Charlotte’s South End used to be something of a no man’s land. Once an industrial center housing a Pepsi-Cola bottling factory and a flour mill, by the 1980s, most businesses had left. A few condos and apartments began sprouting up in the 1990s, taking the place of older mills. But it was the completion of the LYNX Blue Line light rail that helped transform the area.
In 2007, South End residents owned 1,400 homes, which includes condos, apartments, townhomes, as well as single and multi-family homes. Now South End has 6,100 homes, and an additional 11,000 rental units, according to Charlotte Center City Partners. There are also 4,509 apartments currently under construction or in the planning stages. In light of all this development, last year Real Page ranked South End as the nation’s busiest neighborhood for construction. Between 2012 and the first quarter of 2016, the area grew at a rate of 107 percent, according to Real Page.
Developer Terry Shook coined the name 'Historic South End' in the mid-1990s. You can hear him talk about how the area developed on Charlotte Talks. [THE STORY OF 'HISTORIC' SOUTH END]
A major challenge to South End development has been keeping a livable feel amongst large apartments and businesses. That means ensuring pedestrian safety with walkable streets and accessible parks, along with incorporating basic services like hair salons, grocery stores, and restaurants into the building designs. Many of the newer buildings look the same - five or six-story structures that span a city block. With dominant parking garages and major thoroughfares, the area doesn't reflect what many community residents were hoping for.
In July of 2017, Charlotte Center City Partners and the Charlotte Planning Department introduced a South End Vision Plan. It focuses on managing the area's growth over the next 10 to 20 years, and addresses issues like pedestrian traffic, bike lanes, street frontages and ground floor activity, and architectural styles. It stresses 'community-driven' standards that aim to make the area more walkable and attractive to small, local businesses.
“There’s a pretty common equation for the places that you see and think, "Boy wouldn’t it be great to live there." It's things like neighborhood retail, corner bars and corner grocery stores, live music, and connectivity to parks and green ways. And through all this investments and growth, we create an environment that we all want to call home.”
- Michael Smith, CEO of Charlotte Center City Partners
Some locals fear the development is diminishing the area's distinguishing local flare. In recent years, community favorites like the Tremont Music Hall, Amos' Southend, the Common Market, and Food Truck Fridays have closed their doors or relocated as developers purchase the blocks for new construction.