our team

Darrel Williams

DARREL J. WILLIAMS, FAIA, a founding partner and the owner of Neighboring Concepts, has spent almost a quarter-century demonstrating that the practice of architecture can transform communities socially as well as physically, with a focus on community and the urban context, not simply the buildings. The breadth and depth of his work in Charlotte and North Carolina is testament to his passion not just for the power of award-winning architectural design but for the importance of truly engaging with communities. His involvement over decades with parks, affordable housing, transit and neighborhood betterment has made Charlotte a stronger city.

He got involved in community work because of concern for a dilapidated neighborhood park. That led to an appointment to the Park and Recreation Commission, then to eight years as a Mecklenburg County commissioner. Since then he has poured his time and talents into building a multidisciplinary firm that produces thoughtful and sustainable urban planning, innovative architectural design and responsible real estate projects.


Williams is driven by the desire to help sustain and revitalize urban communities, to give back to his profession, and to influence positive change. For him, “transforming communities through architecture” is more than his firm’s tagline; it is his life’s calling. An accomplished and award-winning architect, in 2006 he was elevated to the College of Fellows for the American Institute of Architects (AIA). He is a member of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) and the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) and is licensed to practice in North Carolina and five other Southeastern states. He is active in AIA, is a past president of AIA Charlotte and served on the board of AIA North Carolina. Williams was a leader, supporter and committed volunteer on behalf of the new AIA North Carolina headquarters in Raleigh, the envy of many AIA Chapters across the country.


Neighboring Concepts, one of the most diverse architectural firms in the Southeastern United States, has been involved in the design of multiple successful projects, many of them award-winning. Among them: the Charlotte Area Transit System Lynx Blue Line light rail stations, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, the Stratford Richardson YMCA, Romare Bearden Park and Revolution Park Sports Academy – Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation’s first LEED© certified project. A project that exemplifies Williams’ and the firm’s passion is The Renaissance, a redevelopment of the former Boulevard Homes public housing into a new, cutting-edge, sustainable educational village. The project was one of the first LEED© Neighborhood Development (ND) projects in North Carolina. The firm is currently involved in the design of several affordable and market rate housing developments, recreational and community-based projects, master plans and community revitalization plans. In 2016, the firm relocated its offices into Mosaic Village, a multimillion-dollar mixed use development the firm designed. The firm is currently updating the Johnson C. Smith University Master Plan for the private, historically Black university, and designing a new main entrance to the campus.


Williams was elected in 1994 and served four terms (8 years), on the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners. Among his many accomplishments, he encouraged his colleagues on the County Commission to include a 220 million-dollar Land Purchase Bond on the ballot in 1999. The successful passing of the bonds has allowed Mecklenburg County over a period of years to acquire land for public facilities such as schools; libraries, parks, greenways and hundreds of acres of open space that help protect the region’s drinking water. It also contributed to better coordination among the various agencies and encouraged more opportunities for joint use of public facilities, a government efficiency Williams has long advocated. As an architect and former elected official, he has proven successful in bridging the gap between the physical and social challenges facing urban communities.


Williams has always been a strong advocate for smart growth and sustainability issues. The quote from the 1993 President’s Council on Sustainable Development that influences our decision making each and every day is: “How can we meet the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations?” To put action behind his belief in the importance of sustainability, Williams has served on national committees with the National Association of Counties (NACo) and on the Joint Center for Sustainable Communities Advisory Committee.  He was appointed to serve on the State of North Carolina’s Commission to Address Smart Growth, was Chair of NACo’s Sustainability Leadership Team and Co-Chair of the Joint Center for Sustainable Communities Advisory Committee.


Over the past 37 years, Williams has served on several state and local boards, commissions, civic and community organizations. He served as President of Third Ward Neighbors Association (Charlotte) and the Uptown Optimist Club of Charlotte. He served several years on Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Commission and Mecklenburg County Housing and Development Committee. He previously served on the Executive Committee for both Central Piedmont Community College Board of Trustees and Charlotte Center City Partners and is a former Chair of the Library Board of Trustees. Williams recently chaired the Campaign, Partnership for a Better Mecklenburg. In 2008, he served as Co-Chair for the successful 2008 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Capital Bond Campaign. Williams has also served on the boards of Voices and Choices and Preservation North Carolina. He also co-chaired the Land for Tomorrow’s Initiative for Mecklenburg County and the Corridor Revitalization Strategic Planning Committee for the City of Charlotte.

Williams continues serving on various boards with civic and community organizations. He is currently on the board of Charlotte Center City Partners and recently became board chair for The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture. In 2019, he completed his third term, with nine years on the board of The North Carolina Nature Conservancy, and was recently appointed by Governor Roy Cooper to serve on North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund Board.


Williams was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and received a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Southern University (Baton Rouge, Louisiana). He graduated Cum Laude and received an award for the most outstanding Fifth Year Student in his class. Since then, Williams has been the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions too numerous to name.

Williams is married to the Honorable Superior Court Judge, Karen Eady-Williams and has four sons.