The Historic West End is an epicenter of African American culture in Charlotte.
This area — one mile outside Uptown — and the larger Beatties Ford Road and Rozzelles Ferry Road corridor are home to Charlotte's only historically Black university, many Black churches, and historic neighborhoods such as Lincoln Heights, Washington Heights, McCorey Heights, University Park and Oaklawn Park. Homes and churches date back to the first half of the 20th century and are physical testaments to the corridor's rich history.
Having these places in common, generations of residents built strong ties to their community and to each other — they raised families, started businesses, cared for their neighbors.
"The residents of the corridor were family in the '70s," said Dorothy Counts-Scoggins, a resident of the corridor for more than 30 years who is known for being the first Black student to integrate her all-white Charlotte high school in 1957. "It didn't matter who your parents were or who you were, everyone was family."
But over time the sense of family changed as the corridor experienced a lack of investment, rising costs of living, displacement and crime.
To address these issues, the city has renewed its commitment to the Beatties Ford Road and Rozzelles Ferry Road corridor and is focused on making change happen in the most effective way: empowering residents to realize the changes they want to see in their communities.
The Historic West End Neighborhood Association, the City of Charlotte and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation are working with residents to restore the corridor's legacy. Since July, the Historic West End Neighborhood Association has led monthly workshops to help area residents craft a shared vision for the future of their corridor. Residents are guided through activities that explore the skills and mindsets needed for trust-building, visioning, collective action and more.
"The workshops have gone really well. The facilitator has done a wonderful job making us think about commitments to action," said Scoggins, who is also a member of the neighborhood association. "We have included young residents, new residents and have created a footprint for what needs to take place and the types of investments we'd like to see."
Through the workshops, community members have identified equitable community development, community safety and increased mobility as their top three priorities for the corridor. "These residents need access to income, money and wealth, access to so many things that have been stripped over the years," said McCorey Heights resident and association member Winston Robinson. "The key is to invest in the residents in the corridor and address the root cause of issues that corridor residents face."
This type of resident-led community building lays the foundation for a stronger, more prosperous community. It empowers neighbors to make the changes they know are needed, and ensures the city is a partner in their efforts. The City of Charlotte is using the full weight of its resources to put tools and funding into the hands of residents. Through its multiprong
Corridors of Opportunity program and guided by residents' priorities, the city looks at every angle of a successful community — from affordability to workforce development to transportation and beyond — and makes strategic investments in people and places to help whole corridors thrive.
Resident-Led Projects in the Historic West End
To address housing affordability and displacement in the corridor, the city has partnered with the West Side Community Land Trust to create affordable homeownership options on Gilbert Street in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood.
The West Side Community Land Trust is relocating three existing single-family homes to Gilbert Street, renovating the homes and selling them to families that earn less than the area median income. Not only does this land trust model provide housing options for three low-to-moderate income households, it also provides permanent affordability for generations to come.
Staying in Place
Another program, TLC by CLT, is providing comprehensive home rehabilitation in the Washington Heights neighborhood to prevent displacement of residents from their homes. The City of Charlotte rehabilitation support for this neighborhood will come in the form of the Staying in Place pilot program.
Revitalizing Commercial Districts
The City of Charlotte, the nonprofit Historic West End Partners and residents are also working to analyze the market position of the corridor and restore economic vitality through UrbanMain, a national program focused on revitalizing historic neighborhood commercial districts.
In this work, community members have identified economic goals for the corridor, including:
Dismantling barriers and expanding opportunities for low-income people and people of color to become entrepreneurs.
Pursuing a cluster of retail and retail-service businesses that fulfill the day-to-day needs of nearby shoppers — the things people tend to buy close to home or work.
Safe and Efficient Travel
A thriving community relies on safe and efficient commutes. Streetlight, sidewalk and crosswalk improvements, and the two-mile extension of the
CityLYNX Gold Line streetcar into the Beatties Ford Road/Rozzelles Ferry Road are ensuring residents can travel between work, home and amenities.
Additions such as these make Johnson C. Smith University student Nadia Johnson hopeful for the corridor's future.
"New amenities available at Five Points and transportation options such as the Gold Line are truly making an impact on students' lives," Johnson said. "Making necessary modifications but ensuring the community's history is still preserved is most important when strengthening community."