Wal-Mart project to start major retail development in Charlotte

Apr. 28--At one of Charlotte's longest simmering shopping center sites, construction of the first building -- a Wal-Mart Supercenter -- is expected to start next month.

The 39 acres on North Tryon Street near City Boulevard came into play more than 15 years ago when one of the property owners talked with Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton about building a store there.

Now, if all goes as planned, the Supercenter will open in May 2009.

At least four developers tried to buy the land and build on it before Ken Raznick of Farmington Hills, Mich.-based KSJ Development Co. stepped in nearly four years ago.

"My daughter was teaching in Huntersville and I was here on a visit just looking around," he said. "I realized the area was going through a transformation, and if I didn't get this land under contract someone else would."

As it turned out, he said, working through the approval process and getting clearance for needed transportation improvements were more time-consuming than he anticipated.

"This is the longest project I have ever worked on in my life," said Raznick, who has been developing for 32 years.

City and state approval of a traffic light on North Tryon at the entrance to the center is what finally helped him secure Wal-Mart as the anchor, he said.

Wal-Mart and Raznick worked with the agencies on the signal and the extension of University City Drive west across Tryon into the center.

They also plan to add lanes on Tryon to improve access. A light-rail station is proposed on Tryon across from the center.

Raznick's efforts began before Crescent Resources disclosed last year that Swedish home furnishings retailer IKEA would anchor a 175-acre neighboring development named Belgate.

Now, he said, the developers are cooperating to make sure their projects will mesh.

The 356,000-square-foot IKEA store is under construction and expected to open in spring 2009 on City Boulevard next to Interstate 85.

Raznick said Wal-Mart plans to start construction in mid-May and open its 176,000-square-foot Supercenter and 14,000-square-feet of outdoor display space in University Pointe by May 2009.

He estimated Wal-Mart is spending about $20 million for its part of the 250,000-square-foot center.

KSJ's portion will total about $30 million and includes four street front parcels, space for small shops and potentially a couple of junior anchor stores of 10,000 to 15,000 square feet.

Raznick said the design of University Pointe will lean toward upscale and feature park benches, fountains, extensive landscaping and outdoor seating.

Wal-Mart expects to sell its building on J.W. Clay Boulevard at University Place in the University City area after the new Supercenter opens.

Raznick, who lives in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., said he's sold on Charlotte, especially the University City area.

He's negotiating, he said, to buy more property for future development that could help push revitalization southward on Tryon toward the center city.

"Charlotte is only going to get better," Raznick said. "It's the total opposite of where I live in Michigan."


University Pointe

Location: North Tryon Street at Brookside Lane adjacent to a planned IKEA-anchored center.

Size: 250,000 square feet, including a Wal-Mart Supercenter, shops, junior anchors, frontage parcels.

Timetable: Wal-Mart construction to start by mid-May with completion in May 2009. Other shops to open by summer 2009.

Developer: Ken Raznick of KSJ Development Co. began development career after the family business, Vlasic Pickles, was sold in 1978.

Development team: Matrix Real Estate Services, construction management; Childrey Robinson Associates and Robert Johnson Architects, architects; Stewart Engineering, project engineer.

Lender: KSJ is negotiating with RBC Centura Bank for financing.

Leasing: The Providence Group of the Carolinas, Roy Crain, Malcolm McLean.

Information: www.provgrp.com. Doug Smith

Copyright (c) 2008, The Charlotte Observer, N.C. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.