CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Plans for a development of a new Topgolf location have been put on hold as of Friday in the wake of a historian finding grave sites of at least 19 slaves next to a nearby cemetery.
Residents in the area have been fighting to stall the 65-acre project on Mallard Creek Church Road and I-85. They say this discovery should be enough to bury it for good.
"His report only validates our concerns that there are actually slaves buried outside of the wall. Before his report, everyone was just ignoring us," said Darren Rankin of University City.
Topgolf senior communications specialist Morgan Wallace released the following statement Friday on the plans:
We remain excited about Topgolf’s potential to expand to the north Charlotte area, but we have decided to put on hold our plans for a location on West Mallard Creek Church Road. To ensure we choose the best possible site for the community and our business, we want to carefully explore all options available. In the meantime, we appreciate the city’s support and look forward to creating great times for our Guests at the recently opened Topgolf Charlotte venue.
Small white flags now mark where each of the 19 bodies are buried just outside of the Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church Cemetery. The church's main cemetery has tombstones that pre-date the Civil War. The slaves were found buried beyond the stone wall enclosing the cemetery. Some graves were marked with rocks. Some were not marked at all.
"To know that people are buried there, and its sort of in a disrespectful manner, the forgotten souls," said Rankin.
Efforts to develop these 65 acres, which includes Topgolf's second Charlotte area location and new apartments, resurrected this part of our past.
"It was surprising to find out there were burial grounds on property we owned," said Matt Browder of Browder Real Estate.
Browder said he heard through media reports about the cemetery and hired a historian to verify if it was true. Ground penetrating radar was used to identify the remains of slaves. Browder says more bodies could be buried under tree roots that have been planted since the end of slavery.
The reversal of Topgolf's plans comes before what would have been a city meeting to approve the location on July 17.
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