Edifice General Contractors
Contractors in Charlotte remain focused on working through project backlogs that have built up over the past few years, says Gary Creed, CEO of Edifice Contractors in Charlotte.
“Everyone is busy with an abundance of projects backlogged since the last recession,” he says. “We still hear design firms with plenty of pipeline as well as subcontractors working off backlog.”
Edifice is just starting to hear from some customers rumbling about uncertainty in the future lending environment, he says, and if lending does begin to retract, it will slow down the availability of projects that would impact contractors in 2024 or 2025. Creed feels that moving forward, the market may weaken somewhat, but it may not be a bad thing, as the big challenges he sees in the market are inflation in pricing, material supply shortages creating unpredictable delivery times and a shortage of craft labor leaving contractors struggling to keep up with the current construction demands.
“We need some cooling down of the market to get supply chain and inflationary pricing under control,” he says. “I’ve been telling our customers we need to get the predictability of what we do back in line.”
They need to be able to accurately forecast pricing and know accurately when they’ll be able to get materials, which wasn’t the case in 2022. It would help lenders get more comfortable with project cost risks, and in the Charlotte market, Creed doesn’t expect to see a huge change, but perhaps a needed moderate, healthy slowdown.
As with recent years, the market is still rife with opportunities. Other than a few months at the very start of the COVID-19 pandemic, all construction markets in Charlotte have been active, he says, with the biggest change in 2022 being the rapid increase in construction cost and delays in material deliveries.
The industrial sector is most active by far, according to Creed, including warehouse and distribution space and multinational manufacturing facilities. The Charlotte metro area always seems to have needed or in-progress projects because the metropolitan area of more than 2.6 million people continues to grow, creating the need for different facilities, he says.
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“For instance, the Charlotte Mecklenburg School system (CMS) is still in need of additional classrooms and asking for bond referendums,” Creed says. “Affordable housing continues to get a lot of media press and is needed in the market. And industrial opportunities have not stopped, but may depending on the lending environment.”
The city’s future light rail lines could also spur continued growth along their routes, though that work could be way down the road, he says. Charlotte’s 2030 Transit Corridor System Plan shows extensions to its LYNX rail line to the west, north and southeast of the city.
At the ballot box in November 2022, election results from the state Board of Elections shows voters in Charlotte and nearby communities overwhelmingly approved new bond referendums for transportation, housing, parks and recreation projects, including three bonds in Charlotte that passed by margins of roughly 3 to 1.
Those bonds, totaling $198 million, are split between $127 million for transportation, $50 million for housing and $21 million for neighborhood improvements, according to the city’s Capital Improvements Plan.
Those funds mark the third consecutive $50-million allocation to the city’s affordable housing efforts—more than triple funds the city will put toward sidewalks and pedestrian safety—and support nearly $20 million in economic development partnerships. Transportation infrastructure efforts, including to improve traffic flow and reduce congestion in multiple areas of the city, will get more than $30 million over the next four years, according to the CIP.
In 2021 and 2022, a large number of e-commerce facilities were being constructed, including those for FedEx and Amazon. That rush is now coming to a close with many fewer projects in that realm being proposed going into 2023 and 2024, Creed says. In 2022, Edifice built multiple confidential e-commerce facilities and corporate offices like mixed-use developments The Square at South End and The Station at LoSo. The company also completed several multinational manufacturing facilities for confidential clients, and continues to value its long relationship with CMS, Creed says, having opened the new Palisades High School and other K-8 facilities.