Griffith Real Estate Services
E-mail    ·    Phone: 704-332-7173
1944 Brunswick Avenue
Charlotte, NC 28207
     

 

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History

History of E.C. Griffith Co.

An Environmental Approach

Although conflict often exists between developers and environmentalists, the EC Griffith Companies and the members of the Griffith family consider themselves “concerned environmentalists.” Through implementing development practices that maintain clear air and water quality the EC Griffith Company works towards balances in development and conservation.

In conjunction with the development of Eastover Ridge Apartments, the company deeded thirty acres of the wooded wetlands on the edge of Eastover to the Catawba Lands Conservancy; the donated property was named “Eastover Ridge Preserve”. A stewardship fund has been established to maintain the property which has been described as one of the last remaining urban forests and an attractive wetlands habitat. It is not unusual to see deer and other wildlife roaming the green spaces
of The Preserve.


The company demonstrated its environmental awareness while developing the first phase Eastover Ridge Apartments. The apartments were oriented so that the balconies face a small creek that some believed to flow only when it rained. The city, however, wanted to “rip-rap” the entire creek, which would have eliminated a sandy streambed as well as the vegetation on the stream banks. Jim Griffith vigorously protested this policy because he had observed a variety of small fish in the pools of the slow-flowing system. We worked hard to convince the bureaucrats, including one who said there was no wildlife in the creek because it was polluted with sewage runoff, Jim explained.

* E.C. Griffith Company constructed small weirs to protect fish and wildlife at the Eastover Ridge Apartments. The project is typical of the firm’s concern for the environment.

Due to Jim’s insistence the creek now has small weirs or dams to increase the depth and volume of water for aquatic and wild life. This stream is now home to mallards, great blue herons, kingfishers, muskrats, catfish, large mouth bass, and stream banks full of ornamental plants and vegetation with insects to support the food chain for the life that thrives around the stream.

Civic Engagement

E.C. Griffith Company is also deeply involved in a variety of civic activities. Generations of Charlotte families played on the ball fields along Randolph Road, which were “loaned” to the Myers Park/Trinity Little League for forty-two years. These were believed to be the oldest continuous play little league fields in the nation.

Preston Griffith has worked extensively with the BRIDGE Job Program (Building Responsible Individuals through Discipline, Guidance and Education) started by Christ Episcopal Church. They reach out to “at-risk” young adults, most of whom are drop-outs, by providing mentors, educational services and training for many needing a second chance; Preston even served as chairman of the board.


The company is also a strong supporter of such organizations as Good Will Industries, Crisis Assistance, Habitat for Humanity, Bridge Jobs Program, American Cancer Society Research, Good Fellows, Goodwill, Salvation Army, Catawba Lands Conservancy, Katawba Valley Land Trust, Mecklenburg Ministries Family-to-Family, and many others. E.C Griffith, Sr. was a founding member of the Mint Museum of Art. He donated the museum’s 3 acre site on Randolph Road, around 1933.

A lot of luck is involved in the land speculation business, and the growth and success of Charlotte is due to the efforts of many fine people and companies which the E.C. Griffith Family Company will always appreciate. Having a solid family business structure in place and nearly 100 years of experience, the E.C. Griffith Company is poised to remain a successful family owned development firm that will serve the Charlotte Community for many years to come. Please let us know how we might serve you. We have a real estate Concierge ready to serve you today.

* E.C. Griffith, Sr. was a founding member of the Mint Museum of Art and donated the museum’s three-acre site on Randolph Road
in the 1930’s

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History of E.C. Griffith Co.

The E.C. Griffith Company and the Second Generation



* E.C. Griffith, Sr. and Frances

In 1923 Griff married Frances Rudy and they had five children, three boys and two girls: E.C., Jr., known as Sonny, David, Francie, Jimbo and Sally. After struggling to pay off his loans and keeping the business afloat, Griff taught his sons not to take risks and to seldom borrow money, the opposite of his original business philosophy.

The first of Griffith’s sons came on board in 1946. E.C. “Sonny” Griffith Jr. just was finishing his tour in the Air Force during World War II. David Griffith also joined the E.C Griffith Company and after a brief stint in the Navy, he operated an insurance business within company for a short time. Griff had set a clear direction for Sonny and future generations to come; pay down debt and don’t take chances. As a result, the company was virtually free of debt and any development was done with cash. Later in 1955 James R. “Jimbo” Griffith came on board after a 4 year tour with the U.S. Air force in Europe. Griff trained Jimbo Sr. to look after operations while E.C. Jr. aided in marketing of lots and operated a construction company that built many of the elegant houses in Eastover – most notably 517 Museum Drive the residence of E.C. and Francis Griffith fondly known as Nanny and Poppy to their grandchildren. The conservative efforts of the second Generation led the company to explore the underserved medical office market, brokering build to suits and leases with Charlotte Medical Clinic, Miller Orthopedic, Nalle Women Specialty Clinic (now REACH). This pioneering spring boarded a segment of real estate for the E.C. Griffith Co. that has become a specialty. Other notable developments were the Downtowner Hotel (later to be known as the Four Points Sheraton) and the
Eastover Glenn Apartments.

