A recent zoning change in Charlotte is leading to a flurry of applications for new self-storage development in the North Carolina city’s urban core.

In 2015, the Charlotte City Council amended a rule to allow self-storage buildings in urban areas, as long as the buildings have at least 50 percent of their ground floor dedicated to “active” uses, such as offices or retail.

Since then, a number of proposed developments are in the works although the exact number is unclear. (City council members did not respond to requests for comment).

seventh street storage in charlotte
Charlotte’s new zoning for self-storage in urban areas calls for ground level retail, as shown in this proposed project on Seventh Street in Uptown.

Changing landscape

“This is going to change the self-storage landscape in the city’s urban core,” said Babak Emadi, a broker with Providence Commercial. “Existing operators are going to need to upgrade, add on or remodel to keep up.”

Meanwhile, the thousands of new apartment dwellers residing in the deluge of multifamily units that have gone up in recent years will have new, more modern storage options.

One such project is a self-storage building with shops and offices on the ground floor that is being planned for a 1-acre site on Seventh Street in uptown, as reported by the Charlotte Observer. The land is zoned for mixed-use, urban development.

The Seventh Street building would be six stories tall, totaling 126,000 square feet, with about 1,000 total climate-controlled units, said Joe Teague, an attorney representing the developers, in the Observer article. He didn’t say who is behind the project.

self storage in charlotte nc
One of two projects currently being pursued by the Stewart Group, this one is at 1101 Central Avenue.

Proximity a priority

David Stewart, a partner with Davidson, NC-based The Stewart Group, is excited about the zoning change.

The Stewart Group is currently working with partners to get approvals to build two new self-storage facilities with ground-floor retail.

When Stewart initially began looking for sites on which to develop self-storage facilities, he found that there were few that were centrally located.

“The sites that were available weren’t close to real populations so when this zoning amendment came through it really opened a lot of different opportunities,” he said. “What we’d been looking for are parcels closer to the end user.”

Neighborhood input

The Stewart Group, who is working with Emadi, is in the process of rezoning two properties: one at 1101 Central Ave., on the corner of Central and Hawthorne, and one at 6125 Nations Ford Road.

The Central Ave. property is currently a parking area. The developer got feedback from neighbors that they didn’t want more apartments going up on the site. Stewart estimates there are some 2,000 residential units that have recently come online or will be coming online in the surrounding area in the near future.

Self-storage, he said, fits the low-density usage and adds retail. Established residents who live in historic homes with little storage are also expected to be potential users of the storage facility.

“We tried to make it fit in with the neighborhood and listen to neighbors’ concerns,” he said. “So we’re going to put a building on top of structured parking.” A currently unspecified number of storage units will take up about 80,000 of the 100,000 square feet being planned for the 1-acre site, Stewart added. The remainder of the property will be dedicated to retail.

The company and its partners expect to hear from the City Council soon and then a decision by mid-June.

The Stewart Group's second project in Charlotte will be anchored by a pizzeria and bar.
The Stewart Group’s second project in Charlotte will be anchored by a pizzeria and bar.

Slicing up the storage pie

The same group is planning another mixed use, approximately 100,000-square foot facility on a 1.8-acre site at Tyvola and Nations Ford Rd. Hawthorne’s New York Pizza & Bar will occupy a 5,000-square-foot space in that five-story building.

Stewart notes that all numbers associated with both projects are preliminary and based only on early sketches and site plans. If they get approval, the group would like to start construction late this year and open in late 2017.

“We like these two locations and feel like they’ll be good for us long-term,” Stewart said. “This zoning change opens up a lot of areas for storage that didn’t have them before.”

Emadi agrees.

“This zoning ordinance is forward-looking,” he said. “We have so many businesses and apartments, especially, that the self-storage and services can support.”

Going all in

Not all is clear-cut though with regard to the zoning change. On April 20, the Charlotte Business Journal reported that City Council was questioning whether clearer standards are needed for the self-storage facilities. Newer construction, especially in urban cores, more resemble office buildings than traditional self-storage facilities. Still, any uncertainty doesn’t seem to be deterring potential development.

Colorado-based Pamlico Investments Inc. is also planning a mixed-use project featuring retail, office and self-storage at the intersection of East 10th Street and Seigle Avenue. The firm purchased seven parcels across 1.4 acres to assemble the site, according to Pamlico President Brent Wright.

The company is currently seeking rezoning approval to build a three-story, 120,000 square foot facility on the site. About 8,000 square feet will be retail and the remainder to self-storage.

A public hearing on April 18 “went better than expected,” Wright said. A decision hearing is scheduled for May 16. If Pamlico gets the green light in May, Wright anticipates construction to begin in August or September 2016 with an opening about one year after that.

Mary Ann Azevedo