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Bob Percival Sr., Charlotte’s ‘Mr. Commercial Real Estate,’ dies at 89

Bob Percival Sr. gave Charlotte the Cameron Brown building, developed Arrowood Southern Executive Park and helped found Foreign Trade Zone 57, among other things.

Updated at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 14

CHARLOTTE — Bob Percival, a giant in Charlotte commercial real estate who left his fingerprints throughout the city over the past 50 years of its growth, had a handshake as good as a contract.

That handshake is gone forever.

Percival died Sunday at the age of 89, his son Bob Percival Jr. said Tuesday.

Percival built the 1973 Cameron Brown Building, a venerable uptown landmark; developed the 1968 Arrowood Southern Executive Park, one of the city’s first mixed-use developments; and helped found Foreign Trade Zone 57 in 1979, boosting the city’s international trade status.

“He was one of the original leaders of commercial development in Charlotte,” said Marc Silverman of M. David Properties commercial real estate company. “In the ’60s, he was Mr. Commercial Real Estate.”

In addition to his real estate accomplishments, Percival made numerous contributions to Charlotte-area charities throughout his career.

“He was a great, great gentleman, and it was my privilege to have him as a friend,” Jane McIntyre, executive director of the United Way of Central Carolinas, said Tuesday. “He was one of the few people in real estate you could trust to do a deal on a handshake.”

On Tuesday, leaders in the city’s commercial real estate business echoed the sentiment that Percival was a gentleman, a businessman with integrity.

“He stepped into a very delicate situation, mediating a dispute we had with a partner and did it so well, settled it so amicably, that both parties felt like it was a success,” said Daniel Levine, owner of Levine Properties.

“That’s a true measure of a man with vast experience in commercial real estate — and a true gentleman. He was just such an honorable guy and had significant integrity.”

Tom Cochran, a developer and broker for the Charlotte office of Greenville, S.C.-based Easlan Capital, agreed.

“Of all the people that I’ve dealt with in the real estate business for more than 35 years, no one had more integrity,” said Cochran, who as a banker with NCNB worked with Percival on building Oak Hill Business Park in the early 1980s.

“Even if he had something to tell you that was not in his best interest to tell you, you could count on him to tell you the truth.”

On the other hand, his peers also described him as a tough and tenacious negotiator for his clients.

“He was relentless when he took on an assignment,” Cochran said. “It wasn’t in him to quit.”

McIntyre, who was CEO of the Charlotte YWCA in the 1990s, recalled Percival’s advice on trying to sell two pieces of YMCA property to raise money.

“We were a very vulnerable organization, cash-poor but land-rich,” McIntyre said. “But as my adviser he said, ‘Don’t you dare compromise.’ Bob really taught me that. When you have something of value, you don’t compromise.”

Robert Hadley Percival was born June 5, 1923, in Salt Lake City and moved with his family to Charlotte when he was 6. He graduated from Central High School in 1941, dropped out of North Carolina State University, joined the U.S. Marine Corps and was stationed in China for three years during World War II.

“He wasn’t just a Marine,” Bob Percival Jr. said. “He was a China Marine. Just ask anybody who has been in the Corps about being a China Marine. It’s a whole different level of respect.”

Discharged in 1946, the elder Percival enrolled at Notre Dame University, graduated in 1948 and was forever after a die-hard Notre Dame football fan, his son said.

He worked for Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Corp., where, his son said, he learned about the importance of customer service. In 1961, the elder Percival and his wife, Kathleen, founded Percival’s Inc., which is now known as Percival McGuire Commercial Real Estate and run by Bob Percival Jr. Among other projects, he developed what is now the Blake Hotel; when it opened in 1973, it was the tallest hotel in the state.

The elder Percival was a widower. In addition to Bob Percival Jr., he leaves behind a stepson, James Nicholson; a granddaughter, Leslie Nicholson Ruddy; two grandchildren; and a special friend, Nita Moss.

A celebration of Percival’s life will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 1623 Carmel Road, in Charlotte. The burial will be private.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his name to the American Red Cross, the Wounded Warrior Project and the Regent Schools of the Carolinas.

“Dad lived his life the way we should all aspire to live ours,” his son said, “with integrity, with respect and with a handshake you could bet a $10 million deal on.”

Tony Brown can be reached at tony.brown@mecktimes.com, (704) 247-2912 or on Twitter at @tonymecktimes.

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