Historic east Charlotte tower will get a makeover

Historic east Charlotte tower will get a makeover

Courtesy of Gvest Capital

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Construction crews broke ground Tuesday on a major overhaul of the historic Ervin Building on Independence Boulevard.

The long-anticipated plan is to demolish the interior of the building while preserving its exterior, restoring it for sleek new offices and a rooftop bar/restaurant.

Each floor of the tower, also known as the Varnadore Building, will include about 4,500 square feet of modern office space, according to Gvest Capital, the Pineville firm that bought the building in 2018.

  • Outside the building, on a retaining wall on Bamboo and Pierson, there’ll be a 200-foot mural depicting Charlotte history throughout the decades, per Gvest. The mural will start with 1960s with an illustration of Dorthy Counts-Scoggins, a civil rights icon who integrated Charlotte schools back in 1957.

The project will also include construction of a standalone two-story building at 4001 Independence, adjacent to the Ervin Building. With construction to begin in the near future, the property could house a range of new tenants, from restaurants to breweries.

  • For months, crews have been doing cleaning and preservation work on the interior of the building. Tuesday marked the start of the interior rebuild.

Background: Once the Charlotte region’s largest homebuilder, Charles Ervin led construction of the seven-story Ervin Building in the early 1960s. It opened in 1964 as “Charlotte’s first skyscraper east of downtown,” according to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission.

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  • Ervin hoped the project would spur growth on the city’s east side.
  • Ervin was “a real believer in suburbia,” says Charlotte historian Tom Hanchett. At the cutting edge during Ervin’s time were so-called edge cities, or urban areas on the outskirts of main downtown areas.

“The Ervin Building is an early outpost in the trend that eventually would create edge cities like the areas around SouthPark and Ballantyne,” Hanchett tells Axios.

Over the years, the building housed a range of tenants, including Jim Varnadore, whose real-estate firm occupied two stories in the early 1990s, per the Observer. In 1992, the building was renamed after him.

The property was also home to several LGBTQ+ groups and businesses, as the Charlotte Observer reported last spring.

  • Years ago, the tower was home to Time Out Youth Center, Out Charlotte and Metropolitan Community Church of Charlotte.
  • Qnotes newspaper, which also had its offices in the building, reported that the building was colloquially called “Queer Tower.”

Following the 2008 economic downturn, the property fell into disrepair, according to material from the Nichols Co., the firm handling leasing on the property. The country’s sour economy forced many tenants to close.

“It’s a landmark in Charlotte. It was known as the gateway to Charlotte back in the 1960s,” Gvest Capital vice president Richard Gee tells Axios. “A special person created it and we’re honored to be a part of it.”

The architect on the project is McClure Nicholson Montgomery and the general contractor is Choate. Photos below are courtesy of Gvest Capital.

Charles Ervin

The Ervin Building was formerly called the Varnadore Building

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that the 200-foot mural will be outside of the building on a retaining wall, not in the lobby.

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