NC Music Factory brings creativity to Charlotte’s nightlife
Posted on 9 Sep 2008 by Justin Ritchie
Starting this fall, Charlotte’s most ambitious entertainment district will begin opening its doors to those in the QC who crave a taste of something far from the often corporate feel of Uptown. While there are many quality options within the city limits for a night out, nothing will revolutionize CLT more than the addition of the NC Music Factory.
The first phase of the 31 acre “Uptown Village”, located on the edge of the Fourth Ward in Uptown, is the 9 acre North Carolina Music Factory (“The Factory” for short), which will be home to some diverse entertainment options.
The Factory will include a 5,000 capacity outdoor amphitheater along with a smaller outdoor venue that will hold up to 1,500. It’s not just outdoor stages either, a 2,000 capacity live music hall with state of the art lights and sound operated and booked by one of the premier concert promoters in the world will be sure to catch the many acts that currently bypass the Charlotte area. Crobar, a nightclub with locations in Chicago and South Beach, will open next summer along with Butter from Manhattan and a 10,000 square foot Wet Willies Daiquiri bar. Other revolutionary additions to Charlotte’s music and nightlife scene at the Factory will include an indie rock bar, an underground house/dance club and a coffee lounge focused on music.
Who’s already here
The Factory is currently home to Creative Loafing’s new offices, Silver Hammer Studios (of Talladega Nights and Shallow Hal fame) and several other creatively oriented tenants. The first nightclub, The Garden and Gun Club, opened to fanfare just last weekend. This club is the brainchild of Andy Katsanas, who helped to kickstart the party scene Uptown with Mythos years ago, and his goal is to “bring the underground dance music scene back to Charlotte”.
Inside The Factory
Ken Thomas, VP of Entertainment for the Cornelius based ARK Group which manages the NC Music Factory, took CLT Blog editors Justin Ruckman, Matt Tyndall and myself on a tour of the site last week. And we weren’t just impressed, we were floored. One of the projects in the works includes stars from popular shows on TLC (we can’t say which show as of yet). Another project involves NY restaurant innovator Scott Sartiano who aims to give Charlotte a taste of a Manhattan soiree as he will open his second location of Butter. The Manhattan location has been the toast of the town for over six years now with celebrities and anyone else fortunate enough to get in. You’ve probably seen them featured in People Magazine, US Magazine, and E! TV. Butter will bring a new level of quality to the nightlife in Charlotte.
Inside an old and now rejuvenated factory, the NC Music Factory is keeping all the original wood and brick to enhance the site’s historic feel. Nothing about this place feels manufactured which is refreshing, considering that the majority of the tenants in EpiCentre are extensions of national chains, the same things you could find in Dallas, Atlanta or Cincinnati. The Factory hopes to build a unique regional draw which people will drive in from around the Carolinas to experience. As Ken explained during our tour:
“Right now Charlotte draws regionally for Panthers games and NASCAR but not really for entertainment. At this point, cities like Raleigh and even Greensboro have pretty much the same entertainment options that we do. With the music factory, we hope to create a destination that will offer so many diverse options in one centralized location that people will travel an hour or two to experience and end up spending the weekend in Charlotte. You can only achieve that by bringing world class entertainment and events that people don’t want to miss. That’s what we will bring to the table.”
Outside The Factory
Envisioned as a “stroll district”, every restaurant, club and bar will have an outdoor area. Once everything starts to open through the summer 2009 a grand opening party will be planned to fully introduce the site to the public. At that time, a quick evening drive through the area will reveal people everywhere as they take in the entertainment culture offered by this unique setting. If all the exclusive venues won’t be enough to get you out to the Factory, North Carolina’s only outdoor beer and wine license might seal the deal. Nowhere in NC have you been able to walk outside with alcohol from place to place until now. Maybe the state is finally coming around, independent liquor store anyone?
Having so many stages and musicians in one place will make the Factory a natural home for music festivals that counter the mass consumerism of Charlotte’s largest festival, Speed Street. The festive atmosphere will always be considered first and foremost, exemplified by ideas like placing giant inflatable pumpkins and spiders on top of the buildings so that they will be visible from I-77 for Halloween.
