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City Life Critics’ Pick Winners: Best in the Nest 2021

The best that Charlotte has to offer as chosen by Nerve critics

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Best in Charlotte city life

You may hear that “Uptown is dead,” but City Life don’t stop. Here are the folks that kept things moving on the ground this year to ensure a better future for our city.

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Local Hero:
Adrienne Threatt

In an op-ed published by Queen City Nerve back in February, as the so-called “Tent City” along 12th Street grew bigger and it became more clear the city and/or county would need to act to help those staying there, Adrienne Threatt argued that, “Our neighbors didn’t create the Tent City we see today, we did,” adding that, “When addressing Tent City, we must not forget how and why Tent City was formed. We must not punish our homeless neighbors for living in a space we all designated for them.”

But Threatt is not one for just talking, as co-founder of Hope Vibes, she has been on the front lines of the fight against homelessness since founding her organization with her husband in 2016 after sharing a video that documented the challenges women who struggle with homelessness face related to their menstrual cycle.

Adrenne Threatt
Adrienne Threatt. (Photo by Adrienne Threatt)

Threatt, her husband Emmanuel and a group of others began collecting hygiene products for their homeless neighbors. Since then, she has grown the nonprofit, hitting the road in 2020 with the Hope Tank, a large truck outfitted to serve as a mobile shower and laundry center for people living through homelessness in Charlotte.

In mid-February of this year, just a week after publishing her op-ed calling on officials to find a humane and respectful solution to Tent City, she was back on the front lines helping ensure our neighbors who were faced with a forced move — whether to the county-planned motel or elsewhere — had the appropriate luggage, hygiene items, and other necessities for their transitions. Since then, she’s continued her mission through multiple projects and programs that Hope Vibes has either spearheaded or lent a helping hand to, and the city would be far worse off without her.


Best Local Celebrity:
Ohavia Phillips

Show host. Content creator. Influencer. Advocate. Queen City Nerve Best in the Nest cover model. What can’t Ohavia Phillips do?! The Brooklyn, New York native moved to Charlotte at age 13 and proceeded to make the city her own. She left her job as a reporter at Spectrum News after being refused in her desires to shine a light on community response to the CMPD killing of Keith Lamont Scott, and has since broken out on her own. The city is better for it.

In 2018, Phillips launched The Oh Show, the title referencing her recognizable moniker. On the show, she speaks with Charlotteans who make a real impact, a slew of creatives ranging from activists to entrepreneurs to artists, including folks like her who fit all three descriptions. As an Afro-Latina woman, she’s also purposeful about highlighting diversity on her show and in other work, spotlighting the rich mix of ethnicities that make our city great. Like Adrienne Threatt above, however, Phillips is about action over words. In February, she and the team over at dupp&swatt partnered to run a fundraising campaign and supply drive for residents at Tent City, perhaps inspiring our readers to vote her Best Activist in Readers’ Picks. Like we said, there’s not much she can’t do.


Best Twitter Account:
Joe Bruno

There’s two reasons Joe Bruno has and will continue to receive awards from basically everybody this year. The first is the exhaustive work he’s done guiding Charlotte Twitter through an unprecedented pandemic, whether that’s unearthing vaccination appointments, or getting into a wrist-popping verbal spat with county health directors. “Ask the question the right way, Joe,” the response from county manager Dena Diorio when Bruno asked if the county was considering a vaccine mandate, is our nominee for quote of the year.

The second reason is more subtle. It’s the way Bruno engages genuinely with our city’s residents in a tone that’s cheerful, optimistic and human. We invite Bruno into our lives via Twitter with the same warmth television audiences in the ’60s welcomed Walter Cronkite. We are all smarter, safer, and a little bit happier with Joe Bruno in our Twitter feeds.


Best Business Twitter Account:
StarMed Healthcare

Saying the past two years has been draining for health-care workers would be an understatement. But, like a beacon in the night, StarMed Healthcare has continued to show up day after day to provide drive-up COVID testing and vaccines to adults and now children alike. Even when other major health-care players dropped their drive-up services, StarMed persisted. How do we know that? Because they have used their Twitter account @StarMedCare religiously to share real-time resources, information and laughs with their community.

