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The story first appeared on Charlotte Agenda by on Any views or opinions represented in this story are personal and belong solely to the writer and do not represent the Belmont Community of Charlotte, unless explicitly stated.
One day in May, a small group of teenagers were doing what kids sometimes do — walking aimlessly up and down the street, ringing doorbells and running away.
Until the teens approached one particular door. The man inside confronted them, yelling at the teenagers and warning them to stay away.
They scattered, running through a stand of trees one street over to tell their parents. And at least one woman went back over to yell at the man who had shouted at the kids.
The scene quickly devolved, and it ultimately took law enforcement to de-escalate the situation.
What turned this seemingly minor neighborhood incident into a scene requiring police response? A bubbling over of tensions involving race, class and culture.
The neighborhood was Grier Heights. The teenagers were black. The street they were walking on is made up of newly built houses, full of families making much more money than their neighbors — and predominately white.
For most of the past century, Charlotte has existed as a segregated city. Affluent white families mostly live in the triangle of south Charlotte between roughly South Boulevard and Monroe Road — known locally as “the wedge.” Lower income, mostly minority families are concentrated in “the crescent” to the west, north and east.
[Agenda story: How Charlotte came to be a segregated city]
Those boundaries are beginning to break down. Nationally, there’s a renewed interest among young professionals in the urban core of cities and their surrounding neighborhoods. The same is holding true in Charlotte.
The biggest changes are happening in formerly low-income, minority neighborhoods around the center city. Property values are spiking in crescent neighborhoods like Plaza Midwood, NoDa, Cherry, Wilmore, Belmont, Seversville, Wesley Heights, Grier Heights and Druid Hills.
More affluent families are buying homes and rehabbing them or tearing them down to build bigger ones. Investors are flipping homes into high-priced rentals and developers are demolishing low-slung duplexes to build high-priced townhomes.
These shifts mean that for the first time in decades, black and white, rich and poor are living next to each other on a larger scale.
The process isn’t always smooth. Interviews with both predominately black long-time residents and white newcomers illustrate some of the bumps in the road.
The situations are nuanced, but to paint a broad brush: White families often come in with expectations — usually well-intentioned — of what a neighborhood should be and how an area should develop.
In turn, minority families who often have lived there for generations have described themselves as unwelcome in their own home. Sometimes they feel like they’re viewed as negative forces on property values instead of as human beings.
These culture clashes have left neighborhood groups struggling to find ways to bridge the divide. It’s difficult — but in some cases, like in the Belmont neighborhood just north and east of Uptown, there have been tangible steps made to bring the two sides together.
‘They look at us like we don’t belong here’
These macrotrends playing out across Charlotte can feel intensely personal to the people living them. In these neighborhoods, “gentrification” is not an abstract term. The changes play out in everyday life.
One African-American woman who lives off Tuckaseegee Road in west Charlotte said her part of town used to be a place where people rolled up their windows and drove through as fast as possible. One day, she saw a white woman running down the street and her first thought was to wonder what she was running from. Turns out, she was just jogging.
But the differences can manifest in more painful ways as well. In Grier Heights, long-time residents watched as new residents moved in who didn’t look like them. In some cases, Grier Heights natives tried to get mortgages for the new homes but didn’t qualify.
The frustration bubbled over at a neighborhood meeting. “When are people who deserve these houses going to get them?” one woman asked.
The pocket of Grier Heights where newcomers are moving in also has its own name — Elizabeth Heights. That itself is jarring to some people who have called the neighborhood home for years, even if there are historic roots to the name (the original name for the area was Elizabeth Acres).
But Elizabeth Heights has also closed itself off in some ways that are painful to the neighboring streets. Many community events are organized through private Facebook groups or email lists that leave others uninvited.
Both of those issues were an undercurrent to the ding-dong-ditch incident and remain just below the surface today.
“I don’t have a problem with them moving here, but it’s about respect,” said Antoinette Wallace, who lives in Grier Heights in a home her husband’s family has lived in for several generations. “They look at us like we don’t belong here.”
In many cases, the concern is not with individual people moving in, but the larger trend as a whole.
