Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Uptown retail scene still a bust?

This morning, a reader emailed me to ask if any major expansion of uptown retail is on the horizon. That question has been a perennial issue since uptown started being built up. In 1996, former Observer business reporter Doug Smith wrote a story about the near-impossibility of buying a Snickers bar uptown after 5 p.m. to illustrate the point that most retail establishments closed after business hours - something that's not entirely changed.

Today's reader raised some good points and some encouraging signs, including the Jos. A. Bank store moving to street-level in Founder's Hall and a slew of new restaurants opening at the Duke Energy center.

But he also wondered how far the changes will go and whether retail growth uptown will be sustained. The big question he posed: "Is Center City complete as a regional attraction without a broad array of well-known shopping options that are available beyond normal M-F/9-5  business hours?"

What do you think, and what would you change, add or delete in Charlotte's uptown retail scene if you had a magic business wand? Email me or leave a comment.

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

For the love of God, we have enough restaurants already. Did you see the Duke tower article? Three more restaurants. I would guess fully 70% of what retail space is downtown is probably occupied by eating establishments. There needs to be a focus or real shopping and not eating and getting drunk.

Anonymous said...

A major problem is that so many of the existing businesses are housed within the overstreet mall complex, which detracts greatly from streetlife and also limits their ability to attract customers after business hours. The result is that the majority of those businesses close their doors early. If they were on the street, they would be more visible, be patronized by folks other than bank employees, and therefore it would make business sense to stay open later at night.

Anonymous said...

The biggest problem with uptown's retail (or lack there of) is that there's no "destination" retail place for people to go to. There needs to be something like a Whole Foods, Belk or Apple store (not saying these are the answer, just giving examples). You get something like this uptown, the customers will come and other businesses will follow. The problem is recruiting that one guinea pig that will open the door for the rest.

Anonymous said...

When's Belk's, Ivey's , Woolworth's,Grant's etc.. closed...that was the deatn knell for uptown. It has never been the same. When I was growing up DOWNTOWN Charlotte was a vibrant place. Going there was a treat. Christmas windows were magical and all types of people were there. It's a sad and sterile place today that has no appeal for the average person.

Anonymous said...

Not gonna happen...the major retail destination, South Park, is too close to downtown to warrant many retailers opening another location which might cannibalize its South Park sales.

Until downtown has a LOT more residents (i.e. enough to warrant good sales projections based solely on people living inside the 277 loop), this is an exercise in futility.

The daytime population is great (hence the abundance of restaurants), the resident population just isn't there yet.

As our former coach says "it is what it is."

Anonymous said...

I really don't have many answers but as someone who lived in Indianapolis for a number of years, I have to say, they are a great model for creating a vibrant downtown for a medium-sized city. Granted, Indy's primary industry is tourism (see: conventions) so having shopping, dining, and entertainment downtown is essential in attracting conventions.

I think we honestly have enough residents in uptown and in the surrounding neighborhoods to support a retail scene and as someone who lives in NoDA, it would be my primary shopping destination (depending on the stores, of course) as it would be the closest location from us. A major problem - for newcomers at least - is that every place here closes early. That would have to change to some extent for uptown stores to be a success.

I'm not sure we have "enough" restaurants (I'm not how one would calculate that). Much like Indianapolis, if we build retail, I suspect they'll come.

It's an exciting time to be here in Charlotte!

Anonymous said...

not going to pay to park at night.. biggest reason i dont go out to eat uptown.

J said...

Retail is a catch-22 - stores won't come without a certain population level, and the population won't live downtown without stores. Since it doesn't look like it will ever finish, raze the Park condo tower and recruit some major department store that we don't have - Sears comes to mind.

The first commenter said we had enough restaurants. Let me amend that - we have enough super-fine-if-you-don't-earn-$200k-you-can't-eat-here restaurants. We have enough places for Jon Beason, Brian Moynihan and Gerald Wallace to eat. We need more mid-priced eating. How about a Chilli's or Cracker Barrel in the old Harry & Jean's spot?

