African American architect and political pioneer: Harvey Gantt design firm sold to New York-based company

December 12, 2012

Business, Did you know?

Gantt architecture design firm, a designer of key Charlotte buildings, is sold

Gantt Huberman

By Kerry Singe
The Charlotte Observer

Gantt Huberman Architects, the firm that built such Charlotte landmarks as Transamerica Square and ImaginOn, has been sold to a New York-based company.

The firm, founded by former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt and business partner Jeff Huberman, has been acquired by Bergmann Associates, a 375-person architecture and engineering firm with a dozen offices across the Northeast, Midwest and Florida.

“We reached a lot of the goals we set for ourselves. We developed a nice practice here,” Gantt, 69, told the Observer on Tuesday. “But we’re also getting older. We had to start thinking about succession, especially because we have such a wonderful group of young architects and professionals on the staff.”

All employees, including Gantt and Huberman, 70, will stay on with the company. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Gantt said he and Huberman had been thinking for a few years about a succession plan for the firm. He said Bergmann approached them and the two groups spent a year getting to know one another.

Clients of Bergmann Associates have included TD Bank, the Army Corps of Engineers, CSX and Michigan State University.

Gantt and Huberman founded their firm in 1971, working out of a small office on South Tryon Street with a part-time secretary. Since then, the company has designed and built projects ranging from church additions to the Charlotte Transportation Center to the playfully modern ImaginOn: The Joe and Joan Martin Center.

The firm has been particularly active with schools, designing and renovating buildings for UNC Greensboro, Johnson C. Smith University and UNC Charlotte. Among the most distinctive is the UNC Charlotte Center City Building, a glass-wrapped high-rise in uptown’s First Ward designed to look like a stack of books.

“We had a passion for design and building buildings – significant buildings,” Gantt said. “We’ve just done a range of work covering the Carolinas, and we’re pretty happy with it.”

Tom Mitchell, CEO of Bergmann Associates, said in a statement: “The Gantt Huberman brand is recognized and respected in the region, and will remain intact. We intend to keep the talents of this dedicated group of professionals and invest to grow the Charlotte location and the Carolinas’ client base substantially.”

Historian Tom Hanchett called Gantt Huberman “one of the pioneering firms in integrating urban design and architecture.”

“Gantt Huberman has worked really hard to shape those buildings so they bring us together as a community,” Hanchett said.

The Transamerica Square building on North Tryon Street, for example, was one of Charlotte’s first to look outward toward the street, designed for sidewalk cafes and art galleries, Hanchett said. Built in 1997, it features a hidden parking deck and a fresco painted by Ben Long in the rotunda ceiling of an open-air archway leading to a courtyard accessible to the public.

“That building showed that Charlotte could be a place where being in the city as a pedestrian was fun,” Hanchett said.

Hanchett said the pioneering quality of Gantt Huberman’s design echoed Gantt’s civic leadership. A Charleston native, Gantt was the first African-American student to attend Clemson University, integrating the school’s architecture department.

Gantt later served on the Charlotte City Council before becoming the city’s first African-American mayor in 1983, and ran for the U.S. Senate in North Carolina twice.

Gantt Huberman is one of the area’s most diverse architecture firms, something in which the founders take pride. The firm also nurtured its talent: About half a dozen former employees later started their own firms.

“I owe them everything, personally and professionally,” said architect and former Mecklenburg County commissioner Darrel Williams. Williams said he’d grown frustrated with the profession by the time he joined Gantt Huberman. He went on to work for the firm for 12 years.

“They inspired me and revived my appreciation for the architecture profession,” said Williams, founder of Neighboring Concepts. “They allowed me to get involved in projects from start to finish. They allowed me to grow.”

Williams said he also appreciated how the firm and its leaders focused on a commitment to community.

“They taught me about giving back and the need for architects to share their talents to make the community better, beyond just doing buildings. To be able to make a difference,” he said.

