By: Felipe Rivas
2 min read March 2020 — Charlotte has recently become the new headquarters for several national corporations, with tech giant Honeywell and online lender Lending Tree among those moving into the city. Goodwill on the part of the city’s officials and private sector leaders has allowed the city to promote itself more aggressively in recent years. In an interview with Invest: Charlotte, The Spectrum Companies CEO Darryl Dewberry talks about infrastructure challenges and reimagining affordable housing to make it happen.
What is making Charlotte a more attractive city for company relocations?
Over the last few years, several elements have come together to make Charlotte an even more attractive city to live and work and to help promote Charlotte in a more powerful way that includes surrounding counties as one unified region. The Charlotte Regional Business Alliance brings the region together in a new way from an economic standpoint. Charlotte Center City Partners has made changes that expanded its reach outside the CBD to both the south and north. The latest game-changer was the city creating a group headed by Tracy Dodson as an assistant city manager to focus on coordinating the private and public sectors in the recruitment of new companies to our city.
How do you work the mixture of new-from-scratch to refurbishing older structures when looking at one of your projects?
It depends on where you are. Charlotte is not blessed with a lot of what I call the “brick and beam” stock, those older industrial buildings such as in south of Market in San Francisco that have been reimagined without being torn down. Charlotte’s South End has some of those authentic buildings, but most of what we’ve had to do as a community is create that. It takes a lot of imagination and a commitment to quality, but we are creating environments that have a soul, even without the benefit of those original brick-and-beam buildings. And while this poses some unique challenges, we’ve been successful in developing mixed-use neighborhoods and projects that have a great energy and synergy that attracts people and companies.
Spectrum is in the mixed-use, multifamily residential and office business. We also do some hospitality. What we have found to be most powerful is bringing together multiple uses such as hospitality, office, retail, multifamily and other combinations. It makes it more complex, and it takes longer, but if you do it right and create synergies, you create soul. The projects change lives by creating special places, which is the mission behind everything we do.
What strategies are being put in place in the city to promote affordable housing?
We need a more comprehensive plan that brings together the public and private sectors locally and at the state level to address our critical lack of affordable housing. We’ve been talking as a community about building 300 truly affordable housing units a year, but we need more supply than that. The public-private effort that has raised more than $100 million for affordable housing is a good start, but it is not going to go that far.
What challenges could Charlotte start facing as it continues to grow?
Charlotte has to make sure it does not become complacent. We have transformed our public sector, adding a lot more perspectives than we had 10 years ago. It causes some friction, but overall, everybody works together really well. There is a lot of collaboration and different perspectives coming together as the community becomes more diverse, and this is producing ideas and developments that are more dynamic and attractive long term.
One of our biggest challenges is to make sure that we have the infrastructure in place: water, sewer service, electricity, and services in general. That is an area where our community has done a great job relative to competitor locations.
Another challenge, on a regional basis, is transportation. People talk about affordable housing, which is a serious need in every community, but you have to be able to get people to and from their jobs as well. We really need to step on the accelerator on developing the east-west light rail Silver Line, which would dramatically increase access to jobs. We also want to make sure that we continue to invest in our airport, which continues to be one of Charlotte’s primary economic drivers because it can easily take people anywhere in the world.
To learn more about our interviewee, visit: https://www.spectrumcos.com/