It’s been almost five months since a local developer bought up one of the most prominent properties in Plaza Midwood.
Crosland Southeast, the firm that’s also redeveloping the old Eastland Mall site — paid nearly $50 million for the 12-acre Central Square property. The site includes popular restaurants such as Bistro La Bon and The Roasting Company. It’s also got a sprawling parking lot notorious for booting cars of anyone who isn’t a patron of those businesses.
Since closing the deal, Crosland has been working on plans and asking for feedback from the neighborhood. Eventually, the site — bounded by Pecan Avenue, Central Avenue, train tracks, and Independence Boulevard — will look much different. The massive parking lot will give way to apartments, green space, offices, and retail buildings.
Developers describe the area’s new look as a “vertically integrated mixed used project” that’s more pedestrian-friendly than the property currently is.
For now, Crosland executives say they’re a ways off from sharing the plans, though. They can’t say whether certain buildings will be torn down, for instance.
In recent months, Crosland Southeast has conducted surveys with the neighborhood to understand what residents want. One common theme: Plaza Midwood must maintain its funky vibe.
“Every element of of the project needs to resonate with the edgy character of Plaza Midwood,” Tim Sittema, managing partner at Crosland Southeast, tells the Agenda.
[Related Agenda story: One of Plaza Midwood’s most prominent properties has been sold for nearly $50 million]
For neighbors, that will include ensuring that many of the area’s longtime businesses stay.
Clifton Castello, president of the Plaza Midwood Merchants Association, appreciates that Crosland Southeast is engaging with the community. He wants to make sure, though, that rising rent doesn’t force anyone out.
“It’s important to us that there is affordable lease space set aside for local small businesses,” Castello says. “For Crosland to incorporate local small businesses into their plan is really to their advantage.”
Bobby Speir, SVP of acquisitions at Crosland, says he knows there are longtime tenants that the neighborhood wants to see stay.
“Our desire, in alignment with keeping authenticity and character, is to keep as many tenants as is feasible for the future project,” Speir says.
Already, the neighborhood has seen a great deal of change in recent months in terms of the presence of local businesses.
This week, Yoga One announced plans to close its studio after 14 years on Central Avenue. In 2018, Aston Properties bought the old Dairy Queen spot at Central and Pecan avenues for $1.05 million. The shop closed last year.
Across the street on Central, Charlotte-based Asana purchased the building at 1508 and 1510 Central Ave., for about $1.7 million last summer. Construction crews will be dividing the 7,100 building into three spaces. One space will be a restaurant, and another will be a retail space, says Charles Thrift of Thrift Commercial Real Estate, who is handling leasing. The third, he says, will be “most likely some form of speakeasy or coffee bar” facing the alley.
“We are in the process of bringing the structure, facade and utilities up to today’s standards,” Thrift says.
At the Central Square property, it’ll be at least another six months or so until construction starts. “We’re thinking that probably spring of next year, we’ll start moving some dirt,” Speir says.
But already, there’s at least one change that neighbors may have noticed: The landlords are no longer booting cars in the Central Square parking lot. That’s despite the huge sign on Central that warns: NO PUBLIC PARKING.
“Reputationally, we felt that was one really easy quick change we could make to signal to the neighborhood: Things are going to be different on a go forward basis,” Speir says.