This article was written by Tony Mecia, editor of The Charlotte Ledger, as part of a special report on Flywheel Group’s new development on Raleigh St., north of NoDa.
If you spend a few minutes driving around Sugar Creek Road near the light rail stop, you’ll see it doesn’t look like much: Rusted-out barbed wire fences. Old industrial buildings. A faded mall with weeds growing in the parking lot.
But like a lot of places in Charlotte, looks can be deceiving: There’s plenty going on behind the scenes. And this otherwise unremarkable area just a few blocks north of NoDa could be one of the city’s next big areas that’s ripe for development.
“Momentum is starting to build a little bit faster there,” says Jacob Horr, who heads land use for the NoDa Neighborhood and Business Association. “It’s on the edge of about to explode.”
There’s a lot working in the area’s favor – chief among them a light rail stop. Developers credit much of South End’s rapid growth in the last decade to the 2007 opening of the Lynx Blue Line, and since the northern portion opened in 2018, there’s been a lot of action along the line between uptown and UNC Charlotte.
But here, just a little more than a mile from North Davidson and 36th streets, NoDa’s main intersection, there are additional signs pointing to things about to happen: The Cross-Charlotte Trail — a wide pedestrian path, like the Rail Trail in South End, is in the design phase and is supposed to cut through the area.
And housing is moving this direction, too: A stylish apartment complex, Amaze@NoDa, opened last year (amenities include “resort-style” swimming pool, a “European dog wash and bark park” and a “sky lounge.”). And 39 condos, called Galleries NoDa (sales price: starting in “high $200s”), are under construction nearby. When apartments and condos start popping up, other elements aren’t usually far behind.
One of the next steps in the area’s redevelopment is expected to be the renovation of 36,000 s.f. building by developer Flywheel Group, which will become an arts hub – home to the Charlotte Art League, AerialCLT and the Charlotte Film Society, which is fundraising to open an arthouse theater at the site.
“We are trying to curate the neighborhood and retain some uniqueness to it and some character, so we can create more of a place than just a commodity,” says Tony Kuhn, Flywheel Group’s founder and president. “The community arts hub kicks the whole thing off.” Listen to Tony Kuhn and Jim Dukes of the Charlotte Art League discuss the project on The Biscuit Podcast.
Interior demolition is underway. Construction is expected to start in the next few weeks, and the site is anticipated to be completed by the fall. Eventually, other buildings in the area could be suitable for offices, Kuhn says. He has started referring to the area as the “Trailhead District,” a reference to the Cross-Charlotte Trail.
Flywheel owns a number of parcels along Raleigh Street by the light rail stop and the new city parking garage.
The Business Journal reported in January that Atlanta-based Third & Urban, which is working on an adaptive reuse deal in west Charlotte, had two parcels closest to the light rail stop under contract.
There are a few other businesses making bets on the area, too, most notably The Fitness Factory, a gym that opened in an old industrial building; and whiskey-maker Great Wagon Road Distilling Co., which took the place of Bold Missy brewery. There’s also talk of a co-working spot opening nearby.
Divine Barrel Brewing, which opened close by in 2018, chose its location because it sensed the area was sure to see changes, said co-founder Gavin Toth: “It was just knowing that eventually, all these buildings would probably be redeveloped.”
Check the Score in The Charlotte Ledger
MAIN IMAGE CREDIT: The 5 and 2 Project
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