WFAE has a new initiative called Ask Us to let our audience suggest story ideas. On our website, we're asking what you're curious about in the Charlotte region, its life, and culture. We recently put another set of five questions to a vote – letting you decide the story you wanted us to cover. The winner came from Steve Tekola, of east Charlotte. He talked to WFAE's David Boraks.
Tekola is 31 and grew up in Charlotte. He's watched higher rents and home prices gradually push lower-income people farther out ... to places like north Charlotte, or where he lives now, off Idlewild Road.
TEKOLA: My question was: What is the next part of town that's gonna be gentrified?
BORAKS: Where's this question coming from? What's your concern here?
TEKOLA: I'm from Charlotte, I wasn't born here, but I've been here since I was like two years old. This is the only place I know. And I used to live in Plaza Midwood, like Eastcrest Drive and Central Avenue. And I just remember growing up there being so much diversity. There were days when I walked around my neighborhood and didn't hear English spoken, you know what i mean?
My family is all refugees from east Africa, Ethiopia. So I used to love that part of town ’cause there were so many Hispanics, Africans, Asians. It just had so much different variety and diversity in the neighborhood. And now when you look around, $1,500 a month high-rises. I used to watch the Fourth of July fireworks from Plaza Midwood. You can't even see them now because of all the development. It's not the same neighborhood.
Plaza Midwood has definitely changed. You could say the same for just about any older neighborhood near downtown - many of them historically African-American.
So which one will be the next to gentrify?
There's probably more than one answer. Neighborhoods on the West Side, or north of uptown, are certainly on the list. The area I've been looking at lately is the North End, along Statesville Avenue and North Tryon Street … places like Greenville, Genesis Park, Druid Hills, and Lockwood.
The intersection of Statesville Ave. and Atando Ave. between Druid Hills and Double Oaks neighborhoods.
Darryl Gaston is a neighborhood leader in Druid Hills. He talked about gentrification On WFAE's Charlotte Talks Thursday.
“Now we see the integrity and the fabric of the neighborhood changing with individuals moving in, of different racial backgrounds, which is not so bad,” Gaston said.
But Gaston worries some newcomers aren't as friendly as long-time residents, and says that affects the sense of community.
Other residents, city officials, and housing experts are all wondering if changes will come faster with big projects like Camp North End - a redevelopment of the old Ford and Hercules missile plant off Statesville Avenue.
The City of Charlotte is helping with job recruiting. It's also trying to give residents a voice, said city sustainability manager Rob Phocas.
“They have a neighborhood coalition called the North End Community Coalition that represents all these different neighborhoods. We sat down with them, and have had several conversations now, laying out our vision and really testing it with them,” Phocas said.
They're talking about the kinds of jobs and training that might come, affordable housing, and how the city can help fill other needs - like a grocery store.
Those meetings have included Darryl Gaston, and he said he's optimistic.
“Change comes slow, but it comes. And the developer, the city of Charlotte and the residents of the North End Corridor, have an opportunity to get this development right,” Gaston said.
So there is hope, Steve, at least in the North End.
TEKOLA: Me being from east Charlotte and already kind of being muscled out of Plaza Midwood, I was just kind of hoping it's not east Charlotte, you know?
BORAKS: Well Steve, thank you for the question, thanks so much.
STEVE: Thank you, David.