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Architects at home by light-rail line

For Charlotte's FMK Architects, it wasn't enough just to be on the Lynx light-rail line.

The firm's new home in a former South End warehouse building is adjacent to the New Bern Station, which it faces.

Managing principals Mark Fishero, Allan McGuire and Jon Krueger bought the 8,000-square-foot building in 2007 and spent about $2 million to convert it to offices.

FMK, which moved from uptown in mid-August, sees its investment in the rail corridor as “practicing what we have been preaching regarding the virtues of urban development,” said Fishero.

The principals say the 24-person firm's work on the 3030 South condos at the New Bern Station and other pioneering projects persuaded it to take part in the mixed-use transformation occurring on the light rail line.

It was natural, McGuire said, because much of the firm's work has been “on quirky sites and in emerging areas” similar to its new offices.

Among FMK's projects are the 400 North Church and The Ratcliffe condos uptown, the McColl Center for Visual Arts on North Tryon Street, Trinity Episcopal School in First Ward and Latta Pavilion in Dilworth.

Until this move, the 17-year-old firm had been located in the center city, said Krueger. But when it went in search of larger quarters, the South End site became “too good to pass up,” he said.

The Sidbury Group completed the renovation project in early August.

In the makeover, FMK preserved the existing interior brick walls and maintained the exposed steel bowstring trusses and wood joists of the roof structure.

What they have now, the principals say, is an open office layout with exposed ductwork and suspended lighting fixtures inside the skin of an old warehouse.

Americana is back

A memorable uptown Charlotte restaurant name from 22 years ago has re-emerged – in Matthews.

The Americana, which operated for 20 years on South Tryon Street until it lost its lease in 1986, now is serving up home-style cooking at 1628 Matthews-Mint Hill Road next to the Fullwood Plaza shops.

The proprietors' names will ring a bell with uptown diners.

George Pistolis, son of original Americana co-owner Bill Pistolis, is the owner of the new Americana, and his CEO is George Retsios, his dad's partner at the first Americana.

The younger Pistolis gets lots of advice and assistance from his parents, said mom Vicki Pistolis, a familiar face in the restaurant.

The Americana is open every day but Sunday for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

It seats 146 people and includes a private room that accommodates 40 to 45 diners.

Funky ‘green' signs

Keep your eye on the two NewDominion Bank signs that have just been installed on the office building at the Metropolitan complex in midtown.

They will use innovative “green” technology that generates varying light intensity so the bank's logo will appear to glow like a gradually rising sun when lighted.

Creator David Sheffield of Sign Services Network said the FiberLite circuitry requires about the same amount of electricity as a blow dryer.

The technique evenly distributes light similar to neon, he said, with less energy and a longer expected life span – about 50,000 hours.

Passersby might see the signs being tested, Sheffield said, but they should be turned on permanently by Sept. 10.

NewDominion expects to move into its offices in Metropolitan over the weekend.

New charter school

Beacon Partners has begun construction of Pine Lake Preparatory School's permanent campus on 22 acres just outside Mooresville.

The project, within a mile of Interstate 77 Exit 32, will accommodate a charter school enrollment of 1,400 students in grades K-12.

Christopher Perri, chief operating officer at Beacon Partners, said the first phase – three two-story classroom buildings totaling 87,200 square feet – is nearing completion just south of Faith Road on N.C. 115

A historic farmhouse on the property will be renovated and converted into a welcome center.

Future phases include a student athletic center, multi-purpose facility and media center.

Little Diversified Architectural Consultants designed the master plan. Shelco Inc. is the general contractor, and Chas. H. Sells Inc. is the civil engineer, surveyor and traffic consultant. Bank of America is providing construction financing.

The school signed a long-term lease with Beacon for the build-to-suit project and has an option to buy the campus.

Doug Smith: 704-358-5174; dougsmith@charlotteobserver.com

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