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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Why did The Avenue list Councilman Rivenbark’s firm as its realtor? No one knows

As late as mid-morning on Wednesday, The Avenue's website listed Maus, Warwick, Matthews & Company as its retail property contact

Charlie Rivenbark made the motions to approve both requests by The Carroll Companies for The Avenue project, paving the way for the real estate firm he works for to sell or lease millions of dollars of commercial property. (Port City Daily photo | File)
Charlie Rivenbark made the motions to approve both requests by The Carroll Companies for The Avenue project, paving the way for the real estate firm he works for to sell or lease millions of dollars of commercial property. (Port City Daily/File photo)

WILMINGTON—One day after Wilmington City Council approved the large-scale development The Avenue, no one seems to know why the development’s website listed Councilman Charlie Rivenbark’s employer as its real estate agent.

Rivenbark on Tuesday made the motion to approve The Avenue during the council’s meeting. At the time of the vote, The Carroll Companies website for The Avenue listed Maus, Warwick, Matthews & Company as the real-estate company handling commercial property for The Carroll Companies development.

Read more: Wilmington City Council gives final approval to The Avenue development on Military Cutoff

City Council approved the 44-acre mixed-use development on Tuesday, June 5. Council approved The Carroll Companies’ zoning request 5-2, with councilmen Kevin O’Grady and Paul Lawler voting no.

Council also approved The Avenue’s Special Use Request to build four buildings up to 75 feet; the vote was6-1, with O’Grady as the only dissenting voted.

Rivenbark made the motion to approve for both votes.

Maus, Warwick, Matthews & Company

Now approved by city council, The Avenue will feature 245,000 square feet of retail and office space, representing millions of dollars of commercial real estate. According to The Avenue’s website, that retail space is being marketed by Maus, Warwick, Matthews & Company, where Rivenbark has worked since 2004.

According to the retail website for The Carroll Companies' The Avenue project, Maus, Warwick, Matthews & Company where Wilmington City Councilman Charlie Rivenbark has worked since 2004 is handling commercial real estate for the development. (Port City Daily photo | Courtesy The Carroll Companies)
According to the retail website for The Carroll Companies’ The Avenue project, Maus, Warwick, Matthews & Company where Wilmington City Councilman Charlie Rivenbark has worked since 2004 is handling commercial real estate for the development. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy The Carroll Companies)

As late as Wednesday morning, The Avenue’s website, which is maintained by The Carroll Companies, Maus, Warwick, Matthews & Company is the contact for all retail inquiries.

The website first went live with that information several months ago, but was taken down. Late last week, a new version of the website went online again; according to Google’s time stamp, the page was updated at least as recently as April 23. Wednesday morning, a spokeswoman for Maus, Warwick, Matthews & Company confirmed it was handling The Avenue’s commercial real estate, with Steve Hall as lead agent.

Rivenbark denies any involvement

Rivenbark on Wednesday confirmed he is employed by the Maus, Warwick, Mathews real estate company, but said he wasn’t aware it was handling-or ever had handled-property at The Avenue.

“No sir, I was not aware of that. I have no connection to that whatsoever,” Rivenbark said. “I’ve never heard anything about that.”

Rivenbark later emailed to state: “I am an independent contractor with (Maus, Warwick and Matthws) and have no involvement with the partnership nor do I share in any profits from other transactions other than my own.”

Port City Daily has also reached out to the other Wilmington City Council members, as well as City Attorney John Joye and Assistant City Attorney Amy Schaefer.

Council Paul Lawler said he was not aware of any relationship between Rivenbark’s firm and The Avenue.

Margeret Haynes wrote, “I have absolutely no information or awareness of any potential conflict of Councilmember Rivenbark, or any other member, regarding The Avenue project. I suggest you confer with the City Attorney re your theory.”

When asked about possible conflicts of interest, City Attorney John Joye wrote, “The City Attorneys Office policy is not to make public comment on matters such as the one that you allege below.”

Rivenbark has made it a point in the past to recuse himself with his real estate firm was involved. When asked about potential conflicts of interest during his 2017 reelection campaign, Rivenbark said he had recused himself when his employer was involved.

“I have been in the commercial real estate business since 2001, brokering leases on small to large retail and office space. From time to time, I sell a tract of land and have represented clients who purchased land. During my 16 years on council, I have recused myself from discussing or voting on items where my employer was involved. I believe this has happened three or four times,” Rivenbark said.

The Avenue’s PR firm denies involvement

Hall initially appeared to agree to answer questions after a secretary at Maus, Warwick, Matthews & Company referred calls to him. When emailed about “retail opportunities at The Avenue,” Hall agreed to call later in the day. Hall emailed back 12 minutes later, claiming his firm no longer represented The Avenue.

“We terminated our agreement last year sometime, being they really didn’t know who they could take as a tenant. We would just be spinning our wheels. Maybe in the future we can start again but nothing is certain,” Hall wrote.

Margee Herring, co-founder of Fluent PR, then called on behalf of Roy Carroll and The Avenue. According to Herring, Maus, Warwick and Matthews terminated their contract in September when The Avenue withdrew its contract.

Herring could first said she was unaware of any mention of the real-estate company on The Avenue website. After being directed to The Avenue’s contact page, Herring claimed it was an old website. She said she was unable to explain why the site was still up, or why it had gone down for several months, only to be reactivated days before the council vote.

Update: Wednesday, 3:19 p.m. 

Stephanie Rogers, brand manager for The Carroll Companies, addressed the issue of new pages appearing on the company’s website: “Our team has engaged a new web developer and we have been undergoing changes to our website during recent months. There have been times when information has gone up and either been replaced or put online again. I can assure you that our efforts for The Avenue have been solely focused on the planning and rezoning efforts presented at last night’s City Council meeting.”


Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at ben@localvoicemedia.com, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001

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