If city officials have their way, Charlotte’s northwest corridor could become like South End – a bustling residential and commercial hub that connects directly to uptown Charlotte.
To assist in that, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is investing $1.5 million over three years to help revitalize the area, one of Charlotte’s oldest African-American neighborhoods that has experienced a slowdown of business growth and lower income levels over the years.
Charlotte Center City Partners is spearheading the effort, which will begin with the hiring of a director of Historic West End, said Michael Smith, CCCP president.
“This is a natural extension of the work we do,” Smith told the Observer Tuesday. “This has been a corridor that we care a lot about.”
In the first six months of the project, the group will also focus on how to secure sustainable funding through public and private investment, he said.
The bulk of the work to be done improving the area, officials said, will be centered on the Beatties Ford Road/West Trade Street corridor near the Five Points intersection, the gateway from the neighborhood to Johnson C. Smith University.
JCSU President Ron Carter said he envisions the area as a draw for small businesses in particular. Carter also said he foresees the revitalized neighborhood, which his university anchors, as a combination of Greenwich Village in New York and the area around George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
“It will represent what happens when the public side, the business side, the education side come together,” Carter said.
The largest driver for business growth is the CityLynx Gold Line street car, a $160 million project to be completed in 2019 that will link northwest neighborhoods to uptown Charlotte.
The streetcar has been a controversial transit project, with some questioning whether people will use the line. On Monday, the Charlotte City Council approved $7.7 million for design work on the second phase of the streetcar line.
The line’s first segment, 1.5 miles from Time Warner Cable Arena to Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center, is to open July 14. The line’s second segment, which would open in 2019, would reach Johnson C. Smith to the west and Sunnyside Avenue in Elizabeth to the east.
“This will be the place to live,” Vilma Leake, a county commissioner from District 2, told the Observer. “A place to rear your children, a place to have quality education and a place where senior citizens can feel as comfortable as young people coming in to this neighborhood.”