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MAY 04 2015

Changes coming to Ballantyne Village®

By: Elisabeth Arriero (earriero@charlotteobserver.com)

Original Article


Charlotte N.C. - The investors who purchased the troubled Ballantyne Village property nearly two years ago are seeing their rebranding vision realized, with new restaurants and expansions planned for the center’s near future, village general manager Ed Camp said.

Village owners “started on a long-range plan to re-merchandize the center to make it more family friendly,” Camp said. “They wanted to create a village atmosphere and get away from being a high-end destination.”

Vision Ventures and Mount Vernon Asset Management purchased the property in October 2013 for $26.1 million. Before that, the property had a troubled past that included foreclosure.

Both organizations have experience redeveloping properties, having previously bought, refurbished and sold the EpiCentre in uptown Charlotte.

In a March 30 progress report, the owners of the 166,000-square-foot Ballantyne Village said they’ve recently completed a $500,000 renovation, which includes new directional signs, permanent directories and a major new plaza and gathering area at the center of the property.

The report also listed several additions coming to Ballantyne Village.

One of the major changes will be an 11,000-square-foot Village Market featuring specialty foods in a cluster of seven to eight different retail outlets.

The market will offer a variety of items, from chocolates to fresh seafood to craft beers, Camp said. He said new leases are expected to be announced soon for the Village Market, expected to open in late fall at the earliest.

Meanwhile, BlackFinn Ameripub, whose first Charlotte location was in the EpiCentre, recently announced it will open a second location at Ballantyne Village, replacing Villa Antonio. The new BlackFinn property is expected to open in 2016.

The restaurant’s concept focuses on American food, craft beers and cocktails.

Villa Antonio will relocate from its 6,000-square-foot venue to a 4,000-square-foot location in the complex to launch its new concept, Gusto Pasta. The restaurant, which will be on the other side of Mellow Mushroom near TCBY, will feature sangria, fresh pasta and tapas.

Anthony Garcia, general manager of Villa Antonio, said it was time for the restaurant, which has been in business for 28 years, to make a change.

“Trends come and go, and fine dining is a thing of the past or at least on its way out,” Garcia said. “We want to keep up with the trends.… It’s a breath of fresh air for us.”

He said dining is moving toward a more casual atmosphere, noting that “people don’t have time for a two-hour meal anymore.”

He said that the changes will also complement Ballantyne Village’s vision to become more family-friendly. Garcia said he hopes the restaurant opens in mid-June.

Other changes announced for the complex include:

  • Tinder Box Cigars opening a 1,000-square-foot location.
  • Shear Excellence, a men’s grooming salon, opening its second Charlotte location.
  • Terrace Café expanding by 1,000 square feet. It also is expected to offer a new banquet area.
  • Rush Espresso will relocate to the Village Market.

Anupa Pierre, who relocated to south Charlotte about a year ago from the New York City metropolitan area, said she’s looking forward to seeing a more diverse food selection.

“The hardest thing about coming here was the diversity of food options,” she said.

A long-running parking dispute at the complex was resolved recently through an agreement with the adjoining property owner.

All parking spaces in the deck and surface lots were immediately opened for use by center visitors. Additionally, blockades in front of spaces were removed and legal actions by both companies were dropped.

The dispute stretched back to fall 2013: Former owner and original developer Bob Bruner retained ownership of three parcels of the property through his company, Ballantyne Village Parking LLC, including two parking lots and a three-story parking deck connected to shopping center stores by a pedestrian bridge.

Bruner had kept the lots closed as he explored how to develop them for other uses. To keep shoppers out, he used fences, planters and eventually metal poles called bollards to block access to the surface lots and parking deck.

Camp said he was “pleased” the dispute had ended, and said customers are, too.

“The center has a bright future,” he said. “We’re trying to make the shopping center a place to relax and enjoy while you spend time with each other.”

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