Whether they are retweeting your Thanksgiving dinner or one of those amazing #StarMedKids getting their first dose of the vaccine — StarMed has used its Twitter account for good during a time when our community needed it most. And that’s not to mention the more subversive tweets or the personal stuff, like when the person behind the account mocks their marketing manager’s orders. It’s just all-around wholesome fun in a usually all-too-serious industry.


Funniest Twitter Account:
@CLT_Updates

CLT Updates is hard to follow sometimes. The account is anonymous, giving the author free rein to sometimes be unnecessarily mean for no reason. The account once referred to one of our contributors as a “local narcissist” who likes the smell of his own farts. It’s made comments that barely qualify as jokes at the expense of people well-regarded in this city. But in a small city like ours where few are willing to rock the boat for fear of burning bridges, even the trainwreck tweets are kind of charming. Plus, when it’s good, it’s amazing.

Some favorites of ours include turning the Epicenter into a dozen Spirit Halloweens, announcing DaBaby would headline Noble Smoke Fest after the rapper became embroiled in a homophobia controversy, and making fun of people who assumed Price’s Chicken Coop was Black-owned.

The account calls out the politicians, business owners, influencers, police departments and developers that so many of us have animosity toward. It’s uncomfortable, rewarding, obsessed with killing Sir Purr, and very, very funny.


Best TikTok:
@jensensavannah

It can feel at times like our city is oversaturated with social media influencers, which in true Charlotte fashion means there’s always room for one more. Enter Jensen Nichol, who goes by @jensensavannah on TikTok, promising us something more than videos of her eating her way around the Queen City (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Though based in Charlotte, Nichol takes her 181,000 followers all over North and South Carolina, from Wilmington to the Blue Ridge Mountains — from Raleigh to Davidson to Folly Beach. Of course, she patronizes restaurants and coffee shops, but she also shows us things to do (other than stuffing our faces) both inside and outside the city limits of towns like East Bend that are well off the beaten path, reminding us how much the Carolinas truly have to offer.

@jensensavannah

##ad 10/10 recommend Morelia Paletas in CLT!! 🤤 ##visitnc ##charlottenc ##ncfood ##ncfoodie ##704 ##980 ##northcarolina ##ncdesserts ##ncgems ##nccheck##919 ##910

♬ Ice Cream – BLACKPINK & Selena Gomez

 

She’s captured 4 million likes across all of her videos. Her most-watched videos include her visits to the former Land of Oz theme park in Beech Mountain, Red Crab Juicy Seafood in Durham and Dick’s Last Resort in Myrtle Beach. Nichol also uses her platform to encourage seat-belt usage by pushing NCDOT’s #BuckleUpNC and #EverySeatEveryTime campaigns, and while that’s probably a paid promotion, it’s still public safety, and that’s cool with us.

Outside of TikTok, Nichol is the co-founder of Queen City Unity, a nonprofit with a mission to make Charlotte an equitable city for all of its residents.


Best Instagram Account:
@Joey_dennis

This account is a visually intoxicating cleanse of your timeline on the ‘gram. It is quite literally just locals and friends skateboarding around different areas of the city, sometimes out of town, and really killing it.

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by @joey_dennis

 

Anyone who sat around with their friends watching the old Bag of Suck, This is Skateboarding, Video Days or Yeah Right tapes of the ’90s and ’00s would find the account nostalgic, as it’s festooned with lines of hardflips, tre flips, front-side heelflips to switch manuals, gap clearings and must-hit spots around town. Since following Joey, we’ve appreciated the cleansing nostalgia, the insane skill of an unappreciated subculture in Charlotte, and the other skaters and videographers we’ve found along the way.


Best Reporter:
Nick Ochsner, WBTV

Nick Ochsner, WBTV’s chief investigative reporter, is known for digging until he unearths an injustice with the hope of spurring change. His reporting this year on sexual assault allegations and claims of a cover up by the administration at Myers Park High School aimed to do just that, and it appears to have worked.

