Coffee Cup building's demolition must wait

The Coffee Cup restaurant building won a year's reprieve from the wrecking ball Monday night.

By a unanimous vote, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmark Commission directed the site's owner to wait one year before demolishing the Coffee Cup Soda Grill building near Bank of America Stadium. The commission also told staff to talk with city officials about the process of taking the property by eminent domain to preserve it.

That's never been done locally and perhaps not statewide, said Dan Morrill, the commission's consulting director.

“That doesn't mean it's not time to do it,” said Morrill.

The decision caps nearly two years of efforts to preserve the building that until last year housed one of the city's most culturally significant restaurants. The Cup opened in 1946 and was known as a place where blacks and whites dined together long before desegregation.

Beazer Homes USA, based in Atlanta, applied last month to demolish the building. The company bought about 18.5 acres, including the restaurant, in 2005 and planned a major development. Beazer, struggling amid a severe housing downturn, has since exited the Charlotte market and wants to sell the site – one of the choicest parcels inside the Interstate 277 loop.

Last year, City Council voted to make the restaurant an historic landmark, recognizing its heritage as a place of racial harmony, fellowship and traditional Southern fare. The designation also reflects the building's significance as a rare example of the Art Moderne architectural style and one of the city's few remaining pre-1950 roadside eateries.

The landmark designation allows demolition to be delayed up to one year. Collin Brown, a Charlotte attorney representing Beazer, said the company had no objection to the delay.