What they’re saying

Kate Shelton, executive director of the Charlotte unit of the American Institute of Architects:

“In the past 41 years, Gantt Huberman Architects (GHA) has helped shape the city and region we live in, and has fostered community leaders. When looking at the history of GHA, one will find a rich story of community growth, personal development and leadership… The firm’s portfolio reflects an investment into this city, including projects from the Transportation Center to the revitalization and growth of Johnson C. Smith University….

Michael Smith, president and CEO of Charlotte Center City Partners:

“This is a great success story of a couple of visionary architects that have made incredible contributions to our city and our state. They have a great legacy…Some of Charlotte’s other great architects have been a part of that firm and gone off and served on their own.”

A Gantt Huberman portfolio
Among Gantt Huberman’s best-known projects:
• ImaginOn: The Joe & Joan Martin Center
• Charlotte Transportation Center
• Beatties Ford Road Library Addition and Renovation
• UNC Charlotte Center City Building
• Renovation of Johnson C. Smith University Biddle Memorial Hall
• Central Piedmont Community College Health Careers Building
• UNC Charlotte College of Education
• Friendship Missionary Baptist Church New Church Campus


Harvey B. Gantt, FAIA

Harvey B. Gantt, FAIA stands outside The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African- American Arts and Culture in Charlotte, a building designed by an African American architect Philp G. Freelon, FAIA owner of  The Freelon Group Architects.

Harvey B. Gantt is an American architect and Democratic politician in North Carolina. He was the first African American student admitted to enroll at Clemson University in South Carolina. Gantt would later become Mayor of Charlotte from 1983 to 1987, North Carolina’s largest city. The city did not  at that time have majority black population and currently does not have a majority black population.  Gantt was the first of only 2 African Americans to hold office as mayor of Charlotte. Gantt ran twice, against Republican Jesse Helms in 1990 and in 1996, for the United States Senate.

Video: Harvey Gantt Black History Moment

Video: Harvey Gantt remarks on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Video: Former Mayor of Charlotte Harvey Gantt Remarks at 2012 Democratic National Convention

Video: Tavis Smiley at the Harvey B. Gantt Center

Video: The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts and Culture

Video: Culture of innovation in Charlotte post the Great Recession and the Global Financial Crisis
Harvey Gantt on entrepreneurship in Charlotte along with the current mayor of Charlotte Anthony Foxx and former Chairman and CEO of Bank of America


Harvey B. Gantt
Gantt, a native of Charleston, South Carolina graduated from Burke High School in 1960. He was interested in studying architecture at Clemson University, but because Clemson was not accepting African American students at the time, he enrolled at Iowa State University. But Gantt persisted, filing a lawsuit in 1962 to gain admission to Clemson University. In January, 1963 Gantt was granted admission and he enrolled later that month. He graduated from Clemson with honors in 1965.

Gantt worked for an architectural firm in Charlotte, North Carolina after graduating from Clemson. He received a master’s degree in city planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1970 and formed the Charlotte architectural firm of Gantt, Huberman and Associates.

Harvey Gantt at Clemson University

Harvey Gantt enrolling at Clemson University

Harvey Gantt -Clemson University

Harvey Gantt- Clemson University

Harvey Gantt -Clemson University

Harvey Gantt graduation Clemson University

Harvey Gantt shown in front of the growing Charlotte skyine while mayor of Charlotte in the 1980s
Harvey Gantt seen when Mayor of Charlotte

U.S. Senator Jesse Helms, R-N.C., grabs hold of his opponent’s supporter as he departs his voting precinct in Raleigh, N.C., in this Nov. 6, 1990 photo. (AP Photo/Bob Jordan)
Jesse Helms U.S. Senate race against Gantt

Harvey Gantt Senate race

The framed photo hangs in a hallway of Harvey Gantt’s uptown home, a bittersweet reminder of what might have been as well as a portent of what would come. It shows a 29-year-old Barack Obama in a Boston apartment, stretching open a blue denim shirt to reveal a white “Gantt for U.S. Senate” T-shirt.