According to Ochsner’s reporting, former female students at MPHS reported being raped, sexually assaulted and harassed by fellow students at school over multiple years, but virtually nothing was done to address the reports until Ochsner dug in.

On Aug. 6, after months of reporting by Ochsner, CMS announced MPHS principal Mark Bosco had been suspended with pay, followed by the formation of a new Title IX Task Force that will ensure all sexual allegations within the school system are thoroughly investigated.

Oschner also wrote about a Hawthorne Academy High School student who was punished after reporting a sexual assault that allegedly occurred at the school, even after CMPD pressed charges against the suspect. School administrators accused the victim of filing a false report and suspended her. On Nov. 2, CMS board members dodged questions from Oschner when he confronted them about the situation at a board meeting, but if we know Oschner, that won’t stop him from finding out the truth.

Oh, and he somehow found the time to finish a book that released this year. They don’t call him The Bulldog for nothing.


Best Local Newsletter:
Transit Time

Let’s just be honest up front, upon hearing WFAE, Charlotte Ledger and the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute were partnering on a newsletter, it didn’t matter if they said what it was going to be about, we were all in. True to its title, Transit Time is about … you guessed it … transit issues in Charlotte. As they put it, “if you use it to get around the city, you can read about it here.” 

And true to the newsletter name, it is as wonky as any news junkie could wish for. But if you’re interested in local transportation issues, which have come to the forefront as the city implements and adapts its Vision Zero plan, then this is where you come for in-depth reporting and trustworthy data.


Best State Newsletter:
North Carolina Rabbit Hole

Jeremy Markovich is obsessed with local quirk. His newsletter, North Carolina Rabbit Hole, was named Best New Newsletter last year, and has only lived up to its potential as newsletters have become a dime a dozen in the inbox. See, a lot of our local media is wrapped up in banal lifestyle content: where’s the newest place to get drunk, or eat brunch, or get drunk while you eat brunch. Markovich instead turns his attention to everything compelling, weird, little-known, and fascinating about our state.

It may not be the most profitable niche, but it’s the most interesting, and it’s sometimes bewildering how he even comes across his story ideas. He’s done it all from analyzing the meme-ification of Pat McCrory to exploring if Gladys Knight is a North Carolina resident to finding the obscure Panthers player who was featured in a barely identifiable action pic on the cover of Madden ’96.

If you enjoy New York Magazine’s The Cut, but wish it was about rural North Carolina instead, you’ll want to subscribe to North Carolina Rabbit Hole.


Best Podcast:
‘Headwraps & Lipsticks’

Headwraps & Lipsticks co-hosts Sharelle Burt and Sierra Tribble hail from Long Island and Philly, respectively, and you can hear that in the first few seconds of whatever episode you choose to listen to. And yet, as happens in a transplant city, the two NC A&T State grads are true Charlotte gems by now, after having hosted five full seasons of their hilarious podcast. The two tackle serious topics around race, politics, celebrity culture and whatever’s the talk of the day with a levity that allows us to shake the doom and gloom of the 24-hour news cycle. Tribble’s explosive cackle is enough in itself to brighten a bad day.

Take the special episode that followed Jan. 6, titled “It’s the Coup For Me,” and let that lead you into Season 5, a year that saw them really come into their own as hosts. They sometimes welcome local guests that you won’t hear elsewhere — Chef Jase is a recent example — but the two of them are entertaining enough on their own to keep this show at the top of your podcast playlist.


Best Documentary:
‘The Other Side of the Coin: Race, Generations, and Reconciliation‘

The only full-length feature out of Charlotte to be included in this year’s Longleaf Film Festival, The Other Side of the Coin is a collection of experiences and thoughts that address the complexities of race in America. The participants represent a span of generations, which presents its own unique challenges — challenges that tend to reignite historical transgressions into the fold of present-day ideologies, begging the question: How do we reconcile for the sake of future generations and humanity?

