UNC Charlotte Honors College and Charlotte Action Research Project Interviews on Charlotte Neighborhoods

Small But Significant : The Optimist Park Community
Optimist Park, a small community just outside the 277 beltway, is facing intense gentrification pressure due to the Blue Line Light Rail Extension and Charlotte's growth. As apartment buildings are planned and begin to take shape, the residents work to maintain Optimist Park's identity and history, both as an area with a historical connection to Charlotte's old textile mills, and as a neighborhood representing the city's first major efforts to provide affordable housing through the Habitat for Humanity program. Residents are working to preserve this history and work together amid a changing city.
The Druid Hills Community
The Druid Hills neighborhood in Charlotte, North Carolina, is located in the wedge between the Graham Street and Statesville Avenue corridors. This historic neighborhood is facing the potential challenge of gentrification and affordable housing loss. Plans for new mixed-income developments promise prosperity for the area, but also threaten to displace existing residents. Meanwhile, community leaders have leveraged resources to support local initiatives in food security and historical preservation as a mechanism for strengthening the community and finding ways to keep the neighborhood intact.
The Washington Heights Community
The Washington Heights neighborhood, positioned along the Beatties Ford Road corridor close to the center of Charlotte, has taken special pride in its unique history as Charlotte's original African American streetcar suburb. With strong ties to Johnson C. Smith University, West Charlotte High School, North West School of the Arts Middle School, and the famous Excelsior Club, the neighborhood has been at the center of Charlotte's African American narrative for over a century. In 2015 UNC Charlotte students interviewed residents of Washington Heights as part of a broader community initiative to document and preserve neighborhood history. In these interviews community members reflect on their deep family connections to Washington Heights, their own experiences living in the neighborhood, and changes they have witnessed over time as the neighborhood has faced challenges and creatively sought solutions.