On Darryl Gaston’s street in Druid Hills, there are four white families who recently moved in to what is a predominantly black neighborhood. In one case, one of Gaston’s friends sold their house to a “wonderful white gentleman” after more than 60 years there.
Gaston said there is no real racial divide in the neighborhood right now. But he does see a difference in motivations. Some of the newcomers to the neighborhood are buying there because they know what’s coming, he said. They know that Heist Brewery will soon open a location in the area. They know about the massive development coming at Camp North End.
“Black folk, overall, don’t have a problem with white folk moving in, per se,” said Gaston, who grew up in Druid Hills and is now the neighborhood association president. “If there is a problem, the problem is, are you pushing me out?”
A difference in expectations
A key difference often comes in how people view neighborhood development.
Many affluent families are drawn to the tree-lined streets and quaint houses that many of these neighborhoods have. They see potential in the more run-down properties and eagerly await the progress that comes from more of them being fixed up.
But some of the conversations about that can carry racial overtones, even if unintended.
“Racism and racial bias, it gets hidden under a conversation that purports to be about aesthetics,” said Amalia Deloney, who lives in west Charlotte.
She said she often hears conversations loaded with coded words or phrases, like comments about a home where the grass is high, or the walls have chipped paint, or where there are toys across the yard. She said that homes get labeled as “bad properties” that need to be changed.
“It is often, and almost exclusively, white folks making comments about black homeowners,” Deloney said.
Sometimes, the people making these comments don’t realize the racial tensions hanging in those words. Gaston, from Druid Hills, said he often has conversations with new, white neighbors about these differences.
“You have to be very careful when you start talking about ‘those people,’” Gaston said. “It’s not that they’re being offensive. It’s just that they just don’t know.”
But these differences in neighborhood expectations can also spill beyond community meetings and into calls to law enforcement.
Noise complaints, loitering, multiple cars in a driveway, people coming and going at odd hours in the night — all have resulted in calls to the police. This, too, can be grating to long-time residents to whom these “problems” are just how the neighborhood is.
“You have a vision of what you want the neighborhood to become. What you are doing is enacting your vision using the infrastructure the city gives you,” Deloney said.
“This idea of coming with the intention to stay and make it what you want, that’s really what the tension is.”
In several neighborhoods, community groups, nonprofits and homeowners associations are working to bridge the divide.
In Grier Heights, there’s an active movement to bring people together.
“We do study and fellowship programs just to get people together,” said Don Gately, who leads CrossRoads Corp., the nonprofit that’s building the new homes in the neighborhood with the goal of improving the quality of life without displacement. “Just to tear down barriers and build relationships.”
Several large steps forward are already evident in the Belmont neighborhood, a rapidly changing area next to Plaza Midwood.
The relationship between long-time African-American residents and white newcomers there started off rocky. In the early 2010s, as people first began moving into the neighborhood in earnest, a neighborhood group that was largely led by black residents decided to disband. A new organization led by newcomers and some long-time residents built a new organization.
Many neighbors observed the discrepancies between nicer new houses being built next door to smaller homes in need of repair.
Early efforts to bridge the divide weren’t very successful, admits Vicki Jones, the president of the Belmont Community Association. She is white and moved to the neighborhood in 2007.
More recent events have been much more successful. In June, they shut down Belmont Avenue for a block party, where people came together to eat, draw with chalk, and otherwise mingle. The event was extremely well-attended, Jones said.
The Belmont neighborhood is now working on a project that will survey all residents of the neighborhood about what they’d like to see there — from coffee shops to laundromats to groceries. It will lead to a temporary installation of some of the concepts they come up with.
Jones says she believes there will be differences of opinion on what people want to see, but ultimately there will be plenty to agree on.
“We take baby steps forward all the time,” she said. “It takes a while to build trust and we are trying to do it by getting people together.”
‘We try to go about all of it delicately’
Once those events are over, though, day-to-day life continues. And that’s where the real connections are made.
There are barriers. It can be hard to relate to people with a much different upbringing and personal history, several people said.
