Apartment developer looking at Union Square at South Elm

by Jeff Sykes | @jeffreysykes

A Greensboro development company recently signed a letter of intent to consider a 236-unit apartment complex as part of a mixed-use project at the Union Square at South Elm development.

Weaver-Kirkland Development signed the letter of intent with the South Elm Development Group and plans call for the project to occupy about three acres on the west side of South Elm Street. The project would be just north of the Old North State Flour Mill and adjacent to the Downtown Greenway.

SEDG partner Robert Chapman informed the Redevelopment Commission of Greensboro about the agreement this week. Chapman said the plans fit all requirements of the development agreement between SEDG and the city, including minority contracting targets and plans for about 20 percent affordable housing.

“Generally we think it is in compliance,” Chapman said. “Their idea is exactly what we’ve been looking for.”

A major hurdle for the project was cleared when SEDG gained an agreement with Norfolk Southern Railroad to have access within preexisting right of way. Chapman said real estate managers with Norfolk Southern had agreed to grant access to within 25 feet of the railroad’s centerline. A little-used north-south spur runs along the edge of the South Elm redevelopment site and historical right of way is controlled by the railroad. Chapman said SEDG successfully argued that those right of way agreements expired when either of the parties went out of business. Several former businesses on the current project site had been party to the agreement, including a former coal company.

The plan calls for 15,500 square feet of commercial space and a parking structure integrated into the three to four story building. Chapman said the current thinking is to put the commercial space on the south end of the parcel, near the intersection of Elm and Bragg streets and just across from Eric Robert’s Old North State Flour Mill, which has been redeveloped into a unique mixed-use facility.

A drop in terrain from north to south makes the Bragg Street end of the parcel more suitable for the commercial space, Chapman said, because it allows for very high ceilings.

Project managers believe it would be an attractive spot for a cross fit gym and a cafe given its proximity to the greenway and Robert’s redeveloped mill.

“We think there is a chance to create a node right there,” Chapman said.

The project description included in the Letter of Intent calls for between 236 and 260 apartments. The parking deck would include one space per unit and an additional 250 public spaces.

“The apartments may ‘wrap’ around the parking structure with retail and office space oriented to the east side of the site,” the letter states. “The apartments, as well as the structured parking and the commercial space, may be built in phases at the discretion of the developer.”

Part of the potential deal was made possible, Chapman said, by the recent amendment to SEDG’s agreement with the city. After the city gave Union Square Campus one acre of land for free, SEDG secured an agreement for a similar consideration. SEDG will sell the property at the rate of $6,000 per residential unit. Chapman said that similar projects across the state can sell for up to $20,000 per unit.

The cost savings is passed on to the developer, Chapman said, making it an attractive project. Weaver-Kirkland had an investor meeting about two weeks ago, he added, and they agreed to move forward on the concept. Uncertainty about apartment demand caused them to consider building the project in phases.

Weaver-Kirkland Development’s Charlie Heritage said the project was an exciting opportunity but stressed the concept was in the earliest stages of planning. The company may have more details in about 60 days.

“We are interested in that area,” Heritage said. “We think that there is potential in the area. Everyone in Greensboro knows that it is right there and that things are moving toward that direction. We think there is an opportunity there, but we want to do our due diligence in making sure whatever we do put there works and is successful.”

Weaver-Kirkland is the development branch of Weaver Cooke Construction. WCC has completed Greensboro projects such as the International Civil Rights Center and Museum, Proximity Hotel, O.Henry Hotel, Green Valley Grill, and Lucky 32.

Weaver-Kirkland Development has 22 properties in North and South Carolina, with new projects under- way in Mt. Airy and Claremont, North Carolina. !