25 SouthPark moments

Features

June 28, 2024



It seems like only yesterday we were partying like it’s 1999, excited to usher in a new millennium while simultaneously wary of the impending Y2K crisis (which thankfully never happened). 

That’s the year this magazine debuted as a community-focused, glossy successor to SouthPark Update, a quarterly publication started by real-estate developer The Bissell Companies. Scott Martin was the editor of both. “I covered some of the bigger issues impacting the community but also joyously included ‘micro-news,’ and the readers seemed to like the editorial mix,” shares Martin, now a direct response copywriter, author and ski instructor in Colorado. “If you lived in SouthPark and you placed fourth in a baking competition in Delray Beach, Fla., you were in the magazine.” 

Martin left a year after the magazine’s launch, and SouthPark leaned more heavily into luxury living — the pages were filled with stories about luxe watches, fine housewares (and where to shop for them), upscale homebuilders, even luxury dog care. 

In 2008, another shift occurred when Leigh Dyer took the reins as editor. The magazine was owned by The Charlotte Observer, and then-publisher Ann Caulkins decided to move the magazine under the purview of the newsroom, Dyer recalls. 

“We did not view SouthPark as a geographic boundary, but as a name synonymous with the Charlotte lifestyle we were covering,” says Dyer, who is now executive director at GreenHill Center for N.C. Art in Greensboro. “So we did stories from other places around the region that we knew would have region-wide interest. But we did deepen our ties to the SouthPark area and viewed it as our epicenter.” 

In spring 2019, SouthPark’s current owner, The Pilot, a regional media company based in Southern Pines, acquired the magazine from the Observer. Design, local arts, cuisine, style and travel — along with spotlighting local luminaries and community leaders — have been at the core of SouthPark since the early years. Join us as we reflect back on the last 25 years — and look ahead to the next 25. 

— Cathy Martin, editor, 2019-present

1999

No. 1

The first issue of SouthPark magazine, Summer 1999

In the inaugural issue, topics ranged from a hotly contested rezoning to expand SouthPark Mall to the beer selection at the Morrocroft Harris Teeter (better known then and now as the Taj Ma-Teeter). Other stories touted the SouthPark Campus beautification project — a privately funded effort to improve the look of the shared campus of Selwyn, Alexander Graham and Myers Park schools — plus updates on Dean & Deluca Wine Room at Phillips Place and Noble’s restaurant, which had just opened. The cover story featured the “Morrocroft Mansion,” a Tudor Revival-style home built in the 1920s in the heart of SouthPark that’s on the National Register of Historic Places. 

“A really great group of creative professionals put some of their best work into SouthPark Magazine, founding editor Scott Martin recalls. “Despite the surfeit of anonymous office buildings and the carefully-manicured suburban sameness [that defined] SouthPark, there were lots of curious, interesting and generally amenable characters, and I liked to write about them in the magazine.”

2002

No. 2

Symphony Park in Charlotte, NC

Photograph courtesy Charlotte Symphony

Symphony Park debuts, kicking off a period of growth for the SouthPark area, including the opening of Nordstrom and the “luxury wing” at SouthPark Mall in 2004 and Piedmont Town Center in 2005. 

2007

No. 3

Blue line transit in Charlotte, NC

Photograph by Alex Cason

The first segment of the Blue Line brings light-rail passenger transit to Charlotte, setting off a development boom along the train’s corridor, which today extends from Pineville to UNC Charlotte.


November 2008

No. 4

First Swirl in SouthPark magazine, November 2008

Galas, gowns and plenty of glam: Led by longtime Observer writer and social editor Olivia Fortson, Swirl debuts in SouthPark, highlighting the best-dressed Charlotteans and the hottest parties of the season. See the latest SWIRL.

November 2008

No. 5

“Extreme Home Makeover,” ABC series that filmed in Charlotte’s Windsor Park neighborhood

Before Chip and Joanna Gaines, there was “Extreme Home Makeover,” a hit ABC series that filmed in Charlotte’s Windsor Park neighborhood in 2008. Leigh Dyer wrote about the filming in SouthPark, scooping other local news outlets. “[My] newsroom instincts stayed with me, as I liked to print stories that still were ‘newsworthy’ even if they took two to three months to bring to print. For example, I was able to… publish the home-transformation photos that had been embargoed in the regular paper until the show aired, actually becoming the first in Charlotte to ‘break’ that particular story.” 

2009

No. 6

First Blvd. section in SouthPark magazine, 2009

April marked the first Blvd. section in the magazine, which Dyer described at the time as “a perusal across the cultural landscape — from shopping, to art, to philanthropy.” 

July 2009

No. 7

Former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt on cover of SouthPark magazine, July 2009

Former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt graced the cover, three months ahead of the opening of the uptown arts and cultural center bearing his name. The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture — better known as simply the Gantt Center — debuted in October 2009.  

2010

No. 8

Photograph by Daniel Coston

The openings of the Gantt Center and Knight Theater in 2009 were swiftly followed by the debut of The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art in January 2010 and Mint Museum Uptown in October, establishing the cultural corner of uptown known as Levine Center for the Arts.

