Extreme Construction Alters the Faces of Charlotte's Oldest Neighborhoods
Residents of the Charlotte area have seen their city change in countless ways over the past few years, and none more dramatically than the city's real estate landscape. In particular, the Plaza Midwood area - revealed in the 2010 U.S. Census for the 28205 zip code as the area most friendly to and populated by the LGBTQ community in the Carolinas - has been the setting of what is arguably one of the most rapid and expansive real estate development trends in recent history.
On Central Ave. in the heart of Plaza Midwood, countless small businesses have been ousted in the process of rezoning and redeveloping the area for residential construction. Sixty-year veteran of the street Tommy's Pub closed in 2015 to make way for new apartments. Backstage Vintage, American Beauty Garden Center and Fern all moved locations.
One landmark of the neighborhood remains, dwarfed by a massive 820-unit apartment complex being constructed all around it. The Thirsty Beaver Saloon on Central Ave. has made and kept its reputation as a unique local getaway, despite countless attempts by developers to purchase the site from its owner, George Salem.
The Charlotte Business Journal reported that the bar's owners, Brian and Mark Wilson, have a 10-year lease on the building, which was built in the 1940s. Brian Wilson said he was not interested in breaking his lease and that his longtime customers, whom he considers family, choose it as a regular hangout for country music. "He and his brother also have worked hard to cultivate an open, inclusive environment as well as a unique bar that stands out and would be hard to replicate elsewhere," the Journal added. Both the Wilsons and Salem are unanimous about staying put.
"It has always been one of those places where you come in and leave your pretensions at the door," Beaver devotee Bob Campbell told The Charlotte Observer. "There's not too many places like that in town now."
Campbell isn't alone in this sentiment that Charlotte is changing, and losing some of itself in the process. One queer resident of 28205 expressed deep displeasure at what she called "hyper-development [and] deplorable avarice-inspired stylistic fickleness."
"Hilliard Drive is less than three-quarters of a mile long, and in the last two years a four-block stretch has seen by my count at least ten new houses built," the resident told qnotes. "Most involved tearing down homes that had stood for decades, plus a couple undergoing major and disruptive renovations."
The new homes built on this single street in east Charlotte include a bizarre variety of styles, and most absolutely dwarf the existing homes on the street, which have traditionally been single-story ranch houses.
"Now we've got mid-century modern - that one lot down on Palm saw its single house picked up and scooted over to make room for four more - two barely distinguishable faux Craftsman bores squashed side by side like somebody miscalculated, and at least one bastardized neo-Victorian colossus, scattered around like dropped Legos," she said.
Of course, not everyone is unhappy with the changes. One mixed-use renovation project at the corner of Central and Clement Aves. (the former site of Fern and Something Classic), promises "new and more contemporary amenities," as listing agent Darrell Palasciano told the Journal. The $50 million property, now called One305 Central, will feature 281 apartments, 2,000 square feet of patio space with artistic installments, as well as street-level and second-level dining venues.
Further east, the intersection of Monroe and Idlewild Rds. will be the site of a new shopping center and grocery store developed by Selwyn Property Group, a Charlotte-based company that says the new center may break ground as early as late 2017. The Charlotte City Council voted unanimously to approve the project's rezoning petition in mid-April.
The new Blue Line of the Charlotte light rail system, set to begin operations in March 2018, also drew the attention of developers to the areas north of Uptown. One project of Wood Partners, an Atlanta-based development company, will turn an old truck yard at 25th and Brevard Sts. into an apartment building. Amenities for residents will include a game room, public kitchen, lounge and a saltwater pool.
"Our new community fits perfectly with our strategic vision for Charlotte," read a statement by Wood Partners East Regional Director Carter Siegel. "The overall design of the space will foster the artistry, culture and history of the surrounding community, as well as provide high-end amenities and finishes."
The building will contribute 261 apartments to the 2,000 planned for the Blue Line extension. A Phoenix-based development firm called Alliance Residential is also pursuing multiple sites close to Uptown. One of the company's projects, Broadstone Bryant Park in West End, has been approved by the Charlotte City Council as of April 17. Broadstone Bryant will boast up to 350 new apartments, and another proposed Alliance project at Tryon and Morehead Sts. would add 275 new units.
The River District near Charlotte-Douglas International Airport will see massive development in its 1,400 acres of woods. Already approved by City Council, the new facilities will include hotels, shops, restaurants, around 5,000 new residences and 8 million square feet of office space.
University City, South End, Camp North End and Brooklyn Village all have major development projects upcoming, according to the Observer.
One might wonder who exactly is going to fill all these new homes.
"People are flocking to the Queen City. Charlotte's post-recession growth rate is second only to Austin [Texas], and the city is the top destination for millennials, according to a recent report from Apartment List. The metro area population swelled from 1.6 to 2.2 million between 2000 and 2014, and it's projected to hit the 3 million mark by 2030. Charlotte has grown from a solid second-tier metro to one of the rising cities of the Southeast," Curbed reported in December 2016. It added, "People keep coming, which is why developers of all stripes are coming to Charlotte," Levine Properties President Daniel Levine said. "We're getting a broad cross-section of people choosing Charlotte because of location, weather, and lifestyle ... A more dynamic lifestyle is being requested and required. ..."