The local music scene will see tremendous assets in the practice and recording space along with the quality of the venues. The main amphitheatre stage is complete and very impressive. It will play host to 20 to 30 national concerts a year starting in the spring of 2009. 2,000 fixed seats and room for 3,000 in the lawn. The intimate feel of this “boutique amphitheater” in an outdoor setting should bring in national bands that want to be closer to their fans. Visits from creative individuals will lead to intense interest in the upcoming condo development around the site
It seems strange that all of this is going on inside 277 while few are noticing. That’s because the only way to the NC Music Factory is via a drive by the Circle K on the corner of Graham and 10th, passing by the old industrial silos, crossing over the multiple sets of train tracks, and passing old dilapidated buildings. More than enough to deter even the most curious urban explorer.
But accessibility has changed drastically with the Seaboard Rd. extension, a crucial portion of the NC Music Factory Project. While the site has been a gleam in owner and Charlotte nightclub entrepreneur Noah Lazes’ eye for nearly a decade, it has taken five of those years to complete the additional road access project because of the required state and city permits. As of last week (Friday, September 5th) the extension to Seaboard Rd. is open and ready for action! Plans are in the works for elaborate LED lighting and sculpture along the entrance and under the 277 overpass.
With all this and more, the NC Music Factory looks like it will set Charlotte apart as truly one of the premiere nightlife centers of the southeast.
Check out the embedded slideshow below for a lot more pictures from our tour, or click through to view them on Flickr. This won’t be the last time we talk about the NC Music Factory, you can count on it.
Brief upcoming timeline
Opening of Garden and Gun Club: September 5th
Seaboard St. Extension Opens: September 5th
More cool stuff gets built: Winter 2008 and Spring 2009
Grand opening: Summer 2009
This venture was such a huge risk for Noah Lazes and ARKgroup but an equally exciting opportunity. Charlotte is infamous for razing historic buildings and putting bigger, better (depending who you ask) and newer ones in their place. This is an amazingly creative and unique solution for revamping old textile mills. It’s great to see some of Charlotte’s history as a “mill town” preserved in such a modern and fresh way. The varying venues as part of The Factory will draw a wide range of people, and the character of the buildings will only add to the experiential nature of the venues.
Of course access to the site is still probably going to be an issue once the Uptown Village catches on as a prime nightlife spot (which WILL happen). The Seaboard St. extension obviously is a huge help, but for a location of that size and with the number of varying activities taking place there, one main corridor and a much smaller and convoluted road may not be sufficient.
The proposition of creating a district from scratch is an interesting one. Most of the time, a district evolves over time with a layering of influence from the community and local culture. But this is being proposed as a planned district that, when it is completely built, one can live, work and play in. In most cases, a completely contrived district would flop. But in The Factory’s case, I think it will be successful as a district for several reasons. One, the variety of activities once the entire thing is finished will be conducive for an all-inclusive living environment. Two, Mistri Hardaway Architects did a great job at making the site and separate buildings cohesive and easily navigable. Three, the signage and consistency in branding the name of the district all over the place as well as the proposed grand entrance to the place give it an identity of its own.
All in all, I love what I’ve seen so far and can’t wait to see more! I’m sorry for the rambling nature of my comment; I got going and couldn’t stop myself!
The proposed grand entrance at Seabord St. will definitely be a blessing for The Factory, as that will be its only tangible face to the rest of Uptown. I wish we had a copy of some of their renderings for the entrance to show, it really is spectacular. They have such a huge slice of the 277 overpass to play around under.
And I like their ideas for promoting shows and parties with lights and inflatable balloons that would be visible from the interstate. They’re thinking big.
Things like this will cement The Factory’s existence in the average person’s mind, not just in terms of its physical location, but its potential as a hotspot of creative energy.
I really, really hope this works out! It will be awesome for Charlotte.
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What was the original use of the mill. Any historic background? I am guessing maybe a cotton mill as there were many of those in the surrounding area. Thank you for your time.
Does anyone know of a decent hotel close to this venue?
Any of the uptown hotels are going to be your best bet. They range in cost and accommodation, naturally. Do you have a price range?
Is the lawn cement? grass?
Annie– it’s actual grass.
Is there access from light rail? If so, which stop? What is the parking situation like? If there is nearby parking, is it free?
Yes they have a huge free parking lot!
I would love to come to Butter tonight and party for my 24th birthday me and my Best friend Nicole
hey guys, think you could take 1 second to help the biggest, biggest, BIGGEST fan win tickets to In The Heights when it comes here? Thank you, you’re ALL WINNERS in my book!!