The E.C. Griffith Company and the Third Generation

The third generation is now headed by James R. Griffith, Jr., as President and his brother, Preston “Fred” Griffith, who serves as Executive Vice President. Their philosophy is somewhere between their grandfather’s entrepreneurial risk taking and the second generation’s Great Depression risk-aversion approach, with the second generation overseeing and approving all their projects. The current philosophy is best described as prudent, but progressive. The family is well aware of statistics that show only about 11% of family businesses successfully survive to
the third generation.


James R. “Jim” Griffith, Jr. worked with Coldwell Banker Commercial Real Estate Services, Inc. before joining the family firm in 1988. Preston, formerly with Charter Properties, Inc., followed in 1990. They both have attained their CCIM designation; which is referred to by some as the graduate degree of real estate.

* Three generations of the Griffith family (From left right): Preston Griffith, E.C. Griffith, Jr., Jim Griffith, Sr., and Jim Griffith, Jr., pose in front of a portrait of company founder E.C. Griffith, Sr.

Recognizing the importance of family first and using the Total Quality Management business philosophy, Jim and Preston managed to restructure the company in a way that satisfied the interests of the second generation while providing new opportunities for the future. This business plan earned the company the prestigious North Carolina Family Business Forum Award, presented by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business in 1997. The E.C. Griffith Company and The Griffith Real Estate Services Company are presently active in the Wake Forest’s Babcock School & Family Business Center. The Families involvement in the Family Business Center keeps the focus on continuous improvement, constant benchmarking of the best family companies and a renewed charge for the company as a professionally managed business serving clients with care and concern for their every need – like family.

According to a recent inventory, The E.C. Griffith Company and its associated entities total nearly one thousand acres of development, including apartment complexes, shopping centers, medical offices, industrial parks, office buildings and residential neighborhoods.

The company’s portfolio of investments includes:

  • Woodlawn Crossing Shopping Center
  • Tyvola Executive Park, a 45,000 square-foot office park
  • Presbyterian Imaging Center at Museum Medical Plaza, a 10,000 square-foot medical facility built for Presbyterian Hospital
  • Medical Plaza II – 3030 Randolph Road for Carolinas Healthcare System
  • Museum Medical Plaza III – 2826 Randolph Road built for Perry Orthopedics & Sport Medicine
  • 1.2-acre uptown ground lease with Bank America, known as Seventh Street Station located on Charlottes Light Rail
  • Eastover Ridge Apartments, a two-phase luxury apartment complex on Randolph Road totaling 424 units
  • Griffith Lakes, a 400 acre mixed-use Transit Oriented Development located on the Future Northern Commuter Line on WT Harris Blvd across from Davis Lakes. Griffith Lakes will strive to preserve 159 acres of the 400 total acres as pristine forest, lakes and streams.
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History of E.C. Griffith Co.

The Depression and a change in business philosophy



* E.C. Griffith, Sr. built his dream home in Eastover for $60,000

Like many other businesses the young development firm was successful but highly leveraged. The E.C. Griffith Company was nearly brought to its knees by the great economic depression that gripped the nation in the 1930s. At one point, the depression nearly cost Griff every property he had managed to acquire, but the bank (thought to be Wachovia) showed a rare bit of compassion.

As the bank was contemplating repossession of the Griffith properties a Bank Officer is quoted as asking the Board, “If Griff can’t make it with these properties, what are we going to do with them?” The bankers gave Griff more time to pay off his loans and the company survived.

The hardships of the depression and the threat of nearly losing all he had worked to build, had a profound effect on E.C. Griffith, Sr. Another instance from the Great Depression tells how E.C. Griffith, Sr. built his dream house at the corner of Eastover Road and Cherokee Road for $60,000(now the Kemp House at 301Eastover Road). Because of the terrible economic conditions, he was forced to sell it for $30,000 — $15,000 in cash and $15,000 on a note. In 1934 Griff went on to buy a much smaller and less expensive house on Hempstead Place which was having difficulty selling due to the lack of available buyers. Stories and memories from that time are best described in the book “Eastover: Hempstead Revisited” written by family friend and former U.S. Congressman Alex McMillan.

During this era of caution E.C. Griffith, Sr., remained creative, financing his many projects by borrowing money from any source he could find, including his friend and civic leader Mr. Thaddeus “Thad Tate, a well known local barber. (a replica of Thad Tate Barbershop is at The Museum of the New South). According to which version of the story you choose to believe, E.C. Griffith needed cash to finance a real estate purchase on Briar Creek and Thad Tate loaned Griff $2,000 on a four percent note or $4,000 on a two percent note. Regardless, it was a large sum of money around the time of the Depression. Thad had more cash on hand than the developers who borrowed and leveraged their real estate holdings. The economy’s hardships were business lessons Griffith carried with him and later immortalized into minutes of the E.C. Griffith Board of Directors Meeting by stating “stock pile cash”in lieu of relying on Banks for conventional lending.

