As the future of the Epicentre is up for debate, the original project architect reflects

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As questions remain about the future of Uptown’s Epicentre complex, the original project architect of the once-popular nightlife hub believes there’s an opportunity to revitalize the financially-troubled development.

The Epicentre was built on the site of the old Charlotte Convention Center, and Ragona said the three-acre size of the sloping mega-block led to challenges over how to address the inevitable empty areas, or negative space, between the buildings.

Ragona said they sought to create an urban town center utilizing the negative space as outdoor public spaces.

“It just kind of energizes the whole property,” Ragona said. “It was meant to be more of a mix of uses in there. Unfortunately, it kind of got taken over by a lot of clubs.”

However, the original design didn’t include the multi-story Aloft Hotel at College and East 4th streets.

“The parking structure was already under construction when Aloft approached the original owner, and we changed that building,” Ragona said. “It was going to be a steel-framed building like the two smaller ones.”

As construction progressed, he said the city of Charlotte decided they wanted to connect their flagship Blue Line light rail station to the complex.

“It got started and the design kept changing as were building it,” Ragona said. “It was such a long construction process.”

The original condo tower was subsequently nixed, and the original developers ran into financial problems.

“As we got further along, we couldn’t get it opened,” Ragona said. “Things just ended up a little bit put together not quite as well as it should’ve been.”

I’m not “wearing a cape” coming in to the project to make a design work, type of architect. I’d rather be out on the jobsite, hammer in hand, figuring out all aspects of the project with you.