SouthPark office building sold as area redevelops

Plus: Toys & Co. owners want out of toy business; Atrium impressed with Wake med-school visit; Sycamore Brewing settles ABC case

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As SouthPark construction booms, developer Daniel Levine spends $14M on Wells Fargo building by mall

With development on a tear in many parts of town, SouthPark — Charlotte’s original suburban mall community — sometimes gets overlooked.

But in the latest sign that real estate is still hot there, too, a four-story office building in the heart of SouthPark has been sold to developer Daniel Levine, who’s best-known for owning and developing parts of First Ward uptown.

Levine Family Office on Thursday closed on the purchase of the Wells Fargo building at 2545 Sharon Road, across from SouthPark mall’s entrance, the company said. Levine paid Wells $13.65M for the 44,000 s.f. office building. Property-tax records show it was built in 1999. The tax value is listed at $11.8M.

‘Bullish’ but no plans announced: In a statement, Levine did not disclose any plans for the property. But he said in a statement:

The Wells Fargo Building is a great addition to the Levine Family portfolio because of its excellent location and the explosive development happening in SouthPark. As a native Charlottean and commercial real estate developer, it has been incredible to watch SouthPark grow from a suburban neighborhood into an mini urban center.  My family’s continued investment in SouthPark should demonstrate how bullish we are on the future of this area.

The building is fully occupied by Wells Fargo, “who will remain the sole tenant until March 2020.”

SOLD: Developer buys 20-year-old SouthPark office building from Wells Fargo. Nearby Apex SouthPark development (left, behind trees) is one of the area’s biggies. More on the way?

Wells Fargo has been trying to rein in expenses, including offloading real estate and selling off business divisions.

Levine, whose development companies have diversified holdings throughout Charlotte, has been an important figure in the development of the North Tryon corridor in uptown, as he and family members own prime land and have helped redevelop the area — including work on projects such as First Ward Park. He also sold land to UNC Charlotte for its uptown campus.

The deal comes as SouthPark is in the middle of several big redevelopment projects, including:

  • The old Colony apartments, which are being turned into a mix of retail, office space, nearly 1,000 new apartments and Publix grocery store. The first parts are expected to open in 2021.

  • The old Sharon United Methodist Church — the so-called “ski-slope church” — which is being transformed into a mix of nearly 350 apartments in two 12-story towers, plus retail, restaurants, a new church and a hotel in a development called Apex SouthPark. It’s expected to open next year.

  • Symphony Park, behind the mall, is going to get a makeover. The city and mall owner Simon Property Group are planning to improve the area by adding play spaces, public art and a plaza. The city is also looking to add walking and biking trails in SouthPark.

Those projects represent a modernization of the area, which was first developed in the early 1970s on land that used to be a farm owned by former N.C. Gov. Cameron Morrison.

Future of SouthPark: Unlike South End, which is exploding with growth, SouthPark is “probably at a more mature phase,” says Kenny Smith, a commercial real estate broker who lives in Barclay Downs and represented the area on City Council from 2013-2017.

He told the Ledger he foresees more density in the area, in the form of taller buildings around the intersection of Fairview and Sharon roads, as well as eventual redevelopments along Rexford Road, which is now home to several corporate HQs.

“My guess is there will continue to be projects coming through. I’m not sure in the next five years we’ll have anything on the scale of Sharon United Methodist or the Colony apartments, but maybe in the next cycle or after that. … I’m excited to see what will happen.”

Fine print: In the sale, Wells Fargo was represented by John Saclarides and CBRE’s Patrick Gildea and Matt Smith. Wade Finger of Levine Properties represented Levine Family Office.

Wanna buy a toy store?

After 12 years in Charlotte, Toys & Co. might be calling it quits.

In an email to customers on Thursday, the independent retailer said it is “downsizing the company and looking to sell the Toys & Co. Cotswold location. Please let us know if you or anyone you may know might be interested in owning one of the most impressive toy stores in the country!”

The company did not reply to a Ledger email late Thursday.

Downsizing: Toys & Co. has been shrinking in recent years. It used to operate four locations, including one at Park Road Shopping Center and one in Myrtle Beach. Its website today lists just the site at Cotswold mall and one in Greensboro.

Look, the toy-retail business is rough. A lot of sales have migrated online, and surveys show consumers nowadays prefer online toy shopping to going into physical stores. In addition, big retailers like Walmart and Target have gobbled up business from smaller rivals. Toys ‘R’ Us closed all its stores last year.