 


Best Politician:
Gov. Roy Cooper

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper is in the unenviable position of having to make decisions that literally can’t please everybody. That’s par for the course for being a Democrat governor in a swing state that voted for Trump twice, but it’s even harder during a year (or two) in which a global pandemic surged, then waned, then surged, then saw the emergence a vaccine that could have easily stopped all of our problems but was instead intensely politicized by fake news and conspiracy theories. [deep breath]

NC COVID restrictions
Gov. Roy Cooper announced he would sign the Reopen Our Schools Act in March 2021. (Photo courtesy of Gov. Cooper’s Office)

No matter what side of the aisle you fall on, you likely had moments in which you couldn’t stand Cooper’s decisions this year. Mask on? Anger. Mask off? Anger. Smokers get to skip the line for vaccines? Anger. Million-dollar vaccine lotteries won by 18-year-olds? Anger. Masks back on? Anger.

Through it all, Cooper never wavered, relying on the best science available at the given time to guide his decision making, rather than the perpetual outrage of a confused and frightened populace.


Best Motivator:
Justin Jones-Fosu

For most people around the country and the world, the past 18 months have been months of forced social isolation, and the results have been severe. Locally, we saw a rise in domestic violence and road rage, while staff at Pat’s Place Child Advocacy Center sounded the alarm bells about unreported child abuse cases.

social isolation
Justin Jones Fosu (Photo by Ariel Perry)

While these recent matters are certainly troubling, Charlotte-based social entrepreneur, researcher and writer Justin Jones-Fosu pointed out that social isolation has been affecting the way Americans interact since long before the pandemic. In his book, The Inclusive Mindset, released in March, he talks at length about how social isolation leads to further inequity, and how to push back against it. These are the lessons that have made him successful as the host of diversity and inclusion trainings in corporate settings.

“I found that diversity and inclusion was only talked about from a very shame-based approach or deficit approach, it was always what you’re doing wrong,” he told Queen City Nerve in May. “The focus wasn’t generally on how do we grow, progress and get better, which is more an abundance thinking.”


Best Community Organizer:
Kenny Robinson

Upon his 2012 release from federal prison after serving a 10-year sentence, Kenny Robinson struggled to find work, experiencing rejection 40 times in a row before finally getting hired by Goodwill for $7.25 an hour. He eventually found a more sustainable career as a car salesman, and used his position to help others who found themselves in the situation he once did. But it wasn’t enough. On Jan. 1, 2020, Robinson left his job and launched Freedom Fighting Missionaries with the goal of helping justice-involved folks transition back into society and find employment. Upon the onset of the pandemic, Robinson said his workload nearly doubled, but he hasn’t slowed down, only working harder to fight for affordable housing and more help for those coming out of incarceration.


Best Activist/Advocate Organization:
ActionNC

While Joe Bruno took the proactive approach to help folks get find vaccines and testing sites over Twitter, local community organizer Robert Dawkins led the team at local advocacy organization ActionNC to hit the streets, going into underserved communities day after day to help fight misinformation and vaccine reluctancy by meeting people where they were and respectfully answering any questions or concerns they had. It’s hard to track the impact of these efforts, as they weren’t actually administering shots, but their intrepid efforts were admirable at a time when most were simply fine with getting their shots and shaming anyone else, as if that will get us to the end of this mess.


Best Activist/Advocate:
Melody Gross

As a survivor of intimate-partner violence herself, Melody Gross has long been an advocate for other people who have gone through what she’s experienced, especially Black women. In spring 2020, Gross took the logical next step and launched her company, Courageous SHIFT, which takes a three-pronged approach to fighting back against domestic violence.

Through the organization, Gross offers consulting services for employers to recognize when domestic violence is happening and support those experiencing it, and in the Courageous SHIFT Circle, she offers a space for the survivors themselves to help navigate their exit from an abusive situation. Then near the end of last year, she launched the Eva Lee Parker Fund, which helps Black women with immediate emergency funding needs as they flee abusive situations.

domestic violence in Charlotte
Melody Gross. (Photo by Alvin C. Jacobs Jr.)

