This article was originally published in The Charlotte Observer.

Fresh Market Prompted Renovation, will Get Larger Building Closer to Road Strawberry Hill Developer to Raze Nearby Buildings That Hold 38 Apartments, 5 Businesses

Plans are in the works to expand and revamp a popular south Charlotte shopping center – and demolish nearby apartments to make room for the work. Developer The Carolina Group and owner Marsh Properties want to redesign the Strawberry Hill shopping center near Providence and Sardis Roads to increase its visibility and pedestrian friendliness. The expansion will more than double the size of the shopping center, bringing it to 76,000 sqaure feet, Carolina Group partner, Steve Vermillion said.

“The center has no visibility,” he said. “It’s buried back there.”

The project resulted from talks with The Fresh Market grocery store, which wanted better visibility and a bigger building.

The store might have moved, if not for the project, Vermillion said.

Under developers’ plans, The Fresh Market will get a new 20,000-square-foot building – 5,000 square feet bigger than its current space – and move closer to Providence Road.

Strawberry Hill will get more tenants, probably including a sit-down restaurant and small shops, Vermillion said.

Developers will also add outdoor seating areas, a large plaza and a traffic circle to help move visitors from one side of the shopping center to the other, he said.

To make room, some buildings have to go. Developers plan to demolish four or five nearby apartment buildings and two retail buildings, Vemrillion said.

The apartment buildings house 38 units on about 4 acres. They’re part o the 619 unit Strawberry Hill apartments, which Marsh Properties also owns.

Marsh President Jamie McLawhorn said his company plans to relocate residents elsewhere on the complex.

three or four have moved already, and other have month to month or short term leases, he said. the buildings won’t be demolished until next spring at the earliest, McLawhorn said.

Marsh Properties is sending a letter to residents abot the changes. And while there are some concerns, many residents are on board with the project, McLawhorn said.

“The unknown often causes some stress,” he said. “But we feel certain we’ll be able to accomodate them.”

Developers are also tearing down two retail buildings, which hold five tenants total, Vermillion said.

The tenants plan to stay at Strawberry Hill and “right now, our assumption is that just about everybody could stay open” during construction, he said.

The project is the first major renovation at Strawberry Hill, which opened in the early 1990s.

Construction is still about a year away, Vermillion said. Developers have asked the city to rezone the 9.4 acre site from business and multi-family residential use to neighborhood services. Planners will hold a public hearing on the request in July.

Once construction begins, the project should take about 18 months to two years to complete, Vermillion said.

Kirsten Valle, The Charlotte Observer