What it means: The email to customers indicates the shop could very well close, since reaching out to customers to ask if they know anybody who wants to buy a toy store is an unusual way to sell a business and smacks of a last-ditch effort.

Toys & Co. is probably Charlotte’s best-known independent toy retailer. It’s the highest rated in the city on Yelp. In one review last year, somebody named Vanessa L. wrote: “The only bad thing about this place is that you may find your kids kicking and screaming when you try to get them out of the store lol.”

Atrium ‘blown away’ by potential med-school partner

Atrium Health’s leaders came away impressed from a four-hour tour of medical facilities at Wake Forest. The two sides are working together to create a Wake medical school campus in Charlotte.

From the Winston-Salem Journal:

The boards visited Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine and Bowman Gray Center for Medical Education within the innovation quarter. They heard brief presentations from 10 research and informatics groups.

“It’s incredible what you have built here and what you have in motion,” said Edward Brown III, Atrium’s chairman. “If we don’t take advantage of this opportunity, we’ve blown it.” …

Carol Lovin, Atrium’s chief integration officer and system chief of staff, described the two systems’ discussions as being in the “third inning” toward “maximizing the impact on patient lives.”

“Every board member who came today found the facilities here incredible,” Lovin said. “They were blown away, which was the reaction we wanted them to have.”

Haunted by previous Charlotte deal-makers: The article seems to reflect some concern, though, that Charlotte is going to do to Winston-Salem healthcare providers what it has done to Winston-Salem banks: steal them. (See: BB&T, Wachovia):

The open-ended nature of negotiating a potential medical partnership between Wake Forest University and Atrium has raised concerns about the future of Wake Forest Baptist and its medical school in Winston-Salem. … The groups have not ruled out a much larger collaboration during their period of exclusive negotiations.

So far, Atrium and Wake are saying all the right things to make a med school happen. There’s still a lot of work to do.

In brief

  • Wells Fargo troubles: “Wells Fargo Closed Their Accounts, but the Fees Continued to Mount” (New York Times)

  • “Hearst” Tower: Hearst employees are vacating “Hearst” Tower uptown and moving to an office building in south Charlotte. Employees of the new Truist Bank — a result of the merger between SunTrust and BB&T — are expected to move into the “Hearst” Tower after the deal closes later this year. BB&T’s CEO called the tower “the old Hearst building” on a conference call last month. (Biz Journal)

  • Health-plan veto? Gov. Roy Cooper might veto a bill that passed the General Assembly this week that would allow associations to offer healthcare policies to their members. The bill had been approved by wide bipartisan margins. (WRAL)

  • Carowinds adding waterslide, carnival: “Carowinds announced Thursday that the longest mat racing slide in the Southeast debuts next summer. … Also new in 2020 is Grand Carnivale, a nighttime international festival and street party.” (WCNC)

  • Auditor switch at Sealed Air: Under investigation by the feds, Charlotte-based Bubble Wrap maker Sealed Air dropped Ernst & Young and hired PricewaterhouseCoopers as its auditor. “It is the latest development related to federal investigations into the company’s financial practices and audit-firm selection process.” (WSJ)

  • Ranked: 54 companies in the Charlotte region made Inc. magazine’s list of the top 5,000 fastest-growing companies: “15 are software or IT services-based and another 11 are in construction,” the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance said. The list “shows the diversity of successful companies in the region.” Top 5 in the Charlotte region were Power Home Solar, Clean Juice, Saprex, Lewel and Printful.

  • Speakers announced: Northeastern University-Charlotte announced a speaker series this week. Sept. 24: Charlotte’s growth, featuring Charlotte Center City Partners CEO Michael Smith and city Planning Director Taiwo Jaiyeoba. Oct. 30: fintech, featuring LendingTree CEO Doug Lebda. Details here.

  • Digital Panthers tickets: Lots of good details in this helpful Observer piece on how to access your Panthers tickets or transfer them for tonight’s preseason game against the Bills. Tickets are 100% digital for the first time. Don’t wait until the last minute.

Food and booze news

A weekly wrap-up of the week’s eating and drinking developments

  • ‘Polygamy Porter’ rejected: The N.C. ABC commission this week upheld the state’s rejection of a beer-bottle label proposed by a Utah brewery for a beer called Polygamy Porter. As the Ledger told you last month, the state regularly rejects beer and wine labels deemed inappropriate. The appeal for Hello Kitty wine was postponed until next month, a spokeswoman said.

