Here’s Johnny – Developer Johnny Harris

He’s no Donald Trump, but Charlotte developer Johnny Harris likes to say it straight, too. Speaking to commercial real-estate professionals at the annual meeting of NAIOP’s North Carolina chapter in Pinehurst last week, he quoted retail legend John Belk: “When you are the oldest guy in the room, you can say anything you want to.”

When you serve on the board of utility giant Southern Co., run Quail Hollow Club (motto: “Greatness has a home”), enjoy an Augusta National membership and hold interests in massive real-estate projects, you can also say about anything you want.

Harris shared the stage with John Kane of Raleigh and Robin Team of Lexington, both North Carolina real-estate powerhouses. Harris dominated the discussion, not unlike the way Trump overshadowed his rivals during the oft-raucous Republican debates.

Here are some of Harris’ insights:

  • If you’ve got a problem with fracking “you are stupid.”
  • If Nikki Haley was our governor, North Carolina would dominate industrial recruiting in the South.
  • Americans should be concerned that their likely choices for president are so lacking.
  • The Triangle could rival Silicon Valley’s tech industry, except poor political leadership blocks light rail.
  • Charlotte hasn’t been the same since the city council changed to district representation.
  • South Boulevard, once the armpit of Charlotte before light rail, is attracting young people who previously preferred Atlanta. They won’t ride buses, but they love trains.
  • North Carolina would benefit from a privately funded bullet train, similar to Fortress Group’s proposed plan linking Miami and Orlando.
  • Some multi level parking lots will be converted to other uses because millennials don’t want to own cars.
  • Governments should offer incentives to any expansions or new project that create jobs.
  • N.C. Commerce Secretary John Skvarla is fighting with one hand tied behind his back because of state Republican lawmakers.
  • Margaret Spellings is a great leader who will reorganize the UNC system very effectively.
  • Overly optimistic real-estate developers didn’t cause the 2007-09 recession. Trading of little-understood mortgage-backed securities deserves the blame.
  • Today’s least attractive real-estate assets are suburban office buildings. Office dwellers want to walk, not drive, to nearby lunch spots.

Click here to view this article written by David Mildenberg.


Can’t We Just Get Along?

One can’t expect a group of developers to get together without a bit of complaining about the difficulty of the development process. Sherrie Chaffin, director of development at Trinity Capital Advisors in Charlotte, helped fill that role during a panel discussion at NAIOP’s statewide conference.

“Charlotte, as most of you in this room know, is a challenging place for new development,” Chaffin said, pointing to an array of permitting and inspection services required. “NAIOP is leading the charge to get us through some of the challenges that are in our way.”

One perennial issue in Charlotte is a bifurcated process in which the city accepts a project or provides a site-plan permit, while Mecklenburg County approves building plans and undertakes inspections. “So you’ve got two entities that don’t always play well in the same sandbox working on the same project,” said Chaffin, a native of Oak Ridge, Tenn., and a graduate of Auburn University’s architecture college. “Needless to say, it takes a lot of time, a lot of discipline and a lot of money to get a project rezoned in Charlotte.”

Chaffin also made some intriguing comments on how space needs for office workers in Charlotte has changed as the city has diversified beyond banking. The traditional metric of 250 square feet per office worker has been cut in half or more, she said.

She used Trinity as an example: The developer is adding 13 spaces at its offices, without expanding its footprint. “It’s an example of how the market is changing and how things are post-recession,” she said.

The recession prompted Bank of America and Wells Fargo to shed space, lay off people and gravitate to their own real estate rather than multi tenant buildings, she noted. But the flipside is that lots of talent from those banks started their own businesses. “Our tenant mix changed dramatically,” she said, with newer companies seeking “a more creative, more attractive solution that allows smaller tenants need to attract talent.”

Chaffin joined Trinity in 2003, two years after Gary Chesson co-founded the firm. She oversees development from inception to design.

Trinity, whose other partners include Walker Collier III and Jeff Sheehan, has bought or developed more than $1.8 billion of property in the Southeast. Its notable Charlotte-area projects include the Nascar Plaza and Ally Center buildings in downtown Charlotte and Toringdon Office Park in south Charlotte.

Click here to view this article written by David Mildenberg.

Smart Vests to Monitor Construction Workers’ Health

An innovative smart vest developed by researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, uses sensors to monitor a construction worker’s body temperature and heart rate. It sends the data wirelessly to a smartphone app, which alerts wearers or their supervisors to early warning signs of heat-related illness.

