Charlotte's Trendy South End

Modern-day designs and retail development have turned this formerly distressed neighborhood into a thriving hotspot.

The story sounds familiar enough: local businesses present a plan to create a district for design, industry and rail. City government chips in cash to get the project started. The area grows beyond what the original planners envisioned, and the city has a new facet that fuels growth.

For Charlotte’s South End, this scenario has occurred at least twice in this same portion of South Boulevard -- once in 1852 when local developers and businessmen introduced Charlotte’s first rail line to the city, and again in 1993-1994 when developers revitalized the once-dormant warehouses and factories into a massive retail and office complex with a focus on design-oriented business. In 1996, keeping the rail aspect in play, Charlotte announced a trolley and light rail line down this same corridor, and private developers and business trickled back in to the area.

South End’s Fresh Change

The first major change was a $2 million dollar rehab project at the 48,961 square foot Parks Cramer building in Atherton Mills. Interiors Marketplace was the first tenant. Its services included interior design, antiques and home décor. Some of Charlotte’s residents felt that the city’s run-down main corridors had no redeeming value, and the project would certainly be a flop. The “call of the mall” and suburban life were still considered the good life, and infill and density were not yet common words. Atherton Mills defied the critics and was a huge success, and adjacent buildings were refitted for new lives.

Emerging Residential Properties

In addition to the new interest in business in South End, developers also began transforming existing buildings into residences. One of the most unique is Factory South. Originally the first Lance Cracker factory, the building at 310 Arlington Avenue now contains commercial spaces on the lower level and condos above. This is one of the only true loft conversions in Charlotte, with 20-foot ceilings, exposed brick walls, wood floors and expansive windows. True to loft design, units are open floor plan style with iron I-beams throughout and exposed brick.

Shopping, Dining and More

Business in the area varies widely and ranges from architectural firms, law firms, salons, lounges, advertising and media firms, building supply shops, framing shops, skateboard shops, clothing and shoe stores, restaurants, galleries and antique stores.

For great clothes, visit Black Sheep Skateboards, Niche Market or “7” in the Camden Road area. For funky and refreshing salons, K&M, Borealis or J Studio are your best bet. For furniture, South End has EQ3, By Design and multiple antique shops. For great local food, try Phat Burrito, Price’s Chicken Coop, Chris’ Chicken Palace, Pikes, 300 East or Fuel Pizza. For finer dining try Pewter Rose, Copper (Indian), or Nikko sushi.

Growth in South End seems to be at full speed, and it’s doubtful it will slow its pace anytime soon. With light-rail around the corner and the continued influx of new residents to the Charlotte area, it’s easy to see where the fuel for the fire comes from. For someone who recalls South Boulevard as an area filled with dingy buildings, boarded windows and topless bars – the new energy is a welcome change.

Scott Lindsley is a realtor/broker for Urban Realty in Charlotte, N.C.

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