Dominica Clementi and her family, who own Nona’s Sweets on J.W. Clay Boulevard, were excited to learn about UNC Charlotte’s plans to build a new football stadium across North Tryon Street and the city’s plans to build a light-rail stop in front of the shop.
But that all changed when the Lynx Blue Line Extension plans were shortened by 1.2 miles. The city of Charlotte then unveiled plans to build a parking deck where the bakery now sits.
“It’s been a long battle. It’s been quite exhausting,” Clementi said. “But eminent domain came into play, and you really can’t fight city hall. It just has to be.”
The changes came in January 2011, when the Metropolitan Transit Commission approved plans to shorten the Blue Line Extension by two stations for financial reasons, Charlotte Area Transit System spokeswoman Azania Herron wrote in an email.
Herron said a team that included members from CATS and the city planning, economic development, engineering and transportation departments decided to build the parking deck at the J.W. Clay Boulevard location.
“The decision took into account such factors as environmental impacts, park-and-ride travel patterns, projected ridership, economic development and historic properties, to name a few,” Herron wrote.
Nona’s Sweets must vacate its building in mid- to late January, Clementi said. Her family has had a difficult time finding a new site in University City, because many shopping centers have stores that include bakeries, and they have bakery-exclusivity rights.
The bakery, which started in 2004, was a tribute to Italian grandmothers’ recipes for sweet treats. Since then the shop has expanded to bake wedding cakes, offer a mix-and-match cupcake bar and serve breakfast and lunch in a section called Papa’s Eats.
Nona’s Sweets, which moved to its current site in 2008, has become a staple in University City that attracts regulars like Andy Bobyarchick. The UNCC geology professor orders the streudel French toast at least once a week and enjoys the local feel.
“I can have a nice brunch and just hang out,” he said. “It’s a nice atmosphere.”
Clementi said her family has found a potential new location, but details aren’t final.
She wanted to make one fact clear:
“We are not closing,” she said. “We will only be down for a week or two at most.”
Clementi’s family rents the bakery space. The city has paid the building owner, she said, and will help the bakery move to wherever its new location will be.
But Clementi said the unexpected move is costing the bakery hundreds of thousands of dollars, both in investments it made in renovating the current space and in revenue lost while the bakery is closed in January.
Clementi said it’s a tough blow, but it’s a challenge her family and staff are getting ready to face.
“We’re a very optimistic and tenacious bunch of Italian ladies,” she said. “When you’re given an obstacle, you have to turn it into something positive.”
Also in the small shopping center are a Papa John’s, Honey Baked Ham and Panda Express, which also will be leveled for the parking deck. A Panera Bread, in a building close to those, will remain, Clementi said.
Herron said the city had concerns about forcing businesses to move. But she said the city will work “with all affected property and business owners by providing relocation assistance, when eligible, through federal programs.”
The parking deck will be four or five levels, she said. Four levels would provide 600 parking spots, while five levels would have 800 spaces. Herron said the ground level will be reserved for rented space.
Meanwhile, Clementi and her family have accepted the change and are hoping for the best.
“It’s just really a hassle, and a heartache to see the dream that you had change,” Clementi said. “But God is directing us where we need to go.”