Downtown Concord On The Path Of Progress
Many Charlotteans know Concord, North Carolina, as the location of the Charlotte Motor Speedway and Concord Mills, but Downtown Concord, just 10 miles east of Charlotte, is a vibrant area with retail, office and multifamily.
That is because the City of Concord and Downtown Concord Economic Development Corp. are pushing master plans to catch the spillover from Charlotte’s economic growth. One recently wrapped up, and a new master plan is now being implemented.
Concord city officials use a downtown master plan to identify strategies to reinvigorate the area, by attracting national companies, hotel chains, small businesses and new residents with unique spaces and amenities in a small-town atmosphere. The last plan’s goals were met with crosswalks and better lighting throughout the downtown.
Last year, they hired consultants for market analysis and design ideas to create a new five- to seven-year plan that would consider the downtown’s growth and needs. This plan would also guide the city council’s budget decisions.
The research showed that Downtown Concord, which is 1M SF, could absorb additional multifamily housing, according to City of Concord Planning and Neighborhood Director Margaret Pearson. A green space for people to gather, wider sidewalks for patio seating and wayfinding signs are also included in the plan.
Concord’s position as the county seat has likely kept its downtown alive even during economic downturns. Early on, the city invested in making the district attractive by burying utility lines and laying brick pavers. Tax incentives and the federal Historic Tax Credit brought in businesses. Since 1990, when Concord became part of the Main Street program through the North Carolina Department of Commerce, $180M has been invested through public and private investments.
The movement to shop local and the popularity of small-town traditions has helped the mom-and-pop shops and family-run restaurants thrive and employ 1,200 employees each day.
Leon Capital Group, a private real estate investment and development firm focused on retail, multifamily and self-storage projects, is looking for retail development sites to build on that strength. Leon Capital Group Regional Vice President for Mid-Atlantic Region Todd Harrelson said his company has several national retailers on its roster and is looking in the Bruton Smith corridor for opportunities.
“Right now there’s this amazing momentum, bringing people back to downtown, all across the nation,” Concord Downtown Development Corp. Executive Director Diane Young said. “It’s about the walkable community; it’s about urban living.”
That is beginning with an expansion of residential, which the new master plan identified as a priority. A multifamily building, Lofts 29, a $2.9M investment, was finished in December 2015. It has 26 units in the heart of Downtown Concord.
“Lofts 29 was a great test case to prove the market,” Rehab Development Inc. President Patrick Reilly said.
Reilly’s next project is Hotel Concord at 14 Union St., North. It has been transformed into a mixed-use space with 40 apartments, 19K SF of commercial space and an event venue with a 499-person capacity. Residents will begin to move in mid-February.
The former City Hall at 26 Union St., South is available for a mixed-use project and a request for proposals was issued this fall. Proposals will be accepted through Dec. 15.
There is an understanding that the building will be demolished to make way for office, retail and multifamily.
“What happens to old City Hall and the annex is going to make a difference to the future of downtown,” City of Concord Mayor Scott Padgett said.
Charlotte’s Growth Is Concord’s Gain
Downtown Concord is not the only place benefiting from Charlotte’s economic development. Mall and race traffic provide enough business to sustain 1,200 hotel rooms, dozens of national retailers and restaurants in the two-mile area on Bruton Smith Boulevard. Large corporations like NASCAR team headquarters, FedEx, Amazon and FlyRight Inc. have commercial space in the Concord area. The education, low taxes, medical facilities and quality of life are drawing them to the area, Padgett said.
“I predict that the best days for our downtown are ahead of us,” Padgett said.
Hear more about Charlotte’s suburbs from Harrelson and the other featured panelists at Bisnow’s The Rise of Charlotte Suburbs on Jan. 11 at the Hilton Center City.