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Renew U ‘Green’ means go for University Research Park By Susan Shackelford At lunchtime, Jeremy Dreier likes to walk. He has for decades, ﬁrst around uptown Charlotte and now in University City. “Uptown, you have the usual cast of characters — herds of bankers, lawyers and ofﬁce workers, and as you go into Fourth Ward, residents strolling,” Dreier says. “Here, when I walk to the greenway, you’ve got joggers and walkers, but also red-shoulder hawks, white-tailed deer and wildﬂowers.” The bounty of Mother Nature pulls Dreier like a magnet. “The environment is much to my liking,” he says, noting how the greenway near his ofﬁce connects with UNC Charlotte and other Jeremy Dreier areas. “You could literally walk all day from here.” For the last three years, Dreier has worked at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in the University Research Park, an enormous business park right in the heart of University City. Before that, he worked uptown for about 20 years. Just as uptown reinvented itself during Dreier’s time there, the park is expected to do the same. And he and others believe the “green” connection will be a unifying theme for the park’s reinvention as well as for University City as it continues to grow. “There’s an old expression that stuff doesn’t grow on trees,” Dreier says, “but out here, amenities do grow on trees.” Focus on environment, branding In June, the Charlotte City Council approved an area plan for the research park that contains lots of green components, ranging from the addition of a 125-acre park around the existing Mallard Creek Greenway through the center of the park — where Dreier walks — to reshaping the park into a pedestrian, bike-friendly environment and encouraging green, energy-efﬁcient building. Furthermore, University City Partners, which led the development of the plan for the park, is rolling out a branding campaign for University City that begins with its ﬁrst media buy in November 2010. “Green” is a keyword the group kept in mind when developing the advertising and marketing effort. Continued on page 118 REALTOR® REFLECTIONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2010
LOGO COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY CITY PARTNERS.University City’s new branding campaign includes a new logo.NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2010 REALTOR® REFLECTIONS 9
10 REALTOR® REFLECTIONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2010 UNIVERSITY RES
Aerial perspective of University Research Park. RENDERING COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY CITY PARTNERSContinued from page 8 Research showed “green” rated high in focus groups and surveys. “Weare thinking about green in the broadest way, including preserving our treecover,” says Mary Hopper, executive director of University City Partners,a group that promotes University City, much like the way Center CityPartners advocates for uptown. The other two keywords infusing the branding campaign — “global” and “nGenius” — also apply to the park and University City at large. “Global” points to the area’s many international businesses (think Swedish Electrolux and IKEA, German Rack Room and French Areva) as well asMary Hopper international students and other connections atUNC Charlotte. “NGenius” ties to research conducted in the parkand at the university.Room to grow Founded in 1966, the research park began as a way for Charlotteto compete with other areas for high-tech companies. Only marginallysuccessful, the park evolved into the predominantly ofﬁce and lightindustrial park it is today. It’s primarily located between I-85 andMallard Creek Road from east to west, and Mallard Creek Church Roadand Harris Boulevard from north to south. A smaller portion is betweenHarris and City boulevards. The park and small close-by areas studied in the area plan consistof about 2,300 acres, with about a third of the acreage, 750 acres,vacant. “There is a lot of empty space to ﬁll in, much as uptown was 20years ago,” Dreier notes. Continued on page 13 NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2010 REALTOR® REFLECTIONS 11
PHOTOS COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY CITY PARTNERS12 REALTOR® REFLECTIONS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2010
University City Partners is seeking to make the Both Crocker and University City Partners’ Hopper expectpark more attractive to today’s businesses. Research the majority of the housing to be for-sale townhomes andparks around the country are doing this, including condos. “Hopefully we will have the ownership product andthe Research Triangle Park in Raleigh-Durham. “They some leasable,” Crocker says. “We would hope to have aare about a year behind us,” Hopper says. “The old nice balance between the two.”pattern (for these parks) was you hide in the woodsand surround yourself with all this buffering. This is Positive reactionsnot how you do research parks now.” Derrick Kiker with Keller Williams in University City likes the idea of adding housing to the parkAppealing to the creative class and making it a mixed-use area. “It’s really what’s Today, the companies that the park and University needed,” says Kiker, the association’s 2009 VaneCity want to attract — well-paying technology and Mingle Rookie of the Year. “It would be nice to have aresearch-oriented organizations, in particular — walking community, where you could leave your houseseek sites where employees can mingle, live near and not have to drive. It’s the way things are going — nottheir work, and enjoy the outdoors and other social spending so much time in the car and taking care of theactivities. As the new area plan for the park says, environment by not using gas.” where people can “work, live and play.” Adding housing to the park also appeals to Debbie The plan calls for the park to Higgs with the Allen Tate ofﬁce in University City. become a mixed-use, master-planned, “Its competition would be center city, and it probably conservation community. While the would be a good thing,” she says. “I would have to park would keep its current businesses see a test pilot of it.” Rhett Crocker and add more over time, it would also Jeremy Dreier, who served on the stakeholders’add two new features: housing and service retail. group that formulated the park’s area plan, hopesThe overall plan can be viewed at http://charmeck. that after watching uptown evolve he will see theorg/city/charlotte/planning/areaplanning/plans/pages/ same thing happen in University City, speciﬁcally inuniversityresearchareaplan.aspx. University Research Park. “You take a look at the The mixed-use approach is our best chance for landscape and location relative to uptown, the airport,getting high-end jobs in University City, Hopper future transit (light rail) and lakes, and you havesays. Housing would cluster primarily around the something here that screams, ‘Let’s do it right,’ ” he125-acre park called for around the greenway says. “Let’s take a little extra care and not just plowthrough the park. “I see it more as attached housing, the ground heedlessly.”hopefully higher density — creating a critical mass of residential that attracts the creative class of workers,” says Rhett Crocker, a partner in LandDesign, a Charlotte-based landscape design ﬁrm that University City Partners hired to formulate the plan.Derrick Kiker NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2010 REALTOR® REFLECTIONS 13