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CHARLOTTE-After losing out to Pennsylvania-based LCOR Inc., locally-based Spectrum Properties is preparing to bid again on the Uptown 3.3-acre convention center site, now that LCOR’s proposal has been rejected. Spectrum’s development plan is a little different this time. It calls for demolishing the old center and constructing a complex that resembles the entertainment retail centers in Denver and Memphis, TN.

Spectrum president Darryl Dewberry has talked about a project similar to Peabody Place in Memphis. That retail center, put together by Belz Enterprises, contains 300,000 sf and is scheduled to open next year. In addition to some 40 specialty shops, the center will offer a 21-screen movie complex and other entertainment-related components. Dewberry promises to make the site accessible to the restored trolley and light-rail lines.

City Council will vote on Spectrum’s proposal in January. No one else is after the property. For the city, a quick land sale would mean money in its treasury. For example, interest alone on a minimum $13 million transaction, would give the city $780,000 annually. The city estimates that annual costs for maintaining the convention center range from $100,000 to $500,000.

Mayor Pat McCroy has suggested demolishing the old center and converting it into park space until the best deal can be struck. But the demolition costs, estimated at $1.8 million, have negated this option. Real estate experts believe a slowing economy could delay a retail center at the site, without some form of public help. Some members of the council say that holding the property for another year or two might provide better economic conditions.

Within the next two years, Uptown will have another 2,300 apartments and condominiums and 30% more hotel rooms. In addition, just down the street from the old convention center, Lincoln Harris has proposed a 500,000-sf office tower with street-level retail. No one in city government is proposing anything but private development at the site. So far, proposals to sell the property for the highest price have met with little success.

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