Real Deals

Charlotte developer has ambitious plans for Hillsborough Street

FMW plans several apartments, shops along artery

dbracken@newsobserver.comJuly 19, 2012 

Given its track record of successfully assembling large tracts of land in Charlotte, it’s not surprising that developer FMW Real Estate is quickly becoming the most important player in the redevelopment of Raleigh’s Hillsborough Street.

With the first phase of its apartment project at West Morgan and Hillsborough streets expected to be complete early next year, the Charlotte-based developer is already planning several encores.

Last month, FMW filed a rezoning petition for an adjacent 1.6-acre site that it also plans to redevelop. The site could be home to as many as 175 apartment units.

That would be in addition to the 249 units and 10,000 square feet of restaurant, retail and office space now under construction. FMW is developing that project, currently called 925 W. Morgan, for Faison & Associates, which acquired the 3.5-acre site last year.

FMW still owns 4 acres along Morgan and Hillsborough streets, and expects to close on an additional 2.5 acres by the end of the year. That includes land and buildings surrounding Charlie Goodnight’s comedy club.

Jim Zanoni, one of FMW’s owners, said redevelopment plans for that site have not been finalized. But he said the firm is in discussions with the franchisee that owns the IHOP on Hillsborough about building a new IHOP next door on the vacant corner lot formerly occupied by the Jackpot bar.

“We build them a new building; they operate in the existing building until its ready to move in,” he said. The old IHOP would then be torn down and replaced by a retail center.

FMW also is spreading its tentacles farther west on Hillsborough. In December, the firm paid $675,000 for two lots on the north side of Hillsborough that are directly across from the Velvet Cloak Inn, according to Wake County property records. The lots are being used as a parking lot for the YMCA.

And this fall FMW expects to begin construction on a 15-unit, 37-bed student housing complex across from N.C. State and next to the Wells Fargo branch at the corner of Hillsborough and Pogue streets. The $3.2 million project, to be called 2604 Hillsborough, would replace a single-family home currently owned by Mitch Hazouri, owner of Mitch’s Tavern.

The project will include about 1,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. It also will be, according to city planners, the first new residential project in Raleigh in recent memory that will have no parking.

Zanoni, 44, said it’s the type of urban infill student housing project that Raleigh has seen very little of in recent years. The project will basically be a boutique version of Valentine Commons, the 10-story, 928-bedroom apartment building being built right off Hillsborough Street near the intersection with Dixie Trail.

“Raleigh is one of the most underserved markets for this type of product,” Zanoni said.

Although Hillsborough Street is the major artery linking N.C. State and downtown, it has never been a particularly friendly street for pedestrians or bicyclists. That is rapidly changing.

FMW clearly envisions a future where pedestrians will think nothing of walking from 925 W. Morgan to 2604 Hillsborough, stopping along the way to shop and eat. The 925 W. Morgan apartment complex will include a public pedestrian path running through the property.

“It started with the Hillsborough Street improvements from that West Morgan roundabout down to the university,” Zanoni said. “And now there’s bike lanes and the sidewalks have been improved. We’re trying to add to that street activity.”

Bracken: 919-829-4548

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