to, so why isn't downtown in the same category since, as you suggest, most people have to drive to get there.

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The type of development you are refering to uses a lot of land. That would not be cost effective or even cost possible in downtown Charlotte. There won't be a Target Super Center in the 277 loop ever. That is most simply the answer to the question of this thread.

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