In the mid-1800s, NoDa was home to a water-processing plant and a poorhouse for the ill, elderly and needy. Later it housed major mills and factories, and a mill village sprung up around them. Many of these homes are still around today - one-story cottages with a front porch, two front rooms, and a kitchen near the back. In the 1970s and 80s, the mills and factories closed. The area declined and many of the mill homes were boarded up. The cheap real estate just outside the city attracted artists, who gradually turned it into an arts district in the 1990s and 2000s.
More recently, gallery crawls and concerts have drawn young professionals to the area. Upscale restaurants have capitalized on the new clientele and yoga studios and juice bars have opened on the main street, North Davidson. These new businesses have at times, edged out older ones. The neighborhood's close proximity to the city and walkable neighborhood center have helped make it popular.
“It used to be, if you had money and choice, you moved towards the edge of town. And somehow in the last 10 years, people with money and choice are increasingly choosing to live near the center city and that’s why neighborhoods within 4 to 5 miles of the city are seeing such dramatic and rapid change.”
- Tom Hanchett, Charlotte Historian
To accommodate this new trend, apartments are popping up in the old neighborhood - in some cases taking the place of old mill houses. The light rail line, expected to open in the spring of 2018, has accelerated the development. According to the apartment research firm Real Data, there are a total of 9,108 apartment units in the Plaza Midwood, NoDa, and Elizabeth areas. While the data isn't specific to NoDa, locals share similar worries with those in Plaza Midwood who also fear the area will lose its creative and edgy vibe.
In 2012, NoDa locals started a petition on Change.org, opposing the development of apartments in the heart of the neighborhood. 92 people signed the petition, asking that the land be used for a common green space, a community parking lot, or retail shops to benefit local residents. The lot has since been developed into the Mercury NoDa Apartments, a 241-unit complex near the corner of North Davidson and E 36th Street (pictured above and below).