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Most read online stories of 2015: Architecture, legal battles, personality profiles and project development pique readers’ interest

Bryan Mermans' "Our Vernacular" was chosen as the best overall design for in The Mecklenburg Times' architectural challenge, "Reframing Charlotte," that asked architects to present their vision of a Charlotte-style house.

Bryan Mermans’ “Our Vernacular” was chosen as the best overall design for in The Mecklenburg Times’ architectural challenge, “Reframing Charlotte,” that asked architects to present their vision of a Charlotte-style house.

The year brought a lot of big news in real estate, construction and development in Charlotte, including the conviction of Mayor Patrick Cannon in a development-related bribery scandal; a continued apartment construction boom; announcements and groundbreakings for the first office buildings since the Great Recession and large multi-use projects; a new approach to developing the former Eastland Mall following the collapse of ambitious development plans; and multimillion dollar public investments in professional sports arenas.

However, none of these stories were the ones most read by The Mecklenburg Times’ website readers.

The most-read story by a landslide was an architectural challenge issued by the paper in January 2014, asking area architects to envision what a modern “Charlotte-style” house would look like, drawing on the region’s history, culture and natural resources.

The idea was prompted by comments made by Debra Campbell, current assistant city manager and former Charlotte-Mecklenburg planning director. While accepting a “Real Estate Person of the Year” award from Charlotte’s chapter of Commercial Real Estate Women, Campbell said that when homebuilders proposed “Charleston-style” houses or some other vernacular, she wanted to encourage them to build homes that reflected our community.

Ten individuals or teams responded to the challenge, presenting their visions for a modern home that met the criteria. They drew inspiration from mills and farms; building materials harvested from our trees and earth; our traditions of large front porches and outdoor living spaces; advances in environmentally friendly building practices; and current homeowner desires for open and flexible spaces.

The floor plan of Bryan Mermans' "Our Vernacular" was lauded by judges for its flexible space and integration of outdoor and indoor living areas.

The floor plan of Bryan Mermans’ “Our Vernacular” was lauded by judges for its flexible space and integration of outdoor and indoor living areas.

We brought together a group of professionals in building, architecture and design to evaluate the entries, and presented awards at an October breakfast that featured a panel discussion on Charlotte’s future development.  The best overall went to Bryan Mermans of Jenkins Peer Architects for “Our Vernacular.” Honorable mention went to Ray Sheedy of Sheedy Watts Design for “Lemonade House,” and merit awards were given to Josh Allison of Josh Allison Architecture for “A Charlotte House” and to Rick Kazebee of Kazebee Design and Jim Kirby of GreenTHINC for “Southern Yellow Pine.”

In addition, we invited visitors to our website to vote for their favorite, and the top-vote recipient was “Queen Sophia’s Victorian” by Michael Kazak of Urban Architectural Group. (The designs may be viewed at https://mecktimes.com/reframing-charlotte-an-architectural-challenge/.)

Following are the headlines and summaries of the remaining top 10 most-read stories for 2014.

