As UNC Charlotte has grown, so has its economic impact on the University City region. A number of new commercial developments are coming to the area to meet the demand of the area’s ever-growing population.
Top Golf, a global sports entertainment community, submitted a petition to the Charlotte City Council for a new 13.2 acre entertainment district on McFarlane Boulevard. The University City Top Golf facility will feature 102 hitting bays for groups and has marketing programs aimed toward college students.
Top Golf tried to expand to the UNC Charlotte area in 2017 but stopped pursuing a University City location after an outcry of concerns from local residents at City Council meetings that the development would be built directly next to a historic cemetery.
Top Golf is not the only new business coming to the University City area. A Dallas-based fund-manager, EB Arrow, has acquired two large parcels of land directly next to UNC Charlotte. EB Arrow purchased University Place I and II for a total cost of $18.2 million and has already filed a petition with the City of Charlotte to rezone the land.
EB Arrow repositions commercial projects in prime locations that are suffering operational difficulties. Its mission statement explains that upon acquisition of land, each retail center will be renovated or redeveloped to add apartments, office buildings or hotels, or alternatively their operations will be optimized for value enhancement.
According to public records released by the City of Charlotte, EBA Crystal Real Estate LLC, which is affiliated with EB Arrow, has proposed a project with up to 300,000 square feet of commercial space, multiple parking decks, a library, 600 residential units and, potentially, a hotel.
One of the few confirmed new tenants for the development is the Armored Cow Brewery. The brewery will be a first for the University Area and will specialize in gluten-free beer. The Armored Cow will operate out of an already existing building at 8821 JW Clay Blvd., which will be directly across the street from EB Arrows development.
The University City Chick-Fil-A, which currently has a standalone location in the shopping center, has also filed a rezoning petition with the City Council to move from its current location to a new and larger location across the street to meet the high demand of customers. That petition to move to a new location was approved by the City Council late last year.
At the center of all the new commercial developments in the area is the University City Partners, which is an organization that implements strategies to drive University City forward. The University City Partners has been actively engaged in the new commercial developments and has a plan for the future growth and redevelopment of the area. When asked about EB Arrows’ redevelopment plan, a representative said, “While no two projects are alike, their basic formula is exactly what this site needs — more residents and office workers helping to create a strong center for University City.”
Some students are thrilled for the new businesses that are moving to the area. “It will be great to be able to go out and have a good time without having to drive to [Up]town Charlotte or the Concord Mills area,” said Robert Mills, a sophomore. Mills went on to explain that, besides restaurants, the University City area lacks entertainment, such as a bowling alley, movie theater or other options for residents to explore in their free time.
The University City region does have a movie theater three miles away from the center of campus as well as a bowling alley nearly five miles away from campus, but nothing directly surrounding the University.
The commercial developments are a direct result of UNC Charlotte’s continued growth and rapid expansion in the University City region. As the area continues to grow, so does the demand for places of entertainment.