There it is, just down the street from Birdsong Brewing Co. on Belmont Avenue: A weird blue structure. It’s a column painted bright blue, with chalkboard and cork board surfaces on some sides for community bulletins and personal notes. A Charlotte crown symbol is mounted on top.
The Morris Column, as it’s called, was erected during a volunteer workshop Tuesday for the Belmont Avenue Better Block project. It was hosted by the Belmont Community Association with assistance from the Better Block Foundation and the City of Charlotte Neighborhood Matching Grant program, according to a representative with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Planning Department.
The column (located at 923 Belmont Ave.) came from a wikiblock, or a toolkit of designs for structures like benches, chairs, stages and kiosks that can be downloaded for free, then cut from plywood at a makerspace by a CNC router, or a computer-aided machine. This particular one was was customized and cut by the neighborhood business 8Lincoln30, and constructed and painted by community members and volunteers in Charlotte’s Belmont neighborhood.
The workshop was a prelude to this month’s two-day, pop-up style Better Block project Sept. 23-24 at the intersection of Belmont Avenue and Harrill Street. The Belmont neighborhood received a $21,750 grant for the project, which is organized by the Dallas-based Better Block Foundation and will be the foundation’s first Better Block program in the Carolinas. The neighborhood aims to match the grant with more than 470 hours of volunteer work.
The whole purpose of Better Block projects is to get people involved in improving their neighborhoods. The way Jason Roberts, head of the Better Block Foundation, sees it, residents wanting to revitalize their neighborhood have the power to get creative and fix their streets themselves, rather than waiting for a big business like a Whole Foods or Chipotle to kickstart that change.
In addition to crafting the blue Morris Column, volunteers also painted and hung two sets of neighborhood identity signage along the Belmont Avenue corridor.
During the main event, the Belmont community will turn part of Belmont Avenue into a neighborhood main street envisioned and created by the community. Think temporary shops, cafés and businesses. Also in the plan is a mural to be painted by DeVaughn Johnson and a team of artists.
Leading up to the installment of the Morris Column as a workshop “test,” the community was surveyed about “interventions” they would like to see on Belmont Avenue. Responses included a local grocery, a community center and public space, and a local restaurant.
Meanwhile, the Morris Column can offer an offline way of communication for people in the Belmont community.
By Thursday, a chalkboard note brought up the question: What do you love about Belmont? Another chalkboard note shared information about the Belmont Community Association’s meetings the first Tuesday of every month, open to everyone. Flyers for church services and social work services were pinned to the cork board.
All that’s left is the main street transformation. Stop by The Belmont Avenue Better Block Sept. 23-24.
Learn more here.
Photos: Belmont Community Association