  • South End oysters: A restaurant and oyster bar called Stir has leased space in the RailYard in South End. It “joins a growing lineup of retail tenants at the transformational mixed-use development, including OrangeTheory, Rhino Market, North Italia and Bishops.” (Team coverage: Agenda, CharlotteFive, Biz Journal)

  • University City gets crabby: From the newsletter of University City Partners: “University City is rapidly becoming Crab City. Two crab-centric restaurants just opened, a third will open soon, and a place specializing in crawfish is expanding. All are near UNC Charlotte. Sounds like it’s time for a University City Crab Crawl!” Restaurants are Crab du Jour Cajun Seafood, The Crab Cracker, Crafty Crab Seafood & Bar and Crackin’ Crawfish.

  • Self-serve beer/wine in NoDa: A 60-tap bar called Free Will Craft & Vine is scheduled to open next month in NoDa. Decor includes “plush sofas for lounging, a corner stage for bands and trivia, a 14-foot multi-sport virtual simulator and half a dozen flat-screen TVs.” (Agenda)

  • Davidson bakery: The former executive pastry chef at Kindred is opening a bakery in Davidson in September, to be called Bonjour, Y’all. It will “combine the vibrant personalities of New Orleans and Charleston with French technique.” (Unpretentious Palate/paywall)

  • Pumpkin spice in August: Dunkin’ Donuts is bringing back its pumpkin spice coffee and other pumpkin menu items on Aug. 21, the company says. Starbucks’ pumpkin-spice latte is set to debut Aug. 27, the earliest-ever such launch. (USA Today, Business Insider)

  • Food blogger smackdown: Charlotte food bloggers are usually a positive and cozy bunch. But Jason Ackerman, who runs a local blog and podcast called ScallionPancake with his wife, this week called out the king daddy of Charlotte restaurant coverage: “The Charlotte Agenda’s top 50 list, it’s sh**, it’s really bad,” he said on an episode of “The Charlotte Podcast” released Tuesday. “… Any list that has Viva Chicken in the top 15, it’s just not doing a good representation for Charlotte. Charlotte is more than chain restaurants.” He also criticized Agenda’s choice of Kindred, which is in Davidson, as #1: “No offense to Kindred, (but) Kindred is not in Charlotte. … We need to represent Charlotte and good restaurants in Charlotte.” (Agenda’s top 50 list has Viva Chicken at #33, not in the top 15.)

Sycamore Brewing, Whitewater Center cited for ABC violations

The N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control commission released its disciplinary records for July. The Charlotte businesses on the list were:

  • A to Zee Food Store, 3201 Beatties Ford Road, agreed to pay $2,000 on charge of selling to an underage person.

  • Food Mart, 2605 Central Ave., agreed to pay $1,000 on charges of maintaining living quarters at the place of business, failing to display a permit and failing to keep records.

  • La Revolucion, 900 NC Music Factory Blvd., agreed to pay $1,600 on charges of possessing five empty liquor bottles with incorrect labeling and failing to meet qualifications for a restaurant.

  • Press Box Bar and Grille, 9609 N. Tryon St., Suite A, agreed to pay $2,700 on charges of possessing three empty liquor bottles with incorrect labeling and serving alcohol to an intoxicated person.

  • Slate Billiards and Oak Room, 200 E. Bland St., Suite C, agreed to pay $2,400 on charges of failing to clear all tables and counters of alcoholic containers by 2:30am and allowing drinking between 2:30am and 7:00am.

  • Sycamore Brewing, 2161 Hawkins St., agreed to pay $500 on a charge of “giving away or selling alcoholic drinks at a price that is different from the usual price to a segment of the population.”

  • Tony’s Bar, 10004 Moores Chapel Loop Road, agreed to pay $1,500 on charges of allowing controlled substance laws to be broken and possessing a liquor container without a tax stamp.

  • Tropix Bar and Lounge, 4701 N. Tryon St., agreed to pay $1,800 on charges of failing to keep records, possessing improperly marked liquor bottles and possessing liquor bottles without tax stamps.

  • US National Whitewater Center, 5000 Whitewater Center Parkway, agreed to pay $400 on charges of promoting an event with industry members without ABC approval.

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The Charlotte Ledger is published by Tony Mecia, an award-winning former Charlotte Observer business reporter and editor. He lives in Charlotte with his wife and three children.