Over the next year, the near-vacant EpiCentre will transform into a high-end destination called “Queen City Quarter,” the new property managers have promised.
CBRE, the court-appointed receiver during the foreclosure, is continuing to market and lease the former nightlife venue and has announced plans to turn it around.
What’s happening: It won’t be the nightlife spot you’re used to. Instead, CBRE has a “very intentional leasing strategy” to create a more upscale, family-friendly environment, says Sabrina Jones, who is leading the property management.
- It’ll soon close on a few deals but it’s still too early to name any tenants, she adds. CBRE is interested in retailers and high-end restaurants, among other uses. CBRE also wants to activate common areas with tenant programming and the arts.
Why it matters: The COVID-19 pandemic left the EpiCentre deserted, at a time when South End was already pulling the youthful nightlife in a different direction and daytime office-goers were moving to remote.
- The property, barely reminiscent now of the buzzy hotspot it once was, has done little to revitalize Uptown amid the pandemic.
- The center’s future has been referenced in leaders’ conversations about major nearby projects, such as the Charlotte Transit Center redevelopment.
What they’re saying: “We want to take advantage of how dense it is out there with a daytime population and and also make it a destination amenity for the community,” Jones says. “And we’re surrounded by lots of really great hotels. So when people come to visit, we want them to have a place to eat and take in a cocktail before they go to a show and be a one-stop shop for tourists.”
Details: Queen City Quarter will be fresh, modern and bright, Jones says. “We don’t want to make it look like a defunct Times Square anymore.”
Work to transform the property will include:
- Ongoing repairs to the courtyard, parking garage, patios and roof — all to be completed by the end of the year
- Renovations to the public staircases and escalators in 2023
- New landscaping, lighting and benches
- Fresh paint in the common areas
- Removal of former tenants’ signs
- An upgraded camera system that produces clearer images, replacing outdated technology. There is also now a 24/7 control room, and 12 to 20 security personnel on site at a time with the authority to arrest criminal suspects. CBRE is also working closely with CMPD and Center City Partners, Jones says.
Context: During the height of the pandemic, the owner of the EpiCentre defaulted on an $85 million loan. CBRE interviewed and was selected for the court-appointed receivership.
- Jones says the lender, Deutsche Bank Trust Co., was looking for a receiver who believed the estate could be turned around and was committed to the “long haul.”
- In August the bank cast the sole bid of $95 million on the property, which kept it in the lender’s hands and under CBRE’s management.
- “We kind of expected that to be the case,” Jones says.
Flashback: The EpiCentre had its highs and lows since opening in 2008, from surviving the Great Recession to hosting events for the Democratic National Convention. It’s a prime location within walking distance to Charlotte’s largest attractions, but that also puts it in proximity to violent crime and protests that left glass shattered and a shadow cast on the property, especially in recent years, Charlotte magazine wrote.
- In 2010, the complex owner declared bankruptcy, and the developer gave up ownership in 2012. The bank is now its third owner.
What’s next: Jones says CBRE is in talks with remaining tenants, such as Red Eye Diner and Word of Beer, about extending leases to take part in the next phase of the center.
- She adds that it will host pop-up retailers in its vacant spaces, which make up 70% of the building, while renovations are underway.