Queen City Nerve

Charlotte's Cultural Pulse

December Has Given Us Lots to Think About
Out like a lion

By Ryan Pitkin

December 17, 2019

This year will not go quietly.

One would hope that there could be some sort of pause to the craziness that’s been 2019, if only so we can take a breath and prepare for a 2020 that’s surely going to be a wild one both locally and nationally, but no such luck.
Already this month, we’ve seen the number of homicides on our city’s streets climb past 100, including the heartbreaking news that Brooks’ Sandwich House co-owner Scott Brooks was gunned down while trying to prepare his business to open on what I’m sure he thought would be an uneventful Monday.

Scott’s killing rocked so many in the Charlotte community, not only because of the popularity of his “All the Way” burger but his willingness to act as a connector between the “two Charlottes” we hear so much about. At Brooks’ you would see bankers, artists, working class folks and any other demographic you could think of, sometimes sharing a picnic table while enjoying their lunch.

Scott’s murder hasn’t just been getting attention because he’s a white guy in NoDa, and we all know murders aren’t supposed to happen to white guys in NoDa, but because of his refusal to stay in his bubble and keep making his money. Over the summer, when he and his brother David donated land that they owned so that Habitat for Humanity could build affordable housing there, they proved that they were willing to put their money where their mouth is, as so many others continue to hold panel discussions and talk the topic to death.

As I wrote in a recent Nerve newsletter, Scott’s death was number 104 of the year, and so many of those victims have gone unnoticed to anyone who didn’t know them. It feels wrong to value anyone’s life over another because it is. Scott’s life isn’t worth any more than anyone else’s, and so many of this year’s victims have been by every measure imaginable good people, but all I can hope for is that when a whole community feels the heartbreak of a loss the way they have after Scott’s murder, that it wakes everyone up to start discussing actual solutions to the violence our city has seen this year; solutions that look deeper than hiring more police or lengthening jail terms, but confront the causes of violence rather than the effects. That’s the only way I can imagine that Scott wouldn’t have died in vain.

In other news — news that became official on Tuesday morning — Charlotte will be home to Major League Soccer’s 30th franchise. Mayor Vi Lyles, Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper and MLS commissioner Don Garber held a press conference in Uptown to announce what everyone already knew. 

David Tepper, Don Garber and Charlotte City Council pose at Tuesday’s press conference. (Photo courtesy of MLS)

According to earlier communications between Lyles and Garber, the city plans to build a practice facility and offices for the new team at the former Eastland Mall site, which has sat abandoned for nearly a decade. I’ve got mixed feelings about this. After all, it’s what folks in that area have been asking for for years. New facilities and team offices will create a wide range of accessible jobs ranging from janitorial staff to corporate gigs with the team.

I hope that people in the east Charlotte area get a first go at those jobs. Tepper confirmed at Tuesday’s press conference that much of the $110 million in city funding will go to east Charlotte, as opposed to Bank of America Stadium. He even stated his desire to see the corridor keep its international flavor, becoming a destination because of its diversity, not in spite of. 

These are lofty wishes, and its comforting to know that at least some people in power believe this is a priority, and yet still, it will almost be sad to see the site developed. There’s a skateboard park that’s been built up organically by local skateboarders over multiple years at the site, and the city has let it stay as long as nothing else is happening there. There’s also the Charlotte Open Air Market, held on the site every Saturday and Sunday, providing local business vendors an opportunity to sell their wares on a weekly basis.

Both events are a symbol of the tenacity of Charlotte’s DIY scene, and the Open Air Market is a great way to browse food and other retail from the residents of Charlotte’s most culturally diverse area. In an ideal world, these folks would all have opportunities to thrive in the newly developed site, but I can’t help but think that’s just a pipe dream.

As business development continues inside the Eastland Mall site, I hope measures are taken to be inclusive of the existing community around the site, not only offering jobs but preparing for the inevitable rise in housing prices. That much should be anything but a pipe dream.

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