CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte city leaders are hoping to revitalize an area that's experienced a high volume of crime in recent years.
Charlotte City Council approved a plan Monday night to buy two pieces of property at 1527 and 1533 West Boulevard near the intersection with Remount Road.
Crimes reported this year range from assault to vandalism, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police data.
CMPD has investigated multiple homicides at or near the shopping center since 2019.
With the purchase of these parcels, city and community leaders are invested in the future of this area.
“There was an extensive amount of crime there that we wanted to make sure that we addressed," said councilmember Victoria Watlington, representing District 3. "This is really about taking our streets back and creating positives.”
The City of Charlotte previously identified West Boulevard as a Corridor of Opportunity, where it will invest money and resources to improve the area.
The shopping center across the street from the parcels the city plans to purchase has seen changes in recent years, with new businesses moving into the area.
Watlington said the city's purchase of the two parcels on West Boulevard is the next step forward in lifting up the area.
"We want it to feel like home. We want folks to come and see this as a destination," she said. "And for those of us who live along the West Boulevard and work and play along West Boulevard, we want you all outside of our immediate community to see what we love so much about this area."
The West Boulevard Neighborhood Coalition is a non-profit organization focusing on improving public health, economic development, and education for the West Boulevard corridor residents.
Jordan Brooks-Adams, the coalition's executive director, said they had been in conversation with the city about the usage of the property and building. She said she believes it should be community-owned, community-led, and align with the vision of the community.
“I think this is a great move forward for the West Boulevard corridor and the community and our neighbors, small businesses as we’re looking to reimagine, vitalize, bring life, and lots of energy to the West Boulevard corridor," Brooks-Adams said.
The intersection of West Boulevard and Remount Road can be seen as a gateway to the city, Brooks-Adams said.
"We look at the West Boulevard corridor and the Corridors of Opportunity as our chance to be, you know, almost a cultural icon for the city as you're entering into Charlotte," she said.
However, business owners and organizations that currently occupy the strip center that sits on the land the city is trying to purchase have questions about the future.
Gemini Boyd said he spent 20 years in federal prison. He is the co-founder and CEO of Project B.O.L.T., which stands for Building Outsanding Lives Together. He started renovating a space in the strip center for Project B.O.L.T. about six months ago, with hopes of being a resource for change along West Boulevard.
"I'm born and raised right on West Boulevard," he said. "A lot of my crime when I was doing things in the streets came from this particular area. I believe if I can take that much out of my community, I can pour a hundred times more back into it."
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Boyd said he only heard about the news of the city purchasing the parcels of land where Project B.O.L.T. currently sits on Tuesday morning after the City Council meeting Monday night.
He said he would like to be included in the conversations about what happens to the property in the future and hopes Project B.O.L.T. will still have a place along West Boulevard.
"I'm praying that Project B.O.L.T. is allowed to stay right here because if we're not right here, then here comes the influx of even more traffic, the volume of drugs being sold, and things like that," Boyd said, "and we want to try and change that identity."
Watlington said stakeholders will be looking to sit down with each business owner currently occupying the property in the future to discuss what makes sense for the community and what the best strategy is moving forward.
"The whole reason we started this was to execute what the community wants," she added.
City Council approved spending $1.2 million on the property. City Councilman Marcus Graham, representing District 2, said at the meeting Monday night that the money will come from the city's Corridors of Opportunity funding. It's now up to City Manager Marcus Jones to finalize the purchase.
The U.S. Attorney's Office announced on Thursday, May 12, the resolution of a civil forfeiture case involving the strip mall located at 1533 West Boulevard. In April 2021, the agency filed a forfeiture complaint against the property due to the reports of violence and drug trafficking.
According to the announcement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office entered into an agreement with the city to dismiss the forfeiture action, and, as part of the agreement, the city has agreed to take short and long-term crime prevention measures at the property to ensure it no longer poses a threat to the residents of the community.
"For years, rampant drug dealing and drug-fueled crimes took place on the premises of this strip mall, which impacted surrounding neighborhoods," U.S. Attorney Dena J. King said in a press release issued to WCNC Charlotte. "Partnering with local law enforcement to increase the safety of our communities is one my office’s highest priorities. I want to thank the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department for their work in this case and for their ongoing efforts to keep our streets safe.”
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