Attendees ranging from the mayor to police officers to developers to neighborhood representatives gathered at Extravaganza Events on North Tryon Street Wednesday night for a frank discussion about the problems and potential of Charlotte’s North End.
Development has sprouted up on the southern end of Tryon Street and across South End. Now, with its proximity to uptown and the coming Blue Line expansion, advocates say the North End is ripe for its own growth spurt.
The early sprouts of development are beginning to show, such as the 24-story SkyHouse Uptown apartment tower under construction and a second tower that’s proposed. However, the land along North Tryon street that encompasses the North End is comparatively underdeveloped, with many surface parking lots and old industrial buildings.
Residents talked about how upcoming infrastructure projects and potential investment would improve the area and make them feel safer. Melissa Gaston, of the The Park at Oaklawn Neighborhood Association, said she loves the neighborhood and can get to work in 10 minutes, but she doesn’t feel safe walking to her son’s condo less than a mile away in Fourth Ward.
“It shouldn’t be like that.” Gaston said, adding that development would bring people to the area and change their perception. “It takes just one restaurant. That’s going to get this party started.”
Two social service organizations —The Men’s Shelter of Charlotte and Urban Ministry Center, which are on College and North Tryon streets respectively — sit at the gateway to Uptown. The presence of those facilities means the streets around them see foot traffic from those who receive their services.
Druid Hills Neighborhood Association Vice President Justin Markel said he was homeless himself for four years. He said it’s people preying on the homeless that are responsible for most of the crime, not the homeless.
The forum, sponsored by North End Partners, also got an update on infrastructure projects that are being considered for the area and would be funded by $12.5 million in bonds passed last fall and more funding from upcoming bond issues in 2016 and 2018. Also on display were proposed “catalyst sites” that once developed would encourage economic development because of their proximity to existing transportation infrastructure.