Second of three part.
“This is our Trade and Tryon Street,” said Malcolm Graham, standing in the Five Points area of west Charlotte.
In one direction stood M&F Bank, a Black-led institution that dates back to 1907. Across the street and beyond a cluster of trees stood the red-brick clock tower of Johnson C. Smith University, which traces its roots to 1867. And in almost every direction — north, south, east or west — the unmistakeable markers of new construction were visible.
Graham, who represents this area on the Charlotte City Council, had agreed to take me on a ride-along from W. Trade Street through parts of Beatties Ford Road to discuss some of the economic development that’s happening in Historic West End.
After a tour of projects underway on W. Trade Street (Read Part 1 here), our second stop was Five Points, an area that sits at the intersections of W. Trade Street, Rozzelles Ferry Road and Beatties Ford Road. It’s an area that has seen major economic investments from both city and private interests.
Five Points Retail
One such development is the Five Points Center at 1800 Rozzelles Ferry Road, which houses new retail shops, including Jet’s Pizza, Rita’s Italian Ice, Premier Pharmacy and a salon.
“The thing I really like about all of this, all of these owners are African American or people of color,” said Graham.
The building was bought by local business owner Dianna Ward’s investment company, Sankofa Partners LLC, in December 2019 for $1.2 million, according to property records.
In a 2020 interview with QCity Metro, Ward said she chose the retailers based on the community’s needs — and what she perceived to be the types of businesses that would thrive near a university.
“We weren’t going to put a five-star restaurant in here,” Ward said. “That can come with somebody else’s development down the road. We know that right now, ice cream, pizza, pharmacies are all doing well, so we went after the people we wanted.”
Five Points Public Plaza
As Graham talks and shuffles through the gravel, the sounds of trucks beeping and drills hitting the concrete play in the background as construction on the Five Points Public Plaza continues.
The $5.5 million project will be a gathering space for the communities surrounding Five Points.
Slated to open this summer, the space will include a small amphitheater, a splash pad, outdoor seating and public art. Graham says the plaza, along with the GoldLine streetcar, West Complex and other developments, will make the corridor more attractive, especially for JCSU students.
“Students want facilities, they want an environment,” he said. “They want a place to go get a slice of pizza and sit in the park. The park will have WiFi, so it’s also a place where they can do homework.”
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has pledged nearly $400,000 to jump-start community-driven programming at the Five Points plaza.
The three-year grant will pay to hire a part-time events coordinator, train JCSU students to serve as plaza ambassadors, and cover the costs of plaza equipment and some initial events during the first three years, the foundation said in 2020 when the grant was announced.
Since 2015, the Knight Foundation has invested more than $5 million in various westside projects.
Across from Five Points Plaza sits the Two-Way Store, a small, gray building on the corner of W. 5th and W. Trade streets. The grounds have been the site of frequent loitering.
Graham says the Smith family, which owns the lot, is floating the idea of refurbishing the building and property to possibly bring a Common Market, a convenience store, deli and bar in one, to the West End.
“They’re looking to reprogram it in terms of a sandwich shop or sub-shop with high-end beer and wine versus hard liquor and beer,” Graham said.
A new entrance is under construction at Johnson C. Smith.
Graham said the university wants to stay on pace with the community around it. He said JCSU can’t let progress happen all around them and “not be part of it.”
He said he hopes the university one day will remove the fencing that surrounds the campus “to become an urban university.” It’s an idea that has been floated for years now.
“Obviously there are safety and security concerns, but look how different it looks with just the entrance removal,” Graham said. “It opens up the university.”
Coming Wednesday: Revitalization taking shape on Beatties Ford Road.
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