The Excelsior Club project may stall again, this time because of a lack of parking spaces

The Excelsior Club project may stall again, this time because of a lack of parking spaces

A band performs at the Excelsior Club in the late 1950s. Courtesy of the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.

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The developer rebuilding the historic Excelsior Club says a shortage of onsite parking is a roadblock to moving forward with the project.

What’s happening: Kenwood Investments purchased the landmark on Beatties Ford in late 2019 for $1.3 million. The company announced plans to bring the property back to life with a restaurant, hotel and entertainment venue.

But there isn’t enough parking on the property to accommodate those uses and make the project economically viable, threatening the status of the project, says Darius Anderson, Kenwood’s CEO.

  • If we can solve the parking problem, we’ll move aggressively forward,” Anderson tells me.

“If we can’t solve the parking problem, we’ll have to go back to the drawing board and look at other options,” he adds.

Why it matters: Charlotte has a reputation for tearing down its history, and throughout time the city’s been especially careless with Black landmarks. But many groups have worked to preserve this one.

  • The Excelsior, dating to 1944, was the only social club for Black professionals in Charlotte. For years, it served as a cultural and political hub.

Flashback: The Excelsior hosted politicians and famous musicians, from Bill Clinton to Louis Armstrong. But the club closed in 2016, and then fell into disrepair.

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Driving the news: The club used to have a lease with the city of Charlotte so that visitors could park at a water works building across the street, Anderson says.

  • For security reasons, the water works site can no longer be used for parking, city spokesperson Cory Burkarth said in a statement.
  • He declined to share details on the parking solutions being explored.
  • “The club is an important cultural landmark so protecting it is not only important to preserve the history of the area but also as we look forward to the future of the Beatties Ford Road corridor to create jobs and other opportunities,” he said in the statement.

Anderson tells me he’s been working with assistant city manager Tracy Dodson on identifying options for off-site parking.

  • The city did not make Dodson available for an interview.

The Excelsior Club was founded by Jimmie McKee in 1944. Courtesy of the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.

Context: Kenwood has received $250,000 in loans and grants from the city, county, Knight Foundation and Foundation for the Carolinas to bring the property back to life.

  • The city’s agreement requires the firm to finish the project by 2024. Anderson says he hopes he can still meet that deadline.

    What’s next: Anderson’s company is still working through the design process, with the help of local architect Darrel Williams and a firm out of Detroit. None of the original building is salvageable, due to its poor condition, Anderson says. But they plan to recreate the facade in its original decor and design.

    • In spite of the parking issues, Anderson says he’s still excited about the development’s potential.
    • “There’s always challenges and hurdles,” he said. “We just want to try to find something that works for the city, for the community and for us.”

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