“Particularly across race and class lines, people tend to have some fear of one another,” said Greg Jarrell, a pastor and co-founder of QC Family Tree. He is white and has lived in west Charlotte for years.
“For somebody who’s moving into that, at the very minimum, you have to recognize that you are walking into a place that you haven’t belonged. Maybe you could belong, but the only way you can do that is by being careful, paying attention and showing the hospitality that makes a good neighborhood work.”
It can also be hard to know how to reach out.
“You gather with people you’re comfortable with,” said Ben Page of some of his newer neighbors.
Though Page admits he could be perceived as part of the problem — he is white and has lived in the Grier Heights neighborhood for six years — he says there’s a difference between people who move into the neighborhood for the real estate investment and those who move in to become a true part of it.
Even white families with the best of intentions are working to figure out how to responsibly integrate into these formerly minority neighborhoods.
Johnny Wakefield moved into Grier Heights earlier this year. When his realtor first showed him Heflin Street, the boulevard of rebuilt homes, he initially recoiled. The kids playing on the street were all white in one of Charlotte’s most historic black neighborhoods.
But his family gets by on a single teacher’s income, so they qualified for downpayment assistance that comes with the affordable housing program managing these new homes. After a year of credit checks and paperwork, they ultimately moved in.
[Agenda story: What does affordable housing mean in Charlotte?]
The Wakefields are trying their best to be neighborly. Johnny and his wife Abbey play with his daughter in an inflatable pool and invite neighbors from both Heflin and surrounding streets to sit down and connect. He’ll soon put a picnic table there as well to help build those relationships.
“It’s delicate,” he said. “We try to go about all of it delicately, slowly, and intentionally, recognizing our privilege here and trying to leverage that for some good.”
The story first appeared on Charlotte Agenda by on Any views or opinions represented in this story are personal and belong solely to the writer and do not represent the Belmont Community of Charlotte, unless explicitly stated. All content provided on this website is for informational purposes only. The owner of this website makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. The owner will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.
Axe-throwing bars are a thing, and there’s one coming to Charlotte this fall
Now, people are just doing it for fun.
The activity has taken on a competitive feel and its popularity has recently exploded in the Northeast in places like Massachusetts, New York and Canada.
When Scott Gadd and his wife Ashleigh found it in Boston, they were immediately hooked — so hooked that they created a setup in their own backyard, which they threw at for a while before realizing that they wanted all of Charlotte to experience it.
Get ready, Charlotte: The Gadds are bringing the region’s first axe-throwing facility to the Belmont neighborhood.
In order to stay true to form, the pair has taken notes from other throwing clubs all over the map and put what they’ve learned into Lumberjaxe to guarantee that everything is up to the National Axe Throwing Federation‘s standards, down to axe weight and size as well as scoring.
Never thrown an axe? No worries — coaches will be on-site to teach the correct form and method to those 18 and over.
Equipment will be free to use and provided by the facility (the only thing you need is a pair of close-toed shoes) but each walk-in customer will pay $20 for an hour of play. Prices for group play are still being hammered out, but lanes can hold up to 100 people at a time.
And, yes, you can drink while you play. For the meantime, the facility is BYOB, though the Gadds are considering selling beer and wine on the premises. Until then, they’ll keep your drinks cold and serve them when you’re ready.
It’ll be located at 933 Louise Avenue, which used to be home to the old Kellogg’s factory.
Though a tenant is currently in the space, the lease begins September 1 and, with an expected 10-day buildout, the range should be up and running by early October.
If you can’t wait that long, neither can the Gadds, which is why they’ve converted a ’66 Continental into a mobile throwing facility.
You can find it at multiple businesses this summer – keep up with the calendar of events on Facebook.
Connect with Lumberjaxe
Feature photo via Facebook
Original story ran on Charlotte Agenda by on
Temporary bicycle lanes. Pop-up dog parks. Coffee shops in abandoned buildings, with sidewalk seating. Art displays and outdoor music. Whatever improvements residents want to see on their block, Roberts’ Better Block Foundation wants them to build it themselves, and fast, without waiting for plans to clear red tape and bureaucracy.
