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FAQ City: The Story Of Charlotte's Earle Village

Courtesy of PLCMC, Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Observer Collection.
Charlotte resident Anthony Massey shepherds a group of children home in Earle Village in August 1982.

Editor's note: A version of this story was originally published in October 2018.

Few Charlotteans may remember Earle Village, the public housing community built in First Ward just outside uptown. It was a bustling community that stretched from Sixth Street to 10th Street, roughly bordered by Myers Street and Caldwell Street. It was the place where 400 of the city's poorest families resided — until the village was condemned to demolition in the 1990s.

Credit Nick de la Canal / WFAE
Chris Major stands in front of the only existing buildings from Earle Village, a public housing community in First Ward that was torn down in the 1990s.

In it's place, a new, mixed-income development was built by the Charlotte Housing Authority with the promise that most Earle Village residents would get a bigger, better home or apartment to return to.

In the end, that wasn't what happened. While the new development, First Ward Place, was hailed as a national model for public housing, the actual number of public housing units had been reduced from 409 to about 220. And only 44 Earle Village families — or about 12% — successfully moved back in, a Charlotte Observer investigation found.

That prompted WFAE listener Michelle Renee to write in to FAQ City wondering what happened to the people of Earle Village. Where did they go? How did they make out?

Credit Nick de la Canal / WFAE
Gregory Kennedy's family owned the Superior Barbershop on Caldwell Street adjacent to Earle Village.

On this episode, we'll talk with former residents and others who were around at the time, and consider what lessons we can learn as present-day city leaders set goals to create more affordable housing.

Special thanks to everyone we talked with, including former residents Chris Major (a.k.a. the rapper Majah) and Willie Ratchford, who now works for the city. Thanks also to Gregory Kennedy, whose family owned the Superior Barbershop, and Harvey Shropshire, who managed the Earle Village Learning Center.

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Nick de la Canal is the host of Weekend Edition on Saturday/Sunday mornings, and a reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal