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Dome sweet dome?

Lincoln Harris hopes Capitol Towers will lure tenants with iconic dome, tech

SouthPark is home to dozens of new projects these days, but Lincoln Harris is hoping their latest building will stand out with a 100-foot diameter dome atop a 10-story office tower.

Betsy McIntyre (r), vice president of retail leasing for Lincoln Harris, shows site plans during a recent tour of Capitol Towers in SouthPark. Photo by Scott Baughman

Betsy McIntyre (r), vice president of retail leasing for Lincoln Harris, shows site plans during a recent tour of Capitol Towers in SouthPark. Photo by Scott Baughman

“We wanted the dome to be an iconic feature so you can see it from around SouthPark and you can see it from Uptown at night,” said Jim Williams, the project’s architect from Charlotte-based LS3P. “The diameter is the same as the U.S. Capitol building dome.”

The project, named Capitol Towers after that Washington, D.C., connection, was the site of a guided tour for the Tuesday luncheon of Commercial Real Estate Women’s Charlotte chapter. Visitors were escorted around the facility at 4350 Congress St., which is still under construction.

“I’m very interested to see all this space on the tour,” said Sara Whitten, a visitor from contractor Shiel Sexton. “I’m not surprised at all to see them mixing office and retail space in the same project. That’s pretty standard these days.”

What does set Capitol Towers apart from many of the other structures going up in SouthPark is the office space component.

“Architecturally, it is very different than anything else we have seen,” said Campbell Walker, senior vice president of leasing for Lincoln Harris, the project’s developer. “There hasn’t been a lot of institutional grade, class A office space delivered in some time in Charlotte, certainly not out here in SouthPark. We are filling that hole.”

Walker said the facility will have 236,250 square feet of office space available in the south office tower, which is phase one of the project. An identical north tower is planned for the future with another 236,250 square feet, if demand grows as Lincoln Harris predicts. Phase one is expected to be complete in the third quarter of 2015.

“I think there is pent-up demand for office space,” Walker said. “Given where the economy was a few years ago, there are tenants who weren’t willing to bite off and expand into additional square footage. On a more micro level in SouthPark, there has been zero Class A development any time recently, so there is a gap.”

Walker said the 10th floor of the building is already leased, as well as additional space on some lower levels. The two tenants who have been announced are Dixon Hughes Goodman, which will be leasing around 40,000 square feet on the eighth and ninth floors, and Sterling Capital Management, which has leased the entire 10th floor, about 22,000 square feet.

Walker declined to discuss rates or the total cost of the project.

“This is really our first big office tower project in four years,” said Lincoln Harris owner John Harris.

Capitol Towers is the first speculative office space to start leasing in SouthPark since the recession, and the project’s announcement in 2014 helped break a drought of new office space construction in all of Charlotte. The project will add much-needed new office space to the city, as no new office space was completed in 2013 for the first time in decades.

But hopes for luring more tenants don’t rest entirely on the dome: Capitol Towers also has several high-tech amenities. Wireless networking is available throughout the building – and in a nod toward helping attract customers for the businesses leasing the 13,850 square feet of retail space – the WiFi is boosted to extend throughout the parking garage, greenspace patio at the front of the building, and the outdoor plaza areas.

Beyond that, cell phone boosters have been built into the superstructure so that call quality can be maintained throughout the building.

Walker said the entire project is more focused on the technology side of things.

“Compared to 10 years ago, we did a lot more of a digital focus on marketing this property,” he said. “We did some 3-D renderings and a flythrough perspective you can watch on our website.”

Walker said the company also created a video specifically about SouthPark and all the things happening there.

“In years past, we would have done paper flyers, handouts and hard scale models of the building,” he said. “But for this one we built a solid, robust website and drove traffic to CapitolTowers.com.”

When it comes to drawing in retail customers, Lincoln Harris representatives are looking to the booming multifamily projects in the SouthPark area.

“That’s an HR tool for companies who are looking to hire top talent, with there being 1,500 to 1,600 multifamily units out here,” Walker said. “All the metrics we study – vacancy ratios, rental rates – tell us this is a good time for this project.”

And the presence of other office space already leased and in use in SouthPark is a boon for retail as well, according to Betsy McIntyre, vice president of retail leasing for Lincoln Harris.

“There are 5.1 million square feet of office space within 1 mile of here. That’s important for retail because you have all those people nearby as a daytime population,” McIntyre said. “Parking is also very important in the retail world and there are five entrances to this parking garage.”

The garage has 1,600 parking spaces and features one level underground. The lower level is accessible only via keycard and is billed as an “executive parking garage” for tenants, according to McIntyre.

The project is aiming for ecological responsibility as well, with a target of LEED Gold certification, and can be customized with regard to ceiling heights within the 10-to-15-foot range, Walker said.

The vision for the use of the land between Congress and Carnegie streets changed a bit over the years before initial work started on Capitol Towers in 2010, with a rezoning for the property.

“At that time, this whole block inside Carnegie and Congress Street was rezoned to chase a corporate HQ,” said Tracy Dodson, vice president at Lincoln Harris. “That fell through and we felt it was very inefficient to build two buildings with one parking garage each. We took it through a rezoning to possibly remove Congress Street and got it approved.”

In the end, the company decided to keep Congress Street and plan for two towers that share the one parking garage.

Partners on the project include construction company Shelco and financers SunTrust Bank and Goldman Sachs.

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