This year, she has continued to see the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought a rise in all types of domestic violence, including intimate-partner violence. While the Eva Lee Parker Fund helps in short-term emergencies, Gross is also focused on breaking the cycle of violence that can last through generations in certain families, as she believes happened in her own experience.

“If I can help one person get to safety or even acknowledge that they’re experiencing abuse, I’m fine with that,” she told Queen City Nerve in June. “I can’t save the world but I can save those who come to me.”


Best Solution-Based Approach:
Home Again Foundation

Grassroots organization Home Again Foundation (HAF) believes they have the solution to Mecklenburg County’s affordable housing crisis by quite literally building communities. After opening a pilot community of eight affordable homes in February, HAF began fundraising for its larger plan, which includes 300 homes, an outdoor theater, 24-hour child-care services, arts and crafts centers, workforce development programs, fitness centers, a commercial kitchen, community gardens, a chapel and a community center, all of which the organization says it can build for just 17 to 20 million dollars.

Home Again Foundation affordable housing
Home Again Foundation’s component-built cottage-style homes on Cochrane Drive. (Photo by Justin LaFrancois)

HAF offers housing with a low-barrier approach and maintains that the only two things that disqualify an applicant from signing a lease would be if a potential resident has a past sex offense charge or a history of arson, for the safety of fellow residents.

By offering services and using self-sufficiency assessment matrices to connect people to other services, HAF has a goal of making productive citizens no matter how different that looks case-by-case.


Best Fan Group:
Crown Club

The Hornets, and let’s be honest, mostly LaMelo Ball, have done something very special for Charlotte in the past calendar year. The team is recapturing a bit of its former ’90s cool factor, and in the process, giving Charlotte an exciting new identity at the same time the Panthers had been less than admirable.

Evan and Scotty Kent, known for running the grassroots Bring Back the Buzz campaign that transformed the Bobcats back into the Hornets, started the Crown Club to provide a way for Hornets fans new and old to connect with the team in a communal way. In a partnership with the brains behind Roaring Riot, the group hosts out-of-town takeovers, pre-game parties, beer releases, and more.

But deeper than that, it gives a new face to the Hornets fan base to match the new attitude on the court. If sports is one of the main avenues through which a city is transformed into a home, then Crown Club is like a weekly house party.

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Best Comeback:
Cam Newton

OK fine, the Panthers haven’t been on a winning streak since Cam Newton’s return. That’s understandable, given the amount of learning and new team acclimation that has to take place. We’ll acknowledge there’s a long way to go. After all, a paper sheet for an offensive line isn’t going to protect Cam any more than Sam Darnold or P.J. Walker. But you can’t deny the energy among Panthers fans in the city has shifted.

The swelling feeling of pride when he first walked out on the field in that No. 1 Panthers jersey, scored a touchdown, and yelled “I’m baaaackkk” right into the camera is inarguable. Don’t even pretend you’re not excited to see next week’s press conference outfit, even you Ford F-150 folks who just wanna hate. Cam is home, baby! The world feels a little more right, even if a few folks in the organization still need to be fired.


Best Nonprofit:
Center for Community Transitions

This 47-year-old Charlotte-based organization works to reimagine criminal justice and support those with a history of incarceration, also known as “justice-involved” individuals. The Center for Community Transitions provides services for people reentering society after incarceration that include family support groups, job-readiness training and a residential facility for women who are finishing out their sentences. CCT’s Center for Women houses 30 women at their facility in northeast Charlotte.

The Center for Community Transitions
The Center for Community Transitions. (Photo by Ryan Pitkin)

Near the end of February, CCT announced it was taking the next step in its work through a partnership with the SHRM Foundation, a national equity-hiring firm that is helping CCT launch a local initiative called Getting Talent Back to Work, which SHRM Foundation has been implementing in communities across the country. The initiative will help local employers “go beyond Ban the Box” — a movement that called on employers to remove any questions about past criminal charges from preliminary job applications — to implement internal assessments of their HR practices and strategize on how to effectively and sustainably create second-chance hiring programs.

