Group behind popular South End brewery spends $7.3 million on North End land. What’s planned?

Is North End the new South End? We just got a hint at the answer.

The group behind a popular South End area brewery, cafe and taphouse is extending its real estate north, though what it plans to do with the new property is not clear.

The Durban Group, which runs The Suffolk Punch and Suffolk Punch Brewing off Griffith Street and the Charlotte Rail Trail, bought close to 3 acres along North Tryon Street for roughly $7.3 million in the past two months, according to Mecklenburg County property records.

The purchases come at a time when North End, a roughly 5.6-square-mile collection of eight neighborhoods about a mile from uptown, is poised for growth. Developers are planning thousands of new apartments and other major projects are in the works for office and retail.

See this interactive map of Charlotte's North End

One parcel The Durban Group bought for $4.1 million, 1610 N. Tryon St., is currently home to longtime event and production company Extravaganza. The owner, Mark Middlesworth, said he expects to be moved out of his low slung, brick building by February. The company, he said, is self sufficient with the phone ringing constantly. He is currently looking for new space as he plans to keep the business going.

“It’d be foolish to let this thing go,” Middlesworth told The Charlotte Observer.

The Durban Group also bought another parcel just down the street from Extravaganza at 1514 N. Tryon for $3.2 million, property records show. It’s another smaller brick building right against the street.

What the company plans to do with these sites isn’t clear. Reached Monday afternoon, chief operating officer Seth Stidham wrote in a text to the Observer that the company is excited about its purchases along North Tryon. But it wasn’t ready to announce its plans for the property yet.

The Durban Group describes itself as a family of companies — from developer to capital partner of an apparel company to startup incubator. Led by Glen Cherry and Collin Ricks, the group helped launch Suffolk Punch, according to its website. Suffolk Punch is technically located in the Southside Park neighborhood.

Extravaganza plans next steps

Middlesworth bought the building at 1610 N. Tryon in 2001 for around $630,000. The company provides event decor for things like a casino night and Oktoberfest and provides rental services for weddings, proms and corporate events, among others.

He never thought the property would sell for as much as it did today but he always had his fingers crossed.

“If I hung on to it another 10 years, would it be worth $8 million? I don’t know,” Middlesworth said. “But I won’t be here to find out. I’ve gotta be thankful for what we got.”

Middlesworth plans to downsize the Extravaganza’s physical space but is having a tough time finding an affordable warehouse to rent around Charlotte. Most prices are around $13 a square foot and he’s looking to pay half that. The bulk of his business is in Charlotte city limits.

He calls the recent purchases on North Tryon Street a sign of what’s to come in North End and how it’s poised to see growth on the level of South End.

“It’s going to turn into South End,” he said. “You can’t stop it. It’s just the way it is.”

Other nearby development

Changes are coming to North Tryon Street, the busy corridor that leads out of uptown.

One notable project nearby and already completed is Foundation Supply. Texas-based Artesia Real Estate purchased the building in 2018 at 1801 N. Tryon St. for $8.8 million, property records show. It houses 100,000 square feet of office space ready to be leased out along with 25,000 square feet of retail.

Another nearby site is owned by local real estate investment firm Ascent Real Estate Capital. The firm purchased about 2 acres at the corner of North Tryon Street and Dalton Avenue, with plans to transform what was once a truck stop into a mixed-use site with apartments, retail shops or both, Ascent told the Observer in July.

At 32nd and North Tryon streets, a project called Queens Park Commons could transform five city blocks into a mixed-use development of apartments and office. Flywheel Group could invest between $300 and $500 million.