“You can break any rule you want, as long as you wear an orange vest,” Roberts joked this week in Charlotte, showing a picture of residents in safety vests drawing a temporary crosswalk in Dallas. “If we create the right environment, people will go out.”
The Dallas-based Better Block Foundation plans to hold its first Charlotte “Better Block” event Sept. 23 and 24 in the Belmont neighborhood, a fast-changing area just north of uptown. Roberts was in Charlotte this week as part of the Building Community speaker series sponsored by the Knight Foundation, Charlotte Center City Partners and the city of Charlotte.
Roberts got his start a decade ago in Oak Cliff, a Dallas neighborhood, when he grew frustrated with the strip malls, spaghetti highway interchanges and narrow, inhospitable sidewalks.
Comparing street scenes in Paris with photos of strip malls and a Walmart parking lot, Roberts quipped, “It takes a lot of Prozac to be OK with places that look like this.”
When he approached city officials about things he’d like to see – more sidewalk seating or bicycle lanes, for example – he was either told Dallas was a car city where that wouldn’t work, or directed to join study committees that produced tidy plans that sat on shelves. So Roberts, an IT professional by trade, started working with his neighbors to build the kind of places they wanted to see, without waiting for the official go-ahead.
They blocked off bike lanes, set up trees in moveable pots for shade, built sidewalk seating and opened pop-up coffee shops in abandoned buildings, all on short notice with shoestring budgets. Although it was temporary, usually just for a weekend, the proof-of-concept events spurred conversation and led to the easing of zoning and permitting rules in Oak Cliff, making it easier to do things like sell food and other wares from sidewalk stands.
Roberts’ work grew into the Better Block Foundation, and they’ve since done similar projects in Detroit; Macon, Ga.; Akron, Ohio, and other cities. Now, they’re coming to Charlotte’s Belmont neighborhood. The changes they’re looking at might be temporary, but they’re hoping some of the ideas stick, and inspire people to change the area.
The foundation will seek ideas from residents about how to improve the area. As Belmont changes – with new residents, new houses and apartments, and the approaching Blue Line light rail extension – Roberts said they won’t be outsiders imposing ideas on Belmont.
“It we find out we’re not getting a lot of folks from the neighborhood and we feel like outsiders coming in, we don’t want to do it,” said Roberts.
Curtis Bridges, vice president of the Belmont Neighborhood Association, said he’s looking forward to the two-day event, which he hopes can help bridge the divide between newer and older residents. He wants to see something like a pop-up coffee shop or art gallery in some of the vacant commercial buildings, to get people excited about the idea of shopping and reusing old buildings in Belmont again.
“I’d love to see something set up in those buildings, even just for a day,” he said. “They’re beautiful, they’re very unique. You don’t see a lot of old commercial buildings in Charlotte.”
Bridges also wants to see temporary bike lanes, trees to shade the streets and places for people to sit outside and talk. He’s also a fan of Roberts’ make-changes-now, seek-permission-later credo.
Parkwood and The Plaza Corridor Update
CDOT’s Dan Gallagher presented CDOT’s recommendations for Parkwood Avenue and The Plaza to City Council. A little background on this topic. CDOT is currently studying three major corridors in addition to Parkwood and the Plaza. These include South Boulevard, South Tryon, and West Boulevard (which has the most aggressive timeline for safety improvements).They will begin studying Eastway Drive soon as well. These corridors were selected for study because they have four undivided travel lanes, high bus ridership, close proximity to the light rail, high speed and/or volume, high collision rates, active community concerns, and excluded from upcoming capital projects.
CDOT has completed a report for the Parkwood and The Plaza detailing their recommendations. Read the full report here.
Timelines for remaining corridor studies.
On Parkwood Avenue, CDOT is proposing a 1.6-mile road diet from Belmont Avenue to Hawthorne Lane with protected bike lanes, leading pedestrian intervals (when the pedestrian light changes ahead of the traffic light, giving the pedestrian more time to cross before cars start moving) and three new traffic signals. Staff did not recommend a road diet on the 0.4 mile stretch of the Plaza between Parkwood and Matheson, but they will put in leading pedestrian intervals at intersections and add another hybrid pedestrian beacon on the route.
