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A look at progress in Charlotte, 2011 style

Demand. The dragon of development.

Those who slay it win everlasting victory. Those who are defeated lie dead in foreclosure.

Mastering this tricky beast is the quest for those who will win progress and new development accolades for the Queen City in 2011.

Take the shining knight, if I may, Charles Thrift, senior leasing agent of Crosland. He and his valiant forces not only overcame the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission, an epic army of inspectors and city engineers, but also vengeance from the villagers themselves, surrounding residents of Myers Park. How has their victory at Tranquil Court, on Selwyn Avenue, booming since fall 2010, been accomplished while other developments are being laid waste?

The mixed-use development at Tranquil Court, along with surrounding shops, is a prime example of what progress in Charlotte looks like now. With Mellow Mushroom as an anchor, Reid’s Fine Foods on the way and several other culinary delights dotting the way, this gourmet food district has filled the gullet of successful development in these starving times.

The Myers Park location of Mellow Mushroom ranks in the top five of the 120 nationwide stores. Only open for three months, this pizza palace aims for more than 3 million in sales this year and is currently scouting new locations in surrounding areas. If that weren’t enough recovery dollars spent on gastronomical satisfaction, try asking the surrounding tenants how they’ve fared.  “Phenomenal” is a common answer among the fare.

So what does all this gluttonous demand mean for development in Charlotte in 2011?

According to Michael Skena, a third-year graduate student participating in the master of business administration/master of city and regional planning degree program at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, it means that most national retailers and big new development is not happening, but micro-mixed use, like Tranquil Court, is.

That’s zoning MUDD 0 (mixed-use development) from the perspective of the planning commission, which, coupled with city leaders like Pat McCrory, have cast a new urbanist vision, complete with transit programs and overlay districts, making it easier for progress and development in the Queen City.

Even with the path being laid toward more mixed use, can developers still meet the needs of demand to survive and thrive this year?

In the recently recovering uptown condominium market, that may mean a new product, says Tim McCollum of My Townhome/Maison Properties.

“Clearing out the bank-owned properties and coming up with something that’s both traditional aesthetically and green architecturally may be the answer,” he said.

Thus far, simply being “green” doesn’t necessarily keep your development flourishing. Look at The Vyne down Central Avenue, which, pardon me, seems to have died on, well, you know.

One of the only new developments on the rise in uptown, Octadia, is a green community in the 3rd Ward being built by James Fiscus, of Metro 10 West, and will feature tank-less water heaters with energy-efficient windows and lighting. This all sounds wonderful and noble, especially as it seems only apartments have been thriving in the land of multifamily housing. While other niche products like artist lofts — Steelhaus on Central Avenue — have starved.

By watching stalled or foreclosed developments we will learn part of what to expect this year in Charlotte’s new world of development, while others, like Tranquil Court, will make us simply pat our stomachs and smile, glad that that, once again, demand has been satisfied.

Joanna Reule is a Realtor and broker at Cottingham Chalk Hayes. She can be reached at jreule@cchrealtors.com or cchrealtors.com.

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