October 2009

  • Oct

Design Center Owner Eyes Future for South End Plan

October 23, 2009

Charlotte Business Journal – By Will Boye, via Charlotte Business Journal
Real Estate Roundup

The real estate company that owns the Design Center of the Carolinas could add condos, apartments or a hotel to the three-building complex in South End. But not anytime soon, its chairman says.

In an interview, Peter Cummings, chairman of Florida-based Ram Development Co., says any new development at the Design Center is at least three years away. Ram bought the 188,146-square-foot complex for $28.6 million in 2007 and is considering a 20-story residential tower across the road with street-level office and retail space.

Ram plans to build on parking space at 100 W. Worthington Ave. along with the targeted parcel next door, where Barn Wood Classics Furniture Gallery is located. Ram signed a contract in April 2008 to purchase that property for an undisclosed sum.

“We don’t foresee an environment for new development there materializing until three years out, maybe,” Cummings says. “Our focus is on really managing the Design Center as well as we possibly can and keeping our finger on the pulse of the market so that the development project we come out with for that location is as attuned to the market as it possibly could be.”

He says the market will dictate what form of residential product the company adds to the mix at the Design Center. “If you ask sources of investment capital how they feel about apartments, condos and hotels, they’ll tell you, ‘I don’t even want to talk about condos or a hotel, but maybe I’ll talk about apartments.’ That could change, though. We think, long term, all of those uses are going to be appropriate in that location. It’s a place that has a sense of place and that has character, and I think our job will be to build on that.”

In the meantime, Ram is focused on remarketing the Design Center. The company has hired Concentric Marketing, a tenant at the development, to handle the new campaign, which includes a new logo for the water tower at the Design Center.

The Design Center is about 87% leased. As rental rates dropped in the local office market this year, the development lost some longtime tenants such as Charlotte Magazine to competing spaces. Rental rates at the Design Center now range from $19 to $23 per square foot.

“We’re now starting to regain some ground,” Cummings says. “I would say that things are looking better today that they were a year ago or six months ago.”

Reach staff writer Will Boye at wboye@bizjournals.com. Read his Real Estate Roundup blog at charlottebusinessjournal.com.