It’s ‘back to ground zero’ for historic Excelsior Club as sale falls through

The sale of the historic Excelsior Club to an unidentified California buyer has fallen through, leaving the fate of a landmark of Charlotte’s African American community in limbo yet again.

Dan Morrill, director of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, confirmed in a text message Monday evening that the prospective buyer who was under contract to purchase the property terminated the offer.

“We are back to ground zero,” Morrill said in a Facebook post.

The agreed upon contract price was below the list price of $1.5 million, Steve Robinson, a broker for New River Brokerage who is working with the building’s owner, state Rep. Carla Cunningham, said in a text message. Last week, the prospective buyer asked that the price be further reduced, he said, but Cunningham refused.

The property is back on the market for the same price, Robinson said.

It’s the latest setback for efforts to save the historic club on Beatties Ford Road, which was a center for African American political and social life in Charlotte for decades.

The club closed in 2016, and is now in disrepair. In October, Mecklenburg County commissioners rejected a proposal to save the property, which is a designated historic landmark.

Last year, Cunningham filed paperwork to allow for the building’s potential demolition, but the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission postponed the date that demolition could happen. That delay expired in June, though Cunningham has said she doesn’t intend to tear the club down.

But the city has deemed the property unsafe, so it can direct her to demolish it. In June, Keith Richardson, assistant director for the city’s Housing and Neighborhood Services department, said in an email to the Observer that the city had not issued a demolition order.

In May, the club was added to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of the 11 most endangered historic places in the country.

City officials also discussed getting involved with efforts to save the Excelsior this summer, but the news that the property was under contract broke shortly after.

Council member James Mitchell said he met with the potential buyer several times, and he seemed committed.

I was pretty much confident that a deal was going to happen,” he said.

Mitchell said he plans to send a memo to the mayor and City Council this week, and hopes to get the Excelsior on the council’s agenda. He’d like to see a partnership of the city, county and private donors purchase the historic club. The Foundation for the Carolinas previously offered to help the county buy the property.

It’s historic for a reason,” he said. “And that’s what i want to preserve: our African American history.”

Danielle Chemtob covers economic growth and development for the Observer. She’s a 2018 graduate of the journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill and a California transplant.