Harris Teeter

Urban in Charlotte
Posted May 17, 2004

Charlottes growing urban lifestyle has continued to surge through its hip array of museums, bars, restaurants and condo living. But the young adults and empty nesters made it known that there was a missing link - a full-service grocery store.

Harris Teeter (Matthews, N.C.), the upscale supermarket chain, responded to the need. Because the store was on the street level of a new mid-rise condominium suite, however, designers from Little Diversified Architectural Consulting (Charlotte, N.C.) had to fit a 45,000-square-foot grocery store into an 18,000-square-foot space.

"The client wanted something unusual and new that would change the standard identity of Harris Teeter," says Daniel Montaño, Little's director of design. "We had to overcome many design challenges in adapting the program into a much smaller urban site."

For example, grocery stores typically have quite a bit of rooftop equipment, so designers had to create housing for the giant HVAC units. "Since there are residential condos above these units, we had to make sure it wasn't too noisy or visually unappealing," says project architect Ron Kirkpatrick.

The design team also transformed the exterior and interior signage, finishes, decor elements, fixtures, lighting and visual displays to evoke downtown Charlotte's mix of art galleries, banks, restaurants, museums and theaters. Instead of the standard red and green exterior Harris Teeter signage, designers opted for aluminum backlit letters. The numerous store windows feature minimalistic museum-like displays, designed to grab city sidewalkers' attention.

"We used red plexi boxes containing plastic white versions of a milk carton, fruit or ice cream," says Montaño. "Shoppers see these displays and realize it's a grocery store. But at the same time, they recognize that it's a whole new Harris Teeter experience."

Off the main entrance, "The Coffee Garden," a small floral department with a coffee shop, sets the tone for the store. "Our main intent was to bombard shoppers with an abundance of color as they enter the store," says Kirkpatrick. "To the left of the floral shop, the wine department is strategically located up on the mezzanine so it overlooks the whole store."

The bakery and deli department features a curvilinear brown bulkhead band with stainless-steel finishes that easily separates it from the rest of the store. Below the band, hanging maple boxes feature recognizable items, like a pizza, lit from behind.

"Because we had to work around massive concrete columns in the middle of the space," says Montaño, "we created fabric wraps to conceal them and act as deflectors. They are curved at the top to help lower the ceiling."

Another key design element are the aisle markers. "We changed the design so they are four-sided and lighted," says Kirkpatrick. "They stand alone, more like a pendant fixture than an aisle sign."

The produce area is subdivided from the rest of the grocery. The produce letters feature iridescent vinyl that changes from purple to green as you walk by. "The idea was to convey the message that in produce, things change color," says Montaño.

Client: Harris Teeter, Matthews, N.C. - Al Lentz, vp, store development; Chris Bond, director, store development; Dean Ochsner, engineering consultant

Design and Architect: Little Diversified Architectural Consulting, Charlotte, N.C. - Phil Kuttner, ceo; Tim Morrison, principal; Rajeev Bhave, project manager; Daniel Montaño, director of design; Ron Kirkpatrick, project architect; Paige Brice, interior designer

General Contractor: JB Waddell, Charlotte, N.C.

Outside Design Consultants: Clive Samuels and Associates, Princeton, N.J. (electrical); Cerami and Associates, New York (acoustical)

Suppliers: Madix, Goodwater, Ala. (fixturing); Azrock, Florence, Ala. (flooring); Plastex, Charlotte, N.C. (graphics, signage, props/decoratives); GE Supply, Charlotte, N.C. (lighting); Nevamar Co., Charlotte, N.C. (laminates); Casco, Kannapolis, N.C. (exterior signage)