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Construction Delay for Planned Ritz Carlton in
 Downtown Charlotte Stirs Up Speculation
By Rick Rothacker, The Charlotte Observer, N.C.McClatchy-Tribune Business News

Nov. 9, 2006- Uptown gawkers continue to wonder what's up at the site of a planned Ritz-Carlton hotel across the street from Bank of America Corp.'s headquarters.

Work stalled last month and now the construction trailers are gone. Left behind is a barren, slightly pock-marked parking lot, still encircled by work fences.

Bank of America spokesman Terry Francisco said the project has had some delays, but "plans are still on track for a Ritz-Carlton to be in this space." Ann Yoder, a spokeswoman for contractor Bovis Lend Lease, declined comment.

Bank of America last year announced plans for the $65 million, 150-room luxury hotel on half of a piece of property that it owns at the corner of College and Trade streets. The opening date was slated for 2008.

The delay has raised speculation that the bank could build more than a Ritz on the site. In 2000, a developer announced plans for an office building, hotel and retail space on the property, but it never materialized.

Carolinas Real Data says the uptown office vacancy rate shrunk to 4.7 percent in the third quarter from 6.6 percent a year ago. Large blocks of space are in tight supply, prompting speculation that the time might be right for more office development in the urban core.

Mohammed Jenatian, president of the Greater Charlotte Hospitality and Tourism Alliance, said he wonders if a bigger project is on tap as the city lures more entertainment attractions.

Since the Ritz announcement last summer, the city has landed the planned NASCAR Hall of Fame, and the South Tryon Street arts complex is under way.

"I see the delay or change as a step in a positive direction in my opinion," Jenatian said.

Francisco, the bank spokesman, said Bank of America is always looking at its future needs in the city, but declined to comment further.

Staff writer Doug Smith contributed

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Copyright (c) 2006, The Charlotte Observer, N.C.

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