Work Life

Is NoDa losing its funky vibe, or is it just gaining speed?

My history with NoDa goes back to before I lived here. I came for the Friday night art crawls in the 1990’s, and I babysat for Eden and Orien. If those names sound strangely familiar, they are spelled out in tile on the corner of 36th and N. Davidson.

Photo 1 Credit Joey Haynes

Eden and Orien’s parents, Ruth Ava Lyons and Paul Sires, owned Center of the Earth Gallery and started to revitalize NoDa in the late 1980’s.

From the beginning, NoDa had an energy that attracted people with the ingenuity to open businesses, renovate homes and build a strong neighborhood association. Now, some worry that the unique vibe that turned NoDa into a destination spot will be lost with the development of condos and apartments.

I asked several local residents and business owners for their thoughts on the changing landscape:

Melvin Williams

Retired. NoDa resident for 68 years.

Photo 3 Credit VMI

“I like the changes. If people hadn’t come here and made it a place everyone would love, this side of town would have died out.”

Taylor Russell

Assistant Manager at Smelly Cat Coffeehouse & Roastery.

“I believe NoDa (Smelly Cat included) will grow and embrace these changes while staying true to our unique style.”

Cathy Tuman

Owner of Smelly Cat Coffeehouse & Roastery since 2006.

“A good energy. A young energy excited about their new home.”

Photo 4 Credit Taylor Russell
Taylor Russell, left, and Cathy Tuman
Michael Fleming

Social media coordinator. NoDa resident for three years.

Photo 5 Credit VMI

“It was sad to see a place like the Chop Shop go, however I am optimistic that this new development will only add to making NoDa a fun destination within Charlotte, while keeping its eclectic character.”

Scott Lindsley

Real estate broker and co-owner of The Company Store. NoDa resident for three years.

Photo 6 Credit Joey Hewell

“Things are changing, but this neighborhood has kept most of its existing restaurants. It isn’t THE same, but nowhere stays the same.”

Molly French

NoDa resident for four years.

“I do not find the architecture particularly stunning. I have not heard anything about the use of green technology. I have not seen anything regarding socially or economically innovative ideas. It just seems to be more of the same: a bottom-line mentality and giving less credence to co-creating with soulful intentionality.”

Thayer French

“I love the construction vehicles.”

Photo 7 Credit VMI
Thayer, left, and Molly French.
Jenny Sigmon

Johnston YMCA executive director since 2010.

Photo 8 Credit Jenny Sigmon

“This is such a special and unique part of town and it’s great that we can be seen as THE place to grow, expand and invest. Currently we are focusing on how we ride this wave and strategically position ourselves for what the future holds. Our goal is to continue to focus on serving those that need the Y the most while adapting and adjusting to our changing community.”

Ailen Arreaza

Nonprofit entrepreneur. NoDa resident for four years.

Photo 9 Credit Tony Arreaza

“I live across from the light rail construction and, even though all the street closings are super annoying, I could not be more excited about the light rail coming to NoDa.

“NoDazens truly care about making this community the best it can be. Even with several unsightly condo projects, the neighborhood continues to keep its funky and creative charm thanks to the great people who live here.”

Chad Maupin

NoDa Neighborhood and Business Association, served on board since 2000. NoDa resident for 17 years.

“At this moment, we probably stand at the apex of change and development. Construction is disruptive, but the chaos of construction should not overshadow the end result. NoDa will become more vibrant, yet still retain its funky, eclectic and historic charm.

“I envision a historic mill town core, preserved with our own unique NoDa twist, surrounded with modern, urban infill projects on vacant or industrial land.”

Photos: Vanessa Infanzon; Joey Haynes; Taylor Russell; Joey Hewell; Jenny Sigmon; Tony Arreaza