Charlotte's IKEA sets earlier date for opening

CHARLOTTE -- Charlotte's IKEA location will open at 9 a.m. Feb. 18, the Swedish home furnishings retailer announced Tuesday.

That's earlier than the spring date originally anticipated, resulting from considerable construction progress during the summer and fall, store manager Richard Castanon said in a news release.

The 356,000-square-foot blue-and-yellow store on City Boulevard in University City, next to Interstate 85, will be the first IKEA in the Carolinas and the 36th nationwide. It will include 10,000 affordably priced, exclusively designed home goods, 49 room settings, three model home interiors and a supervised children's play area, as well as a 350-seat restaurant serving Swedish specialties.

That combination is expected to draw shoppers from a wide geographic area. Though the closest IKEA stores are currently in Atlanta and metropolitan Washington, D.C., the company says it already has 150,000 customers in the Carolinas. The company has long operated in the northeast and in California.

The Charlotte store will employ about 400 workers and is training and still hiring for a range of positions.

The construction process also created about 500 jobs, the company said.

Located on a 25-acre site, the IKEA will be the centerpiece of Crescent Properties' 175-acre Belgate mixed-use development. Other retail, including a Wal-Mart Supercenter, is planned for the area.