The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery opened its doors in 2009 in a nameless, sparse area inhabited by industrial buildings. When I was a kid growing up in Charlotte, Yancey Street was just the nondescript road my Dad would drive down to drop off his natural gas payment.

Times have changed. Here’s a boozy breakdown of what’s happened in the area in the eight years since OMB opened:

While the neighborhood is officially called York Road after the former name of this part of South Tryon Street, it is claimed by residents of Brookhill, Colonial Village, Southside Park and Sedgefield. Lately the names Queens Park and LoSo have been thrown around to try to label the area.

This concerted effort to label the district stems from the momentum we’ve seen over the past eight years.

The area has seen adaptive reuse unlike any other place in the city, and that will continue into 2018 as White Point Partners works to rehab and renew the Bowers Fibers Mill buildings on the corner of Old Pineville and Yancey. (Rumor has it that a new brewer will be signing on to further extend the growing entertainment district.)

But for all the great things happening in the area, it still has one major problem: Bad pedestrian infrastructure.

I recently decided to try a neighborhood brewery hop using only my two feet, and see how the area has changed first hand.

Outside of the Rail Trail, South End is harrowing from a pedestrian perspective, with narrow sidewalks and fast moving cars.

Once I got to the Scaleybark Station area — the closest station to LoSo — things escalated from harrowing to dangerous. Despite the amount of change the area has gone through, the pedestrian infrastructure hadn’t progressed much since the days I’d ridden through with my dad 15-20 years prior.

The walk from the station to OMB was about 5 minutes of sidewalk, and 8 minutes of walking in the middle of the Yancey Street watching my back for fast moving cars. I felt vulnerable even in the daytime, especially considering the beers I had enjoyed at the previous breweries. I can’t help but imagine what I’d be like to walk to the train station at night.

Courtesy of Olde Mecklenburg Brewery

Since I made that walk, LoSo has established a neighborhood shuttle that runs from Scaleybark Station to each of the entertainment destinations, and that helps make the area safer, but it does not excuse the lack of sidewalks.

Late last year the Charlotte Department of Transportation put out a lengthy Charlotte Walks Pedestrian Plan, which states this objective: “Charlotte will be a city of streets and neighborhoods where people love to walk. Charlotte will provide a pedestrian experience that is safe, useful, and inviting.”

But that pedestrian experience isn’t happening in this burgeoning entertainment district.

With even more developments on the horizon, the area will be seeing permanent residents and offices workers for the first time. It’s time to act in order to make this area safe for all pedestrians.

I can’t blame CDOT. These streets were built next to warehouses and meant to accommodate trucks, not people and entertainment. That said, it’s time for the city to prioritize a complete pedestrian overhaul of the area. Yancey and Southside, in particular, are wide streets with plenty of room for new sidewalks, and maybe even on street parking.

Charlotte Observer development reporter Ely Portillo recently spoke to Janette Sadik–Khan about the efforts she took to make improve Manhattan’s pedestrian landscape. What really struck me was this section:

Sadik-Khan emphasized that unlike transit projects with billion-dollar budgets that require huge new right-of-ways, many streets can be modified with paint, lane striping and the common materials transportation departments have already.

“You can accomplish a lot just by using what you have on hand,” said Sadik-Khan. “It’s not rocket science.”

She pointed to Times Square, which New York blocked off with simple traffic barrels and initially filled with lounge chairs from a nearby hardware store.

“If you see something that you think might work on your street, try it out,” said Sadik-Khan.”

This kind of idea would work great in this area: Establish pedestrian friendly zones on the streets and see how it benefits the area. We should be giving as many people as possible a reason to leave their car behind and walk.

Photos: CharlotteFive file 

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14 COMMENTS

  1. “We should be giving as many people as possible a reason to leave their car behind and walk.”

    As someone with a disability that makes driving an impossibility, you will certainly find agreement from me. This requires a culture change I’m not sure will happen in my lifetime. Police issue 2 pedestrian citations for every one vehicle citation. The nicest people you will ever meet become evil when they get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, treating pedestrians as if they are cockroaches that must be eliminated. The local government will talk all day about how true your statement is, then when a developer gives them $10 campaign donations, then ask for car-only projects or eliminate affordable residential units, they will cave and do what the developer wants. Proposals to build sidewalks actually get opposition from neighborhood residents and protests from people who want that money used to make changes to roads that let them drive faster. Look at the recent story about the large increase in pedestrian deaths. You’ll find police officers blaming it all on pedestrians and commenters also calling pedestrians a scourge on society.

    Of course this culture change can happen. But I think I will be dead and cremated long before then.

