SKYE condos

(Article from the Charlotte Observer Apr 22, 2011. Also more renderings coming today to

For the first time in at least nine months, a new condo development is under way in uptown.

The project formerly known as the Park, abandoned for more than two years, is now being called SKYE Condominiums.

The project at Caldwell and Third streets has been revamped to include 67 condos, down from 106 once proposed, a 172-room Hotel and a rooftop restaurant.

Condos are being priced by the developer, and construction crews are at work tearing down the existing facade. New renderings show the interior will be more traditional than some of uptown's ultra modern offerings. No exposed ductwork, for example. Instead, expect marble and granite flooring and wall accents.

Real estate experts say a new uptown condo project could work - despite sagging sales citywide - if the units are priced right and the developer can afford to wait as the market improves.

Currently, there are roughly 400 new and existing condos for sale in uptown, according to The Littlejohn Group. Details aren't yet available on SKYE condo pricing or when the units will be put on the market.

SKYE may also be uptown's only major, new commercial development to rise from the ground during the rest of 2011 because many developers can't get financing, experts say.

"Having cranes up is a good thing," said Center City Partners President Michael Smith, referring to the boom days of the mid-2000s when nearly two dozen construction cranes filled the skyline. "They are reinventing a failed project."

The developers said they chose the name SKYE Condominiums because of the 360-degree views from the planned 8,000 square-foot, 22nd floor restaurant. The restaurant will include a "sky" bar with walls that open up. A pool, sun deck, walkways and seating areas are also planned for the rooftop.

The former Park, announced in 2000, was envisioned as uptown's first luxury condo tower. Construction later stalled and the project went into foreclosure after the developer, Pete Verna, failed to pay on a $30.7 million loan. Verna later filed for bankruptcy protection.

In the summer of 2009, Small Brothers Charlotte LLC, a subsidiary of Naples, Fla., developer Small Brothers LLC, bought the building in private auction for $4.5 million.

Small Brothers have since bought two adjoining parcels to expand car and pedestrian access to the development and the property was rezoned to mixed-use from residential.

The developers say the building will be finished by August 2012, in time for the Democratic National Convention a month later. Project architect Perkins Eastman has sent experts into the building to perform a comprehensive structural analysis.

In the mid-2000s, developers rushed to announce new condo projects for the center city. Early projects sold out. But as the recession hit, developers scrapped plans. Prices for existing condos fell, some more than 30 percent off their peak. One tower that did finish, the Vue, has struggled to close contracts signed at pre-recession prices. Most of the high-rise's 409 units sit empty.

At SKYE, residents and hotel guests will have full valet service. The ground floor will include about 2,600 square feet of retail. An amenity deck on the 10th floor will be divided into two separate areas to serve hotel guests and condo owners.

Visitors and residents will enter the building through a two-story lobby on the first floor, which will have stone flooring and wall panels with wood accents and include imported marble and granite. Residents and hotel guests will use separate elevators.

Hotel guests will check in at a lobby on the 10th floor. The SKYE lobby's style is described as elegant modernism "with a nod to art deco."

Condos will range from about 800 square feet for a one bedroom to 3,800 square feet for a rooftop penthouse and will feature wide plank floors, gas cooktops and natural stone countertops.

Center city real estate broker Shane McDevitt of The McDevitt Agency, who will be handling sales for SKYE, said he believes the condo market is picking up.

"Interest rate are still favorable, condo prices have stabilized and people are tired of waiting," McDevitt said. "Charlotte in general seems to be on the upswing."

Real estate analyst Frank Warren said if the developer can afford to wait some months before selling out the building, it may be in good shape as the overall uptown housing market continues to improve.

Construction will be done by Cleveland Construction of Mentor, Ohio, owned and founded by the Small brothers and their father. Small Brothers built the Great Wolf Lodge in Concord.

Center City Partners' Smith said he has met with the developers a number of times and is confident the project will move forward. He said developers did the right thing by cutting the number of condos and adding hotel rooms, which will be in demand when the DNC is in town.

Charlotte-area hotel occupancy has risen during the past 14 months, reaching 60.8 percent in February, according to the local tourism authority.

"They are experienced developers," Smith said. "It's an important parcel. This is a nice outcome."

Shane McDevitt
The McDevitt Agency
Center City Realtor, Broker/Owner
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