“It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.” – W.C. Fields
Development has brought much good to Charlotte, but it has resulted in an identity crisis for the traditional neighborhoods being overtaken and renamed. Not just renamed in an effort to erase an area’s history, but renamed to generic, soulless names.
Just south of the generically-named South End, another area is quickly filling up with a plethora of entertainment options. The area, roughly bound by Old Pineville Rd., Peterson Dr., Verbana St., Nations Crossing Rd., and South Tryon St., is technically called York Road, as Clayton Sealey pointed out in a recent C5 article.
If you’ve never heard of the York Road neighborhood, you’re not alone. The street changed its name to South Tryon long ago and there’s no formal recognition of this as the neighborhood name, except for on Google maps. There’s no neighborhood association and no presence online or on social media sites.
It has become one of the most popular areas in Charlotte with multiple breweries, distilleries, a brand new entertainment center, and some of the area’s most ambitious development projects on the horizon. But what should it be called?
A strange, four-letter word has filled that void: LoSo. Even though a small part of me dies whenever I write or say it, it has somehow stuck around, thanks to some Charlotte media outlets (including C5) using it regularly and some business, especially Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, using it for marketing purposes.
A good chunk of people make fun of the name, which results in the name remaining front and center. On the other side, you’ve got a group pushing for Queen Park, especially with Queen Park Social — and the iconic sign — sitting right across the street from OMB.
The arguing over this particular neighborhood name is quite silly. The worst thing about the name is that it’s distinct rip-off of a New York City neighborhood naming style and it sounds like a tongue-tied singer at Jeff’s Bucket Shop struggling through a bad Toby Keith song.
Other neighborhoods have been hit much worse.
Take FreeMoreWest, for example. The name seems to whitewash historic Charlotte neighborhoods with deep roots for the sole purpose of looking good to developers and new businesses. Why can’t employers, developers, and new residents simply embrace the neighborhoods instead of erasing places like Ashley Park, Wesley Heights, Enderly Park, Seversville, and Biddleville?
The same goes for North End and neighborhoods like Tryon Hills, Druid Hills, Lockwood, and Double Oaks. Prior to recent developments with CAMP North End opening and NoDa Brewing expanding to its current location, the group that coined the term “North End” tried hard to erase the identity of the area, going as far as proposing to relocate people they deemed undesirable. Why use resources to try and quarantine people on a property a few miles away instead of dedicating resources to address the root causes of the neighborhoods’ hardships and residents within them?
Bringing in new business is good. Bringing in new people is good. Trying to displace people and erase history, while doing nothing about underlying issues even though you’re in a position to address those issues is bad.
A neighborhood name is simple and should be organic. If you want to erase history and replace it with labels as generic as new apartment building walls, you will disenfranchise people.
Come on, Charlotte. We can do better.
Photos: Charlotte Observer file; CharlotteFive file