Friday, March 23, 2007

On new and old Charlotte

If you’re new to the Charlotte area and you’re single or a part of a couple looking to make new friends, Charlotte Outdoor Adventures (CHOA) is one good way to meet people.

I checked out one of the group’s open houses this week – CHOA has them roughly once a month to give prospects a chance to get questions answered before joining. To participate in events, you have pay a membership fee starting with $20 for a one-month trial, or you can be the guest of a member for no charge. (If you go to an open house, you can get a year’s membership for $99). Watch the Web site at for the next one.

The group’s activities range from half-price martini nights to whitewater river rafting. Most days, there are two or three activities to choose from, and many activities draw more than 40 people to sign up. Organizers say their membership fluctuates between 1,200 and 2,000 people – most of whom are new to town. The membership is about 60 percent singles and 40 percent couples.

About 50 people showed up to the open house I attended on Tuesday, and I overheard many conversations involving newcomers. The group gathered in the bar of an uptown hotel, then sat in the hotel restaurant for a Q&A session.

One attendee, a teacher who recently moved from Ohio, commented that it can be tough to find a completely new group of friends in a new city – most people haven’t had experience with that since they were starting college at age 18. And at that age, it’s so much easier because you’re surrounded by peers with free time and common interests.

Finding ways to make new friends is one of the top requests I hear from newcomers – so I hope this can be one solution for them.


Also this week, I checked out the Historic Charlotte program on the history of the old Carolina Theatre, a 1927 building that remains at North Tryon and Sixth streets awaiting a long-delayed restoration plan.

More than 70 people crammed into a meeting room at the Dunhill Hotel to hear Charlie Clayton, a leader in the preservation effort, give an update. The Carolina Theatre Preservation Society is gearing up to launch a drive to raise $2 million to restore the building’s historic details, including curtains, lighting and stenciling on the walls.

Clayton detailed the history of the preservation efforts, which date to the theater’s 1978 closing. “We’ve been trying to save it from the wrecking ball for all these years,” he said. “This town doesn’t like history for some odd reason.”

Having grown up here, I have to agree with him. There is seldom much hesitation before tearing down old buildings. Nobody seems to be batting an eye at the prospect of developers tearing down Hall House on North Tryon Street. It’s currently used as public housing, but the building started in 1940 as a grand hotel – and still has some attractive architectural touches. Its 12-story brick silhouette isn’t like any of our beige skyscrapers.

And I still mourn every day on my way to work as I drive by the ugly parking lot that used to be the the famed all-night Athens Restaurant – it shuttered last fall for Central Piedmont Community College expansion after 45 years in business.

What do you think about Charlotte’s attitude about its history? Let me know.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a Charlotte native, I am saddened by what some people call "progress." My parents, older sister, and grandparents have all passed away. The Eastland Mall I grew up with and loved, as well as the entire east side of Charlotte, no longer exists. The Big A drive-in theatre on Kilborne Drive was torn down (as all drive-in theatres were torn down) and a church is there now. Garinger High is no longer the prestigious school it once was. Even the people I went to school with are gone. I sure hope the newcomers appreciate how Charlotte is now, because it won't be that way for long. I mourn the loss of Charlotte the way it was. I am a stranger in my own land.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When my husband got a job in Charlotte, I was excited at the prospect of moving to a place that had so much history... the "Old South"! I imagined beautiful theaters, plantation homes, and lovely, tree-lined neighborhoods. Some of those neighborhoods are left, but precious little else. The city is shiny and new, but we need to remember and revere the past, too! It's how we got here!What's wrong with these people, that they want to demolish and paint over their history?

7:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In anticipation of this year's city council elections, I've been thinking that there should be a litmus test for council candidates: how will you protect our city's past, in the face of growth, development and "The New?" I'm not anti-growth -- there are too many great examples of cities that have grown AND protected historic places. But in Charlotte, there seems to be very little political will to protect what's old. It has to start BEFORE buildings are in the wrecking ball's path.

3:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband and I are both Charlotte natives. Our first Saturday night date ended with pancakes at 2am in the now defunct Athens. And whenever we had the stressful task of hospital visits, we at least looked forward to the blueberry muffins at Anderson's, which is gone now too. Growing up here, I guess I thought those places would always be there....

3:24 PM  

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