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Cornelius News

Lake Norman Realty tops $300 million in closed sales

Abigail Jennings, president of Lake Norman Realty

Feb. 15. By Dave Yochum. Cornelius-based Lake Norman Realty surpassed $300 million in closed transactions in 2020 and prospects are good for another record-breaking year. Real estate prices continue to climb, there’s a suburban resurgence and net in-migration continues.

Yet Abigail Jennings, the president of the largest locally owned real estate company, has more on her mind than growth and the bottom line. She’s an advocate of sustainability, affordable housing and preservation of wildlife and historic properties.

“Historic preservation has taken me on a path I’m really enjoying,” the Cornelius resident said, explaining that doing so helps connect with our rich local history.

She and husband Randolph Lewis live in the former Mt. Zion United Methodist Church parsonage on South Main Street. They’ve thoughtfully restored and refurbished it, making it a comfortable family home at the same time.

Their new project, the circa 1865 Ingleside plantation house in Huntersville, was just awarded National Register status based in part on the seven qualities of historic integrity—location, setting, feeling, association, design, materials, and workmanship—required for National Register designation.

Restoring it is a labor of love for Jennings and Lewis, a musician and potter who works for Pioneer Springs Community School which the couple co-founded in 2012.


While largely intact and well preserved, there are 155 years of improvements and changes at Ingleside that must have seemed wonderful at the time. Peeling back the layers while still having the goal of a family-friendly home is a juggling act for Jennings and Lewis. For example, a perfectly authentic home from this era would have a kitchen outside to prevent house fires.

A plaster ceiling collapsed due to water damage from a leaking pipe that served a mid-twentieth-century bathroom above it.

Cedar Grove

Jennings  and Lewis are working on a significant new project: The complete restoration and rehabilitation of the historic Cedar Grove  house on Gilead Road in Huntersville.

Built of brick made on Cedar Grove Plantation, the mansion was built in 1831 by Mecklenburg merchant-planter James G. Torrance. The home’s brick walls are 22 inches thick at their base. The first-floor ceilings have elaborate plaster moldings and are 13 feet high.

The house is in very original condition which means a massive investment—and partners—to preserve it and make it truly livable for the 21st century. The main parcel that includes the home is assessed at $357,800 by Mecklenburg County, but the restored value is almost incalculable.

An interest in art

Jennings worked on the production side of the Niner Times student newspaper at UNC-Charlotte where she graduated with a Bachelor of Creative Arts in 1990.

“Fine art was my first love, but I decided after college to pursue business and let my creative side come through in other ways,” she said.

Her first job after college consisted of three part-time jobs: Executive Officer for Lake Norman Home Builders Association, marketing assistant for Lake Norman Realty and assistant to her father on commercial and development projects.

“Fine art was my first love, but I decided after college to pursue business and let my creative side come through in other ways.”

Her father was Lake Norman Realty founder James Jennings, who passed away in 1999 from cancer. Her mother is Jane Getsinger, co-owner of Lake Norman Realty.

They employ 130 brokers and staff with offices in Cornelius, Davidson, Denver, Mooresville and Statesville.

Business and community

Jennings said she loves working with associates and building the team with the best tools, training and support as well as sticking to core values like serving clients first and giving back to the community.

Last month Jennings announced a $25,000 contribution to the Cain Center for the Arts. Groundbreaking is expected this spring.

“The arts inspire, generate new thoughts, and connect communities. We believe the role of the arts in today’s world is more important than ever, and we are very excited about the enrichment the Cain Center will provide to our region,” Jennings said.


She is optimistic the upward trend will continue in 2021. There is also a renewed interest in the suburbs.

“More than ever people are more interested in space and land and getting outside of the urban scene,” Jennings said.

Net in-migration and a lack of inventory—Baby Boomers are staying put—will continue to drive prices up, which adds to the affordable housing challenge local leaders are starting to address.

She sees affordable housing, also known as workforce housing, being a part of the Smithville revitalization plans and part of infill projects, most likely multi-family housing.

Growth, meanwhile, is inevitable. “I’m hearing the same comments and thoughts I’ve been hearing for 30 years,” she said, regarding anti-growth sentiments.

“Everyone who moves here doesn’t want anyone else to move here,” she said.

The challenge is balancing rights to develop property against green space and preservation.

“There is a way to do it wisely and try to preserve our beautiful community and thoughtfully designed neighborhoods.”

Jennings said: “Just because we have growth doesn’t mean it has to be bad growth.”