And to all you who are convinced that Overstreet Mall and street-level shopping are mutually exclusive, you're wrong. I visited Minneapolis in July '09 for a conference, and was impressed by their 80-block skyway AND street-level shopping (which included Office Depo, Nieman Marcus, Target and Saks). They also have an outdoor farmer's market on one street. On Thursdays. And it's thriving.

Like an earlier commenter said, we just have to find that one retailer that is willing to go first.

Andy said...

Anon 1:34...you're right. Indy is the Shiznit...we go there every year for a trade show in April and I love the downtown. Charlotte take note!!!

Anonymous said...

Charlotte is moving in the right direction. However, can we petition to change "Uptown" back to "Downtown".
Visitors are so confused by this misguided marketing. It always requires a explanation and then people, including myself, don't understand. Just like the folks looking for the department stores in "Overstreet Mall"

Anonymous said...

I wish The Metropolitan would have been built within I277 somewhere near Bank of America Stadium or where the Baseball park was (is?) gonna go.


Levine land in 1st ward will probably mark a mile stone in uptown retail. I'm hoping, at least.


We need more epicenter type projects on a smaller scale. An entertainment complex topped off with 7 or so floors of office space.


I'd love to see more done with Marshall Park. That area could have had a lot of potential.

Anonymous said...

landlocked downtown (277) has driven up property value, which in turn has driven up rent and compressed the TYPES of retail that can actually survive there. If your rent is $15k/month, you won't be there long selling $4 sandwiches or $6 trinkets. Also, big stores have changed the way they discover real estate - they move out to big tracts, build the infrastructure and afford comfortable monthly's without all the political bantering and obtuse inspectors.

Anonymous said...

Cosigning with Andy at 1:53PM......Indianapolis could teach Charlotte a thing a to about its downtown area........Downtown Indianapolis has it going on....

Anonymous said...

The main drawback I see to shopping downtown is theres no centralized loc. where you can get off the rail, walk, and shop in 15-20 shops. I think downtown has the residents to support something like a Philips Place or Specialty Shops..maybe not the dept. stores yet but at least a designated retail "village" with contiguous upscale boutique clothing and assorted provisions stores.

Also, if something like that was being developed, it would attract more residents to downtown.

Anonymous said...

Someone needs to develop an entire square block with retail ASAP. Take one of the blocks on the upper east side of town where all the parking lots are. They should divide the city block into pedestrian accessible only walking areas with a green area in center (fountain, small band shell, benches). Bring in local and regional shops. Take a page out of what Greenville has done with their downtown. Love what they've done with the urban retail and green areas near Main St...

Anonymous said...

People ain't going to go no place where there ain't no place to park.

Anonymous said...

Ditto 2:38...Greenville downtown is amazing. Overstreet mall kind of kills any chance of street level retail around the banks...adding similar stores would be redundant. Surprised no one mentioned the Epicentre...

Anonymous said...

Perhaps they could implement a system of having parking validated at the commercial establishments so paying for parking would not be an issue. I know many places in LA have underground parking and parking is covered as long as you have your ticket validated.

Anonymous said...

There aren't enough people on the sidewalk b/c everyone is in the overstreet walkways. If the city wants street activity then they need to stop the expansion of these walkways.

Anonymous said...

Sacramento, CA is very similar to Uptown Charlotte. Sac tried numerous times to "revitalize" their downtown area. They had some significant success for a few years, but isolated incidents of after hours violence caused families to avoid the area. The recession has also taken its toll.

Anonymous said...

Why are people so interested in "street life". Evidently, they want people who are not out on the street to go out onto the street.

Why?

If you want "street life", go out on the street and mill around with yourself.

Kindly don't send me a tax bill for "encouraging street life".

Thanks,

Anonymous said...

It's extremely reassuring to see boutique shops like "Blis" still in uptown. They've stuck it out through the ups and downs, and they're right in the thick of it. They even had to deal with lack of traffic due to the construction in Founders Hall. Kudos to a great shop!

Anonymous said...

Shorter anonymous @ 3:36:

Get off my lawn you kids!

Anonymous said...

