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  Greensboro Condos - Developer expands plan for

  airport high rise

The Business Journal of the Greater Triad Area - June 30, 2006
by Matt Harrington
The Business Journal

Developer Harry Falk has enlarged plans for his Triad Tower project near Piedmont Triad International Airport, with the new, taller version adding residential and retail components to the once office-only project.

The 25-story building, which includes three levels of underground parking and 22 floors above ground, is now expected to be valued at as much as $100 million.

Plans are still being finalized for the building to be located on Triad Center Drive, across the street from another office building Falk developed, so the mix of office, retail and residential space is not yet known.

Falk did say he expects the residential component to be as much as 30 percent or 40 percent of the available space. He plans to lease or sell space as small as 800 square feet and going as large as an entire floor, which could comprise up to 20,000 square feet.

Also planned for the project are multiple restaurants, including at least one that would be at the top of the 360-foot-high tower. Also in the works are plans for an observation deck to watch the planes take off and land at PTI, and a two-story aquarium with three saltwater tanks. There's also the possibility of an Imax theater, Falk said.

"Suffice it to say, I'm trying to make this a destination and a point of interest in the state of North Carolina," he said.

When the project was first announced two years ago, the plan was for a 14-story tower with at least 140,000 square feet of office space. But that announcement was made when the Triad economy was still recovering from the 2001 recession. And Falk, who at the time said he hoped to have the building completed by the end of 2007, delayed the start of any construction while gauging demand in the area and performing soil tests to see how many stories the ground could support. He believes he can still hit his original deadline.

During that time, Falk said he had "numerous inquiries from people who wanted us to introduce a residential component and make this a mixed-use building."

At 60 percent office space, the new design for Triad Tower would still have more than 160,000 square feet of office space, even more than the original plan. Falk said he believes the Triad has seen the worst of the office market and is poised to rebound.

"We've been doing a tremendous amount of planning in the background," Falk said of the time since July 2004. "With the infrastructure in the area, the transportation system and the future FedEx hub, we're at the center of the boom belt. I feel very, very strongly that Greensboro as well as the whole Triad will continue to recover."

He added that according to his research, the position of the proposed Triad Tower will not make it subject to any height restrictions from the Federal Aviation Administration, a concern in the design the first time around. The project will still need to be approved by city entities, however.

Size still in limbo

What isn't known at this point is exactly how big Triad Tower might be, or how many residences might be included. Falk said he is deciding between two different sizes for the building.

The larger, which he prefers, would be 20,000 square feet per floor, or 440,000 square feet total. The smaller footprint would have a floor size of 12,500 square feet, for 275,000 square feet above ground. Neither of those figures include the three below-ground levels of parking. The final decision on the building's size will be based on market demand, but it will need to be made soon.

Falk said he hopes to be pouring the foundation by the end of this year and believes he can have the building completed by the end of 2007.

Falk said Triad Tower would cost about $1 million per floor just for the shell of the space, with finishing costs adding to that figure. He said he expected office and retail lease rates to be between $18 and $25 per square foot.

Bringing residential units into play gives the Tower a new twist, plus the demand has been high, he said.

"The wave of the future are these mixed-use properties," he said. "There's just been such an interest for residential space."

Falk said much of the funding for the project appears to be secured but, much the way that Roy Carroll is getting public help to convert the Wachovia building in downtown Greensboro into a condo project he is calling Center Pointe, Falk plans to check on the possibility of incentives from the city to help defray the costs of his project.

"I don't see the difference of why (the city) should encourage downtown Greensboro development over the downtown Triad," Falk said.

Mixed-use lowers risk

While some commercial brokers in the Triad disagree on how strong the office market demand might be -- vacancy rates still hover around 20 percent -- the idea of a mixed-use project helps limit some of the risk.

In fact, several commercial real estate brokers have told The Business Journal since the original announcement that the first plan would require a giant leap of faith to add that amount of space to a slow office market, and they weren't surprised that construction didn't begin immediately.

"I think he was wise to step back and evaluate the marketplace," said Dan Lynch, president of the Greensboro Economic Development Corp. "A healthy mix (of uses) broadens the attractiveness and helps lower the risk."

Richard Beard, a partner with Simpson Schulman & Beard in Greensboro, said that the Tower would have a better chance for success with the larger dimensions, citing the former Wachovia tower in downtown Greensboro as an example of a building that couldn't attract some larger companies because the size of the floors is considered small by today's standards.

Like Falk's other developments, Triad Tower is expected to be top-of-the-line when it comes to technology, featuring many "smart building" features such as redundant power-supply systems, high-speed elevators, soundproofing and possibly even retinal-scan security systems.

Bill Monroe, president of WGM Design Inc. in Charlotte, is the architect, and High Point-based Kirkland Inc. and Falcon Construction, also owned by Falk, are the general contractors. The property will be managed by Falcon Management Corp., another Falk entity.

Falk stressed that subcontractors would be hired and materials purchased, whenever possible, from Triad-based companies.

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