The new owners of the historic Excelsior Club are seeking Black architects and interior designers to help redevelop and revive the historic site.
Located on Beatties Ford Road, the Excelsior Club has been a landmark in Charlotte’s Black community since the 1940s. For decades, it was one of the leading social clubs for African Americans in the Southeast, regularly hosting political leaders and entertainers. It closed in 2016 and had fallen into such disrepair that the property was named one of 11 most endangered places last year by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
California-based Kenwood Investments purchased the club in January for $1.35 million, with an additional $250,000 contribution from the city, county, the Knight Foundation and Foundation For The Carolinas. Kenwood brought on local architectural firm Neighboring Concepts, one of the largest Black-owned architectural firms in the Southeast, to begin reimagining the historic site.
On Tuesday, Kenwood put out the call to find Black architects and interior designers from across the country to join the project. CEO Darius Anderson said the project will hire a “dream team” of Black architects over the next two months to develop concepts for the remodeling of the Excelsior Club. Plans also include building a boutique hotel on the property.
While the nation’s attention is focused on the removal of racist monuments, Anderson noted that Black cultural and historic sites are being lost forever through neglect, decay or destruction.
“We must do more than preserve and protect them: We need to restore them to their places of prominence,” he said in a statement.
Darrel Williams, founding partner and owner of Neighboring Concepts, said it’s important to have diverse perspectives involved with the Excelsior Club’s redevelopment. Hiring Black professionals allows them to bring their expertise to a notable project in an industry where they’re underrepresented.
A recent report by the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance highlighted disparities in the region’s workforce. Black workers represented 13% of the professional services industry, which includes architects.
“Unfortunately, the architecture profession is not as diverse as our community,” Williams told QCity Metro Tuesday. “I think having the perspective of African Americans is important, not just in architecture but in everything we do.”
The project team will be selected based on the following criteria:
- how their professional backgrounds are suited to this kind of preservation work;
- their vision for preserving history;
- how they would complement the local Neighboring Concepts team; and
- how their concept for the new hotel would complement the historic building.