Monroe Road corridor tries on a new identity: MoRA

As investment and development picks up along the stretch of Monroe Road east of uptown, the area’s search for a unified identity has led residents to a new name: MoRA.

An advocacy group made up of residents and businesses from the eight neighborhoods surrounding the new M Station apartments and Meridian Place mixed-use development, the group came together about a year and a half ago. They recently chose the MoRA name – short for Monroe Road Advocates and, they hope, soon to be a moniker for the area – and held their first annual neighborhood party.

Their hope is that forging more of a common identity and brand for what has been a disparate collection of mostly single-family neighborhoods will help attract more new residents and businesses. The group has been helped by a $10,761 grant from Charlotte’s Neighborhood & Business Services office.

“NoDa is successful for a reason,” said John Lincoln, a member of MoRA’s board. “They have their identity.”

At M Station at Monroe Road and Conference Drive, developer Roy Goode, also a member of MoRA’s board, said the 260 new apartments are almost complete and more than 60 percent leased. Goode is starting construction on a retail building on the site, which will total 10,000 square feet and be anchored by a 5,000-square-foot Hawthorne’s Pizza. Goode is pre-leasing a 30,000-square-foot office building planned for the site as well.

Down the street, Hendrick Automotive is wrapping up renovations of the former BJ’s store on Independence, where hundreds of workers will carry out back-office functions for the company’s dealerships. East Mecklenburg High is getting a facelift from CMS. And there are rumors – though no confirmation – that discount grocer Lidl is exploring a store at Idlewild and Monroe roads.

Lincoln said MoRA is working with artist Leslie Scott to create a new public art installation that will be located at Conference Drive and Monroe Road. That will help give the area a more cohesive “sense of place,” he said.

“Here, there’s a sense of place being created,” said Lincoln. “It will be recognizable and have a sense of ‘MoRA.’”

The group’s first annual Neighborhood Bash, held this month at M Station, drew more than 500 attendees. One of MoRA’s goals is to link people to local government, so they understand decisions such as zoning and road work.

“Now there’s a sounding board for issues,” said MoRA vice-chair Nichelle Hamilton-Bartels. The group has held town hall forums and plans to hold more events to forge a sense of identity and determine resident needs.

As Lincoln sees it, one of the main goals of the new neighborhood group is connecting people and businesses that are already there.

“There are some really vibrant areas,” he said. “It just hasn’t been connected in the past.”

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo