Changes planned for north Charlotte office park, once an IBM campus, after $270M sale

Charlotte Observer

October 18, 2019

By Danielle Chemtob

A revamped University City office park once home to an IBM campus has new owners after a $270 million sale. And they’re planning major changes.

Florida-based commercial real estate firm Accesso Partners and Swiss investment management company Partners Group announced Friday they had acquired the 1.8-million-square-foot Innovation Park, off of IBM Drive in University Research Park.

The firms are still working out the plans for the site, but they include over 1,000 residential units, a hotel, tens of thousands of square feet of retail and at least hundreds of thousands square feet of new office space, said Ariel Bentata, founding and managing partner of investments for Accesso. They will be filing a rezoning request for the property, he said.

The previous owner, BECO Management, purchased the approximately 200-acre complex for $41.2 million during the recession, property records show. The company spent millions renovating the park, which had been abandoned by IBM, the Observer reported in 2012.

University City has been evolving rapidly, particularly since the LYNX Blue Line extension opened last year. But office development has been slow to come.

The University area has about 4 million square feet of office space inventory, according to a report from commercial real estate firm JLL.

So when IBM vacated the nearly 2-million-square-foot Innovation Park, it left that market with a large vacancy rate. Now, the property, which consists of 12 buildings, is nearly at full occupancy, with tenants like Allstate, Wells Fargo and AXA, according to a press release.

“That’s a huge hurdle to overcome,” said Brian Landes, director of research for the Carolinas at JLL.

And momentum is building as employers look for cheaper real estate, he said.

EB Arrow announced in June it was building a waterfront community off of J.W. Clay Boulevard, which includes a five-story office and civic building. The firm said at the time it would be one of the first new office buildings built in University City in over a decade.

On Thursday, Crescent Communities detailed its plans for a four-story, 158,000-square-foot office complex in University Research Park.

Bentata said that growth, and the proximity to UNC Charlotte, attracted his firm to the office park.

“The university is a major driver for corporations to be able to find talent,” he said.

Amenities at Innovation Park include two fitness centers, walking and biking trails, dry cleaning, car wash services and food and beverage options.