Brooklyn is coming back to Charlotte. The once vibrant Brooklyn neighborhood, now referred to as Second Ward, is finally getting a second chance.
Charlotte has earned a reputation for attaching zero value on the structures of historical significance within its city limits. It is understandable, to an extent – with rapid expansion comes pressure or even temptation to put money and development before historical preservation.
However, Charlotte has given in to the pressure at almost every turn; leaving the city with a very tainted track record in regards to respect for its own heritage and the city landscape devoid of any chance of visually chronicled architectural variety.
While there may be very little evidence left that Charlotte has a past, and the misconceived notions that “no one who lives here is even from here” seem to be unending, a few upcoming events should provide Charlotte and Charlotteans with a reprieve.
Let’s back up… Originally named after the renowned New York borough, Charlotte had its very own Brooklyn. It’s no real surprise the political and social movements of Charlotte’s Brooklyn neighborhood closely mirrored those of its namesake.
During the early 1900s, the temperance movement was all the rage; simultaneously the growth of The Harlem Renaissance was quickly expanding.
In Charlotte, Brooklyn became the hub of African-American life before it was brutally razed by the city during the “urban renewal” phase of the 1960s and 70s. Today it’s home to most of the city and county government activities.
Interestingly enough, the only two remaining original buildings from the aforementioned neighborhood happen to be the Grace A.M.E Zion Chapel and The Mecklenburg Investment Co. The former was born out of the temperance movement and the Zion Methodism theology, while the latter was designed by self-made architect Dr. J.T. Williams, providing a space for young professionals (doctor and lawyers), to practice.
It also provided a meeting place for social clubs and dance bands in the evenings. Even still, many of the shareholders of the MIC were also members of the Grace congregation, which gives these buildings an even deeper sense of unity.
Lucky for Charlotte, their newest and current owner, Jason Wolf, truly appreciates and admires the history behind both of these unique spaces. It only takes spending a few moments listening to Wolf talk about these buildings and the vision he has for their future to see how sincerely he cares about the project.
While it is still in the earliest of stages, the long-term goal is to preserve the historic structures and to bring back some of their original spirit. Wolf envisions creating an environment where people can exchange ideas – he hopes to involve local businesses and like-minded individuals to further these efforts of a healthy, engaged, creative community.
In December of last year, Mecklenburg County began seeking proposals for the renewal of Second Ward, currently referred to as “Brooklyn Village.”
The idea is to create “a vibrant, mixed-use program on these sites, with an emphasis for uses to create a stream of economic returns to the local economy.”
The county has also required the developer to provide at least 30 units of affordable housing on the Brooklyn Village site, for “households earning 80% of area median income annually or less.”