The general manager at The Streets at Southpoint once held the position at a different Triangle mall: Cary Towne Center.
Cary’s once thriving mall, which opened in 1979, was reduced to rubble last spring after years of declining sales emptied it of tenants.
A decision this week by the Durham City Council may have saved Southpoint from a similar fate, Pat Anderson believes.
“Cary Towne Center was a very successful center, like Streets,” Anderson said late Tuesday night.
He started there in 1997. Southpoint opened five years later.
“When the competition opened, Cary needed an investment and that did not occur,” Anderson told council members. “I’ve lived that story. I’m appealing to you not to let this happen to The Streets at Southpoint.”
Southpoint is just a couple of years younger than Cary Towne Center was back then.
It’s fully leased most of the time and counts 11 million visitors a year. But it’s facing stiff competition, especially in Wake County, with Cary’s Fenton opening, North Hills expanding and mixed-use projects like Midtown Raleigh taking shape.
Southpoint has something they believe will prevent it from sharing Cary Towne Center’s fate: investors.
Investors are prepared to pour millions into building apartments, a hotel and offices, aiming to transform Southpoint before it loses its allure
“This is the next phase for malls,” Mayor Pro Tem Mark-Anthony Middleton said. “I want Durham to remain this region’s economic engine.”
Southpoint’s owners, international developers Brookfield Properties, had to get a rezoning from the Durham City Council to make way for the project.
Brookfield asked for permission to rezone the 132-acre property to build up to:
The move could more than double the shopping center’s square footage and allow buildings up to 10 stories high.
There’s no firm timeline for the changes or map of where they’ll build, though another attorney said much of the growth would happen on the large parking lots surrounding the mall today.
“We are not prepared to move dirt tomorrow, but this will allow us to move forward with a multi-year plan,” Anderson said.
Tuesday night’s vote in favor of the rezoning was split 5-2, with Mayor Elaine O’Neal and council member Javiera Caballero voting no.
“I think what you have is better than what’s on the ground, and that’s compelling,” said council member Jillian Johnson.
Affordable housing was the chief sticking point. Southpoint doesn’t plan to include any, instead offering a $1 million donation to the city’s housing fund.
The Planning Commission shared concerns about the lack of affordable housing, voting 10-3 not to recommend the project in March.
“When I start to hear people talk about, ‘We’re going to put market-rate housing here and we’re going to put affordable housing somewhere else,’ that sounds a lot like a road we’ve been down before in this country,” Planning Commission Chair Austin Amandolia said in that meeting.
“Sounds a lot like segregation,” Amandolia said. “That’s wrong.”
Brookfield’s owners argued they couldn’t make affordable housing work financially for two reasons:
Just as the Planning Commission did three months ago, a couple of City Council members asked if the developers could delay and come back in the fall with a stronger proposal.
Just as they did then, the suited men stepped away from the lectern and whispered among themselves.
And just as they did then, the developers said no. It’s a volatile market and waiting could lead them to lose investors, they said.
“This will allow us to continue to invest 100% private dollars and not have our hands out in a moment of weakness,” Brookfield senior vice president Jason Bonnet said.
“Time kills deals,” Anderson said.
This story was originally published June 22, 2023, 1:19 PM.
The Alliance acts in a business advisory capacity to the city of Chesapeake (staff and City Council) representing the opinion of the city’s business leaders on several key initiatives undertaken by the city.
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