FAQ City: What Happened To Charlotte's Earle Village?

Jun 16, 2020

Chris Major.
Credit Nick de la Canal / WFAE

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 6th 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.

In its 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?

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

On this episode, we 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.

Do you have a question about Charlotte's people, culture or history? Let us know! Submit your question in the box below, and we may be in touch.

While you're at it, make sure to subscribe and rate/review the podcast on Apple PodcastsNPR One, and Google Play.

Editor's note: this episode originally aired in October 2018.