It’s no surprise to anyone who knows Charlotte that demand for office space here is intense — especially in areas close to the center city like South End.

That neighborhood, in fact, is “only one of two urban pockets in the U.S. where office supply more than doubled over the past half decade,” according to a new report from Charlotte Center City Partners, which focuses on growth and development in and around Charlotte’s urban core.

  • The other is Fulton Market in Chicago.
  • South End currently has 4.5 million square feet of office inventory. An additional 819,000 square feet is under construction, per CCCP.

Why it matters: CCP’s latest annual “State of the Center City” report underscores how rapid growth in South End is helping fuel Charlotte’s overall pandemic recovery.

“In spite of really challenging macroeconomic headwinds in two unprecedented years, this first quarter of the decade we’ve set a (strong) foundation. … You can see that in the fact that we have $4 billion in the development pipeline,” CCP president and CEO Michael Smith tells Axios. “Charlotte is really punching above its weight.”

Yes, but: A full recovery for an area like Uptown may not happen until office workers come back.

“The true (central business districts) were acutely affected by the absence of the daily population. The only cure to it is the return to office,” Smith said.

Courtesy of Charlotte Center City Partners

By the numbers:

  • $4 billion+: How much in new development investors have planned for 2022 in CCCP’s service area.
  • 28,622: How many hotel rooms visitors booked here for the Duke’s Mayo Classic (Clemson vs. Georgia) on Sept. 4, making that the No. 1 best night for hotel rooms sold in Mecklenburg County history.
  • 67,000+: How many people live in Charlotte’s center city.
  • 29: Median age of Uptown residents. In South End, it’s 28.

Here are some of the key findings from CCCP’s report:

Leisure travel is helping fuel Charlotte’s pandemic recovery.

Large-scale events from college football games to NASCAR races have drawn visitors to Charlotte in droves in recent years. Seven of the top 10 best nights for rooms sold in Mecklenburg County history have happened since May 2021, per CCCP.

  • The most popular nights have been on the weekends, underscoring how leisure has become an important component of hotel business in Charlotte even as business travel lags.

“We’re maturing as a destination. Leisure and hospitality has really led us out of this pandemic recession,” Smith said.

City boosters are really excited about bridging the gap between South End and Uptown.

Smith pointed to the “incredible development” that’s connecting Uptown with South End, shifting the center of gravity of the city’s urban core. For one, there’s the Riverside development that’ll add three mixed-use towers to the Midnight Diner site. Then there’s the pedestrian bridge underway that will literally link the two neighborhoods.

  • “We’re really fortunate we’re not Atlanta that has these three distinct centers that are disconnected — downtown, midtown and Buckhead,” Smith said.

Charlotte’s apartment boom is nowhere close to slowing down.

Currently, 823 apartment units are under construction in South End, according to the report. That’s on top of the 445 units the neighborhood added in 2021. In Uptown, 896 apartments came online in 2021, a 3% increase from the year before, per CCCP.

COVID has accelerated real estate trends in Charlotte.

Employers have flocked to new offices in South End in part recently because they get to make the spaces their own — from adding pods and huddle rooms to prioritizing outdoor terraces. That’s increasingly important as they’re trying to entice workers back.

“Offices of the future must provide a great experience as should their neighborhood,” said James LaBar, SVP of economic development for CCCP.

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