Charlotte, NC

Design District

Experiential Retail Anchored in Urban Redevelopment

status

Completed 2018

client

Asana Partners

expertise

Retail

services

Landscape Architecture, Civil Engineering

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Retail Restores a Mill to Former Glory

At a time when retail is struggling to find its identity in an e-commerce world, Design District is poised to be one of the most successful retail districts in Charlotte.

Located in the heart of Charlotte’s historic South End, the Design District is a 4.5-acre retail and dining destination that is redefining the modern retail experience. Since the 2000s, South End has been booming with growth quickly becoming one of Charlotte’s most sought-after neighborhoods for new development. In 2016, Asana Partners recognized the opportunity to bring a fresh retail experience to South End that celebrates the rich history and characteristics of the industrial neighborhood and purchased three key properties on the former Nebel Knitting Mill site. Rather than demolishing the structures, Asana Partners chose to revive the existing buildings giving the Nebel Knitting Mill renewed value.

Understanding that successful retail centers are defined by the experience they offer visitors, Asana Partners engaged LandDesign to provide landscape architecture and civil engineering services to reimagine the blighted industrial mill into an authentic, pedestrian-oriented destination. In tandem with Asana’s merchandising strategy, LandDesign imagined a public realm that guides visitors from plazas and open space nooks to specialty retail and dining.

Building on Brick and Mortar

Bordering key transportation pathways, including the LYNX Blue Line and the Charlotte Rail Trail, the Design District has become a neighborhood magnet—embraced as a must-see retail and dining center for South End, proving that retail can evolve and thrive in an e-commerce era.

Our Vision

A Place to See and be Seen

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As one of the last intact mills of its time, the Design District presented an opportunity to challenge the standards of retail. To attract the most sought-after businesses, LandDesign envisioned an experiential retail destination with a public realm that worked in harmony with private development — blurring the lines between public and private space. Spacious walkways allow for window shopping and perusing, and activated courtyards and plazas create moments for gathering and leisure. No corner was left untouched, taking advantage of vacant nooks surrounding storefronts to encourage constant movement throughout the Design District.

For the Design District, authenticity and accessibility were key to the success of the retail district. New development integrates seamlessly with the existing mill structures, providing a unique mix of trendy bars, restaurants, retail, and open space. Colorful murals and storefronts create photo-worthy moments, captivating interest from passersby and inviting them to explore.

The Challenge

From Industrial Mill to Adaptive-Reuse Destination

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In recent years, South End has become inundated with development, challenging LandDesign to differentiate the Design District from other retail centers in the neighborhood. Through pedestrian connections and an engaging public realm, visitors can experience planned or spontaneous exploration at the Design District, making it an 18-hour destination. By striking a balance between the existing mill structures and new development, the Design District pays homage to its industrial roots while providing businesses and visitors an exciting retail experience authentic to historic South End.

Our Approach

Repurposing an Industrial Complex to Create an Unconventional Retail Destination

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Physical

The site consisted of several former mill structures from the 1920s. Integrating new development, plazas and pedestrian walkways into the site layout created a fresh experience for visitors and opportunities for additional storefronts

Functional

Located along a major transportation corridor, new pedestrian connections were formed to provide access to the Design District by walking, cycling or transit

Social

Create a trendy, experiential retail destination that promotes economic vitality for businesses and provides an authentic retail destination for the South End community

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Physical

The site consisted of several former mill structures from the 1920s. Integrating new development, plazas and pedestrian walkways into the site layout created a fresh experience for visitors and opportunities for additional storefronts

Homepage Header

Functional

Located along a major transportation corridor, new pedestrian connections were formed to provide access to the Design District by walking, cycling or transit

Homepage Header

Social

Create a trendy, experiential retail destination that promotes economic vitality for businesses and provides an authentic retail destination for the South End community