New outdoor movie and event space opens on west Charlotte’s historic Ritz Theatre site

New outdoor movie and event space opens on west Charlotte’s historic Ritz Theatre site

The Ritz at Washington Heights. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios

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A historic site in west Charlotte called The Ritz welcomes movies back today with a showing of Disney’s Soul and other celebrations.

What: The site is named in honor of a segregation-era movie theater called The Ritz Theatre. The new outdoor community space, built in the same location as the former theater, will have regular outdoor movie showings and other community events.

    Why it matters: The former Ritz Theatre site has been used as a community gathering space for things like the National Night Out event that aims to strengthen community-police relationships, and the city’s Street Eats initiative.

    • Repurposing the site cements the neighborhood’s vision for its future as a community hub.

    Event details: The Ritz will be dedicated at 10am at 1201 Beatties Ford Road.

    • Charlotte City Council District 2 representative Malcolm Graham, city planning director Taiwo Jaiyeoba, Historic Washington Heights Neighborhood Association president Mattie Marshall and central Charlotte Lowe’s store manager, Gary McCoy will speak at during the ribbon cutting event at 10am.

    The free-to-attend community celebration of the site starts at 3pm, with spoken word artist Boris “Bluz” Rogers hosting the festivities.

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    Of note: Marshall, a champion of what she calls positive outcomes, works tirelessly advocating for Historic Washington Heights, helping raise $275,000 to re-purpose the former Ritz Theatre site.

    • The project received a $200,000 grant from the Lowe’s 100 Hometowns initiative for the improvement of community space.
    • The city contributed $50,000 from Corridors of Opportunity, a program addressing gaps in infrastructure, workforce, housing, business development, public safety, transportation and urban design.
    • The city’s Neighborhood Matching grant provided $25,000.

    What they’re saying: “The transformation of this vacant parcel into an education and entertainment hub will confront and address socioeconomic education and health disparities, as well as the preservation of history and culture,” Marshall told Axios. “This project provides opportunities for vibrant and inclusive participation, engagement and opportunities for all age groups in a safe environment.”

    Worthy of your time: The Ritz Theatre operated from 1963 until the 1970s, briefly serving as a church before it was demolished.

    • It was among four movie theaters built for Black people in Charlotte between 1920-60, along with the Grand, Lincoln and Savoy.

    BONUS: Artists Makayla Binter and Junior Gomez created public art for the space, with Gomez creating The Ritz sign.  

    • Binter created a mural on a shipping container, representing Queen Charlotte holding a crown.
    • “The crown is the crown of Black and brown people of Charlotte, and the other shapes that project off the main center design are movement of Black and people throughout the city, whether that is of their own volition or not,” Binter told Axios.

    Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios

    Mural by Makayla Binter. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios

    Mural by Makayla Binter. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios

     

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