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Tear-down trend in Cherry, Dilworth, Myers Park, Wesley Heights raises gentrification concerns

By Deon Roberts
deroberts@charlotteobserver.com

As teardowns rebound in Charlotte, some worry they will harm the look and feel of older neighborhoods.

Dan Morrill, consulting director of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, is among those watching the trend with a wary eye.

Morrill pointed to the Cherry neighborhood as an example of an area that is being reshaped now by teardowns.

“This was a historically African-American neighborhood right on the edge of Myers Park with small-frame houses,” he said. “You’re seeing expensive houses built in the midst of this neighborhood that had just small houses.

“Not only is it changing in terms of its built environment, but it is the classic case of gentrification.”

Cherry is not the only neighborhood whose character is being altered by larger homes, Morrill said. He said he noticed a teardown during a drive in June through Crescent Heights, a neighborhood roughly in between Myers Park and the Elizabeth community.

“From what I’ve seen so far, it’s obviously going to be a very, very big structure,” he said. “The same thing is happening in Dilworth, Myers Park, Wesley Heights. It’s a broad-based phenomenon.”

Morrill said he’s not anti-development and that builders have the right to build homes with modern features that today’s buyers want. But more protections could be put in place in Mecklenburg County to maintain the character of its neighborhoods, he said.

Chiefly, he said, the establishment of neighborhood conservation districts could restrict how far homes could be set back from the street and how properties could be landscaped, among other things.

Regulations such as those would go a long way to making sure new construction is “sympathetic” to surrounding homes, he said. To date, there has not been the political will to create neighborhood conservation districts in the county, although state legislation allows municipalities to establish them, he said.

Sadler Barnhardt, president of the Myers Park Homeowners Association, said the look of his neighborhood is also changing as smaller homes are being replaced by much bigger ones.

He said some of the recently demolished homes had been built away from their setbacks – the required distance between the home and property lines. The newer homes are being built right up to their setbacks in some cases, Barnhardt said. I’m not saying they’re violating any deed restrictions,” he said. “But people are still somewhat pushing the envelope, in my opinion.”

Roberts: 704-358-5248; Twitter: @DeonERoberts
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