CHARLOTTE, N.C. (March 25, 2015) – Former Atlantan Brian Leary is doing exactly what Crescent Communities hired him to do – lead its charge into new urban commercial and mixed-use developments.
Or, as the Charlotte Observer puts it, "Crescent Dives Head First into Urban Development." That's the headline of a story based on an interview of Brian by Observer's correspondent Ely Portillo. Click here to read the story.
Portillo asked to interview Brian, a client of The Wilbert Group, after reading this thought-leadership piece Brian wrote about why Charlotte has emerged as a favorite market for investors, developers and people and businesses seeking a new home.
Like a Nimble Boxer, Charlotte Has Right Mix to Compete for Titles in Several Weight Classes
By Brian Leary, President, Crescent Commercial/Mixed-Use
When I think of Charlotte these days, the image that often comes to mind, believe it or not, is that of legendary fighter Sugar Ray Leonard. Lean, fleet of foot and possessing a seemingly bottomless supply of energy, the North Carolina-born boxer used those attributes to scale the heights of the boxing world.
Similarly, the Queen City is emerging as a championship economic player through a potent combination of a nimble, business-friendly environment and a vibrant financial and millennial scene, and the rest of the world is taking notice.
Earlier this month, a Bloomberg News article detailed how commercial real estate developers and investors from across the globe are betting on Charlotte and a handful of other “secondary markets” across the U.S. because their long-term job markets, and thus the demand for commercial space, look so promising. Indeed, the reasons for optimism about Charlotte’s ability to maintain and expand its economic momentum are ample and include the following:
• Ongoing Appeal to the Financial Sector. Charlotte rode to economic prominence because of the banking industry and, with approximately $2.2 trillion in assets under control, remains the second-largest banking center in the U.S., behind only New York City. Looking ahead, Charlotte figures to remain a hotbed for the financial services sector. Its warm weather and low cost of doing business — only 86 percent of the national average according to a recent report — offer a appealing alternative to firms considering space in the Northeast, and its location in the Eastern time zone gives it a big leg up on the West Coast, where financial workers have to be on the job well before dawn to be ready when the markets open.
Furthermore, the top-notch talent produced by the many colleges and universities in Charlotte and the Triangle area offers an additional lure to financial firms contemplating relocations, and much of that talent is also fueling an energetic startup scene related to the financial services sector.
• High in the Sky. The second-largest hub for American Airlines, now the world’s largest airline after its merger with US Airways, Charlotte Douglas International Airport is a major boon to the city’s economic development efforts and has the lowest landing fees of any major U.S. airport. The airport offers non-stop service to more than 150 destinations, nearly 40 of which are international — tantalizing numbers for the business community. Put another way, the Queen City offers nearly unbeatable and affordable access to the rest of the globe.
• A Hearty Embrace of Transit. Although it resides in the very heart of the car-centric Southeast, Charlotte has been progressive in its adoption of commuting options in the form of light-rail and streetcar transit. The nearly 10-mile light-rail line that connects Uptown and the burgeoning South End neighborhood, the just-begun network of streetcar lines, and the expansion of the Lynx light-rail system to University Park to the north signal to companies — and to young workers that crave a location in which they are not completely reliant on cars — that Charlotte is dedicated to offering the best quality of life possible.
• Millennial Growth. According to a recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Urban Land Institute, Charlotte’s number of millennial residents (those ages 20-35) has grown by 23.4 percent over the past half decade. That’s the highest increase of the major U.S. metro areas and means the city can offer employers a large supply of the tech-savvy workers they desire.
• A Good Bargain. As noted above, the cost of doing business in Charlotte is well below the national average, and residents of the city also benefit from a relatively inexpensive cost of living and high quality of life. Similarly, real estate investors are attracted to the comparatively low prices of commercial properties in Charlotte, which offer them the prospect of greater returns than comparable assets in gateway markets such as New York or San Francisco.
Simply put, Charlotte’s affordability will continue to serve as a magnet for both businesses and residents, as well as the investors needed for a strong commercial real estate sector.
• Location, Location, Location. Charlotte itself is a beautiful city, but its appeal grows even more when you consider the easy access it offers to both the mountains and the ocean. Again, this dynamic is bound to exert a powerful influence when businesses are considering locations that will cultivate a happy workforce and young college graduates are contemplating where they would like to move.
Add these factors up, and it’s easy to conclude that the Queen City is at the beginning of a long, sustainable period of serious economic expansion. Companies will locate and grow here; construction cranes will dot the skyline; and, just as Sugar Ray was in the 1980s, Charlotte will be in championship form for a long time to come.
Brian Leary is president of Crescent Communities’ commercial and mixed-use business unit.