Even a casual observer can see that Charlotte’s west side is changing. And nowhere is that change more rapid than along the Beatties Ford Road corridor, or Historic West End.

While some of that change is organic, driven by the normal push and pull of economics, other aspects of that change are the result of careful planning. Take the CityLYNX Gold Line expansion, for example. When that 2.5-mile project is completed next year, at a projected cost of $150 million, the new streetcar expansion is expected to quicken the pace of change already happening in some of Charlotte’s most historic Black communities.

It’s enough to raise some important questions. For example: How will that change impact the longtime residents who call West End home? How can newcomers to those communities add their own special flavor without erasing the rich, Black history that currently exists? And equally important, what information do residents need to feel empowered amid this change?

At Qcitymetro, such questions will occupy a great deal of our thinking in 2020. Powered by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Qcitymetro will launch a journalism initiative that aims to bring more local news to Historic West End.

Because we believe that knowledge is power, our ultimate goal, of course, is to empower residents.

First, we listen

What will this project look like? Well, it’s still too early to know for sure. Because our mission is to make this effort community driven, we first must hear what Historic West End residents and stakeholders have to tell us.

Near Jonson C. Smith University, workers lay tracks for Phase II of the CityLYNX Gold Line expansion. (Photo: Qcitymetro)

That listening process already has begun – and will accelerate in the coming weeks. Working with Free Press, a national organization created to give people a voice in shaping their media, Qcitymetro will host pop-up sessions in various West End locations.

Perhaps we’ll have a table inside the Beatties Ford Road library or ask to speak at your neighborhood meeting. Maybe you’ll encounter us at your favorite westside restaurant or coffee shop. (We’ll publish a list of dates and places as those plans come together.)

Your voice matters

Our goal is to engage with as many people as possible, so we’ll also look for other ways to hear from westside residents. One of the tools we’ll use is on display at the end of this column. It’s a Hearken reader-engagement platform that allows you, the reader, to tell us what news and information you need and want.

In the coming weeks you’ll see that engagement box in various places on our website and in our newsletters. I hope you’ll give it a try.

Meanwhile, know that Qcitymetro will be guided in this effort by a set of core principles. Among them:

  • To involve Historic West End residents and community groups in every aspect of what we do.
  • To produce independent news and content that reflect community diversity, values and history.
  • To pursue a business model that we can sustain beyond our grant funding.

In other words, Qcitymetro wants to be a part of Charlotte’s Historic West End for as long as we exist.

Finally, we won’t be alone in this effort. We’ve been approached by other media organizations that have expressed an interest in taking part in this news initiative. We also hope to work closely with organizations already embedded in the west side. All we need now is feedback from you — the residents.

Glenn H. Burkins is founder and publisher of Qcitymetro. Email editor@qcity2021.flywheelstaging.com.

Founder and publisher of Qcitymetro, Glenn has worked at newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Wall Street Journal and The Charlotte Observer.