I've lived "downtown" for years. Never quite understood the "uptown" reference. It’s not nearly as dead as some of the posters have said. Unless you have a reservation at night, many of the Hosts look at you like you're crazy when you just walk up for dinner. They're booked even during the week. I agree with the poster that we need more average priced restaurants. I'm not sure that retail other than restaurants or bars could sustain itself after hours. The Overstreet mall is great during the day but most places are closed at night. It's too unpredictable whether Overstreet will be open after dark. BB & T is too cheap to pay for security and closes their gate after 10pm and all day on Sunday. It would be nice to walk from the BofA Corp. center to the green, Mint, Levine, etc after hours!

Anonymous said...

Who cares?

Anonymous said...

Charlotte was supposed to get a Bloomingdale's on the ground floor of the Duke Energy Building (at the time Wachovia Building) when it was proposed but the busted economy prevented that from happening. Sad.

Anonymous said...

Here's what I think. (All you naysayers feel free to criticize all you like.) Downtown Charlotte is one Gap store away from being a retail haven. The Center City folks should be doing everything in their power to lure a national, highly-recognized retail store like The Gap that sells $40 jeans, $60 jackets, $4 socks, etc. Most people can afford their wares and would surely pay for them. Is there any doubt other retail chains would follow suit?

I live in 1st Ward and would love to be able to walk to a Gap store (or Banana Republic, JCrew, Kenneth Cole, whatever) to pick up some clothes...as opposed to driving to Southpark or Northlake Mall. I understand those who say the density is not there yet, but I disagree. I know ALL my neighbors would take advantage of it too, not to mention the office workers. There just needs to be a first retailer willing to take a risk...c'mon Center City Partners, work some magic!

Anonymous said...

Retail downtown? Why? When I go downtown (excuse me " uptown") its for a cultural event not to buy a new suit.

I guess all you fools who want new stores like Apple or Belks' downtown expect the taxpayers to foot the bill since the stores would be downtown if they could pay the rent.

And last but not least. South Park is going in the craper now. Sharon Luggage, one of the original South Park stores just declared chapter 11. Brook's Bothers is leaving and many others are way behind on the rent. IF you go over there and look around the only two stores making money are Apple and Chick-fil-a.

The economy is still in the toilet and you people want more stores.

Anonymous said...

Epicentre was a missed opportunity to add a critical mass of shops in one area. Bank of America should just subsidize a Gap on the ground floor of their building to get the ball rolling. They did it for Express, which used to be on the first floor of Founders Hall facing the square.

Anonymous said...

where can i get a decent slice of pizza in this town ?

Anonymous said...

NO MORE EPIMALLS! PERIOD, NONE KAPEESH!

Anonymous said...

anon 6:42 - try Hawthorne Pizza. Its tops on my list but folks from the N tell us we dont know what good pizza is so fwiw. Also, Mellow Mushroom is worth a try.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone checked on the sales at Target, Trader Joe's ,Marshal's or Best Buy. I work in the complex during the day and it is a zoo. The weekends are almost as crazy. I think this city is ready to support some real retail. How about a Borders, since they just closed there location at SP. Sp is 15 min away and parking is a PIA. What we need for Metropolitan to fill up w some retailers to start the trend...like a mini Birkdale!

Anonymous said...

@anonymous at 5:36: You may be a tourist in uptown but some of us live in uptown or the adjacent communities. We would prefer not to drive and we would all like to see a viable number of businesses operating in uptown again, similar to Indianapolis. You've now had three people note they are a model (I started it).

So why are we fools for wanting to have retail close to where we live? Frankly, you don't have the first clue about me or anybody else that thinks it's a good idea. Further, you have no idea what I expect or anybody else here expects vis-a-vis zoning or taxes. You could have at least asked but you didn't.

So other than saying that South Park is going in the crapper - whatever that means - and calling us fools, there's nothing really useful here.

Lead, follow, or get out of the way. We're doing important work building this city.

Anonymous said...

What a lame article. How about do some research, ff.interview some Chamber people, some marketing people, and do a really doo article on this subject. A LOT of people would love to see more retail in Uptown. Go find out why we can or can't expect it. And, quit writing stupid stuff.