Charlotte Lands Lowe’s for $153M Tech Hub

The home improvement retailer plans to fill the new, 357,000-square-foot innovation center in the city's South End neighborhood with as many as 2,000 professionals.
Design Center Tower. Rendering courtesy of Lowe’s

Home improvement giant Lowe’s has chosen Charlotte, N.C., as the location for its new innovation center, leasing up the entire 357,000-square-foot office portion of an upcoming tower where it will house an army of tech professionals.

The retailer plans to hire up to 2,000 workers from software engineers to data scientists for the new global technology hub, which will span 15 upper floors in the 23-story building being developed by Childress Klein and Ram Realty Advisors. Lowe’s will invest $153 million in the project, which will carry its branding.

The developers plan to break ground on the project in August and Lowe’s aims to move in by late 2021. Design Center Tower will occupy a site at 100 W. Worthington Ave., within the bustling South End neighborhood of central Charlotte. Lowe’s commitment will kick off the development of the previously speculative project. The building will also include ground-floor retail.

Childress Klein and Ram Realty filed plans with the city for the new project in March, according to an account in the Charlotte Business Journal. The site is adjacent to the Lynx Blue Line light rail, the Rail Trail urban path, restaurants, parking and housing.

Site-hunting with JLL

JLL’s International Directors Rob Metcalf and Meredith O’Connor handled the transaction, with Metcalfe acting as the real estate specialist while O’Connor specialized in incentives. “The urban market, the walkability of that market area, the tech talent accessibility—all were drivers in the decision-making for that location,” Metcalf noted to Commercial Property Executive.

The brokerage scoured the U.S. and Canada in search of a market that met Lowe’s requirements for access to a technology labor force. The team narrowed down the pool of candidate cities from a couple dozen to just three—Nashville, Dallas and Charlotte—ultimately settling on the latter after a close study of the real estate market and labor base in each urban center.

The process kicked off in February and wrapped up last week with the selection of Charlotte and the lease commitment, Metcalf explained. Lowe’s, which is headquartered in Morrisville, N.C., already operates 21 stores and has nearly 11,000 associates on its payroll in Charlotte.

Investing in tech

Design Center Tower. Rendering courtesy of Lowe’s

Lowe’s said in a statement that it expects to fill the first 400 new tech roles this year. The average salary for the new positions will be more than $117,000. Lowe’s has thousands of existing tech specialists, and the acceleration of hiring comes after the retailer announced plans last year to invest more than $500 million annually through 2021 in technology transformation.

While the new facility is being built, Lowe’s will place tech professionals in an interim space more than a mile to the northeast at the Charlotte Plaza, located at 201 S. College St. in Uptown, the city’s central business district. The company will take up 200,000 square feet of office space on floors three through 10 of the property.

The state of North Carolina has agreed to provide up to $54 million in tax incentives to be paid over 12 years if Lowe’s, which reported $71.3 billion in total revenue in fiscal year 2018, meets certain investment and job creation targets.

Office construction is booming in the historic South End neighborhood just south of Uptown. The growing community has become a magnet for corporate expansions and relocations for firms such as LendingTree. According to JLL data cited by The Charlotte Ledger, office supply in the Midtown/South End areas has surged by 40 percent or 1.2 million square feet in the last four years, outpacing all other Charlotte submarkets.

The Spectrum Cos. teamed up with Invesco Real Estate last year to develop a five-acre parcel on South Tryon Street at Carson Boulevard into a mixed-use property with 440,000 square feet of office space that will link South End and Uptown.