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CHARLOTTE-An influx of new residents who want to live, work and play in the shadow of Midtown skyscrapers is fueling opportunities for new businesses and other entrepreneurial ventures. This lifestyle choice is changing the city’s after-five landscape into a livelier scene.

For example, more than a dozen new restaurants and night spots have opened since last summer and two new food stores have been added. The exploding midtown market has also prompted Allen Tate Co. to open the area’s first residential real estate office.

Some of the city’s most affordable housing, called The Garden District, is being developed in First Ward. The largest project is First Ward Place, with a variety of housing options and price ranges. A 20-story tower offering 106 units is going up in Second Ward. With prices ranging from $100,000 to $500,000, 67 units have already been sold.

Gateway Village, located in Third Ward, is Bank of America and Cousins Properties’ mixed-use development offering more than 500 apartments and condominiums. The first residents are now moving into Gateway Plaza, which features 111 condos, of which only 15 units remain for sale. <pResidential development is also live and well in the Fourth Ward, one of Midtown's most prestigious addresses. Under construction here is Jefferson Square, offering 74 units ranging in price from $185,000 to $420,000. The project is scheduled for completion early in 2002.

The rental market appears to be staying in lockstep with the for-sale market, with rental rates climbing higher as the market permits. An executive apartment at Summit Grandview on Morehead Street, for example, is going for just under $3,000 per month. Sixteen multifamily projects are under construction in Midtown.

So how does all the residential activity impact the retail scene, the office market and companies looking to do business in the emerging after-five midtown market? According to Carolinas Real Data, a Charlotte real estate research firm, there is 500,000 sf of retail space in Midtown, compared to nearly two million in SouthPark. Although the future expansion of SouthPark will continue to give the retail edge to the suburbs, officials believe the city is on the brink of a retail resurgence.

For instance, Charlotte Center City Partners wants to redevelop 18 acres of publicly-owned land on North Tryon Street that could be the first of three significant retail additions to Midtown shopping options. The other two sites with potential for retail are the old Charlotte Convention Center site and the proposed Midtown arena site. These two sites, however, are caught in a political quagmire. And even though the Midtown office vacancy rate for class A space remains extremely tight, opportunities have become more plentiful for companies and entrepreneurs who want to open restaurants and other businesses.

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