South Charlotte

In south Charlotte, Monroe Road group takes on change

David Molinaro and his wife, Cricket Weston, moved to Charlotte 17 years ago from New Hampshire.

They liked the size of the Queen City and how friendly and welcoming everyone was – and the weather.

“We were tired of wearing long underwear 11 months out of the year,” said Molinaro, now 73.

The couple picked the Burtonwood neighborhood off Monroe Road, two blocks from East Mecklenburg High School, because of the tree canopy, proximity to uptown and how close it is to the library, David Molinaro said.

That library, the Independence Regional Library on the corner of Monroe Road and Conference Drive, is an integral part of the community. Library manager LaJuan Pringle, 45, said a goal of the library’s strategic plan is to be involved in all aspects of creating a literate community, but also the betterment of the community.

The nearby Silver Oaks apartments recently were torn down to make way for a new apartment and retail development, Meridian Place, already under construction and zoned to include 100,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and office space.

Molinaro saw much was changing on Monroe Road and decided to reach out to his neighbors to work together to weather the changes.

“I saw value and merit in our strengths and interests coming together with a single voice,” Molinaro said.

Molinaro formed The Monroe Road Community, with representatives from the adjoining neighborhoods, the school, the library and places of worship.

The organization met for the first time in March in the library and agreed to come up with something it could do as a coalition. Its first project is to adopt the mile-and-a-half stretch of Monroe Road that runs between Rama and Thermal roads.

Though Monroe Road doesn’t qualify for Charlotte’s Adopt-a-Road program because it is a state road, Molinaro said, he was able to have the Monroe Road Community adopt the road.

There now are signs attesting to that adoption.

The group twice has devoted a Saturday to cleanup efforts, and the volunteers reflect how diverse a coalition Molinaro has pulled together.

Students and staff from East Mecklenburg High School helped edge a section of sidewalk, while volunteers from Woodlawn, Woodbury Forest, Burtonwood and McClintock Woods neighborhoods gathered leaves and picked up trash.

The N.C. Department of Transportation Business and Neighborhood Services provides equipment and reflective vests, and the police and fire departments are on-call to provide protection for volunteers.

The day after the cleanup, the Charlotte Department of Transportation sends a street cleaner to that stretch of road.

“It’s not just about cleaning up the street,” said Heather LaJoie, International Baccalaureate Coordinator at East Mecklenburg High School and the school’s representative on the Monroe Road Community. “The networking aspect of it is also really beneficial. We take up a lot of frontage on Monroe Road and it is important for our students to contribute, and to feel a part of the community, whether they live near the school or not.”

Cindy Rhodes, 52, represents the Woodburn neighborhood, where she has lived with her husband and two sons for 15 years.

She always has championed the neighborhood schools, she said.

“I feel that we as a whole embody and reflect the face of Charlotte and how we coexist and care about each other,” Rhodes said.