|By Deon Roberts, The Charlotte
ObserverMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
March 26, 2013--Construction could begin as early as late summer on a planned 16-story tower at the Langtree at the Lake project that would bring Lake Norman its first full-service hotel.
The roughly $90 million mixed-use tower would feature 212 hotel rooms, residences, retail and office space and an adjacent parking garage with entertainment space on top, according to the developer, RL West.
The company expects the high-rise to become a signature feature of its $1 billion Langtree project, which will feature residences, restaurants and retail space at Exit 31 of Interstate 77 in Mooresville.
Bill Russell, president of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce, said the hotel is a game changer for the Lake Norman area.
"Now you'll be able to accommodate larger corporate groups and business conferences, both business and leisure, that you currently can't accommodate," Russell said. "We have a number of corporations in and around the lake region that currently have to take business to other areas, simply because there isn't that type of meeting room space and conference space available."
Stephen Welly, RL's president, told the Observer the tower should be finished by April 2015.
Charlotte-based Overcash Demmitt Architects designed the tower, which is being built so that the floors can be converted into other uses as tenants change. That flexibility is a key feature of the tower, which Stephen Overcash, a principal for Overcash Demmitt, has dubbed the Ethosphere.
RL, which plans to move its headquarters from Sylvania, Ohio, to the Langtree site, and Charlotte-based Pharos Hospitality will co-own the hotel. Welly said he expects to announce the hotel brand within 30 days.
Construction has not begun on the Ethosphere. Welly said he first needs the town of Mooresville to OK the tower exceeding the site's 12-story limit.
But construction is nearing completion on the first buildings at the Langtree at the Lake project. Those include apartment buildings, housing a combined 300 units, that are expected to be built by July, Welly said. Some of the apartment buildings will have retail space.
Also nearing completion: a building to house RL's office. A convenience store and fast-food restaurant will be in the same building, which RL expects to move into next Monday, Welly said.
Welly said he doesn't anticipate the town rejecting the request for a 16-story building. Kim Sellers, spokeswoman for the town, said Monday that the request has not yet been submitted.
Overcash and Caren Castellaneta, principal of Charlotte-based Luce Partners, said they came up with the Ethosphere concept during the recession. Troubled that some buildings are sometimes demolished when they become old or vacant, the two came up with the idea of a building designed to accommodate various uses -- offices, retail and so on -- as needs change. Overcash and Castellaneta hope to replicate the Ethosphere concept at other locations.
Elizabeth Hamilton, an associate with Charlotte-based Ai Design Group, an architecture firm that is not affiliated with the Ethosphere project, said the Ethosphere would not be the first Charlotte-area building to have multiple uses. She pointed to the EpiCentre in uptown Charlotte as an example.
But for the Lake Norman area, where buildings are usually built for a specific use, a tower designed with as much flexibility as the Ethosphere is new, she said.
The success of the Ethosphere, though, hinges on a hotel occupying part of the building, Castellaneta and Overcash say. A hotelier will bring the energy and hospitality that is crucial to an Ethosphere, Overcash said.
Adam Zembruski, president of Pharos Hospitality, said the Ethosphere concept was attractive to the yet-to-be-named major hotel brand.
"They really liked the vision," he said. "The fact that it's part of this mixed-use building was absolutely a factor."
Each floor of the Ethosphere will be about 18,000 square feet, Welly said.
The hotel, which is expected to include a restaurant, will occupy the fourth through 11th floors, Welly said. Other floors will house 35 to 40 residential units that will be sold. Those will range from 1,500 to 2,500 square feet apiece and sell for $600,000 to $1.5 million.
Welly said presales of the residences have not begun but about 150 people have expressed interest.
He also said negotiations are ongoing with potential Ethosphere office tenants, whose names he said he could not disclose yet.
The Ethosphere will also have a rooftop bar, pool and private club.
The parking deck next to the Ethosphere will have roughly five floors of parking, Welly said. Hospitality space, a bowling alley, dance venue and restaurant are also planned to go on top of the deck.
Overcash said the Ethosphere adds as much as 5 percent to building costs compared with constructing separate buildings for the different uses.
"The savings will be in the long run," he said, "in reduced energy costs."
Roberts: 704-358-5248Twitter: @DeonERoberts
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