Job growth is solid in the major metropolitan areas of North and South Carolina, with large metro areas accounting for most of the growth in the two states. Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina, and Charleston, South Carolina, rank among the fastest-growing metro areas in the country, says Mark Vitner, managing director and senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte.
“This past decade has seen a move back into the urban centers that has benefited the Carolinas’ larger MSAs [metropolitan statistical areas] the most,” he adds. “Young people are flocking back into the cities, and businesses are moving back toward the city center in order to attract those workers.”
Employment in North Carolina is expected to increase 2.3 percent this year and personal income by 4.4 percent, Vitner says. New single-family home starts will expand by 9.5 percent, but following several years of strong gains, multifamily housing starts in North Carolina remain essentially flat. Employment in South Carolina will rise 2.7 percent and personal incomes by 4.7 percent, with new home starts up 7.7 percent and multifamily starts rising 2.5 percent.
“The Carolinas are being driven by a combination of expansions by new industry into the state and some revival in traditional sectors, including textiles and furniture,” adds Vitner. “Retirees moving to the region are helping drive new home construction and growth in health care and professional services. South Carolina continues to benefit from aggressive economic development efforts. Manufacturing activity has held up solidly, with the automotive sector and aerospace industries leading the way.”
Out-of-state capital is flowing into the Carolinas, says Chang.
“Investors are drawn by more affordable entry costs and the potential for higher returns than are available in their home markets,” he says. “The increasing supply of new multifamily properties near downtown cores is keeping institutional investors active. First-year returns in this tier of the market typically begin in the 5 percent range in Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro/Winston-Salem [in North Carolina], Greenville/Spartanburg, Columbia, and Charleston [in South Carolina].”
In the Charlotte city center, an estimated 5.3 million square feet (492,000 sq m) of office space, more than 775,000 square feet (72,000 sq m) of retail space, 9,725 housing units, and 2,600 hotel rooms are either under construction or planned, says Jon Wilson, principal at Raleigh-based consulting firm Kimley-Horn.
Kimley-Horn is involved with a number of developments, including Atlanta-based Portman Holdings’ 19-story, 370,000-square-foot (34,000 sq m) 615 South College, which is scheduled to be completed early this summer.
“The city continues to be a hot spot for a highly educated and skilled workforce—some 17,500 new degreed residents move to Charlotte each year—and improved mobility will play a role in catalyzing future growth,” Wilson says. Later this year, the Lynx Blue Line extension will be completed, allowing people to travel on light rail from Interstate 485 in southwest Charlotte through Uptown to the University of North Carolina–Charlotte in the northeast, he says. The city also broke ground in mid-January on the second phase of the CityLynx Gold Line streetcar.
Walkable urban and mixed-use communities are definitely on the rise in many of the state’s cities, says Gary Cline, president and managing principal at Cline Design Associates of Raleigh.
“As our area rapidly grows, more people are seeking residency in urban cores and mixed-use communities where they can walk or bike to work, dining, and retail,” Cline says. “The Research Triangle office market has also made a large comeback, with less than 10 percent overall vacancy. Some submarkets like downtown Durham report less than 1 percent vacancy in Class A space.”
Demand is strong for mixed-use developments such as Kane Realty’s Smokey Hollow–Peace Street mixed-use project in Raleigh, which will have 434 multifamily units and 61,000 square feet (6,000 sq m) of retail space, with estimated completion in 2019. The project was designed by Cline Design. Another project in downtown Durham scheduled to begin construction later this year is Northwood Ravin’s Van Alen, which will have 418 units in 12 stories.
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Source: Urban Land Institute