Why Camp North End, NoDa and SouthEnd are Bad for Charlotte

If you want your Amazon delivery within an hour after making it, you better live in Concord or Rock Hill.

Let me explain.

CNBC recently published an interesting article explaining how the average age of a U.S. warehouse is 34 years, according to a survey by CBRE. That old age means these properties aren’t well suited for a retail industry moving toward e-commerce and immediate delivery.

The article details how, when surveying facilities across 56 markets nationwide, CBRE found most warehouses are built before 2005 and lack modern upgrades. The ceilings are low, floors are uneven, docks lack modern equipment, column spacing is too close, lighting is inefficient, and truck courts are inadequate.

Charlotte’s estimated 3,452 warehouses are as outdated as the national average, with a weighted average age of 33 years. Atlanta’s and Nashville’s industrial buildings are newer with both having a weighted age of 29 years, while warehouses in northern New Jersey came in as the oldest with a weighted average age of 57 years.

Modern distribution technologies require 34-ft or higher “clear height”, “super-flat” floors for forklifts, and ample trailer parking areas. Older warehouses are nearly impossible to remodel to meet today’s demands. Charlotte lacks such modern inventory and tenants are forced to find space in Concord and Rock Hill.

Which brings me to Camp North End.

Camp North End refers to the assemblage of industrial real estate between Statesville Avenue and North Graham Street owned by ATCO Properties, a New York-based developer.
Developers plan for this adaptive reuse project to become “a catalytic hub of innovation and ideas,” and include as many as 1,500 new apartments, a hotel, and as much as 1.5 million square feet of office space, according to a story in the Charlotte Observer.

The land has a great history. The factory buildings originally served as a Ford Model T factory and date back to the 1920s. During World War II, the federal government took over and converted it to a munitions plant where the government made Hercules missiles. Ultimately, Rite Aid bought the site and used it as a distribution center for nearby stores.

The plan now is to preserve the structures and create funky, cool spaces for businesses such as restaurants, retailers, small creative professionals, and small-scale manufacturing like custom motorcycle builders and cabinet shops.

I was on vacation scuba diving off the Turks and Caicos islands when I met ATCO co-president Damon Hemmerdinger. I nearly spit out my regulator when Damon told me of his visionary plans in Charlotte. Preserving historical buildings is important and adds incalculable value to a community. And there is no doubt in my mind that Damon and Camp North End will be successful.

However, I offer this thought: perhaps the best development route for that assemblage (and other historically industrial areas such as NoDa and SouthEnd) would have been to tear down the buildings to allow for new, modern distribution centers to be built. For decades, the city’s Planning Department has been reluctant to zone land for distribution uses. As a result, Charlotte doesn’t have land suitable for new warehouses, and there aren’t any large tracts entitled for distribution. Therefore, e-commerce deliveries have to come from distant locations.

As things stand, the new warehouses are being built in Rock Hill and Concord, not Charlotte. And that may be why those residents will be the ones who get their deliveries first in the future.

Real estate transactions can be fraught with frustration and pitfalls.

Sometimes the hardest part turns out to be working with your broker, the person who is supposed to help you through the complexities. Veteran commercial real estate broker and client advisor John Culbertson discovered that brokers’ interests aren’t always aligned with those of their clients. He realized there was a better way to advocate for clients and get the deal done.


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