Custom Search

Friday, July 16, 2010

Charlotte, NC Loses Major Uptown Attraction To Foreclosure (EpiCenter)

This is what happens in a Metropolitan region when the City leaders (including the Black Mayor) refuse to invest money in Black/ Minority Businesses and Urban Planning or Urban Renewal.

ALL of the money (including Stimulus Funding & other Grants) for Economic Development is only invested in ventures to develop or uplift areas utilized by Wealthy, Caucasian citizens or the city's "Elite".

Than when the Economy tanks a HUGE Foreclosure is what that city or county gets in return.

Should have invested some of that $90 Million into Black-Owned & Urban Businesses.

ha ha ha

Charlotte Businesses Surprised At EpiCentre Foreclosure Filing

The morning after Regions Bank started Foreclosure proceedings against the Charlotte EpiCentre, the corridors of the Uptown Entertainment and restaurant mecca were pretty quiet.

But as dinner hour rolls around, restaurant owners say every table will be filled. Clubs and bars are so busy on weekends that customers say they sometimes can’t get in because the lines are too long.

“I thought they were doing pretty good,” said Bobby Wallace, 51, who works in uptown and says he often comes over to the EpiCentre during his breaks. “There’s a lot of businesses out here that bring in a lot of revenue…When you come out on a weekend, it’s pretty loaded. I don’t understand what’s going on.”

But while businesses thrive, the developers of the complex are facing financial difficulties.

Regions Bank began foreclosure proceedings against the EpiCentre after its developer, Afshin Ghazi, and related affiliates failed to make timely payments when a $90 million loan matured in May, according to a notice filed Thursday in Mecklenburg County.

Most restaurant managers said they had no idea about the foreclosure before they saw news reports.

“There was no communication,” John Brush, general manager of Libretto’s Pizzeria & Italian Kitchen, said Friday morning. “I found out about it right here…it’s seven minutes ago that I knew.”

Patrick Bader, assistant manager of Enso Asian Bistro & Sushi Bar, said Friday he hadn’t heard the news at all.

“As far as management, we haven’t heard anything,” he said. “We’ve always known Ghazi has had some problems with the EpiCentre…but we didn’t know the extent of it.”

Work on the EpiCentre began roughly five years ago, when Ghazi bought the old convention center site from Bank of America and the former Wachovia.

The banks had acquired it from the city as part of the Bobcats arena deal. Ghazi worked out an agreement with the city and county to demolish the convention center and got a $6.5 million pledge from local officials for infrastructure improvements and other work.

Ghazi initially secured $62.5 million against the site at 101 S. College St. in May 2005. He twice increased the amount secured by the EpiCentre –first in June 2007, to $88 million. Less than a year later, after retailers and restaurants opened, the loan was increased to $90 million.

But whatever financial problems the developers may be facing, restaurant managers say they haven’t had any problem getting customers.

Brush said Libretto’s gets great crowds at lunch, dinner, and even late night dining as people leave the bars and clubs.

Enso is at full capacity every day and can usually get about 500-600 dinner customers on a weekend. Last weekend, it had around 900 people come in for dinner, Bader said.

“It’s busy,” said Dhaval Doshi, 25, of Charlotte, who was visiting the EpiCentre Friday morning. “I’ve been here in the evenings going to clubs.”

The lack of retail in the complex has made business more challenging for boutique stores like RedSky Gallery, said gallery manager, Ellen Petticrew.

In addition to RedSky, two clothing stores, a fudge shop, an AT&T store, a convenience store, and a CVS round out the retail selections.

“That’s more a fault of the city of Charlotte than anything else…we just need to get retail downtown,” said Brandon Viebrock, owner of the EpiCentre’s Revolution clothing store and co-owner of Mortimer’s CafĂ© and Pub. “We’re the only game in town at the moment.”

But Petticrew noted that most of the vacancies in the complex are because a business has yet to come in, not because a company has packed up and left.

Restaurant employees say EpiCentre’s location and reputation as a downtown hangout make it a prime destination for Charlotte nightlife and are key to attracting customers.

“I think the EpiCentre is great because it’s given people one place to go to with plenty of options…there’s no place that compares to it in Charlotte,” said Jason Gilbert, a manager of Mez restaurant.

And that’s why business owners say they’re not worried about what will happen to the EpiCentre if the foreclosure proceedings are completed.

“Even if the bank takes over, I don’t think it will be shut down,” Bader said. “There’s way too much at stake here as far as traffic and what it contributes to downtown.”

View Larger Map

Sources:, McClatchy Newspapers, Google Maps

No comments: