Out-of-towners come to Charlotte just to shop at SouthPark mall.
Midwood, Dilworth and Elizabeth have considerable charm. But they don’t have Neiman Marcus or Nordy’s.
There’s no SouthPark Country Club, but the exclusive, PGA Tournament-hosting Quail Hollow Country Club sort of counts. But we have more than our share of neighborhood swim clubs. Mountainbrook, Fairmeadows, Beverly Woods, Barclay Downs, Foxcroft Hills and Foxcroft East are all overtaken each summer by neighborhood kids.
Here’s what else you should know about the area’s retail nirvana, which has gated enclaves for CEOs and old money scions – but ranches for regular folks, too.
1. Mid-mod hub. Old Foxcroft and Deering Oaks have impressive traditionals and Tudors. Beverly Woods and Fair Meadows offer charming ranches. But there are midcentury modern beauties throughout Mountainbrook, The Cloisters and on Foxcroft’s canopied Arbor Way.
The city’s best-known midcentury-modern church is commonly called “the ski slope church.” (Plenty of Charlotteans know Sharon United Methodist only by its nickname.) Enjoy it before it’s gone. There’s a plan to redevelop the land into a mixed-use community of apartments, a hotel, offices and restaurants, as well as a new church.
But there’s no need for mourning. The congregation asked for community input on what should happen with the prime piece of land across from the mall’s main entrance. The pastor envisions a community hub with a new 750-seat church, shops, apartments, restaurants, offices and public meeting spaces. And the church’s famous slope will be incorporated into the new development.
2. The place to be. (See also: construction and congestion.) Traffic’s terrible; we know. And around the holidays? Have mercy.
Cranes and lanes blocked for construction vehicles are signs of “progress.” Notice the imposing hotel that’s set right up against Sharon Road? I mean, how could you not?
You can’t criticize SouthPark for being exclusive – although some do. While uptown and Dilworth are each getting a boutique Kimpton hotel next year, SouthPark is getting Hilton Gardens and Homewood Suites.
3. We’re occasionally the site of a juicy scandal. When a rich, married businessman and a prostitute plan a rendezvous, they’re not checking in to the Duke Mansion (in Myers Park) or Van Landingham Estate (in Midwood). They’re shagging in SouthPark. Sallie Saxon made millions as SouthPark’s madam. One “customer” tried to write off his charges to the escort service as a business expense. Patrick Cannon, the former mayor sent to federal prison, accepted a bribe right here. Even high-end areas have a shadow side.
4. Reid’s Fine Foods. (A bigger one.) Tired of not being able to find a parking spot at Reid’s on Selwyn? Come over to the 28211, where the gourmet grocer’s new location is bigger, offers more seating, more wine and more parking. (Unless it’s the holiday season, and then all bets are off.) reids.com, 4331 Barclay Downs Road.
5. Things that make you go hmmmm. Plaza-Midwood and NoDa out-quirk us. We don’t have a mural of a drag queen or a tattoo parlor. But we do have this kitschy oddity: a free-standing food court. Bojangles’, Donato’s and DQ are there. A random cafeteria was there. It’s like something you’d see, attached to a gas station, off a busy stretch of I-77. I’m not the only one to notice. In 2011, Faith D. wrote on Yelp: “How weird. It’s a food court. The location is prime in SouthPark, but the concept is so strange. When does anyone go to a food court that is not in a mall or in a large business office?!” I know, Faith. I know. Puzzle over it yourself: 6555 Morrison Blvd.
6. My favorite Chinese. Doesn’t everyone crave easy access to good Chinese takeout? There’ve been times I’ve considered moving. But then I’ve wondered where I’d go for Chinese and realize I’m already around the corner from the best: Baoding SouthPark (baodingsouthpark.com, 4722 Sharon Road.)
Bonus: SouthPark also has what I think is Charlotte’s best sushi: Yama Asian Fusion at 720 Governor Morrison St.)
7. The best shopping. (And, it’s hard to be humble: the best dining.) It’s big, impressive and luxe. The Mall – no need to specify which one you’re talking about – gives us access to Tory Burch, Tiffany and Hermes. But it’s no Rodeo Drive.
You need only pop in H&M or put your name in at the insanely popular Cheesecake Factory (and be assigned a pager and told they’re on a two-hour wait) to realize SouthPark is a blend of posh and pedestrian.
You may find less of a wait at a few of the area’s best restos: Dogwood Southern Table for stylish Southern; Toscana for authentic, refined Italian; Café Monte for a true French bistro; The Cowfish for an addictive fusion of burgers and sushi; Corkbuzz for an impressive wine selection and the juiciest, messiest burger I’ve ever had. It’s topped with red wine fondue and bacon-mushroom relish. Bliss.
SouthPark, the neighborhood, is best known as a shopper’s paradise. And it’s not just because of The Mall. Smaller area shopping centers – your Specialty Shops, your Phillips Places – have a lot to offer, too.
Don’t let our traffic get you down. It’s the price we pay for being a retail destination.
Page Leggett, a freelance writer, grew up in SouthPark and still lives there today.