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3 min read ·

John Kane knows a thing or two about community. He’s been building them for the last 36 years. As chairman and CEO of Kane Realty, he has seen the award-winning upscale, urban environment he has developed at North Hills over the past 14 years reflect his innovative vision and the ability to understand and anticipate the wants and needs of his market. We had the opportunity to interview John about the goals and vision behind North Hills.

You are known as a visionary when it comes to development. What helped to shape that approach?

John Kane: The first development project I ever did was the redevelopment of an old strip center into an enclosed mall in 1981 in Greenville, NC. I knew the location was excellent and sensed that it was underutilized for the market at that time. It seemed pretty obvious to me. Since that first redevelopment, I have repositioned many other commercial properties to better align the asset with current market conditions. 

How did North Hills get its start?

JK:  We attempted to buy the KLM pension fund portfolio of properties that included North Hills, Wakefield, Weston and other assets. They sold these off piecemeal, and we stayed in touch with the group that bought North Hills. They called and asked if I wanted to buy the old Winn Dixie Center where Total Wine is now, and we made a deal. A year later they approached us about buying the old mall, and we structured a transaction that worked.

Why did you decide to go beyond “the mall” when envisioning this type of development?

JK: Once we had the mall site under control in addition to the first acquisition, we knew we could dramatically change the entire landscape of the area.

What was your vision for North Hills when you started the redevelopment in 2000?

JK: The first acquisition was only 14 acres so our original thought was to maximize the density on that parcel. When we acquired the 31-acre mall site, the vision changed completely. We started thinking of recycling 45 acres instead of 14 with a very different approach.

Have you achieved that goal?

JK: The vision has continued to develop and evolve as the market and area have responded to the redevelopment. Midtown has now been accepted as a mixed-use urban environment, and the market has embraced it. With that market reaction, we are able to push the envelope and increase urban offerings.

What is in store for the future of North Hills?

JK: We have much more in store for North Hills/Midtown — more high-rise office, more hotels, high-rise residential and more ground floor retail in strategic locations. 

When will it be “finished”?

JK: The redevelopment will continue to evolve as the market changes, so I don’t think our work here will ever be finished. We will continue to strive to be better and to utilize the land and assets to their best use. 

What is your favorite part of North Hills so far?

JK: I have lots of favorites about North Hills. We have an extraordinary events team that puts on over 350 events each year. Seeing people from all walks of life enjoying the place in lots of different ways is very rewarding. I also enjoy the sense of community that has come with the North Hills gatherings, events and everyday life. Our Public Safety team is another favorite. These officers are our ambassadors on property 24/7, and they do a great job of keeping us safe and improving the overall experience every day.

North Hills and your other projects are clearly about making an impact — on your community, on the environment and on the local and regional economy. What type of impact do you want that to be and why do you think that’s important?

JK: We all get a lot from our community, and it is important to give back. Seeing people enjoying the experience of living here, staying at our hotels, shopping, dining and being entertained is richly rewarding. If we have improved the quality of life for people who experience North Hills, that is an impact worth making.

The mission statement for Kane Realty says that you want to be “a recognized leader in creating places that improve the quality of life.” Has that been accomplished with North Hills?

JK: I hope we have impacted people’s lives in a positive way by our work at North Hills. We will continue to strive to compound on that impact every day.

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