According to, Dr. Ruwini Edirisinghe, a research fellow at the university’s School of Property, Construction and Project Management, has been working on the smart vest concept for more than a year. Noting that heat-related illness is a serious concern that can lead to permanent disability and even death, she commented that: “A big part of the problem is some workers don’t recognize the early warning signs. This technological solution will hopefully change that.”

The vest is believed to be the first of its type. Researchers plan to extend the smart vest technology to smart glasses, so wearers can see the health warnings without having to look at their phones.

From March 22, 2016 NAIOP Source – Click here to view article.

Can SouthPark Retain its Chill?

As SouthPark booms with new housing and offices, planners say Charlotte’s “second downtown” needs to adapt to a culture less tied to cars — and somehow alleviate the area’s traffic congestion.

Despite its glitzy appearance and abundant construction, the SouthPark neighborhood faces significant challenges because of its  disconnected design and an inability to widen existing roads connecting it to downtown, says Craig Lewis, a principal in Charlotte with the Stantec consulting company.

To be sure, SouthPark has enormous strengths: More than 40,000 people work there, including at the headquarters of Coca-Cola Consolidated, Nucor and Piedmont Natural Gas, says City Councilman Kenny Smith, a commercial real-estate broker with New South Properties of the Carolinas who represents the area. About 800 apartments have opened in the last year, with another 1,000 under construction, while property values of nearby homes are soaring. While the Harris family or their joint ventures developed the mall and most of the property at SouthPark, more major developers are involved in the $750 million of development underway or planned. Simon Property Group, the largest U.S. public retail property owner, owns Charlotte’s biggest mall.

Click here to read the full article written by David Mildenberg.

Tax Subcommittee Hearing on Tax Reform

Continuing efforts to move closer to fundamental tax reform, the chairman of the Subcommittee on Tax Policy of the House Ways and Means Committee announced last week that he would hold a hearing on proposals made by members of Congress to rewrite the nation’s tax code. The March 22 hearing was expected to focus primarily on cash flow and consumption-based approaches to taxation. Chairman Charles Boustany (R-LA) is expected to focus specifically on elements of the American Business Competitiveness Act (H.R. 4377) introduced by Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA) earlier this year.

Nunes’ bill, known as the “ABC Act,” would, among other things, allow for 100 percent, same-year expensing for business investments and set a maximum business tax rate of 25 percent. The bill would also convert the U.S. tax system from a worldwide system to a territorial system, as exists in other advanced industrialized countries. Moving to a territorial system would also incentivize U.S. multinational corporations to repatriate overseas profits, according to the bill’s sponsors.

The hearing will be the first in a series of planned subcommittee hearings on tax reform proposals being floated in Congress. The next hearing will focus on income-based approaches to taxation. The hearings are intended to help set the stage for moving on comprehensive tax reform legislation very early in the next presidential administration.

From March 22, 2016 NAIOP Source – Click here to view article.

Creating Outdoor Places that are Social, Sustainable and Smart

With a mission of creating outdoor places that are social, sustainable and smart, MIT Media Lab startup Soofa has introduced Soofa Bench, a solar-powered charging bench that offers USB connections for tablets and phones. This bench is part of a trend of smart urban street furniture.

According to a Development magazine article written by Ed Krafcik, director of Soofa’s strategic partnerships and business development, and Isabel Munson, Soofa senior data strategist, the Soofa Bench is increasingly popular in public parks, city streets, dense mixed-use neighborhoods and residential tower roof gardens.

The benches are connected to the Internet and serve as data collection points, measuring everything from air quality to pedestrian traffic and transmitting that sensor data to the cloud where it is analyzed. The data has potential for helping building owners better understand how people are using space.

Read more about the Soofa Bench in the Winter 2015/2016 issue of Development magazine.

From March 22, 2016 NAIOP Source – Click here to view article.

Behind the Scenes of an $850M Industrial Megaproject

It’s no secret that a project on the scale of the 1.5-million-square-foot, $850-million National Security Campus would present both opportunities and challenges for development. CenterPoint Properties’ development of the National Security Campus in Kansas City, MO, is one of the dynamic projects being explored at NAIOP’s I.CON: Impact Projects. In advance of the event, spoke exclusively about the project with CenterPoint’s chief development officer and development team leader on the project, Michael Murphy.

CenterPoint has been involved with the large-scale project from the start, executing the site procurement, financing, design and construction and now the operations of the facility, including asset and property management.

From March 22, 2016 NAIOP Source – Click here to view article.