Future of historic estate, a ‘point of pride’ in Plaza Midwood, unclear after sale

The VanLandingham Estate in Plaza Midwood.
The VanLandingham Estate in Plaza Midwood.

The future of a historic estate in Plaza Midwood is unclear after the owner sold the property to a partnership of real estate firms last month.

Billy Maddalon, whose family had owned the property for 20 years, sold the VanLandingham Estate for $1.5 million in March, according to county property records. Maddalon was operating the 5-acre estate at the corner of The Plaza and Belvedere Avenue as an inn and event space.

A partnership between real estate firms Ascent Real Estate Capital and Stono River Partners purchased the property. Jon Dixon, managing principal at Ascent, declined to comment on whether the firm would tear down the building or maintain it.

But in a statement, Dixon said the company wants to build on the property’s history, while “providing for its successful stewardship in the years to come.”

Maddalon spent years trying to make the estate profitable, but he said the costs of maintaining the building and its gardens grew too high.

He first tried to rezone the property in 2015, with a plan that included a townhouse development and community pool, but the petition failed. The second time around, in 2018, he was successful, with a revised plan that only included the townhouses.

But he couldn’t recover from the business lost during the two years he was required to wait in between the proposals.

Billy Maddalon

“Nobody wanted to book events with somebody that was trying to change,” he said. “They didn’t know if we’d still be there in a year when their wedding occurred.”

‘A point of pride’

The property was built in 1913 for the VanLandinghams, a prominent Charlotte family. Ralph VanLandingham was a cotton broker, and his wife Susie was well-known in local philanthropic groups.

The estate is a designated historic landmark, which means that any plans to change the property will need to be approved by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission.

The building is one of the few remaining large craftsman-style homes in Charlotte, local historian Tom Hanchett said. The large gardens, wooden shingles and porch are reminiscent of an era where residents wanted to get out of the increasingly-industrial urban centers, he said.

“Charlotte is a city that has often allowed its past to slip away,” said Hanchett, who is also a resident in the neighborhood. “Our community feels a desire to hold onto this.”

Karen Van Sickler, president of the Plaza Midwood Neighborhood Association, said her organization hopes to work with the new owners to find a sustainable way to preserve the property.

“It’s always been a point of pride for our neighborhood,” she said. “It’s distressing to see older structures around Charlotte torn down. Each one that we have is even more precious, even more special.”

Maddalon still plans to sell the land for the townhouses to a developer or builder. He said while it didn’t make sense from a financial perspective, he held out on selling the estate until he could find a buyer that was interested in preserving it.

He said he was encouraged by Ascent’s history of renovating old properties.

The company, formerly known as LCRE Capital, also owns 36 & NoDa, home to the Neighborhood Theatre, as well as a retail property in South End and an adaptive re-use office space in the area just below South End.

“I certainly couldn’t envision a day where I woke up and went out to pick up my morning paper and face the neighbors as the guy that got the VanLandingham Estate torn down,” he said. “I’d love for them to say, he hung in there and gave them everything he had.”

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Danielle Chemtob covers economic growth and development for the Observer. She’s a 2018 graduate of the journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill and a California transplant.