April 2010

No. 9

“Pit of potential?” outlined the story of the failed attempt to land a Saks Fifth Avenue and a five-star hotel at the corner of Park and Gleneagles roads

“Pit of potential?” outlined the story of the failed attempt to land a Saks Fifth Avenue and a five-star hotel at the corner of Park and Gleneagles roads. The property owned by Dee-Dee Harris and Harris Land Co. was originally rezoned in 1989; plans for the site evolved over time. Thirty-five years later, the 19-acre lot on a prominent corner near Quail Hollow Club is still vacant. 

2011-13

No. 10

The first three seasons of the hit Showtime series “Homeland” were filmed in Charlotte

Photograph courtesy Showtime

The first three seasons of the hit Showtime series “Homeland” were filmed in Charlotte. In the October 2011 issue, writer Caroline Portillo, who would later become editor of SouthPark, sat down for an interview with actor Mandy Patinkin. “I just absolutely love, love Charlotte,” Patinkin said. “I love virtually every human being I’ve come in contact with. I love the quietness of it. I love that you don’t feel the energy or insanity of New York or L.A. It’s not about any of that. To me, it’s about having a good quality, quiet life.”

July 2012

No. 11

Portrait by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. Pin photograph by John Bigelow Taylor

Writer (now local PR pro) Rachel Sutherland got an exclusive interview with Madeleine Albright when the former U.S. Secretary of State exhibited a collection of 200 pins at the Mint Museum. “Her pins have taken on a life of their own, sending subtle (and sometimes not too subtle) messages to the world,” Sutherland wrote. The diplomat was known for using jewelry to convey her views on political situations. “The way it started… the other ambassadors started asking, ‘What are we doing today?’ and rather than answer them, I told them to read my pins, and they began to do so,” Albright said. “It was fun. They came to know flowers were a good thing, bugs not so much.”

August 2012

No. 12

“I’ll never forget interviewing Wolfgang Puck during the grand opening of WP Kitchen,” shares former editor Cristina Wilson, now founder and CEO of Mood House massage studios. “We chatted while he made a pizza from scratch in front of me. I asked him to share some cooking advice for readers, and he told me, ‘It’s pretty easy, really. Get the best ingredients and then don’t f*** them up.’ We chickened out of including that quote then, but looking back I wish we had gone for it!” 

2014-16

No. 13

Potluck cover of SouthPark magazine, May 2015

“The features that stick with me the most are the annual dining issue potluck chef dinners,” shares Sarah Crosland, editor from 2013-2017. “We hosted our inaugural one inside an old trolley in what is now the Trolley Barn at Atherton Mill. We invited chefs, mixologists, and brewers to come together for the dinner, bringing some of their favorite food and drinks to share. Relish Carolina and Plaid Penguin styled it, Lunahzon photographed it, and Keia Mastrianni wrote about it. The first year, it included some of the people who really built the city’s food-and-drink scene; the second was our ‘new crop potluck’ of newer additions; and the third year we highlighted the leading women in Charlotte’s dining scene. I loved just listening to all the smart and ambitious Charlotte food folks in the room for those dinners — and, of course, getting to enjoy the leftovers.” 

September 2015

No. 14

Photographs by Zach Alston

“The September 2015 issue was my very first styled fashion production for SouthPark Magazine,” says Style Editor Whitley Adkins. “With the help of an incredible team of contributors, I conceptualized a Charlotte neighborhood street-style interpretation for fashion’s biggest month of the year. Dressing and shuffling veteran model Chelsea Lewis from neighborhood to neighborhood was true to my desire to push the editorial envelope for our city’s ever-burgeoning fashion scene. All in a day’s work, we hit Ballantyne, two locations in SouthPark (naturally), Myers Park, Midtown, Dilworth, South End, Uptown and NoDa, in that order!”  

June 2017

No. 15

Queen City Quiz Show’s Matt Olin, Brenda Tindal, and Tim Miner

Photograph by Justin Driscoll

“It was late 2015 when lifelong pals Tim Miner and Matt Olin launched the Charlotte chapter of Creative Mornings, the global cadre of individuals who meet monthly for creative inspiration and meaningful connections,” says Contributing Editor Michael J. Solender. “Less than a year after launching Creative Mornings Charlotte, Miner and Olin established the nonprofit Charlotte is Creative, an entrepreneurial advocacy group for Charlotte artists, performers, makers and small creative businesses. Since its founding, the organization has delivered more than 450 HUG (Helpful Unfettered Gifts) grants… SouthPark Magazine’s June 2017 cover featured Miner and Olin, and I had the chance to profile their Queen City Quiz show project — a collaborative effort with Levine Museum of the New South that brought local history to Charlotte residents in a fun and engaging way. Miner and Olin embody the creative, artful spirit that makes Charlotte an energizing, fun and creative place to live.”

