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Count Arco has died. The prominent NC developer was a descendant of European royalty

The Charlotte Observer logo The Charlotte Observer 9/6/2021 Joe Marusak, The Charlotte Observer

A developer who built some of Charlotte’s and the Triangle’s best known retail and commercial centers, and was a great-grandson of the last King of Bavaria, has died in his native Austria, European media outlets reported.

Count Riprand Franz Maria von und zu Arco-Zinneberg died on Aug. 24 in a hospital in Salzburg, Austria, after a nearly three-year battle with cancer, according to the reports. He was 66.

Better known as Count Arco, his North Carolina retail and commercial projects included The Arboretum shopping center and Whitehall Corporate Center in Charlotte, and Brier Creek Commons in Raleigh.

A copy of the count’s death announcement, in German, was published on Wednesday by Royal Musings, a news and commentary site about the royal houses of Europe. Count Arco remained chairman of his Charlotte-based American Asset Corp. development company until the day he died, according to the site.

A spokeswoman in American Asset Corp.’s New York office on Friday confirmed the count’s death to The Charlotte Observer. Officials in the Charlotte headquarters didn’t respond to phone messages by the Observer on Thursday and Friday.

Family history

Count Arco’s great-grandparents were King Ludwig III and Archduchess Maria Theresia of Austria, according to news accounts over the decades by The New York Times and other outlets.

Bavaria is in southeast Germany, the largest of the country’s 16 federal states. Bavaria borders Austria, the Czech Republic and Switzerland. Its capital city is Munich.

Ludwig III’s reign ended — and with it, the German Empire — in 1918 near the end of World War I.

Count Arco and his wife, Countess Archduchess Maria Beatrix Arco, were married in 1980 and came to the U.S. in 1983, The New York Times reported in 2010.

Countess Arco was the granddaughter of the last Emperor of Austria, Karl I, according to Royal Musings. “Charlotte” is one of 10 names in the full royal name of the countess, according to the site.

Years after moving to Charlotte, they began buying shopping centers from their kitchen table, while raising six daughters, according to The Times.

Count Arco told the paper that the family also maintained a 15th-century castle near Munich on the Danube through revenues he generated as a North Carolina developer, not through any inheritance through his Hapsburg dynasty lineage.

A lasting gift

On the retail mixed-use front, Count Arco’s company developed Northcross Shopping Center and Bryton Town Center in Huntersville, Brierdale Shopping Center in Raleigh, Alston Town Center in Cary and Belle Hall Shopping Center in Mount Pleasant , S.C, according to the company website.

Commercially, Count Arco also developed Brier Creek Corporate Center near Raleigh-Durham International Airport and Fairview Plaza in SouthPark, south Charlotte.

Whitehall Corporate Center, on Arrowood Road at Interstate 485, displays “one of the largest private collections of public art in the Southeast,” according to the American Asset Corp. website.

In another lasting gift to his adopted city of Charlotte, Count Arco conceived Metalmorphosis, the huge metallic sculpture by Czech sculptor David Cerny on the grand plaza of the 200-acre Whitehall Corporate Center.

“One of the Seven Wonders of Charlotte, NC,” the company website calls the sculpture. Watch a live camera feed of the sculpture at WhitehallCorporateCenter/Metalmorphosis.

The sculpture features a bust of a person encircled at its base by water. Sections of the bust continually moved in a circle, water pouring from the mouth.


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