Streets lined with restaurants, bars, cafes and nightspots. Business and arts centers that nourish creativity and incubate Black entrepreneurship. Thriving neighborhoods with grocery stores, bike trails, affordable housing and efficient transportation.
This is the vision of the Historic West End in 2040, crafted by area stakeholders like Five Points Community Collaborative, Northwest Corridor Council of Elders and the Historic West End Partners [HWEP].
J’Tanya Adams, who leads HWEP, an economic development group, said the Five Points Forward plan represents the collective voice of the westside community. (Center City Partners recently included the plan as part of a broader 2040 vision for uptown Charlotte and surrounding neighborhoods.)
“We’ve always stated that we want a community guided by us, for us,” said Adams. “This was our opportunity to do just that.”
Historic West End
After almost a year of exercises, conversations, and multiple iterations, the plan — funded by the Knight Foundation — came together with the assistance of architecture firms Neighboring Concepts and Shook Kelley.
The Five Points Forward Plan identifies several objectives, including:
- Programs to minimize displacement of existing residents and businesses.
- Creating a cultural destination and neighborhood center that serves and celebrates the community.
- Extending investments and community benefits along the Beatties Ford corridor as the Gold Line is developed and extended.
- Identify opportunities for neighborhood-appropriate infill development.
- And employ the principles of “equitable transit-oriented development.”
Perhaps the plan’s grandest vision is to reconfigure the interchange at I-77 and West Trade street to create new public land for development. That development, the plan says, would “generate new tax revenue that can be reinvested back into the West End.”
That would include expanding Tarlton Hills apartments, the subsidized housing development near the site at 201 Frazier Ave.
Adams says the plan simply “formalized the objectives in writing so they could be improved upon further.”
The Center City 2040 Vision Plan, (not to be confused with the city of Charlotte’s 2040 plan), lays out a development strategy for 10 focus areas in the city that are “ready for new public and private investment and catalytic transformation.”
The West Trade/Beatties Ford corridor is one of those areas.
Authors of Five Points Forward asked to have their plan included in the Center City Partners plan, Adams said.
Michael Smith, president and CEO of Center City Partners, said he sees the plan as the building blocks to mitigating displacement and protecting what makes West End unique — its history as a center for Black culture in Charlotte.
“The thought is to position the West End as an authentically Charlotte visitor destination where you’re able to uniquely enjoy African American arts, culture, music, history, and really become a place you must experience when you visit Charlotte,” Smith, told QCity Metro.
He added that the Vision Plan also presents an opportunity in the West End to “incubate African American businesses and entrepreneurs, in addition to restaurants, cafes, bars, clubs…really build and nurture civic venues and perhaps a music school.”
Why it matters
The vision plan comes at a crucial time for West End residents. Recent years have brought an influx of public and private investment along the corridor, especially in the Five Points area, where the Gold Line streetcar will soon connect east and west Charlotte.
Some residents have grown concerned that the effects of this change will lead to widespread displacement for current residents and businesses.
The vision plan acknowledges those concerns: “The area is now at a turning point where its character may change in detrimental ways if growth and investment are not consistent with community needs and priorities,” the document states.
Smith said the Vision Plan was developed after extensive input for various sectors of the community. Groups working on the plan sought input at neighborhood meetings and festivals and convened meets of their own to gather feedback.
The process was interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic and then again by the nationwide protests that erupted last year following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer — two events that forced the group to reconsider it work, Smith said.
“It forced us to pause and to dig deeper and come back with a plan that was more responsive to the nationwide call for racial justice, the social and economic disparities that just became more apparent, the impacts of systematic racism,” he said. “So this is a plan that I think will now be remembered.”
Smith said the larger plan, which includes dozens of neighborhoods in addition to Center City, was built around three core values:
- equitable economy and growth
- accessible transportation
- and healthy neighborhoods that lie just beyond uptown.
A history of planning
Center City Partners has a long history of providing vision that has shaped uptown Charlotte.
Its first vision plan dates back to 1966. Since then, Smith said, the plans have expanded to include neighborhoods that surround the uptown area. The 2040 plan extends into communities within a two-mile radius of uptown. (In contrast, the city’s 2040 Plan looks at the entire city.)
Smith said an earlier vision plan was first to imagine high-rise living in uptown Charlotte — a vision realized when The Vue welcomed its first residents in 2010.
Uptown sports venues, First Ward Park, Romare Bearden Park, the Blue Line Rail Trail and the Little Sugar Creek Greenway — all were first imagined in earlier vision plans.
“We’ve got this great legacy in the city of Charlotte of planning and partnerships around vision plans,” Smith said. “I really believe that is a key component to Charlotte’s winning strategy. There are absolutely direct connections between the built environment and things that were thought of sometimes decades in advance.”
Before the Vision Plan becomes official, it will be presented to city and county officials, as well as to the school board, Smith said. The plan is also open for public comment.
This article was published as part of our West End Journalism Project, which is funded by a grant by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.