The Charlotte Observer: Architecture firm moving to atypical office space uptown

May 5, 2014

Architecture firm moving to atypical office space uptown

Historical significance, dramatic features make Cotton Mills appealing

A Charlotte architectural firm has purchased half of a historic building in Charlotte Cotton Mills at Fifth and Graham streets uptown. ESD Architecture will move in mid-December from Mint Street to a two-story, 12,700-square-foot space in the office-residential project, developed by Crescent Resources and Pappas Properties.”We wanted to be uptown, but we didn’t want to go into a typical office space,” said Clay Elder, president and managing partner of the architectural, interior design and project management firm.

“We want our clients to say, `Wow, that’s incredible,’ ” he said.

ESD plans to capitalize on the “dramatic features and rich history” of the mill that operated on the site from 1881 until the 1920s. Elder said his firm’s architects are incorporating the exposed brick, plank floors, giant wooden beams and large windows into the interior design.

What will a visitor notice?”

Look to the right when you enter, and you see all of the heavy timber construction and a monumental staircase” made of wood and steel, he said. ESD paid about $2.3 million for the office condo space, and the firm expects to spend about $300,000 to finish out the interior, Elder said. Crescent Resources and Pappas Properties started the Cotton Mills construction and renovation about three years ago with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission.

The developers restored the 500 West Fifth building, and the landmarks commission bought and restored the companion 508 West Fifth building. In addition, Crescent and Pappas also included new construction in Cotton Mills. They developed an adjacent 183-unit loft-apartment building, which is now 98 percent leased. Pappas Properties said about 12,000 square feet of office space remains available in the building occupied by ESD. About 7,600 square feet is under contract in the landmarks commission’s 32,000-square-foot building.

The commission says the buildings represent a turning point in the evolution of Charlotte. Robert Marcus Oates and his three nephews — David, John and James Oates — built Charlotte Cotton Mills, the city’s first cotton mill, at a time when civic leaders were debating whether to remain a community of shopkeepers or encourage new industry.

The mill buildings were occupied from 1936 through 1998 by Speizman Industries Inc.

As for Elder, this isn’t his first experience with adaptive reuse. His 25-employee firm will move from an office condo he purchased in the 82-year-old Industrial & Textile Supply Co. building, which was renovated about six years ago at 1300 S. Mint St. A tenant will lease the space ESD, which specializes in banking and corporate architecture, had outgrown, he said.

“We wanted to move closer to uptown,” Elder said. “Our corporate clients who are not in Charlotte fly in and stay in the hotels uptown. When we meet in my office, it will be a lot easier and convenient to go to lunch and be within walking distance of their hotels.” Will Whitley of New South Properties of the Carolinas represented ESD in its purchase at Cotton Mills. Don Moore of Heartland Contracting LLC is doing the firm’s interior restoration.