CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Protect and preserve is the goal for many of Charlotte's historic Black neighborhoods specifically in the communities of Oaklawn Park and Howie Acres whose histories date back to the 1950s.
Oaklawn Park was first developed as a neighbor for people of color and even decades later the majority of the residents' demographics there have remained that way.
Long-time residents, like Renee Pride-Dunlap who has been apart of the neighborhood since she was a little girl, say it's all about keeping the culture of the community.
“It’s to keep the character and the rich history of the people who live here that’s what we didn’t want to lose," Pride-Dunlap said.
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Pride-Dunlap helped lead the work toward becoming a local historic neighborhood. This important designation is a means to set regulatory benchmarks like not whitewashing brick or building multiple-story homes in the neighborhood to help preserve some of its history.
Experts say the historic designation is just one tool being used to help stop the threat of gentrification.
“Next generations will be able to look back on that particular era of our past and understand that past in ways a historic marker that says what used to be here just won’t tell the same story," Jeff Michael, Director of UNC Charlotte Urban Institute said.
From one generation to another Howie Acres residents, like John Dixon who has lived in the neighborhood for the past 55 years and raised his family here, is standing firm to keep his property.
"Trying not to sell out," Dixon said. “I’m too old to try rent and my home is paid for so it means a lot to my family and all that even after I’m gone they want to take over.”
You'll find signs posted in yards throughout Howie Acres from homeowners expressing their thoughts against gentrification and the fear that if they are bought out by companies looking to build the current neighbors will eventually be pushed out by unaffordable property taxes.
But aside from the historic homes, there is also the celebration of the historic Zion Primitive Baptist Church found just off E. Sugar Creek Road. The church is celebrating 75 years in the community this year.
Residents in Howie Acres are continuing the process of becoming a local historic neighborhood. Meanwhile, Oaklawn Park is working towards the next step in hopes of getting on the national registry for historic places that would allow the neighborhood additional recognition and potential tax credits in the future.