Block By Block: West Charlotte Then And Now

Aug 29, 2017

While West Charlotte shares South End's industrial roots, it has a much different story. First of all, West Charlotte is far bigger than the small pocket that makes up South End. The west end of the city was home to the first suburban African American high school in the 1930s, then called West Charlotte High School. The mid-20th century in West Charlotte included mills and factories that brought workers and their families into areas like West Charlotte that were then considered suburbs.  In 2000, 82.3 percent of the population in West Charlotte was African American and 12 percent was white. Ten years later, the area was 76 percent African American and 14 percent white, according to the City of Charlotte's Quality of Life Explorer. Today, employment numbers from Point2Homes show that 55% of the population in West Charlotte are white collar employees and 45% blue collar employees. 

HISTORIC WEST END

The historic part of West End is best known for Johnson C. Smith University. It was founded after the Civil War in 1867 and is a private, coed, and historically African American four-year university. The neighborhood became a thriving area for upper-middle class African Americans. Close to the city, this area has seen major residential developments in recent years as people renovate, or demolish old homes and build new ones that are changing the look of many neighborhoods. In 2000, 95 percent of the population was African American. But by 2015, they only accounted for 72 percent of the population. During that same time, the percentage of white residents rose from 1 percent to 22 percent of the total population, according to the American Community Survey. By 2016, 32 percent of West End residents had moved in after 2010. Additional housing is being added to the area and home prices are increasing. In 2011, the average home sale price per square foot was $105. In 2015 it jumped to $140 per square foot.

Part of the development includes the extension of the Gold Line Street Car. A $150 million project, the line will connect West End to Uptown, with construction scheduled to finish by 2020. [CHARLOTTE STREETCAR BEGINS OPERATION]

“Connectivity is everything. These infrastructure investments create a real incentive for private investment. And you have to be intentional about it. That’s why having a plan for a neighborhood like Historic West Charlotte is so important.” –Michael Smith, Charlotte Center City Partners

But as the CityLYNX Gold Line brings new opportunities for investment, local leaders are working to preserve the past and the community feel. The Historic West End Partners developed a "Tactile Plan" that encourages collaboration between community members and developers. The plan includes projects like creating community centers and common spaces, supporting local businesses, and developing a network of pedestrian amenities like grocery stores and retail shops.  It also seeks to leverage the history and resources at JCSU to share the cultural and historical significance of the area.   

FREEMOREWEST

Outside of the historic area, you’ll find the FreeMoreWest part of west Charlotte. Think of it as a spin-off of South End's successful branding efforts. The nickname comes from some of the main roads that define the area – Freedom Drive and Morehead Street. Between 2000 and 2015, the number of African American residents increased by 4 percent to account for 77 percent of the total population. During that same time, the number of white residents stayed steady around 20 percent of the total population, according to the American Community Survey. Today, these combined areas account for almost 4,000 apartments – 600 of which are less than five years old, according to apartment research firm Real Data. Another 654 units were built in the past six to fifteen years. The majority of apartment units however, 2,061 units, were built thirty or more years ago.

Freedom Drive runs through West Charlotte and has seen some residential growth. In 2015, 150 townhomes and 50 single family homes were added off West Morehead Street. In 2016, a 77-unit apartment complex opened.

Along West Morehead Street, a 70,000-square-foot office and retail complex is in the planning stages and a 300 multi-family apartment complex is under construction.  Businesses have also moved into the area, like the eclectic Rhino Market and Queen City Catering (pictured below) have opened in the past 3 years.

WILKINSON BLVD

Another main thoroughfare, Wilkinson Boulevard, runs from the airport to Uptown – helping make Charlotte's west end the gateway to the city. Several major developments have been popping up along Wilkinson Boulevard in recent years - most notably the Goodwill Opportunity Campus. It was completed in 2016 and cost $22 million. 

The 18.5 acre project now employs 270 people and offers services like health care, financial literacy workshops, a job resource center, and child care. In the last year, 7,700 used the job resource center, according to Goodwill. Since June 2016, Goodwill says 1,200 people have found employment with help from the campus (pictured below).