You may have seen the blue structure in Belmont that caused some Twitter buzz. Well, the column was the start of the Belmont Avenue Better Block project, through which the Belmont Community transformed the intersection of Belmont Avenue and Harrill Street into a neighborhood main street on Saturday and Sunday.
Ideas for the transformation came from the neighborhood, through a survey, where residents were asked what types of businesses they would most like to see in their community. The project was made possible through a Better Block Foundation grant, the City of Charlotte Neighborhood Matching Grant program and hundreds of hours of volunteer work. The goal of the event was to educate and invest in the community and its leaders to revitalize the current environment.
Volunteers helped build the items used throughout the event. Using Wikiblocks, they made Adirondack chairs, display shelves, beer garden fences, kiosks and café tables for attendees to enjoy.
They also helped set up vendors and pop-up tents with various treats and services including coffee drinks from Comic Girl Coffee and artist Janelle Dunlap, snacks from Hawthorne High School and mini dance classes including aerobatics from MoveStudio Charlotte.
“I think it’s been great to see the bridging of the gap between old and new residents,” said Eugene Bradley, resident and service area manager with City of Charlotte. “We have had several events throughout the summer that we’ve seen both sets of residents attend and it has been good to see. The older residents have the context of the history and how things have progressed throughout the years.”
During this event, residents and other visitors could taste Italian Ice from Polo Italian Ice, a specially blended brew called “Belmont Blonde” from Birdsong Brewing and Catawba Brewing Companies, and food from Spice Wagon Kabob Food Truck and The Dumpling Lady.
“We got involved because they are revitalizing our neighborhoods,” said Zee Clark, event vendor and business manager of Spice Wagon Kabob Food Truck. “If it is something positive for our neighborhoods, we are definitely down to represent and be a part of something like that.”
Vendors added a city-like vibe with pop-up shops featuring natural pet food from Pet Wants Charlotte: The Urban Feed Store, a bike repair shop by The Recyclery and The Bike Van – Mobile Bike Shop, soy candles from Excellence Junkie, fresh produce by Freshlist and more.
In addition there was pick-up basketball, art (Augmented Reality with Saeed Ahmadi), a bike course, needlepoint demonstrations, a professional dog trainer and interior designer that you could pose questions to, community blanket creation for Hurricane Harvey victims and conversations around Belmont history by Tom Cole of Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.
“I have always looked at Belmont as a potential historical district,” said John Howard, planning manager for City of Charlotte Historic Districts. “There is a lot of great fabric and architecture that is still here, that is not eroded by development, so [I am] just trying to see if we can preserve what’s left.”
Curtis King, a mural artist, preserved the past in his own way by painting a mural showing a mix of past — like Red Front department store and the Louise Cotton Mill building — and present — like a Charlotte hornet and street cars.
“We just want to put something up for the community to love and appreciate,” he said.