Remastered Development?

There are likely some big changes coming to the agreement between the City of Greensboro and the South Elm Development Group regarding the redevelopment project on the edge of the city’s downtown.

Formally known as Union Square at South Elm, the project looks great on paper, and even better in architect’s drawings. Problem is, however, that the majority of the plans have yet to come together.

City council will likely agree to give two of the seven acres away at no cost to a component developer, Union Square Campus Inc., a consortium of university and economic development partners. USCI is so far the only component developer on board with the project, and if city council votes on Dec. 16 to give them two acres of land for free then that seriously undermines the profit margin of the master developers, the aforementioned South Elm Development Group.

The mixed-use project calls for a hotel, commercial, parking decks and apartments, in addition to the Union Square Campus project, itself a healthcare education facility. Cone Health and several of the area’s universities have thrown in on the deal, with leases recently being signed to help finance construction loans.

But even those plans fell short of its goals, and required a shift in plans that had just been announced in late summer.

It’s an embarrassing shift in direction after much public fanfare that caused one member of the Redevelopment Commission of Greensboro — the city board overseeing the entire project — to wonder out loud if it was a sign of trouble for the larger project.

The master developer, South Elm Development Group, is currently looking for a way to minimize its losses. Rumors of an exit strategy are swirling about town, but city officials will only say that all options are on the table at this point.

Those options do include an exit strategy, we’ve confirmed, which could require a reset of the current master plan. Union Square could still proceed, but expect local interests to pick up the pieces of the larger concept. !

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