NoDa on national stage

NoDa, right down from Brightwalk, gets some national publicity for its thriving arts district. Below, an article that appeared in the Charlotte Observer: 

Charlotte’s North Davidson arts district – better known as NoDa – is drawing national attention after being named one of the country’s thriving art enclaves by The Saturday Evening Post.

In the feature titled “Warehouse Chic,” author Iyna Bort Caruso said the seven selected locales embody the successful execution of a concept known as adaptive reuse.

In cities and towns across the country, areas of industry – with warehouses and manufacturing plants dating to the early part of the 20th century – have “essentially become urban ghost towns,” Caruso said.

“With adaptive reuse, these buildings have been reclaimed, rehabbed and become lynchpins in creative new zones.”

Typically, artists and students have been the first to return to these areas, attracted by cheap rents, with other types of new businesses following, she said.

In many successful cases, boutiques and restaurants began to catch the eye of architects and urban planners, and “municipalities saw they had these structurally sound and historic buildings worth saving,” Caruso said.

Caruso said she started with a list of roughly 30 places and narrowed the field by considering the area’s history, adaptive reuse, geographic diversity and successful establishment.

“They’re not new or emerging (areas), but people have worked really hard to make them work,” she said.

With NoDa, Caruso said, the history of textile industry; proximity to uptown and ease with which tourists can experience it made the area attractive.

“I didn’t want to just pick communities (where) people have to find their own way,” Caruso said. “I wanted to make it easy for tourists to have a good experience.

“NoDa has a great website, they have gallery walks … NoDa had community support.”

The Crepe Cellar, The Evening Muse and the area’s first- and third-Friday gallery crawls were among the local venues and events highlighted in the article.

Caruso said she selected them with feedback from the local community and suggestions from the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.

CRVA Media Relations Manager Laura Hill said the organization often works with freelancers and pitches ideas to national publications. When she heard Caruso was looking for warehouse arts districts, she suggested South End and NoDa.

“NoDa is just one of those neighborhoods that has a lot of appeal for national publications. … They’re drawn to how eclectic it is,” Hill said.

“The details on how it’d become a hot spot for cast members of ‘Hunger Games’ while they were filming in North Carolina, and the ‘Homeland’ cast, that pop culture information helped, too.”

Hollis Nixon, president of the NoDa Neighborhood and Business Association, said those who live and work in the area are “overjoyed” by the national exposure.

She noted the mills and warehouses that helped the neighborhood find its way into the “Warehouse Chic” list aren’t just appealing, they’re “integral” to the community.

Similarly, Crepe Cellar and Growlers Pour House owner Jeff Tonidandel has been in NoDa nearly five years and said the community isn’t one to knock buildings down for new construction.

“The whole neighborhood has this outlook to use what we have there. … People have tried to keep and refurbish those old buildings and keep some of the historical (feel.)”

Growlers Pour House is located inside an old brick building that can make cleaning and upkeep a challenge, but it also adds great character, Tonidandel said.

After having been included in Draft Magazine’s “America’s 100 best beer bars” for the past three years, Tonidandel said, the business has experienced first-hand how national exposure can lead to more customers.

But overall, Tonidandel said, NoDa is thrilled to add “nationally-recognized arts destination” to its list of unique assets.

“I was walking the neighborhood Friday night and saw minivans and cabs dropping off five to six people …,” Tonidandel said. “We’ve gone from a visual arts place to an all-arts kind of focus and are keeping the culture of arts alive.

“We think it’s a wonderful place to visit and an important and different part of Charlotte.”


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