CDOT’s recommendations for street improvements on Parkwood and The Plaza
Gallagher stressed the fact to Council that the budget includes funding to design and implement the highest priority interventions on each corridor, including the full road diet on Parkwood Avenue. Sustain Charlotte has been working very closely with the residents who live near this dangerous road since 2015 when a cyclist was struck and killed. More than 1,000 people have signed the petition calling for safer streets. So we are thrilled to finally see these changes being recommended to the full City Council, and included in next year’s budget!
Transportation and Planning Committee Chair Vi Lyles (At-Large) expressed her support for moving pedestrian safety feature into construction as soon as possible to help the City implement Vision Zero. “Staff has figured out how to implement safety improvements, we have the money in the budget to do it, and we have an opportunity to show the community that we are not just reacting. We need to make it safe on West Boulevard and Parkwood and Eastway,” she said.
A new bar and restaurant is targeting a late June opening in the Belmont neighborhood near Plaza Midwood.
Recess, a 3,781-square-foot “adult playground” and gastrolounge, is located at 820 Seigle Avenue next to the Vistas at 707 just off I-277.
Owner Markus Hunter wants to create a hangout with plenty of entertainment that encourages people to interact.
Recess features standard bar games like giant Jenga and cornhole as well as unexpected popular childhood games like four square and tetherball.
My dad painted a four square court on the driveway for us when I was little and we also had a tetherball pole in the backyard so prepare to lose.
The space is bright and airy with vaulted ceilings, lots of windows and playful murals.
It seats 96 inside and another 24 on the dog-friendly front patio.
Cool design element: They’re planning on swings instead of barstools.
On the menu, expect shareable, tapas-style small plates like lobster flatbread and fried shrimp tacos.
They’ll also have local beers, cocktails and some specialty drinks like giant fishbowl margaritas.
Recess will have a casual brewery vibe but with a full bar and later last call.
They’ll be open Tuesday and Wednesday 4 p.m. – midnight, Thursday and Friday 3 p.m. – 2 a.m., Saturday 11 a.m. – 2 a.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. – midnight.
Connect with Recess
Real estate has done well in Charlotte lately.
Across the city, home prices have fully rebounded from the Great Recession, and then some. In all but a handful of Charlotte neighborhoods, real estate values have never been higher.
But some neighborhoods are far outstripping the rest. Ten of them have seen their home values increase by more than 20 percent in just the past year.
Perhaps unsurprisingly the top four are all around Plaza Midwood. West Charlotte is also well-represented.
Most of these neighborhoods have a mixture of renovated homes at higher prices and older homes and lots for cheaper. In several of them, buyers have begun tearing down old housing stock and building new, bigger houses. The markets in these areas are also generally not very brisk at this point.
Expect these neighborhoods to continue increasing in value.
Data comes from the Zillow home price index.
1) Oak Forest
Year-over-year growth: 29%
Median value: $108,300
Sample listing: 4418 Tantilla Circle. 3 bedroom, 1 bath, 1,430 square feet. ($121,604 foreclosure estimate)
2) Shannon Park
Year-over-year growth: 28%
Median value: $113,300
Sample listing: 5528 Larchmont Avenue. 3 bedrooms, 1 bath, 950 square feet ($89,000 list price)
Year-over-year growth: 28%
Median value: $128,000
Sample listing: 1108 Louise Avenue. 3 bedroom, 3 bath, 1,980 square feet. ($360,000 list price)
Year-over-year growth: 28%
Median value: $154,000
Sample listing: 1119 Jensen Street. 2 bedroom, 2 bath, 858 square feet. ($249,000 list price)
5) Montclaire South
Year-over-year growth: 24%
Median value: $109,200
Sample listing: 824 Silver Court. 3 bedroom, 2 bath, 1,307 square feet. ($244,900 list price)
Year-over-year growth: 22%
Median value: $117,500
Sample listing: 5012 Grapevine Drive. 2 bedroom, 1 bath, 1,020 square feet ($71,252 foreclosure estimate)
Year-over-year growth: 22%
Median value: $78,600
Sample listing: 135 Goff Street. 3 bedroom, 1 bath, 980 square feet. ($114,900 list price)
Year-over-year growth: 21%
Median value: $83,800
9) Lincoln Heights
Year-over-year growth: 21%
Median value: $84,100
10) Ashley Park
Year-over-year growth: 20%
Median value: $91,400
Sample listing: 3307 Major Samuals Way #3307. 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath, 1,880 square feet ($289,900 list price)
Home photos via Zillow
Originally posted on the Charlotte Agenda by Andrew Dunn on June 13, 2017
Tests began Thursday and will continue through Friday for the LYNX Blue Line Extension along North Tryon Street near Charlotte’s University area.