During a summit announcing the new program, Atrium Health, the area’s largest employer, announced its own commitment to begin hiring justice-involved people through a new Reentry Entrepreneurship Program through which the health-care giant will hire 20 justice-involved people for in-demand jobs at their facilities, then help them develop a career plan and follow through with it.


Best City Government Decision:
Nondiscrimination Ordinance

On Aug. 9, Charlotte City Council unanimously approved amendments to the city nondiscrimination ordinance (NDO). The amendments included: familial status, veteran status, pregnancy, natural hairstyle, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. This marked the first attempt at passing a city NDO since 2016, when the new protections were overturned by the infamous transphobic bill known as HB 2.

Gov. Roy Cooper’s so-called compromise bill HB 142 placed a moratorium on any new municipal NDOs until Dec. 1, 2020. Well, that deadline came and went, and Charlotte City Council didn’t appear to feel much urgency about it. Local activists watched as Chapel Hill, Durham and other NC cities (and small towns) reinstated protections for transgender people while Charlotte dragged its feet on creating robust, non-symbolic legislation. It wasn’t until several months after the HB 142 sunset that it was approved. Better late than never?


Best State Government Decision:
Social Districts

In a surprising move for a usually useless state legislature, the North Carolina General Assembly in September passed a law allowing individual municipalities to create their own social districts, where off-premise alcohol consumption would be allowed, similar to Savannah, Georgia; or New Orleans. Later that same month, Kannapolis became the first Charlotte-area town to enact a social district, doing so around Atrium Health Ballpark, the new home of the Kannapolis Cannonballers and anchor of a planned revitalization in the downtown area there.

We’re patiently awaiting word for Charlotte, and while we’re aware the situation will be more complex in a city with multiple potential social districts, it’s promising to know that there already is a movement underway to make this happen here in 2022.


Best Pop-Up for a Cause:
Mass-Vaccination Events

While independent health-care facilities like StarMed along with community organizations like ActionNC were the stars in terms of grassroots efforts that led to countless vaccinations from folks who needed the personal touch of a small-scale operation, early this year larger health-care companies like Atrium Health showed their strength in numbers when they partnered with government agencies to hold massive vaccination events. Atrium kicked things off at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Jan. 23, scheduling 16,000 appointments, an effort that was doubled at later mass vax events.

mass vaccination
A january mass vaccination event at Charlotte Motor Speedway. (Photo by Kevin McCarthy/Atrium Health)

The partnership between Honeywell, Atrium Health, Tepper Sports & Entertainment and Charlotte Motor Speedway aimed to administer 1 million vaccines to area residents by July 4, a goal of which they appeared to have fallen short, as only about half a million Mecklenburg County residents were vaccinated by that time. But hey, at the time of these mass vaccination clinics, how were we to know that so many amongst us would suddenly turn into stubborn children and conspiracy theorists? At least they were there to help the folks who knew enough to help themselves.


Most Exciting Development/Opening:
The Retreat @ The Plaza

In early August, Promise Resource Network expanded its services by opening Retreat @ The Plaza, an alternative to hospitalization for people experiencing mental health distress. It’s the first peer-run respite house in North Carolina, meaning it’s completely staffed by people who have experienced mental illness, psychiatric hospitalizations, homelessness, incarceration, substance use or a combination of those. The peer-run respite facility is free to participants and is designed to be a completely voluntary alternative for people who would otherwise seek care in a mental health crisis through the emergency room and possibly be involuntarily committed to a hospital.

mental health crisis
Promise Resource Network founder and CEO Cherene Allen-Caraco (middle) smiles at Aaron Wells while at a recent ribbon-cutting ceremony for the mental health agency’s peer-run respite. (Photo by Taylor Knopf)

Cherene Allen-Caraco, a trauma and suicide attempt survivor who is also founder and CEO of Promise Resource Network, has been vocally opposed to any form of forced psychiatric treatment. For years, she has advocated for and created alternatives at PRN, now taking the form of a new peer-run respite center. “And today we will do better because of effective, less costly, less traumatizing alternatives that exist,” she said at the August opening.


