Around Town

Could MoRA be the next up-and-coming Charlotte neighborhood?

I live down Monroe Road, near East Mecklenburg High School, almost to Matthews. Know where I’m talking about? No? It’s basically like southeast Charlotte, between Independence and Sardis.

Some variation of the above is how I describe my neighborhood when someone asks where I live. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, and most people still don’t know where the heck I’m talking about.

But there’s a group in the area that’s trying to change that, to give that Monroe Road corridor a name — MoRA — and an identity it’s never had before.

The group informally organized a couple of years ago with some neighborhoods getting together for street cleanups and to support the nearby library branch, said Kathy Hill, MoRA’s board chair.

Last fall, organizers decided to name the group Monroe Road Advocates — MoRA (rhymes with Laura) for short. If the name sticks for the neighborhood, the “A” could turn into “Area.”

“It’s already being used that way by a lot of people,” said John Lincoln, who has lived in the area for about two-and-a-half years and is also on the MoRA board.

The area is defined roughly by Sharon Amity to the north, the border with Matthews to the south (just past Sardis Road North) and Independence Boulevard to the east. The western border is less defined, but the neighborhoods along the west side of Monroe Road will fall into the narrow rectangle.

MoRA Map FINAL 7-18-16

So why’s this happening now? In part because of Meridian Place, the big mixed-use development being built along Monroe Road between Conference Drive and Idlewild Road. More than 250 apartments have already opened there and a Hawthorne’s Pizza is set to open this fall, the anchor of a 10,000-square-foot retail building near Conference Drive.

“Once we knew about Meridian Place, what their vision was, that was sort of a catalyst for us really organizing and taking advantage of that vision, to have something for the area to hook onto,” Hill said.

ODA rendering

MoRA hopes this development spurs more like it, and brings more people to the area. Maybe it’ll change their perception of the Monroe Road corridor.

“They don’t have a terribly positive impression because there’s never been anything that stood out about it,” Lincoln said. “The neighborhoods are great. You drive around, the streets are pretty, the homes are nice, decent amount of land. There are lots of businesses people don’t go to here because they don’t know about them.”

I wrote about this neighborhood before, pointing out my three favorite things at the corner of Sardis Road North and Monroe Road. Members of the board I talked to — Hill, Lincoln, Brian Moyer and Matt Chambers — ticked off what they like about the area: It’s easy to get to other parts of town, the housing is more affordable than other parts of town, there are good restaurants and places to grab a drink.

The Fried Catfish Po Boy and Smoked Salmon B.L.T. at Deep Sea.
Lunch at Deep Sea Seafood Market, which is in MoRA.

“We’ve got these great places that nobody knows about,” Hill said.

Let’s not kid ourselves — the Monroe Road corridor has a long way to go before it gets on the same level as some of Charlotte’s iconic neighborhoods. It needs more density, more transportation options, including better bike and pedestrian infrastructure. Shoot, it probably needs a brewery.

But none of that can happen without a group advocating for the area. That’s what MoRA’s trying to do, and has already done — it initiated a letter-writing campaign to get Hawthorne’s Pizza to come to the area.

“We want to have a really clear and strong voice, so when it comes to things like transit and the Silver Line and a greenway, we can speak with authority for the people who live here,” Hill said.

Why does that matter?

“Because people make up their own stories if you don’t tell your own,” Lincoln said.