Luxury apartment project signals continued growth on uptown’s edge

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By Eric Frazier, via Charlotte Observer

If you’re one of the many uptown workers whose drive home winds out of the city via Third Street, you might be wondering what’s going in at East Third and South Kings.

Construction workers have been scurrying around the 2.5-acre lot next door to the ABC store. They’re making way for the latest upscale apartment complex development to crop up in the increasingly popular area near the Little Sugar Creek Greenway and the Metropolitan residential and retail center.

The Crest at Metropolitan, a 261-unit luxury apartment complex, is slated to begin leasing in the fourth quarter of 2014. It will include two buildings, one five stories tall, the other six, with 7,700 square feet of retail space on the ground floors.

The project, a partnership between Lennar Multifamily Communities and Ram Real Estate based out of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., seems to me yet another symbol of the increasing confidence homebuilders and commercial developers are showing in the health of the Charlotte economy.

New apartment complexes are sprouting all over South End. And with perhaps less fanfare in the midtown area, the same dynamic seems to be at work. Crescent Communities’ 308-unit Crescent Dilworth luxury apartment project, on the other side of the greenway near Morehead Street, is slated to open in spring 2015.

The developers are betting that Charlotte’s economy, and its workforce uptown, will continue to grow. All those urban professionals need places to stay, and they love living close to work so they don’t have to drive in from far-flung suburbs.

That’s what Lennar and the Ram group are betting on with their new project, going in on a parcel bought for $8.25 million in December 2012. It will feature studio and one- and two-bedroom apartments with granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and generous balconies with views of uptown.

Charlotte’s economy is not only recovering but diversifying to add bigger slices of growing job sectors like energy and health care to the traditional mainstay of banking, said John Gray, director of investments with Lennar Multifamily Communities.

The activity in what he called the new Metropolitan submarket shows developers are backing that belief with their wallets.

“It’s a pretty attractive area,” he told me. “I wouldn’t be surprised long-term if there’s a lot of redevelopment in that area.”

(It’s hard not to wonder what that will mean for Cherry, the historically black neighborhood sandwiched between Myers Park, the Metropolitan, and now, The Crest at Metropolitan. Homeowners’ property values and tax bills are sure to keep rising, along with interest and offers from developers wanting to buy land).

Given the travails of the recession years, there could be worse problems to confront. The growing momentum around the greenway is a good, strong sign that better times lie ahead.

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