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Dilworth neighborhood conflicted over preserving historic building in a congested community

One idea to move the building is getting both support and critique.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Neighbors are weighing in on the preservation of a Dilworth building in Charlotte. It's noted as Dilworth’s oldest surviving retail brick property. Now, a rezoning proposal to relocate the building is getting opposition, and the big problem comes down to parking.

The Leeper-Wyatt building used to be a grocery store and was built back in 1903. There have been several efforts to save this historic building from being demolished, and now a restaurant group wants to move it just a few blocks away from here to help protect it.

“I’m all into preservation especially for the next generations to remember it,” said Janet Dyer, Dilworth resident.

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The property is located right on South Boulevard and it was designated a local historic landmark 34 years ago. The building was supposed to be torn down to make room for an approved development, but a restaurant group is stepping up to try to save it. Those are efforts neighbors in the community support.

“I think if it can be preserved then it should be. I think that is part of the history of Charlotte,” said Christine Roper, a Dilworth business owner.

The Tonidandel-Brown restaurant group wants to move the building to an empty parking lot they own on Cleveland Avenue. They plan to build a restaurant at that location.

However, some community members say they are concerned about the congestion in the area and the parking spaces that will sacrificed at the Cleveland location after the potential move.

During a rezoning meeting on Monday, Jamie Brown with the group said that they secured a parking lease in the area to help reduce impact.

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“My husband and I want to work with this community and move this historic landmark with as little to no impact on the community as possible,” said Brown. “That is why we have secured this additional lease and tried to be very responsive with the DCA and their requests. Besides implementing this offsite lease, we have confidence in the city’s infrastructure that encourages walking, and scooters and ride-share programs to get people to and from the space.”

But not everyone is on board.

“The petition has a long list of problems in meeting the UDO standards. We agree with the staff that the condition of this site warrants some flexibility and generally do not oppose the use of exceptions here; however, the proposed parking cannot be one of those,” said Mark Allen with the Dilworth Community Association's Land Use Committee. “The project’s location in Dilworth adds to the parking burden already overwhelming the narrow streets.”

All you have to do is look around the Dilworth neighborhood and you’ll see signs of growth and development. With that comes some growing pains like traffic and heavy congestion.

“This seems to be the place to be in Charlotte and we love living here," said Dyer. “It’s pretty bad. We kind of schedule our day so that we are only out driving mid-day.”

“Down the street, down Tremont, we had an alarm go off in my mixed-development building and we couldn’t get the fire truck through because the construction workers don’t have a place to park,” said Roper. “We are absorbing this, both the residents and small business owners.”

At-large city council member Dimple Ajmera said Charlotte’s Unified Development Ordinance is part of the solution and guide for the city to deal with the growth for years to come. The UDO itself is a reason why some community members opposed the rezoning proposal.

“What they're saying, you know, we put in time and effort into it,” said Ajmera. “So now let's continue to hold everyone accountable with the standards that we have, let's not make an exception, while we continue to preserve our history.”

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The neighborhood is also near the rail line and Ajmera says there is a push for folks to get out of their cars to walk, bike, and use public transportation to get to their destinations.

“We are really asking the community to use alternative modes of transportation,” said Ajmera. “But also keep in mind that we are requiring minimum parking so that our residents are not seeing parking lots in their neighborhoods and on their streets.”

Some residents want to see more work done to relieve congestion in the area.

“I think our city council should take a drone and fly over this area and see how people every day in this area are trying to navigate every day,” said Roper.

As the Dilworth neighborhood continues to grow, the district's city council member Dante Anderson said it is important to preserve its history while also being mindful of the present and future.

“We just have to be good stewards and good neighbors and make sure that doing something good like preserving a building will not denigrate the value of life and experiences that long-term Dilworth membership has always experienced,” said Anderson.

The proposal is expected to be back in front of the city council in the coming months.

Contact Jesse Pierre at jpierrepet@wcnc.com or follow her on FacebookX and Instagram.

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