Publix's Key N.C. Developer Rolls Into Some New Aisles

Groceries got 'em here but now, south Florida developer Stiles has a hook in multifamily, office and retail projects in North and South Carolina.

"That's what brought us to the Carolinas, the Publix relationship," says David Lee, a senior vice president at the Fort Lauderdale-based company. "We're growing beyond being known as the Publix folks." Projects in the works: 2600 Glenwood, a 186-unit apartment complex at Glenwood Avenue and Oberlin Road in Raleigh that Stiles and Grubb Ventures are finishing now and 300 West Summit, a 64,000-square-foot office building expected to break ground shortly in Charlotte's South End.


That's to say nothing of the heaps of dirt being moved for Stiles' fourth Publix store in Charlotte, a complex Cotswold-area project that involved demolishing a former office building and now has workmen carving out a below-ground parking deck. If you wondered how HGR Construction could make room for a roughly 50,000-square-foot store with a small retail shop at street level, parking and access to busy Randolph Road on a 2-acre site, the lot is your answer. The store is scheduled to open in April 2018, says Beth Middleton, senior development manager. It joins more than 1,138 stores in six states, including 19 in North Carolina.

Stiles has developed more than 30 Publix stores, making the developer a natural when the Lakeland, Fla.-based grocer spread up the East Coast, including its entry into North Carolina. Stiles developed the first Publix in the state, in Ballantyne, in 2014, followed by sites in Mint Hill and South End.

The Publix at Mint Hill Commons is one of four stores developed by Stiles.

Overseeing the entry was Scott MacLaren, who moved here in 2013 and returned to Florida last year to become the company's president. He was part of a leadership shuffle in which Kenneth Stiles joined his father, Terry Stiles, as co-CEO with plans for the younger Stiles to take over the full job later this year. Former President Doug Eaton has stepped back from day-to-day operations after 35 years with the company.

"I'm back home," MacLaren said recently from his office in south Florida. "This is where I was born and raised. I've spent 18 years with the company, the last four up there with the team [in Charlotte]. I started the team for us — that was a lot of travel, but I enjoyed every minute of it."

For David Lee, moving into the Charlotte office to oversee Stiles' developments in the Carolinas was a homecoming as well for the South Carolina native and UNC Chapel Hill graduate who has also lived in Wilmington and spent time in Asheville. He's had a house in Dilworth for the past 15 years but still owns shopping centers in Spartanburg, S.C., where he founded Lee Land Development. He also developed retail, office, residential, build-to-suit and re-adaptive use projects with Harris Murr & Vermillion, now Harris Development Group.

Stiles also developed the Publix at the Shops at Southline in South End.

Charlotte is familiar stomping grounds, but Lee says he's spent a lot of time recently in the Triangle where opportunity is ripe, including another possible grocery development. Previous coverage: 'Grocery wars heat up'

That said, 300 West Summit in Charlotte "is our most important project in this division," Lee says. The office building is in a part of South End near the Gold District. "Though this building feels on the edge, it's about to be in the center of everything," Lee says.

On multifamily projects, Lee and MacLaren say Stiles is cautious as more projects crop up and construction costs and "pursuit dollars" climb. Construction costs are more prohibitive in Charlotte, MacLaren says, than they are in south Florida.

"There's more room for multifamily if it's done thoughtfully," Lee says. The right ingredients are location and ways to bring in more amenities. "It's a lot more than a pool and a gym these days." It could even be a cool coffee shop or art gallery subsidized by the developer.

"You have figure out how to create a cool, urban, hip place that will serve your millennials," or even older people who crave a similar lifestyle. "I've got a skateboard," he confesses, "but I never ride."