Last July, the residents of Crestdale, an historic African-American neighborhood in Matthews, took part in an exercise aimed at helping them rediscover the importance of their community.
Crestdale is a unique area of Matthews located on both sides of the railroad track between Matthews-Mint Hill Road and East John Street, between downtown Matthews and Interstate 485.
Thanks to an application filed by the town, the American Planning Association sent a five- member Community Planning Assistance Team to Crestdale to work with residents and other stakeholders to examine the community's past and present and identify their hopes and dreams for the future.
The resulting final report can now be found online by visiting www.matthewsnc.com then selecting departments, then planning and development.
The Crestdale Rising final report details their findings and gives recommendations on what the Crestdale community can do to ensure its stability and vitality for the next generation.
Among those recommendations: community identity and cohesions; heritage preservation, education and ownership; security and dignity for longterm residents; connectivity and neighborhood improvements; and a discussion of planned adjacent developments including Wingate Commons and the Sportsplex.
Now, town staff says, it's up to Crestdale residents to bring those recommendations to life.
"It's not something for the town to push. It's a plan for the neighborhood. It's up to them to decide how they want to carry out these recommendations and what their biggest priorities are," said Matthews planning director Kathi Ingrish.
Longtime Crestdale resident Harvey Boyd is helping to lead the revitalization efforts.
"We'd like to accomplish many of the things highlighted in the report. We're reorganizing our 501c-3 (official nonprofit status), and we're looking at some concrete ideas for the community.
"We'd like to get a monument to identify our community and maybe tell some of its history. We'd like to create a small museum and a heritage trail and would welcome local sculptors and artists to create a pieces relating to the area."
Boyd is involved in a development project that he hopes will bring in a mix of higher priced houses and possibly an adult day care to Crestdale to help care for some of the older residents who don't want to move from their homes.
Boyd and some others stakeholders have been meeting regularly, and he invites others interested in revitalizing the community - resident or not - to attend.
"We'd love to have as much input as possible," said Boyd. "We need as much help as we can get to reignite our group."
Crestdale resident Gwendolyn Stitt agrees, saying it's time for folks to get out and get involved.
"This community was carried for a long time by the older generation but our generation seems to have dropped the ball. It's time that we revitalize the area," said Stitt. "There are a lot of things that need to be done here because we have another generation coming up."