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A skyline that sprouts new buildings at a dizzying pace. Neighborhoods dotted with new breweries and renovated mills. Thousands of new apartments springing up beside light rail lines. The signs of Charlotte’s booming prosperity are everywhere. But that prosperity isn’t spread evenly. And from Charlotte’s “corridors of opportunity,” it can seem a long way off, more like a distant promise than the city’s reality.

Two motels eyed for rental housing at Sugar Creek, I-85

The Charlotte Speedway Inn is one of two motels under contract by developer Sage Investments.
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Google Street View
The Charlotte Speedway Inn is one of two motels under contract by developer Sage Investments.

More changes may be ahead for the troubled intersection of Interstate 85 and West Sugar Creek Road. The city of Charlotte this spring bought a motel with the aim of razing it and adding affordable housing. And now a developer has its eye on converting two more motels. The hope is fewer motels will mean less crime.

The Economy Inn functioned as housing of last resort for about a dozen people. It was also a haven for crime.
Lisa Worf
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WFAE
The Economy Inn functioned as housing of last resort for about a dozen people. It was also a haven for crime.

Police say the dozen motels around the intersection are an easy stop for people using the interstate as a conduit for crimes like drug smuggling and prostitution. The city bought the Economy Inn for $4.2 million, demolished it, and is now considering proposals to develop it as affordable housing.

Monica Holmes, who oversees the city’s Corridors of Opportunity initiative, says that investment made others look closer at the area.

“There were some members of the corporate community that saw us investing over there and they wanted to be a part of Corridors of Opportunity and helping us reach that broader community vision,” Holmes said.

The Rodeway Inn and Charlotte Speedway Inn are under contract by Sage Investment Group based in Washington state. Charlotte Speedway Inn attracts a lot of calls for police service. One of its owners was convicted of fraud and conspiracy to launder money through the business in 2017.

Holmes says the plan is to keep the motel buildings in place and develop them into market-rate rental units.

In a motel adjacent to those properties, the nonprofit Heal Charlotte puts up families needing a place to stay while looking for more stable housing. The city just approved a $2.25 million grant the group expects to receive soon and use to house 100 families there with onsite support.

Heal Charlotte’s founder Greg Jackson worries what will happen to families who use the other motels as a last resort before becoming homeless.

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Lisa Worf traded the Midwest for Charlotte in 2006 to take a job at WFAE. She worked with public TV in Detroit and taught English in Austria before making her way to radio. Lisa graduated from University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in English.