Bob Pharr of R.B. Pharr & Associates described real estate transactions that kept Eastover from going under. At the corner of Laurel Avenue and Colville Road and Randolph Road (formerly Crescent Road Extension) there were several single family residential lots that Mr. Vernon Goode Senior wanted to assemble/purchase to construct an upscale apartment complex, known today as Alson Court. This was much to the dislike of the Eastover Community, it was at the time against the Restrictive Covenants, however the assemblage and ultimately the sale preserved the Eastover Neighborhood, keeping it from being sold piecemeal and realizing its longstanding quality and character it boast today.

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History of E.C. Griffith Co.

The E.C. Griffith Company,
Established 1912



* This 1930’s photo shows Hempstead Place in Eastover, looking toward
Fenton Place. Today the small oak saplings in the photo have grown to create a cathedral-like canopy
over the street.

In 1912 it was official; the E.C. Griffith Company was open for business; selling, brokering and developing real estate in the Charlotte area. Around 1922 Mr. George Stephens relocated to Asheville in order to operate the Asheville Citizen Newspaper and do some development in the Biltmore Forest Area. He turned over the development of Myers Park and the operation of the Stephens Company to the E.C. Griffith Company. This early vote of confidence by George Stephens helped The E.C. Griffith Co become experts in residential suburban development. The E.C. Griffith Company served as the marketing agent and developer of Myers Park until the Stephens Company was dissolved in the middle 1950’s. A 1921 platted site plan of Myers Park shows lots ranging from $500 to $4000. This particular blue print was a detailed color coded working map printed on linen and it rarely left Griff’s sight.

Among Griff’s early developments was the Eastover Subdivision off Providence Road, which remains one of Charlotte’s premier neighborhoods. Other residential & commercial developments of the 20’s 30’s and 40’s include parts of Elizabeth known as Rosemont, office and industrial building in the West Morehead Corridor, and the Historic Wesley Heights and Dowd Heights (now referred to as Bryant Park). These were likely risky endeavors at the time. For instance, the 2.5 acre site for the Westminster Presbyterian Church at Colville Road and Randolph Road was a land trade; the E.C. Griffith Company received 360 acres of farm land well north of Charlotte- in the boon docks at the time. That land, now known as Griffith Lakes, is a future mixed use residential community and transit oriented development on the North Corridor Transit Line, which will service Charlotte, Huntersville, Davidson and Cornelius. The name Griffith Lakes originated from the cartographers naming the geographical land marks after surveying the lakes and asking the locals about the lakes with them responding those are Griffith’s Lakes.

Another storybook deal was the trade of a single residential lot at the corner of Eastover Road and Colville Road in exchange for a 90 acre farm in the south part of the county. That tract near the Quail Hollow Country Club is in the Bellingrath neighborhood known as the
Preserve at Bellingrath.

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History of E.C. Griffith Co.

E.C. Griffith, Sr. Developer
and Risk Taker

E.C. Griffith Senior grew up in Oak Grove, Virginia which is a small town on the Arrapahonock River. He left home at a young age and found work in a neighboring town and later moved to Washington DC to work for an Uncle and attend night school at Georgetown University. After his undergraduate studies were completed E.C. Griffith, known as “Griff”, attended Georgetown University School of Law.

At some juncture of pursuing his jurist doctorate, he realized his heart was not in the legal profession. Since he was resolved not to return to “Twiford”, his homestead in Oak Grove, he looked southward to explore his entrepreneurial spirit. His sights were focused on 3 cities: Atlanta, Georgia, where it said that he had offers to work for Coca-Cola USA; Jacksonville, Florida; or the up and coming crossroads town of Charlotte, North Carolina. It may have been the prospects of the healthy growing economy, the abundance of opportunities or just a gut feeling that led Griff to choose the Queen City, because in 1910 he set out to make Charlotte his new home.

One of Griffith’s first careers in Charlotte was a little known bank called American Trust Company, the predecessor of Bank of America; where he held a position in real estate lending. After a year in American Trust’s real estate department he ventured out to start his own business. While working for the bank young E.C. befriended Mr. George Stephens, developer of the Myers Park neighborhood. Mr. Stephens had earlier formed American Trust and also served as the Chairman of the Board. With the powerful influence of George Stephens, it is not a surprise that E.C. Griffith tried his hand at building spec houses in Myers Park. This mentoring and friendship with Mr. Stephens likely explains why E.C. Griffith ultimately gravitated toward real estate as his lifelong career.

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1944 Brunswick Avenue - Charlotte, NC 28207 / Tel. 704-332-7173 / Fax: 704-332-7176
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