  2. I would like to see a light rail station built at Southside Drive. This would allow pedestrian access to the breweries etc. in that area. Parking around Yancy St. and Southside Dr. is horrendous! A light rail stop would also provide access to LOSO from Pineville and the Downtown area.

  3. While I understand the need to have sidewalks here, and I am starting to hear quite a few voices my age and younger bring this up and write articles about it, I will state that there is only so much money received by CDOT for things such as sidewalks. I would further add that if many of the residents of South End, NoDa, etc bothered to ever leave these areas they might realize how much worse so many of the rest of us have it. We’ve been waiting for a long time to get sidewalks in some of our own dangerous residential areas for many years (11+yrs and counting in my case). You really take your life into your hands when you try to walk down Harris Houston. There is one fast lane of traffic each direction and walking in the grassy areas results in multiple ankle sprains per trip (assuming you can even attempt that with drainage areas). If you think watching drunk 20-30 somethings walking on narrow sidewalks is concerning, try watching parents pushing babies in strollers and 80+yr olds trying to stay healthy walking in the conditions above to get to places such as grocery stores. And just trying to impede vehicular traffic is not a solution in a city that is growing. I would encourage those that really want more investment in sidewalks to actually show up at their designated election polling location for the votes that have transportation bonds on the ballots. Better yet, if your community announces a transportation meeting try to attend every once in awhile. They are a great way to actually speak to individuals within city government.

  4. LoSo is a terrible name. CharlotteFive is more guilty than anyone perpetuating the terrible sounding LoSo. Help push a more iconic name, and maybe it will stick.

    I say let it be Queen Park which was the name of the icon sign now in use by QPS. Let the neighborhood be properly distinct from South End, why does it need to be the lower equilolent, almost reads as lesser. We have one abbreviated neighborhood that’s well established with NoDa. We don’t need trendy names, we need iconic areas. Let’s stop trying to create SoHo’s with everything and let the neighbor be itself. Queen Park has legacy, it’s why QPS picked it’s name and got the iconic sign. Also, I thought the area voted 5 or 6 years ago to go with Queen Park? I’m having a hard time finding that now as QPS is now taking up a lot of the results

    • “LoSo” is an amazingly stupid name that suggests some creepy, soul-less, intellectually lazy developer came up with it, and this area is QUEEN PARK. Don’t let these idiots rename our city. They are fools and they have very low-functioning brains, OBVIOUSLY!

  5. LoSo? Really, who thinks it’s apt to slap “Lower on Southside” on one of our small neighborhoods with as if we’re cool like the east or west side of Manhattan?

    In Charlotte, I’ve come to learn that names like this are an early symptom of developers leeching into spaces with overpriced residential venues that ultimately make it unaffordable for most people to live in. Charlotte needs affordable housing not more trendy-sounding acronym that symbolize some of the worst aspects of gentrification.

  6. What does LoSo stand for? Lower Something? Lost Souls? For heaven’s sake, the least this article could do is explain it.

  7. Using transit to get to any entertainment area in Charlotte is impossible because CATS refuses to run it to these areas. Half the buses that connect to lightrail stop running at 8 or 9 pm Waverley, Promenade, and Stonecrest do not have local service just banker hours express service. The 43 Ballantyne Bus just serves the Corporate park at stops at 820pm. The bus that CATS claims serves TheNC Music Factory turns before the venue with stops in dark grassy areas at the railroad tracks. This despite the Music Factory’s owner asking CATS to bring the bus directly in front of the venue so patrons would want to use it. Until enough residents demand better transit and bus stop locations and later times when people can use transit nothing will happen. email CATS CEO…..johnlewis@charlottenc.gov—–speak out at city council meetings on Monday nights and sign up to speak at CATS MTC board meetings the 4th Wednesday of each month

  8. Please please please STOP SAYING LOSO!

    It sounds foolish, it sounds absolutely ridiculous, everything written above about this DUMB name is correct — leeching developers with zero imagination and zero soul. “LOSO” was made to be ridiculed. Stop this idiotic madness now, nip it!

    Repeat after me: QUEEN PARK.

    The end.

  9. It’s very hard to access this entertainment district on foot from its western edge. It’s all oriented to people arriving by car or light rail. From the CATS bus stop DIRECTLY across South Tryon St from OMB, it’s a ridiculously long walk to actually reach OMB because there are endless yards of perimeter fence enclosing their property and adjoining properties. The brewery and entertainment establishment owners need to re-consider providing better connectivity/access for their employees and customers who ride the bus. It’s a nightmare now due to those fences.

  10. Blame the owner of OMB for the brilliant LoSo name. He’s bullied all the other businesses into using it through his cheap shuttle bus. I heard that the City was going to officially call it Queen Park.

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