  • Boggs Paving president pleads guilty: Boggs Paving Inc. of Monroe and five of its current and past employees, including President and Co-Owner Carl Andrew “Drew” Boggs III, pleaded guilty to federal charges of defrauding the government in 10 years’ worth of road construction contracts totaling about $87 million. Those charged pleaded guilty to either one or two counts of a July 2013 indictment, and are expected to be sentenced early in 2015. Also pleading guilty was John “Styx” Cuthbertson, owner of Cuthbertson Trucking Co. Inc. of Wingate, a certified disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE), who was accused of conspiring with Boggs Paving in claiming that he performed a portion of the work as a subcontractor. Federal contracts require contractors to either subcontract with DBEs or document a good-faith effort to find such companies. Instead, according to court records, Boggs claimed $3.7 million in DBE credits, while actually paying Cuthbertson $375,432 as a kickback for participating in the scheme, which included Boggs employees setting up and controlling bank accounts and bidding on projects under Cuthbertson’s name and attaching magnetic Cuthbertson Trucking signs to Boggs Paving trucks.
  • Prosecutors seeking at least $1.5 million from Boggs Paving and president’s luxury home: Following a guilty plea by Boggs Paving, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in October filed a court document indicating it planned to seek at least $1.5 million in cash and the $2.2 million Waxhaw home of Boggs Paving President and Co-Owner Drew Boggs. However, after Boggs’ attorneys objected, saying some of the home had been paid for with funds from businesses not charged in the investigation, prosecutors withdrew the claim.
  • Two real estate professionals surrender their licenses: Dave diCecco, a former Realtor and broker with Helen Adams Realty in Ballantyne, and Robert “Trebor” Davis voluntarily surrendered their licenses to the N.C. Real Estate Commission following complaints filed with the regulatory board. Because each surrendered his license voluntarily, no formal hearings were conducted. DiCecco surrendered his license in April after a woman complained that a listing agreement for her parents’ home was extended several times without consent and that the property was being rented out without proper documentation. An anonymous complaint to the commission regarding allegations of mortgage fraud led to the surrender of Davis’ license.
  • The Fresh Market to open new store in South Charlotte: The supermarket wars heated up in 2014, with Publix, Fresh Market and Whole Foods announcing openings. In July, the Fresh Market announced that it was expanding to the Promenade on Providence shopping center near Providence Road and Interstate 485.
  • Council seeks details on Sedgefield development: The Charlotte City Council and some neighbors in September expressed concerns during a public hearing about Marsh Properties LLC’s plans to revitalize its Sedgefield multi-use development, including bringing back a Harris Teeter to the site of the second store the company ever built, in 1960. The 60-acre, $190 million project would also include 980 multifamily housing units, 100,000 square feet of office space and 98,000 square feet of retail. Plans included tearing down 303 housing units currently on the property. The council approved the rezoning request in November.
  • On the Level: Julianne McCollum: A tree-loving, MBA-holding, Internet savvy geeky-hippie with her marketing mojo on: Yellow Duck Marketing founder Julianne McCollum grew up in Silicon Valley during the early days of the computer revolution and parlayed her early knowledge of website coding into a computer-savvy marketing expertise that generates clients among some of the real estate industry’s largest companies and projects. A Charlotte resident since shortly after graduating from Purdue University 17 years ago, she had worked for Faison and Crosland before forming her marketing company.
  • On the Level: 42 minutes, 28 seconds and 17 laughs with Mike Wiggins: The partner at Crosland Southeast followed his father into the real estate business in Columbia, S.C., after graduating from the Citadel. He came to Charlotte in 1999, joining Crescent Resources, the Duke Energy property subsidiary that has since spun off, been renamed Crescent Communities, and gone through bankruptcy. During a Q&A, he talks to The Mecklenburg Times about what he does, how he does it, and what’s next in the grocery store wars.
  • Council hears Quail Hollow plans; Halvorsen, Marsh projects get green light: Harris Properties resurrected and amended its pre-recession plans for a multi-use development at Park and Gleneagles roads, to include 350 housing units, a 200-room hotel, 120,000 square feet of retail and restaurants; 65,000 square feet of specialty retail and service industry space and a parking structure. The City Council ultimately approved the amended rezoning, following a November public hearing. Also at its November meeting, the council approved Halvorsen Development Corp.’s request to rezone nearly 34 acres for 292 apartments and retail in the Prosperity Hucks area near the soon-to-be-completed last section of Interstate 485 in northeast Charlotte, as well as Marsh Properties’ request to redevelop 59 acres along South Boulevard, including the Sedgefield Shopping Center and an adjacent residential neighborhood.
  • Legacy 521 apartments to begin construction: GCI Residential of suburban Cleveland began construction in the spring on a 248-apartment community on 16 acres off Lancaster Highway. Although the rezoning was approved in September 2012, the company chose to wait for what it deemed the right time to begin construction. The project will include units with one, two and three bedrooms ranging from 826 square feet to 1,635 square feet. Amenities include a rooftop garden, a pool, and a three-story clubhouse with an indoor basketball court and a fitness center. The company expects to deliver the first units in the first quarter of 2015.

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