September 2017

No. 16

September 2017 issue marked SouthPark’s first IT List, showcasing 45 women from ages 19 to 75

The September 2017 issue marked SouthPark’s first IT List, showcasing 45 women from ages 19 to 75. The feature led by Whitley Adkins would become an annual tradition. “Chandra Johnson, Laura Vinroot Poole and Barrie Benson graced the cover in a show of pattern-mixing perfection that could only be attributed to the inimitable Whitley Adkins,” shares former editor Caroline Portillo. “The package was her brainchild, and every year since, Adkins — now SouthPark’s style editor — has found a way to make it a fresh and inspirational feast for the eyes.”

June 2018

No. 17

Goodbye, Ski-Slope Church: Sharon United Methodist, which anchored 7 acres at the corner of Sharon and Colony roads for nearly 50 years, was a local landmark with its iconic upward sloping roofline and steeple. Faced with a shrinking congregation, church leaders adopted a bold plan to sell the property, yet still maintain a presence on the land. Apex SouthPark is now a buzzing mixed-use development centered around the renamed SouthPark Church.

July 2018

No. 18

Devin Funchess on the cover of SouthPark magazine, July 2018

“You eat very well in the magazine business,” Caroline Portillo shares. “But, hands down, one of my top dining experiences was when Devin Funchess, the Carolina Panthers’ top wide receiver at the time, whipped up some of his signature shrimp fettuccine alfredo for the SouthPark staff from the comfort of his South End apartment. Funchess — known on the team for feeding friends a hearty meal after a hard practice — was going to be on the cover of our July 2018 food issue. So, in the name of research and good journalism, we posted up at his kitchen island to watch him sauté shrimp with butter and garlic while he told us stories of his grandfather’s collard greens, his grandmother’s pound cake and his own graduation from deep-fried mozzarella sticks to lamb chops cooked on the rooftop grill. I remember being eight months pregnant at the time, so asking for seconds was only natural.”

2018

No. 19

Legion Brewing brought the first local craft brewery to SouthPark, with an expanded food menu led by chef Gene Briggs.

Photograph by Justin Driscoll

Legion Brewing brought the first local craft brewery to SouthPark, with an expanded food menu led by chef Gene Briggs. “We’re giving people the same experience they can get downtown, but in a very casual atmosphere… right here in their backyard,” Briggs told SouthPark in a July 2019 article.  

May 2019

No. 20

Emily Maynard Johnson lit up the cover as SouthPark debuted a new look, May 2019

Emily Maynard Johnson lit up the cover as SouthPark debuted a new look, blending the magazine’s longtime focus on style, design, cuisine and travel with a renewed emphasis on storytelling and celebrating Charlotte and North Carolina creatives. 

February 2020

No. 21

SouthPark Mall celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2020. Picture of the old mall in front of the actual mall today

Photograph by Michael Hrizuk

SouthPark Mall celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2020, and contributor Michelle Boudin interviewed shoppers and employees for a retrospective in our February issue. “The area just keeps growing and growing,” said Delores Scott, an assistant manager at Fink’s Jewelers who has worked at the mall since 1996. “You think there’s no more space, and then up comes more construction. It just means more people are in walking distance. [Even] in the days of online shopping, people still want to come in and touch and feel what they’re purchasing — and that’s a really good thing for the mall.” 

May 2020

No. 22

Artist Kent Youngstrom cover of SouthPark magazine, May 2020

Fear, confusion and uncertainty were the best ways to describe the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. To lift people’s spirits, artist Kent Youngstrom came up with the idea of placing art in public spaces. Youngstrom and his two children created 100 poster-sized works and put them up around town, creating a social-media buzz and a scavenger hunt as people went out searching for them. After seeing his posts on Instagram, we reached out to Kent and sent photographer Justin Driscoll to photograph the artist with one of his works (from a safe social distance) for our May cover.

Dec. 2020

No. 23

Picture of former Charlotte Observer publisher Rolfe Neill helped restore the city’s tree canopy through his work with Trees Charlotte

Photograph by Peter Taylor

In the ’80s and ’90s, former Charlotte Observer publisher Rolfe Neill was part of “The Group,” an unofficial band of local business leaders that held tremendous sway. In a December story by contributor Rick Thames, Neill, who died in 2023, reflects on his distinguished career, the newspaper’s fading influence and his passion for helping restore the city’s tree canopy through his work with Trees Charlotte.

May 2023

No. 24

First responders are recognized at a community event following the devastating SouthPark fire
Photograph courtesy SouthPark Community Partners

A five-alarm fire trapped and killed two workers, Demonte Sherrill and Reuben Holmes, at an apartment complex under construction off Fairview Road. The community and city leaders immediately rallied around the victims’ families, while praising the heroism of firefighters who rescued 15 people from the inferno. CFD determined the fire’s cause to be accidental.

April 2024

No. 25

A rendering for SouthPark: SouthPark Community Partners rolls out the SouthPark Forward 2035 Vision Plan
Rendering courtesy SouthPark Community Partners

A vision for SouthPark: SouthPark Community Partners rolls out the SouthPark Forward 2035 Vision Plan, which aims to create a more walkable, energizing and connected community. SP

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