Most Exciting Development/Opening Outside I-485:
Free Spirit Farm

On March 4, Carolina Farm Trust broke ground on a 28-acre urban farm site in Huntersville. Free Spirit Farm, Carolina Farm Trust’s largest undertaking yet, is among North Carolina’s largest urban farms. Located near Huntington Greene — an economically-stressed community that is predominantly home to Latinx residents — Free Spirit Farm serves those residents and other neighboring communities that face barriers in accessing fresh, nutritious and affordable food.

Carolina Farm Trust
A child plays with his toy tractor at the groundbreaking for Free Spirit Farm. (Photo by Justin Driscoll)

“During a time where we feel powerless in so many ways, Free Spirit Farm is an opportunity for all of us, as Mecklenburg county residents, to take action to protect and build our local food economy and supply chains,” Zack Wyatt, president and CEO of Carolina Farm Trust, stated in a release announcing the farm’s opening.
When finished, Free Spirit Farm will feature a high-tunnel grow building, orchards for fruit and nut trees, water features to serve as reflection and retention ponds, compost production, and a structure for a farmer’s market, produce preparation, refrigerated storage and amenities.

It will operate as a living and working farm that will cultivate change through community-led food systems with a focus on racial equity and food justice through partnerships with Black farmers in the Charlotte area. Its comprehensive urban farm micro-system will provide opportunities for employment, housing, learning, recreation, leisure, gathering and entrepreneurship.


Best Decision For Our Future:
Charlotte Future 2040 Comprehensive Plan

It was not long after Charlotte Assistant City Manager Taiwo Jaiyeoba finished his presentation to Charlotte City Council at its March 1 strategy session that it started to become clear just how much an uphill battle he was facing in getting approval for the Charlotte Future 2040 Comprehensive Plan, which will most likely be the defining aspect of his tenure as the city’s director of planning, design and development.

Opponents threw fits over the inclusionary zoning aspect of the plan, which will allow for the construction of duplexes and triplexes in areas that are currently zoned exclusively for single-family housing. At the March strategy session, city council member Ed Driggs scoffed at this possibility to help allow for more of the “missing middle housing” and help put a dent in the city’s affordable housing crisis.

Despite the pushback, the city passed the Comprehensive Plan in June, two months after it was originally scheduled for a vote. But alas, the Comp Plan is just an aspirational guide, and the city is currently working on the Unified Development Ordinance that will codify it. Prepare for deja vu, as we’re surely about to hear a lot of the same arguments against inclusionary zoning that we heard in 2021. *yawn* It will pass anyway, as it should.


Best Lost Cause:
Oso Skatepark out of the Trailhead District

Oso Skatepark was a pillar in our community’s skateboarding scene and all its adjacent subcultures. It offered a place for expression and art, skating and camaraderie, live music and summer camps and so much more. After three years in operation, the crew behind Oso was offered a chance to move out of their space at Hub 933 and into a fledgling new development just north of NoDa.

Brett Coppedge and Phil Gripper contemplate what would have been their new space. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

In working with Flywheel Group to grab a space in their new Trailhead District development, the park was to expand its indoor space from 4,500 square feet to 6,000, then add another 12,000 square feet of outdoor space in a Phase 2 build-out. But alas, the two parties couldn’t come to terms on the lease agreement and, after three years of building the original park, three years of being in business, and weeks of work disassembling the whole park for the move — the deal was off.

“Our goal was to make a positive impact in the community using skating as our conduit to do so,” owner Phil Gripper said of Oso’s first three years at HUB 933. “So with Oso, we were able to have a space where people could come and have positive influence through physical activity. We also provide a space for art to be displayed and sold and for live music to be played for all ages and audiences. And so, in the time we’ve been open we’ve been able to connect with kids, we’ve been able to connect with families and adults alike, and just spread positivity as best we can through the walls that we have.”


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