“It’s just a beginning step, but we are very excited because it gives a good visual for people in Charlotte to show how the project is progressing,” says Jill Brim, project director for the LYNX Blue Line Extension.
The low-speed tests allow contractors, alongside construction workers and Charlotte Area Transit System personnel, to assess the condition and safety features of the light-rail extension.
“What we are doing is making sure that, one, we have good connection with the overhead electricity system and, two, we have good clearance along the sides of the alignment,” says Brim.
According to CATS, construction of the LYNX Blue Line Extension remains on schedule to be completed by March 2018.
The original story first appeared on Charlotte Business Journal by Melissa Key.
This brewery is already expanding its footprint in the Queen City.
Catawba Brewing Co. has signed a deal for an additional 4,300 square feet in Charlotte’s Belmont neighborhood — less than a month after opening its doors.
The new space sits adjacent to the brewery’s $1.6 million, 10,000-square foot brewery and taproom at 933 Louise Ave. That location was formerly home to a Kellogg’s bakery facility.
“We knew we didn’t have an ideal private space, and we knew this space could be good,” says Billy Pyatt, co-founder of the Morganton brewery.
There’s a need for unique private event space in the neighborhood and Charlotte, says Catawba Creative Director Mary Mayo.
“There is a shortage of private event space in the brewery setting. We really want to occupy a niche,” she says.
The goal is to create a setting that is elegant, over-the-top and memorable.
Mayo envisions creating a roughly 3,500-square-foot ballroom that offers a mix of rustic and industrial chic. Walls will be lined with 300-plus barrels — used as part of Catawba’s barrel-aging program. Think brown velvet curtains, chandeliers, existing barrel roof and a detailed wood bar with a header and carvings.
Space will be set aside for catering and a dressing room.
Mayo sees the space serving as a music venue early in the week with well-known, but smaller-scale bands. Corporate events such as quarterly sales meetings can run throughout the week. And weekends largely will belong to bridal parties and those types of gatherings looking for a unique space.
“In a lot of ways, breweries have become the new community centers,” Mayo says.
That space should be ready to host its first events by late October. Mayo is offering a 50% discount for those that book before the venue opens.
Otherwise, prices vary based on the day of the week and time of event.
Foard Construction is the general contractor on the project.
Originally posted in Charlotte Business Journal by Jennifer Thomas on June 2, 2017.
A developer is planning to build 23 new townhouses on vacant land just east of uptown, according to a rezoning plan filed recently with the city of Charlotte.
CapRock LLC is seeking to rezone the 1.16-acre site – adjacent to rail tracks and between Seigle Avenue and Harrill Street – from industrial to residential use.
A preliminary site plan shows the townhouses built in five buildings, including two quadplexes, arranged around a private street. The buildings could be up to three stories tall. An illustrative rendering shows houses with modern architecture with rooftop decks.
A CapRock official couldn’t immediately be reached for more information. The company has developed townhouses previously in Charlotte, including at Peridoe, a development that backs up to the greenway near uptown.
Charlotte City Council will consider the proposal and vote on it in the coming weeks.
The site at Harrill Street is currently vacant.
Originally posted by the Charlotte Observer by Ely Portillo on May 18, 2017
More Information on the Rezoning is available:
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