I was poking around a bit this morning and noticed that Northwood has quietly acquired additional property surrounding the main Northgate Mall footprint in Q2 of this year. Most notably they bought the “Shops at Northgate” strip mall there with the Planet Fitness and Sky Zone trampoline park for $13.2MM. They also bought the service center location right there at the entrance to the mall for a nominal amount. The only piece they don’t own remains the Macy’s building that Duke bought out. The pattern of acquisitions here continues to suggest the potential for a substantial redevelopment project that would likely involve multiple phases. All told they own ~57 acres and have spent ~$55MM on the land purchase alone (plus whatever they spent buying out the debt to force the sale originally).
So, any thoughts on this? Speculation welcome! I’m particularly interested on a personal level since I live close by and the mall area is sort of a drain on that part of the city so this presumably could be a major shot in the arm assuming something goes forward. Would make a lot of sense given the large footprint, location directly off 85, straight shot down Gregson to the heart of downtown, opportunity to approach from a blank slate, etc.
There is certainly precedent for redeveloping malls recently, and in the area too. Check out this thread on the DTRaleigh forums about mall redevelopments in the Raleigh area.
I'm not a huge fan of malls in general so I might not personally get much use out of it, but I'd be excited to see some similar level of investment to what can be seen in that thread being done in this area of Durham. Plus, it looks like these mall redevelopments are trying to pivot their real estate into mixed-use live+work+play areas rather than simply huge drive-in retail boxes.
Thanks for linking that discussion, Mitch. Lots of good projects underway that range from full rebuild to supplementing existing infrastructure. I see Northgate as probably being in the full tear down/redevelopment category most likely considering the way they’ve acquired the other pieces of the full footprint of that area. Whoever ends up developing the property, I hope they design something that incorporates some vertical development.
Last I heard was that it (the mall) was going to be "razed" . And if I remember correctly that Duke would still be a partner and build a new building for its consolidated clinics. But that was probably a year ago at this point.
It makes since to me that they would have given up on redevelopment. I think it could a great space for a mixed use development.
I'm eager to see what happens here too. I'm suspecting mixed-used development a la North Hills, Fenton, or the new Cary Towne Center Proposal. I've got nothing against these other than that they tend to become inwardly-focused islands of development trying to (but not quite succeeding in) replicating a real urban environment.
I would be delighted if Northgate used the framework of the surrounding street grid for the new development by extending the existing roads beyond the W Club Blvd/Guess Road boundary. This would help transform the property from suburban mall to a real, integrated urban neighborhood.
Extending those streets into the development would be fantastic. Without any knowledge, I would guess that they will do more of the insular approach, unfortunately. I have my fingers crossed though and either way, it will be better than the mall, I'm sure!
The community forum ought to be interesting. I hope the neighborhood association is realistic with their input (ie — Northwood isn’t going to build a 50 acre park there). This redevelopment project will require huge amounts of capital to accomplish which in turn demands an adequate return in investment. I’ll probably attend just to see what ideas are presented.
I attended the virtual community engagement session last week. Nothing to really report other than that the facilitators seemed to imply that this development may be significantly impacted, perhaps scaled back from the original mixed-use plans because of the pandemic. Worth noting that this came from the coordinator of the session, not the developer itself, and I'm not sure how certain it is.
I expressed my feelings about a mix of uses being crucial to the long-term success of the project -- retail and restaurants may be suffering right now, but they are not going anywhere in the future. If you feel strongly about Northgate, there is another virtual session tomorrow at 12-1pm. They said the link will be the same as the last meeting's, which you can find here.
Thanks for posting. I would certainly expect the timeline to be delayed but scaling back the project would be pretty unfortunate and a hugely inefficient use of the space. The economic impact of the pandemic, while severe, will likely be 12-18 months in duration. Certainly there will be some significant fallout in the restaurant/retail space but considering the project timeline would likely be multiple years in duration you’d think/hope Northwood would take a very long term view. Turning that space into a swath of stick built apartments would be a catastrophe.
It appears to me that there is the POSSIBILITY that this would be beneficial to them. If construction prices go down and they can build this project cheaply, by the time they are stabilized, I imagine the rents will have recovered and continue to go up.
The only reason I could see for them to scale back is more limited access to funding (both equity and loans). At the very least, I hope "scaled back" means a phased project. It's hard to know what they are thinking.
Like I said, they were specific about scaling back the "mixed use" aspect of the project, which is why I was so concerned. Obviously that could mean anything, but it would be great to have more people attend these meetings or fill out the surveys.
Thanks - if you have access to the surveys, that would be great. I have a 2-year old at home and I often INTEND to connect to these virtual meetings, but something always gets in the way. If I could provide feedback on my own time, I can definitely chime in!
Dave, the surveys are right on the Northgate Mall website. I just completed one. Very quick and gives you options around your top priorities for redevelopment, free form feedback and priorities around community engagement. I will keep my fingers crossed that this project ends up reaching its considerable potential. I’d hate to see this end up like Carraway Village, another local Northwood project, which is just your basic apartment community with some generic dining options. Those projects obviously have their place but would be a huge waste of a prime location.
Thanks for telling us about the survey -- I filled it out as well.
I tried to get across the desire to see this as a walkable mixed-use neighborhood. To me, a rough mental schema for a walkable neighborhood might be that the average person should feasibly be able live there and meet all of their basic needs without regular use of a personal vehicle (that includes regular use of personal delivery services like Uber/Lyft/Instacart, since it's still use of a personal vehicle... it's just someone else's).
I think for Americans, unfortunately, the above definition is also almost always going to mean that living there shouldn't require the use of public transit or bicycle to get any of your basic needs met either. For most, if they're required to go further afield than a mile or so, I'd guess 95% of people aren't going to make that walk regularly (especially if it's for something like buying groceries), and for 95% of those who won't, relying on the bus or a bicycle instead of owning a car will not even cross their minds as an option. If those hold true, then 90+% of people are going consider owning a car a requirement to meet their basic needs if walking isn't exceptionally convenient.
With that in mind -- I ended up going with:
2. Office space
3. Grocery Store
Everyone needs housing, nearly everyone has to work (and it's the trip that people have to make the most frequently), and everyone needs to eat.