To understand Allen Tate’s influence on Charlotte, just take a drive around town.
Neighborhoods he developed dot the city, from Kingswood to Montibello to Foxcroft.
He helped build what is now Sharon Corners shopping center, about 10 years before SouthPark Mall opened – paving the way for development that has dramatically transformed that area in recent decades.
And, of course, his company’s burgundy-and-gold for-sale signs jut out of front yards stretching from Raleigh to Greenville, S.C.
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Tate, founder of the Charlotte-based real estate firm that bears his name, died Monday at his home. He was 84.
According to the company, Tate had been in failing health for several years but continued to serve as chairman and report to the office most days.
Pat Riley, whom Tate hired in 1992 to serve as the company’s president and chief operating officer, in a statement, described Tate’s death as “a great personal loss for me.”
“Allen Tate was my mentor and beloved friend for more than 33 years, and he entrusted me with executing his vision 23 years ago. He planned well in advance for the future.”
Riley said one of Tate’s wishes upon his death was that the company’s offices would remain open, “and we will honor that wish today and for many years into the future.”
‘A man of his word’
Raised in Gaffney, S.C., Tate graduated from UNC Chapel Hill. Later, in 1957, he opened a one-man real estate and insurance office in uptown Charlotte’s Liberty Building, 112 S. Tryon St., by the intersection of Trade and Tryon streets.
He would grow that business into a major Carolinas real estate company. Today, the company has about 40 offices in its two-state footprint, about 1,400 Realtors and roughly 200 additional employees.
Tate’s company has gone on to earn national recognition. The latest annual report from Real Trends, which ranks the country’s top 500 real estate firms, listed it as No. 1 in the Carolinas and No. 7 nationwide among independently owned, non-franchised real estate companies for total closed sales in 2014.
“Allen and I liked to say we were poor country boys who came up here to make a living,” former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl said Monday.
“He was a very successful businessman, and he also was a great philanthropist. ... He was a person that didn’t just sit on his money. He did good things with it,” McColl said.
“He was a man of his word. If he said he would do something, he would do it. It was always a pleasure to do business with him.”
Tate shaped Charlotte in other ways. According to the company, he built more than 30 residential neighborhoods, many in the SouthPark area.
Around 1959, Tate and the late John Crosland Sr. built the Sharon Shopping Center on a former dairy farm.
“For some reason or other, (Crosland) had confidence in me when the bankers didn’t,” Tate told the Observer in 2010. “He loaned me money when nobody else would.”
Leader in I-485 growth
Tate also pushed for major road projects, including the completion of Interstate 485 and the widening of Interstate 85 in Cabarrus County.
On Monday, N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory called Tate a leader in developing the Interstate 485 outerbelt. In March, the final 5.7-mile segment of the project was named the H. Allen Tate Jr. Highway in Tate’s honor. The N.C. Department of Transportation said the name reflected Tate’s role as a longtime advocate of transportation improvement in the Charlotte region.
In a statement, McCrory called Tate “a friend and mentor, who taught others the importance of making a difference in their community.”
“Allen Tate’s passion to improve his community led to better roads, infrastructure and opportunities for people throughout Charlotte and our state,” McCrory said.
Bob Morgan, CEO and president of the Charlotte Chamber, in a statement, called Tate “a visionary who saw many of his dreams for Charlotte realized, while challenging us constantly with many more to fulfill.” Morgan described Tate as a friend and mentor for 25 years.
“He was a business and civic leader with a passion for people, public policy and endless possibilities. His influence will be felt in our city and region for decades to come,” Morgan said.
Dan Cottingham, co-founder of Charlotte-based real estate company Cottingham Chalk Hayes, remembers Tate as the consummate competitor.
“He was the best kind – and the worst kind – of competitor,” Cottingham said. “He was a very fair competitor, a very straightforward competitor. ... He would always say competition was the spice of life”
“He was always into bigger,” Cottingham said. “He should have been raised in Texas, because for Allen, bigger was better.”
Carroll Gray, who served as president of the Chamber while Tate was chairman in 1999, recalled him as a tireless networker.
“When he was chair of the Chamber the year we worked together he prided himself on making over 300 meetings that year. I said, ‘Allen, my job is to do these things so you don’t have to go to these meetings.’
“He enjoyed meeting people. ... He believed in Charlotte. That generation that he represents was so dedicated to this city.”
Tate is survived by his wife, Bessie; four children, Allen III and wife, Sha; Elizabeth “Libby” Gordon and husband, Paisley; Lauren Campbell and husband, Malcolm; and Frank Burgess and wife, Heather; and nine grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife, Barbara, in 2006.
Arrangements are pending. Staff Writer Jacob Steimer contributed.