John Crosland Jr., who grew his father’s business and became one of the Charlotte area’s most prolific and charitable residential and commercial developers, died Aug. 2 at age 86 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.
Crosland, who was inducted into the National Housing Hall of Fame, became president in 1965 of the company that bore his family’s name. Begun in 1937, Crosland expanded over the years to build more than 20,000 multifamily units and 13,500 single-family homes in the Southeast, including the Charlotte developments Birkdale Village, Alpha Mill Apartments, Beverly Woods, Huntingtowne Farms and Foxcroft East. The company also developed the Blakeney and Sharon Corners commercial projects.
Crosland was known for his passion for building affordable housing, and was the founding chairman of Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte in 1983. For his efforts, he was recognized with national honors including the HUD Commissioner’s Award for Involvement in Affordable Housing and the Hearthstone Builder Humanitarian Award.
Maren Brisson-Kuester, president of the Charlotte Regional Realtors Association and the Carolina Multiple Listing Services Inc., describes Crosland as being “the epitome of a businessman of his era,” and that many were surprised by his big heart. His good works for others were often performed “behind the scenes” she said. “He was all about putting people together for the greater good,” she said, adding that Crosland was able to shine the light on housing needs and “do what was needed to help the less fortunate.”
Ned Curran, president and chief executive of The Bissell Cos. and board chair of the N.C. Department of Transportation, agrees. “The real estate community has lost not just an outstanding builder but also an individual who was steadfastly committed to making Charlotte a better place,” he said in an email.
Crosland’s governing philosophy, according to his obituary, was: “I’ve always believed that the most important thing that I could do to truly make a difference in the lives of others would be to fight to make sure that people have access to homes that they can afford. Affordable, quality housing stock is the foundation of a strong community and a healthy root system, so this is a fight that we cannot give up.”
Crosland was born in September 1928, to Lillian Floyd Crosland and John Crosland Sr. He attended Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia, and graduated from Davidson College with a business degree in 1951, the same year he married Parker Shackelford.
He served in the U.S. Army in Korea and Japan, returning to Charlotte in 1954 to work with his father at the John Crosland Co., which built its first retail center in 1938 at the corner of Colony Road and Selwyn Avenue.
It was at this time that Crosland met fellow Charlotte-area developer H. Allen Tate Jr. The two remained friends for more than 60 years, until Tate’s death less than two months ago.
Crosland became chief executive in 1971, and chairman in 1999. During that time, in 1987, the company sold its single-family homes division to Centex.
In 2000, the company rebranded as Crosland with the tagline “It’s our place to improve yours,” and opened a Raleigh office.
Crosland was a founding member and chairman of the Charlotte Real Estate Building Industry Coalition, and served in numerous local, statewide and national industry leadership positions, including past president of Charlotte Home Builders Association, the North Carolina Home Builders Association and the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency.
“John Crosland was a giant in our industry,” said REBIC Executive Director Joe Padilla in a written statement. “He had a passion for the building business, and understood the importance of making homeownership accessible to Americans of modest incomes. He was a generous man who will be deeply missed by all of us who knew him.”
Tommy Lawing Jr., president of T.R. Lawing Realty and chair of the N.C. Real Estate Commission, said Crosland will long be remembered for his emphasis on civic participation. “He urged Realtors and homebuilders and others to get involved in the City Council and in the community,” Lawing said. He described Crosland’s outlook as, “You can’t be a taker. You have to be a giver as well.”
As for Crosland’s success in real estate, Lawing chalks that up, in part, to hiring the best. Crosland had great listening skills, he said, and paid great attention to detail, often taking copious notes. “He believed in the laborious process of hiring the best,” Lawing said.
Crosland is survived by his wife of 37 years, Judy; his son, John Crosland III; his stepsons, William (Rocky) and Michael McClamroch; and their five children, Megan, Will, John, Matthew and Michael.