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Cornelius News

The late Tom Clark would be remembered with proposed redevelopment project in Davidson

Thomas F. Clark Trust building proposal. Courtesy Town of Davidson

June 13. By Dave Yochum. A proposal from the Thomas F. Clark Trust would preserve and expand upon historic buildings at 121-129 N. Main St. in Davidson. Prominent architect Chuck Travis, the former mayor of Cornelius and designer of some of the buildings in Birkdale Village, is the late Clark’s long-time architectural consultant.

Clark, who graduated from Davidson College in 1949—and later taught in the Department of Religion—was internationally famous for his gnome sculptures. He established Cairn Studios in Davidson with another alumnus, Joe Poteat.

On the agenda

The proposal will be discussed at tomorrow’s Town Board meeting.

Cairn Studios was making millions in revenue every year, and Poteat once bragged to Business North Carolina that there were dealers “in every county in every state in the nation.” Clark ultimately retired from teaching at Davidson to work full time on his art, and sales only expanded. Clark and Poteat’s company grew and eventually had a staff of hundreds of people working on faithfully reproducing each one of Clark’s creations for sale.

—The Davidsonian

It’s unclear how much the project will cost, but it must pass multiple town reviews. The project, which is conceptual at this point, includes new commercial space and up to three residential units.

It breaks down like this:

Existing 1 Story Retail buildings

5,790 SF +/-  Heated

New building, preserving existing façade

26,933 SF +/- Heated

3,925 SF +/- Elevated terraces

5,000 SF +/- Common areas

The proposed project would add 21,100 square feet of heated leasable space.


The proposed name of the project is The Thomas F. Clark Center. Clark, Travis and Greensboro attorney George House have met and consulted with Davidson officials, according to a letter from House to Davidson’s chief planner, Jason Burdette.

The plans were approved by Clark shortly before his death at 93 in January.

Burdette could not be reached for comment this morning.

The trust is asking that allowed building heights be partially increased by one story in the rear of the project while still keeping the one-story retail ambiance facing North Main.

Mayor Rusty Knox

The design includes balconies on upper floors. A fourth story would be set back a minimum of 40 feet from Main Street.

Mayor Rusty Knox said he is “very excited” about the possibilities this project could bring to Main Street.

“Whether the trust can go forward with Dr. Clark’s vision is dependent upon the town’s favorable decision on these variances and assistance,” House said in a letter to Burdette.

Thomas Clark photo: Legacy.com