Dozens of Charlotte-area artists were taken by surprise on Thursday when they arrived at NoDa Studios, a rehearsal and recording studio in the northern part of Charlotte’s NoDa neighborhood, to find a letter on the door informing them that the facility would close its doors for good on March 31.
“Please be advised that Noda Studios will close effective 3/31/2024 as the property is being sold,” the letter read. “All tenants and their belongings must be out of the building by 3/31/2024. The Doors will be locked as of 4/1/24.”
Minnesota-based residential developer Roers Companies plans a seven-floor residential building where NoDa Studios and Inland Seafood are today. When complete, the for-lease apartment building will bring 379 residential units to the area. The project includes no retail space at this time.
The sale of the property has not yet closed and isn’t expected to until spring, but the terms of the tenants’ lease agreements required that ownership give notice that a deal was imminent, according to a property manager who posted the letter at NoDa Studios.
Some musicians took to social media to decry the loss of one of Charlotte’s last remaining affordable spaces to rehearse and record music.
Josh Robbins, a bass guitarist in local bands Alright and Late Bloomer and cofounder of Self Aware Records, said he has been practicing at the space on and off since it opened in 2008. Late Bloomer held their first practice at the spot and recorded their 2013 self-titled debut album there.
Robbins’ band Alright, a duo he plays in with his wife and fellow Self Aware cofounder Sarah Blumenthal, currently practices there.
While the site struggled with infamous upkeep issues, most notably the bathrooms that were regularly broken and clogged, Robbins said he has continued returning to NoDa Studios due to a lack of other affordable practice space in the city.
“There have been times in my bands’ existence where I wasn’t sure how we would function without the space,” he told Queen City Nerve. “We’ve been fortunate to practice out of our home, but it’s not convenient or realistic when you add drums or just trying to play loud rock music in an east Charlotte neighborhood.”
Robbins and Blumenthal pay around $300 a month to keep a 20-by-20-foot practice space in the facility. Robbins said most other studios charge around $30 an hour without providing a permanent space to keep instruments and equipment.
He’s noticed that many bands around town have taken to renting out storage spaces to practice, though they often run into issues with temperature control and security.
It’s unclear how many tenants rented out space in NoDa Studios, though Robbins estimates that more than 50 bands and artists — well over 100 musicians total — used the space as their primary rehearsal studio.
“I don’t think we can even fathom how much of a hole this is going to leave on the local scene,” Robbins said. “We won’t even see it at first, but even if it’s a year down the road after the closure we start feeling the arts seizing up.”
Robbins and Blumenthal are currently in the early exploration stages of potentially opening an affordable rehearsal and recording studio. They’re currently seeking out investors in such a project.
Robbins cited Goodyear Arts — an artist-led, nonprofit residency and multi-arts events program located in Camp North End — as a model for what he would like to create for musicians.
“As a longtime musician and small business owner I know I have the know-how to operate this space and even offer a lot more to the local community than NoDa Studios was ever able to,” he said.
He added that he understands why the building would be sold, but he wishes that alongside all the new development, the city would invest more in its artists.
“None of this is attractive at the end of the day if we don’t invest in the culture and art that this city provides,” he told Queen City Nerve. “NoDa Studios is just a building, but within its halls are musicians who gig out every night of the week to its many bars, coffee shops, breweries, clubs and on into your Fillmore-sized rooms.
“Musicians will figure it out — Charlotte musicians are resilient,” he continued. “If someone opens a hole in the ground then we will practice there. But for once as a city can we not let it get to the worst possible option? Can we look forward and invest in not only my generation of musicians, but a younger generation?”
Clayton Sealey contributed reporting to this story.
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