Rapid change in Charlotte’s North End makes residents eager and anxious
North End is one of six areas Charlotte is concentrating on through its Corridors of Opportunity initiative to build a more equitable city. WFAE is following those efforts and communities throughout the year in our series "In Focus: Corridors of Opportunity". We’ve looked at the goals of the program and now turn to profiles of each of the areas.
Charlotte’s North End is home to many industrial buildings, a busy railyard, service providers for the needy, a horse stable and several tree-lined neighborhoods. New investment has made it one of the fastest-changing parts of the city.
Longtime residents are both eager for the amenities coming, but, in a largely renter-occupied area, anxious about who will be around to benefit from them.
One of the best views of Charlotte’s skyline has to be from Pop and Marie Sadler’s living room window. They get calls from investors scoping out their Greenville neighborhood every day.
Outlined here in red, Charlotte's Greenville neighborhood is adjacent to the I-77/I-277 interchange north of uptown.
“There's a lot of people [who] say, ‘Well, you just tell us what you like.’ I mean, there's not enough money to replace the dreams and the memories that you have,” said Marie Sadler.
The bustling Black neighborhood was demolished in the 1960s, partly to make way for Interstate 277. The Sadlers left then and moved back in 1979 as small ranch homes started sprouting up. They helped shape the neighborhood into a place where they felt good about raising a family.
“They expected over a period of time that this neighborhood would be gone and out of the way,” said Pop Sadler. “But we persevered.”
Now the neighborhood is changing again as bulldozers make way for townhomes and apartments along the edges. The North End exemplifies one of the biggest challenges for Charlotte’s Corridors of Opportunity — encouraging growth without sparking displacement.
Neighborhoods like Druid Hills, Lockwood and Graham Heights started in the early and mid-20th century as segregated white and Black enclaves.
As urban renewal took hold and white families moved out, the North End became mostly Black.
The Sadlers are excited to see new shops and restaurants coming. But they know rising property values are making it hard for many older residents.
“It's so expensive now to maintain a house and the taxes, and it’s just one of those things wherein ... it’s good, but it’s bad,” said Marie Sadler.
Big new office, retail developments make a mark
Rising property values have brought opportunities for some to sell and cash in. Mark Middlesworth runs Extravaganza Events out of a warehouse off North Tryon that he bought for $635,000 in 2001. Early on, Middlesworth hosted the Symphony Guild, a fundraising group, there.
“Half the money in Charlotte was probably sitting in this room in the 'hood and not realizing that they were in harm's way. But we ran the harm off, and it became a destination,” said Middlesworth.
Crime has since dropped in the area and he now has a good relationship with the men’s shelter down the street. He recently sold his 1.4-acre property for $4.1 million to the developer behind a popular South End brewery and is in the process of moving.
Across the street, property that included an office building with many Black-owned businesses sold for $8.8 million. The Foundation Supply, as it’s called now, is being redeveloped as a mix of office and retail with new tenants.
As for a vision for businesses in the North End?
“Whoever's bought the land has already changed that vision, because they're the ones that are going to see what the vision turns into,” Middlesworth said.
Camp North End is a big driver of that vision and is luring other investments. The massive factory complex that once produced Ford Model Ts and Hercules missiles is taking shape as a creative and tech office park with stores, restaurants and art. It draws people from other parts of the city and those who live nearby, and has hosted popular exhibitions such as Immersive Van Gogh last summer.
“It's my day off, and I just decided to say, ‘Let me take her somewhere and do something different.’ It's a nice little neighborhood of art,” said Danny Simpson, who was recently visiting Camp North End with a date.
Camp North End is also home to a couple of nonprofits. The North End Community Coalition has space rent-free, one of the ways its developer has reached out to the community.
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Neighborhoods band together
The North End Community Coalition formed in 2017 to be a united front to help limit displacement and shape development. The group includes leaders of eight neighborhoods surrounding Camp North End. The group’s director, Melissa Gaston, said the city approached them several years ago to help target resources.
Gaston recalls they told city officials, “Don’t come in here and tell us what we need.” Instead, “Ask us what we want; actually listen to us and put it into plan, if that's what you're going to do,” Gaston said.
She was pleased with the city’s response.
For the most part, Gaston — whose husband, longtime community leader Darryl Gaston, died in 2021 — says they’ve been able to fend off development they didn’t want, such as a truck yard. They’ve also pushed for retail that the neighborhood has long needed.
“I think it's changing, and it's changing for the better. Unfortunately, there's going to be some people that are not going to be able to adapt to the changes that are coming,” said Gaston.
Changes tough on longtime renters
Two-thirds of North End residents are renters, many of them Black. The area has one of the highest concentrations of older, low-cost housing. Shanay Baxter and her five kids live at the privately-run Greenhaven Townhouses near Statesville Avenue. She pays just under $1,000 a month for a two-bedroom unit.
“These places are affordable, so it's something that I would look forward to staying [in],” said Baxter.
A mile and a half up the street, many residents of the J.T. Williams neighborhood are looking for affordable places after investors bought a 100-unit complex. The plan is to renovate them and nearly double rents, from about $700 a month to $1,300.
The coalition and neighborhood associations hold workshops to inform renters and owners about programs that could help them stay in their homes, but many residents have had to move out.
In 2010, Black residents made up 80% of the North End. That’s down to 71% now. The share of white residents has doubled during that time, while the share of Latino residents is about the same.
“See how change can help bring up the old”
A diverse mix of new renters is moving into apartment complexes springing up such as Pine 25 on North Tryon. “Your Beginning in North End” says the sign on the leasing office.
“They were running like this crazy, good deal. And I was like, ‘Oh, I need to get in there,’” said Tmaya Robinson, a social worker, who moved into her one-bedroom apartment a year and a half ago.
She now pays $1,300 a month, which is the median rent for the city.
“It was really nice, and I felt like it was in a good part of town. So I moved. But when I moved, I realized that they're really just gentrifying,” Robinson said.
Lower-income people, many Black like herself, are moving out.
Back in the Greenville neighborhood, Jaime Deming and her husband are among the newer, white residents there. They bought their small ranch home in 2019 and love their new neighborhood.
“I just immediately got that sense or feeling of family. I felt safe,” recalls Deming.
When they toured the home, they ended up meeting a neighbor.
“They have been just such a blessing to us,” said Deming.
Those neighbors turned out to be the Sadlers. They say the mix of old and new residents is good, when the newcomers appreciate the neighborhood’s history and the work that went into making it the place they enjoy now.
“If you don't change, you'll die,” said Marie Sadler. “The best thing to do is when [things] change to see how change can help bring up the old.”
That’s the challenge as the city and other groups start putting into motion the plan that North End residents helped shape as a new focus of Corridors of Opportunity.
Charlotte expects to soon release what it calls a playbook for how it will target city investments.
Next: On Wednesday, we profile the Albemarle Road and Central Avenue corridor, home to a large, international population.
Major support for WFAE's Race & Equity Team comes from Novant Health and Wells Fargo.