University City

NoDa to discuss street vendors Monday

A movement is afoot that could limit the types of goods sold on sidewalks in the city's North Davidson Street arts district.

Galleries have disappeared from NoDa under the crush of the recession, so merchants and residents want to limit street vendors' sales to original art, handmade jewelry and similar wares.

Prepaid phone cards and an assortment of other resale items have crept into the mix as up to 30 vendors turned out some weekends this past spring and summer.

A neighborhood association has invited residents, merchants and city officials to a meeting Monday with hopes of finding a way to keep the focus on art.

"Everybody can agree they love the original art component of street vending" said Hollis Nixon, president of the Historic North Davidson Neighborhood Association. "People don't want it to get to the point where there are big purses on the side of the road."

In its day as a textile center, the village was self-contained and separated from the city by farms and fields. That separation probably contributed to its decline after the last mill closed in 1975 and the local economy shifted to banking.

Center of the Earth gallery, the pioneer whose opening launched an era of rebirth in the blighted village nearly 25 years ago, closed last year.

Beet Contemporary Crafts and Functional Art gallery also closed. Green Rice Gallery's went dark this year.

These days, NoDaRioty, a neighborhood association arts committee, brings an All Arts Market to the Neighborhood Theater several times a year.

The focus is local emerging arts and affordable art.

Yet, weekends and twice-monthly gallery crawls also bring big crowds, and street vendors are an important part of the event now that fewer galleries are open, Nixon said.

The association invited officials from the city to its meeting to get advice on how to keep NoDa street vending true to the original intent.

San Francisco and Washington, D.C., have created art markets that include street vendors. Nixon said the association sees operations there as possible models for preserving NoDa's outdoor venue for emerging artists.

A zoning variance might be an option, Nixon said, and that could be a first for Charlotte.

"We're looking at them (city staff) for guidance," Nixon said. "We're trying to take care of this so we're good to go for the spring and summer."