“To Harvey – an early inspiration,” reads the inscription. “Barack Obama.”

Later -then U.S. Senator Barack Obama won North Carolina in 2008 to become President of the United States of America, he was the first Democrat to win North Carolina in more than 30 years (Jimmy Carter).
A younger Barack Obama supporting Harvey Gantt in U.S. Senate race

1990 North Carolina U.S. Senate election
Republican Jesse Helms (incumbent) 1,089,012 52.58%
Democratic Harvey Gantt 981,573 47.39%
Socialist Workers Rich Stuart 681 0.03%

1996 North Carolina U.S. Senate election
Republican Jesse Helms (incumbent) 1,345,833 52.64%
Democratic Harvey Gantt 1,173,875 45.92%
Libertarian Ray Ubinger 25,396 0.99%
Natural Law Victor Pardo 11,209 0.44%

Harvey Gantt returns to Clemson University
Gantt Returns to Clemson

Former Charlotte, NC Mayor Harvey Gantt addresses the Democratic National Convention.
(Photo: AP Photo | Date: Sep. 6, 2012)
Harvey Gantt at the 2012 DNC -Charlotte


Gantt Huberman Architects was founded in 1971 by Harvey Gantt, FAIA and Jeffrey Huberman, FAIA

Charlotte Transportation Center
Charlotte Transportation Center

Transamerica Square- Charlotte
Transamerica Square -Charlotte

ImaginOn: The Joe & Joan Martin Center -Charlotte

Elizabeth City State University- Fine Arts Building
Elizabeth City State University Fine Arts Building

North Carolina Central University -Tyronza Richmond Residence Hall and New Residence Hall II
NCCU Tyronza Richmond Residence Hall

NCCU Tyronza Richmond Residence Hall

First Calvary Baptist Church- Columbia, SC
First Calvary Baptist Church Columbia SC

Friendship Missionary Baptist Church- Charlotte, NC
Friendship Missionary Baptist Church Charlotte NC

Alcorn Middle School- Columbia, SC
Alcorn Middle School Columbia SC

North Carolina Central University -School of Education
North Carolina Central University School of Education

University of North Carolina at Charlotte -Center City Building- uptown UNC Charlotte campus
UNC Charlotte Center City Building


Jeff Huberman, FAIA

Jeff Huberman received his Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) degree from the University of Florida in 1964.

Jeff Huberman is a founding partner in Gantt Huberman Architects. He is actively involved in the administration of the firm as well as the planning and design of many of the firm’s notable projects.

Huberman has served on the North Carolina Board of Architecture since 1994, where he has been elected secretary, treasurer, vice-president, and president. He has also served in a number of leadership roles for the AIA on both the state and national levels. Among his many honors, Huberman received the 2002 F. Carter Williams Gold Medal, the most distinguished award AIA North Carolina accords its membership.

Huberman is currently serving his third year on the AIA Jury of Fellows. He has served as Vice President and on the Board of Directors of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, as well as President of AIA North Carolina and the North Carolina Board of Architecture. He has also served on numerous cultural and civic organization boards. His paintings are in many museums and public art collections. His projects include civic projects and major facilities for higher education.

Among his community-related work, Huberman currently serves on the board of advisors for Opera Carolina and is a former board member of the Green Hill Center for North Carolina Art, Opera Carolina, Children’s Theater, and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Arts and Science Council. He also has been honored for his service to the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.

Beyond his professional responsibilities, Huberman is a highly regarded painter. He has participated in numerous individual and group exhibitions throughout his career, including shows at the NC Museum of Art, the Asheville Art Museum, and the Fayetteville Museum of Art. His work is part of the public collections at the Asheville Art Museum, Bucknell University, and Bank of America.

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