In an area of Charlotte that was once bustling with industrial and textile activity, access to the railroad was key for cotton magnates and getting their products to market.
Today’s neighborhoods like NoDa, Dilworth, Elizabeth and others in the Queen City are also looking to rail as a lifeline for development and attracting new residents. But today, it’s the Blue Line LYNX light rail that’s getting all the attention, and the proximity to that Blue Line is a major factor in attracting a developer to a new 135,000-square-foot renovation project in Optimist Park known as Tompkins Hall.
The redevelopment of a former textile mill is the latest joint project for Charlotte-based White Point Partners and Atlanta-based Paces Properties.
Erik Johnson of White Point Partners said the project had a lot going for it which drew his company to work on it.
“The combination of the Blue Line Extension and being adjacent to the Parkwood Station made this a great location,” Johnson said. He also pointed to the nearness of the Multi-Use Trial providing bike and pedestrian access as a real highlight.
Other details that piqued his interest included that the former mill was close to Uptown and a 15-minute or less drive from including many neighborhoods – NoDa, Dilworth, Plaza Midwood, Elizabeth, Eastover, Myers Park, Fox Croft and Barclay Downs.
He also liked “the character in the 100 plus year-old building” when it comes to attracting tenants.
Although the project has no tenants officially announced yet, they are actively seeking restaurants, retail and office clients to move into a piece of Charlotte history. And the company plans to hold onto some of that history, unlike other projects in Charlotte’s past. The city is somewhat known for getting rid of anything too old and constantly resetting the skyline. But that won’t be the case for Tompkins Hall.
The project gets its name from D.A. Tompkins, the textile man who built most of the property in the 1890s. Tompkins name is synonymous with many mill buildings and the basic design of such buildings all around the South in his era.
In deference to this original design aesthetic, the project intends to reuse support beams, hardwood floors and other material components of the old mill. Also, ceiling heights will be around 14 feet as a nod to the industrial past of the building.
The project intends to break the space up into three portions. There will be 35,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space, 80,000 square feet set aside for office space and 20,000 square feet for a food hall – a wide open space that serves as a market for ice cream shops, pet supplies, coffee shops, butcher shops – and lots more types of vendors. The idea is popular in larger metropolises like Krog Street Market in Atlanta or Chelsea Market in New York City.
Johnson said he thought Tompkins Hall would be a real draw based on the aspects it shares with those other famous markets and recent popular projects in Charlotte.
“It’s what has been successful in other cities and with the light rail and greenways, this is now catching on here,” he said. “People crave connectivity and interesting architecture. Tompkins Hall will offer this, experiential retail and a truly unique office environment.”
The initial remediation construction work began in October, but the project isn’t expected to begin in earnest until early 2017. Developers plan to have the project open for business by late 2017 or early 2018, Johnson said.
The project will be within walking distance of the proposed Parkwood Station stop on the Blue Line LYNX Light Rail and plans to have about 600 parking spaces nearby also. And there is a 225-unit apartment community adjacent to the property.
Research by the developer shows there are approximately 175,000 people who live 10 minutes or less away from the property by car and about 380,000 people who live within 15 minutes of the property.