After years of sitting empty, construction begins Monday on a four-story office and retail building on the 1.7-acre Elizabeth site that was once home to the neighborhood hangout Jackalope Jack’s. The project could give Elizabeth, a quiet and mostly residential area, a vibe that’s more modern — and possibly even a little corporate.
Construction should wrap up in early 2022. The new building will have three floors of office space, plus room for retail and restaurant tenants on its street level. Resembling the Flatiron Building in Manhattan, the 103,500-square-foot building also will have a courtyard, public art throughout, and three outdoor terraces — a complement, developers say, to the walkable surrounding area.
Executives at Crescent Communities, the developer behind the project, say they want something that blends in with the neighborhood. The building will be made up of reddish brick, masonry, metal, and wood. It looks a little like the new Atherton building in South End, which Crescent Communities developed alongside the Columbia, S.C., developer, Edens.
“Given the central location within Elizabeth, we felt a responsibility to create a memorable project that everyone can feel proud of. That was on our mind from the very start,” says Brendan Pierce, Crescent Communities’ senior managing director.
You may recognize Crescent Communities’ name because they’ve built several high-profile office and apartment buildings around town, including the 26-story Ally Charlotte Center Uptown, as well as NOVEL apartment complexes in neighborhoods such as NoDa and South End.
The building is going up as a speculative office project, meaning there are no specific office tenants lined up yet.
That’s an interesting prospect given the current environment. Corporations are increasingly having their employees work remotely for prolonged periods of time, while others are scaling back the size of their physical office space. No one really knows when it’ll be safe to return fully to work.
On top of that, the public health crisis has sent the country into a full-blown recession. Companies have cut millions of jobs.
Despite the current grim outlook, Crescent Communities is actually upbeat about the timing. With any luck, construction will carry on as the number of coronavirus cases dwindle — or as a vaccine becomes available.
Plus, the office space design, with its high ceilings and open floor plans, will allow tenants to space out, should they still want to take safety precautions when they’re moving into new offices.
“It’s always a little scary to start a project in the middle of a pandemic,” Pierce says. “The reality is, it’s always better to start construction in a recession instead of the top of the market. By the time we deliver this in 18 months or so, we should be out of the recession.”
For a long time, the only sign of life on the triangular lot in Elizabeth have been the weeds sprouting from mounds of red dirt and broken pavement. Chain-linked fencing now surrounds the property, bordered by 7th and Caswell.
If you lived in Charlotte before 2015, though, you likely remember Jackalope Jack’s as a place where you’d see bands playing and people lounging with drinks. It was a sports bar with classic bar food, like loaded tater tots, and classic entertainment, like skee ball and big-screen TVs.
On the corner next to Jackalope Jack’s was Philosopher’s Stone, another popular bar with lots of outdoor space. But P-Stone, as some of its fans called it, closed its doors in 2015 after operating in Elizabeth for about a decade. Jackalope Jack’s moved to its new spot on Commonwealth Avenue in Plaza Midwood in early 2017, shortly before demolition crews knocked down its old building.
Charlotte real estate investment firm Faison bought the land for just over $5 million in late 2016. At first, Faison wanted 200 apartments plus retail on the site. But partly because of opposition from neighbors, the company withdrew its rezoning request for that project in 2016. The next iteration of the plan included up to 100 apartments, plus 30,000 square feet of retail. That won approval from city council.
Faison’s plan had been to start building a project with 60 apartments and about 21,000 square feet of commercial space in the summer of 2017. But the company put that on hold, and never began construction. A Faison representative told the Charlotte Business Journal that construction costs were “cost-prohibitive.”
Crescent Communities joined Faison on the development about two years ago, and city council approved the new project’s rezoning last year. Thrift Commerical Real Estate Services is handling the leasing for the retail portion of the project. JLL, a commercial real estate agency, is overseeing leasing the office space.
“This is a landmark intersection and the reason it took so long to really develop is because they’re trying to come up with a landmark building to match that intersection,” says Charley Leavitt, JLL’s managing director in Charlotte.
Evan Kettler is vice president of the Elizabeth Community Association, moved to the area in 2015. Crescent Communities has worked closely with neighbors to get their feedback, Kettler says. He likes what the developer is doing.
“I think a change is inevitable. What I’m looking for are things that will complement the residential neighborhood,” Kettler says.
Here are a few other details about the project:
- It’ll have a multi-level parking garage for office users during the day, then open to the public at night
- It will have roughly 81,500 square feet of office space, and about 22,000 square feet of ground-level retail space
- BB+M is the architect behind the project; Choate Construction is the general contractor
- It is directly across from a number of popular neighborhood spots, including The Stanley, The Crunkleton, Sandwich Max, Burn Bootcamp, and Caswell Station
“It’s really in the center of the neighborhood … and it’s lacking commercial office space,” says Elizabeth McMillan, Crescent Communities’ senior director of development. “We hope that adding this office and retail community will kind of complete the neighborhood.”
And here are some fresh renderings from Crescent Communities that show what the property will look like: