Few areas in the Triangle have drawn more interest from apartment developers in recent years than Cameron Village.
Two new communities have already opened at the the corner of Clark Avenue and Oberlin Road, and a third is under construction across Smallwood Drive from the retail center.
Many assumed a fourth project would be built inside Cameron Village on land where Rite Aid now sits. Regency Centers, which owns Cameron Village through a joint venture, solicited bids for such a project but ultimately ended up locking Rite Aid into a new 20-year lease.
Under the deal, the drugstore chain will move downstairs into space that had long been the headquarters of York Properties. That allows Regency to add new tenants into Rite Aid’s existing 25,000-square-foot space.
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“It’s one of the rare cases where, basically with the deal we struck with Rite Aid, it was more lucrative to put them downstairs and re-tenant the upstairs than it was to raze the whole structure and do apartments,” said John Pharr, senior market officer with Regency’s Raleigh office. “And that’s even considering the $5.5 million in capital we’re putting into it.”
As part of the renovation, Regency is trucking in old mill brick from Indiana to give Rite-Aid’s new exterior a warehouse-type look.
“We did the same level of due-diligence when we brought Chick-fil-A in,” Pharr said. “We wanted them to occupy a building that, although it’s brand new, looks like a turn-of-the-century building.”
Rite Aid is expected to relocate by November, and Regency is now in talks with several tenants about moving into its existing space. Pharr said the space would likely be leased to existing Cameron Village tenants that are in need of more space.
The timing of when those tenants will be announced is tied to Regency’s efforts to add apartments elsewhere in the center, Pharr said. The company is working on plans to redevelop a portion of the block where K&W Cafeteria and several other tenants are located.
That project likely won’t move forward until the latter half of 2017, Pharr said.
“When you get into the bones of Cameron you’ve got to do a lot of tip-toeing because Cameron is a living, breathing organism,” he said. “Cameron Village does over $200 million in annual sales volume.”
The atmosphere at Cameron has changed noticeably since the 401 Oberlin and Berkshire Cameron Village apartment complexes opened. There is considerably more activity at night at popular restaurants such as Tazza Kitchen.
“They’re becoming pretty frequent hangout spots, particularly on the weekends,” Pharr said.
Pharr said he expected the apartments in and around Cameron would be filled with young professionals in their 20s and 30s, but that hasn’t been the case.
“Over half of the these residents are empty-nesters,” he said.
Regency recently renewed its lease with Harris Teeter, which later this year will begin an $8 million internal and external renovation of its store.
The grocer has leased the former Foster’s Restaurant space in the downstairs of its building. It plans to move all food preparation into the old Foster’s space and make it accessible through an elevator system, thus expanding the sales floor in the store.
Cameron’s other grocer, Fresh Market, has also recently begun a multimillion-dollar renovation of its store.
One of the side effects of the increased activity at Cameron is that parking has become even more difficult. Pharr noted that one of the good thing about the new apartment dwellers at Cameron is they leave their cars in the deck when they go shopping.
“What you’ll see is a lot of people now carrying groceries, which is perfect,” he said.
Still, as anyone who has navigated the Harris Teeter parking lot on a busy day can attest, finding a space can be a challenge. That’s not going to change anytime soon.
“It’s tough to get a convenient parking spot, but the regulars know – just like every creature of habit – you know when and where to go and when and where to park,” Pharr said. “And if you do want to go at a taxing time you’ve just got to govern yourself accordingly.”