Uptown, South End, NoDa, Plaza Midwood — all these Charlotte neighborhoods have been transformed by new development over the past half-decade, from luxury apartments to high-end restaurants.
The next hot neighborhood in Charlotte? It might just be Steele Creek.
Luxury apartment developers have turned their attention to the extreme southwest corner of the city, with more than a half-dozen projects underway. What was once a sleepy, remote residential area could wake up in the near future as a bustling live-work-play kind of community.
“It’s going to be a completely different area,” said Palmer McArthur, vice president of development at apartment builder Pollack Shores and a Charlotte native.
‘The last frontier’
Two decades ago, the Steele Creek area was practically rural. That started to change in the mid-2000s. With vacant land at a premium and demand high, new home builders started putting up starter homes in suburban subdivisions.
That growth was jumpstarted in 2011, when industrial titan Siemens expanded in the Steele Creek area with a gas turbine facility. Other businesses have followed. Microsoft has a major presence at the ArrowPoint office park, and the cable company Spectrum has nearly triple that nearby.
Retail has followed those rooftops. Charlotte Premium Outlets opened in 2014, and the master-planned community of Berewick came soon after. Berewick Town Center now has a Harris Teeter, MOD Pizza, Clean Juice and Fuzzy’s Taco Shop to go along with its new homes and apartments.
TopGolf opened its first Charlotte location in Steele Creek in 2017.
If you count the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, the Steele Creek area has some 80,000 jobs within a five-mile radius. Developers say that’s what’s driving this new round of growth.
Some 1,000 apartments in total are under construction in Steele Creek, and the list keeps getting longer.
-Some 280 apartments are planned off South Tryon and Shopton Road West as part of a larger office and commercial development.
-324 apartments are planned off South Tryon at Erwin Road.
-A 265-acre mixed-use development is planned across from TopGolf that would include 270 apartments, office space, retail shops, restaurants, a hotel and industrial space. It won rezoning approval in April.
-Mattamy Homes is planning 240 townhomes off of South Tryon Street. The project still needs city approval.
-Lidl is planning a grocery store off of South Tryon, as well.
-Lennar Homes is building at least 200 townhomes off Hamilton Road.
-Recently, Pollack Shores announced it would build 350 luxury apartments near Dixie River Road and Shopton Road. They hope to break ground in May, and the first tenants should move in during the summer of 2020.
Why Steele Creek?
In large part, it’s about supply and demand. Places like NoDa and Plaza Midwood and South End have become very expensive to build in as land costs have skyrocketed. In order to make a profit while charging reasonable rents, developers have to look out toward the suburbs.
The greater Charlotte has continued to boom, but in recent years — the suburban areas are growing even faster than the city itself.
An area like Steele Creek offers the same type of amenities you’d get in SouthPark and Ballantyne at a fraction of the price. That’s as true for businesses as it is for renters. Commercial leases are considerably cheaper at Berewick and new developments than the fast-rising prices in the more established centers.
The Pollack Shores apartments will have a resort-style pool, high-end fitness center and clubhouse to go along with in-home granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and plank wood-finish floors. Solis Berewick, one of the first high-end apartment communities to open in Steele Creek, leases two-bedroom apartments starting at $1,400.
A similar-style unit would cost north of $2,000 in the Solis property in SouthPark and South End.
Eventually, the Steele Creek area will flow seamlessly into the River District to the north. The first apartments are about to break ground in that mega-development that’s been billed as the next Ballantyne.
“Steele Creek and the River District are kind of the last frontier of close-in suburbs of Charlotte,” McArthur said. “Right now, what it offers is a more affordable alternative to both of those areas with the same access to jobs.”
Homeowners push back
But that doesn’t mean everyone has to like it. Homeowners are already pushing back on the onslaught of development. Not because they don’t like the rising property values. It’s because of the traffic.
Remember, Steele Creek was exurban or even rural not that long ago — and the infrastructure reflects that. The commute from Steele Creek to Uptown takes a half-hour without traffic. Add in all the cars that go along with this development, and you’re easily looking at an hour.
“You keep building, and building and building and do nothing for the roads and nothing about the lack of schools,” one woman vented on Facebook on a post about plans for new apartments.
“We need less apartments, less chain eateries, storage facilities and strip malls,” another woman wrote. “We need great venues, breweries, and eating establishments like what is growing in the rest of Mecklenburg.”
She might just get her wish. In the next stage of Steele Creek’s growth, don’t be surprised if breweries are in the mix.
“The area is only going to continue to grow,” McArthur said.