Last in a 3-part series
After decades of neglect, the Historic West End is seeing significant investment.
Along W. Trade Street, the city is pumping new money into bigger and better sidewalks and a streetcar extension. In the Five Points area, new retail is springing up, along with a new outdoor plaza. And farther down Beatties Ford Road, private investors — some of them Black — are giving birth to new commercial projects.
Today we continue our look at some of the investments that are beginning to reshape Charlotte’s West End — an area that holds both challenges and promise.
Historic West End
While city leaders have designated parts of Beatties Ford Road as a “Corridor of Opportunity,” the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has identified some of those same areas as “hot spots” for violent crime.
Malcolm Graham, who represents the area on Charlotte City Council, said new projects coming to the corridor are full of “promise,” signaling a new chapter for the Historic West End.
On a recent ride-along, here are some of the projects he noted on Beatties Ford Road.
Plans for Excelsior
Once a beacon for Black political and social activity, the Excelsior Club today is almost beyond repair as an “unsafe” sign hangs on its entrance. But the building’s new owner, a California-based developer, has announced plans to build a boutique hotel, an upscale restaurant and an indoor/outdoor entertainment area on the site.
[Related Story] Developer outlines vision for new Excelsior Club
It’s the kind of project that could spark economic transformation in blocks nearby.
During a community update last month, Darius Anderson, founder and CEO of Kenwood Investments, which owns the building, said the redevelopment will be a “really unique offering” that will “be appealing to lots of different folks.
“And we hope that it will go ahead and help simulate and complement a lot of other great development work going on currently on Beatties Ford Road,” he said.
Dining, retail, office
A block away from the Excelsior is 1101 Beatties Ford Road, where a 5,642-square-foot development is in the works. It’s slated for retail and office space, a first-floor restaurant with outdoor seating, and a rooftop terrace overlooking uptown Charlotte.
William Hughes, a west Charlotte native, is leading the CGE Venture Group bringing the three-story, mixed-use development to the corner of Beatties Ford Road and Booker Avenue in the Washington Heights neighborhood.
Graham says what he loves about this project is yet another major intersection on the corridor that’s going to have a significant building that will offer amenities like sit-down dining, something the area is missing.
“There’s nowhere on Beatties Ford Road from the I-77 bridge where you can sit down and have dinner or a drink, so to have that on the corridor in conjunction with the same type of atmosphere of a boutique hotel…that will create synergy,” he said.
Tenants are slated to move into the building in early 2022, Hughes told QCity Metro last year.
Beatties Ford/LaSalle revitalization
At 2023 Beatties Ford Road, renovations of a 7,000 square feet retail building are underway. JPMorgan Chase & Co. will anchor the site with a bank branch, while BW Sweets Bakery will open a store there — its third in Charlotte.
The property is being developed by Christopher Dennis, who also purchased 2020 Beatties Ford Road, a building directly across the street from his current construction site. Dennis plans to make what he calls Site 2 an extension of the retail at Site 1.
One of the features that will be on both properties are charging stations for electric cars, he said.
Graham says getting Chase Bank to anchor the site is a big deal, especially at the Beatties Ford/LaSalle intersection, where city leaders are working to reduce crime.
Graham said the new generation of developers on the corridor come with a deep understanding of the area’s history and an appreciation of the residents’ concerns about displacement and gentrification.
“We’re getting a lot of development on the corridor — Dianna Ward, William Hughes, Christopher Dennis — and they’re all African Americans,” he said. “I think that means a lot. It’s people that look like me and you, coming in, building and buying.”
Site 1 is expected to open in September, while Site 2 is slated for completion in early 2022.
While standing at the corner of Beatties Ford/LaSalle, Graham is flagged down by two of his constituents.
“I need to talk to you when you get done,” the woman said.
Graham politely assures her he will listen to her concerns about the corridor.
“They see you and they want to talk to you,” he laughs.
A new West Charlotte High School
West Charlotte High at 2219 Senior Drive is getting a brand new school.
Last April, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board approved $180 million to go toward school construction, part of which will be used to replace West Charlotte’s aging buildings.
The project will demolish the existing high school facility, while building a new one on its campus, according to its developer, LS3P.
The new school will be built to accommodate 2,500 students and replace the current sprawl of 15 buildings — the oldest dating back to 1964.
The new school is slated to open in 2022, according to CMS.
“The lot will stay vacant.”
On the 2400 block of Beatties Ford Road, near the corridor’s regional library branch, is an empty lot with fencing and signage wrapped around it.
Roger Parham of Steel Skin LLC, who owns the property, says he gets offers all the time, but none yet has been a fit.
In a phone interview, he said he will not allow a business on the property that doesn’t meet his three key principles: job creation, small business development and essential services.
What’s his motivation?
He noted a woman who lives behind his church, Friendship Missionary Baptist on Beatties Ford Road, who must take two buses to get to an OBGYN appointment.
Parham said “it’s absurd” that those services aren’t on the corridor.
He says he has nothing against chicken shacks and check-cashing places, but he’s not interested.
“Until we get an offer that meets our three principles, the lot will stay vacant,” Parham said.
“This community has been demanding change.”
The ride-along with Graham has winded down ,and we head south towards uptown.
Graham said that although he faces challenges representing the second-largest district in the city, he enjoys seeing ideas he had long ago come into fruition.
“This is a community that’s been fighting, asking, demanding change for years,” he said. “I’m just happy to kind of be the guy who was able to put the pieces together to create a full picture of what it can be.”
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