Charlotte’s Historic Hub For Black Business, Walton Plaza, Set To Be Demolished

Charlotte’s Historic Hub For Black Business, Walton Plaza, Set To Be Demolished

A piece of Black history will be destroyed in Charlotte.

The iconic Walton Plaza building that graces the Queen City skyline is being torn down, the Charlotte Observer reports. The first Black-developed building of its kind between Washington, D.C. and Atlanta hosted some of Charlotte’s finest citizens.

It is the first real estate project led by attorney and congressman Mel Watt and was the professional home to Charlotte legends, including Julius Chambers and Harvey Gantt. Now, its demolition is drawing mixed reviews.

Developer BK Partners will build a new property called Brooklyn Village, consisting of 1,243 residential units, including at least 114 designated affordable units, office and retail space, hotel rooms and 2.5 acres of “open space,” which includes a park. Historians and landmark contributors such as Watt and Gantt say the building’s existence held extraordinary significance when there was a lack of opportunities for Black people.

Built in the early 1970s, Walton Plaza provided a space to support Black business enterprises.

“Its construction alone was an act of defiance in a racially polarized time,” Watt said.

Gantt, the city’s former mayor, leased space there for his architecture firm for a number of years.

“It was a first-class space and there was a good measure of accomplishment to see this succeeding,” Gantt said.

The building survived racial trauma and continued to thrive over the years. On Feb. 4, 1971, someone firebombed Chambers’ law office, just days before Chambers and Westside Associates won a bid to build another project named East Independence Plaza.

New Brooklyn Village construction started in early August 2023 after BK Partners LLC purchased the property from Mecklenburg County for $10.3 million, according to WSOC-TV. However, not all hope is lost to keep the Black legacy alive. The new owners include The Peebles Corporation, a New York-based African-American-owned company, and the Charlotte-based Conformity Corporation.

Peebles Corp EVP Donahue Peebles III said the group recognizes the history behind the land but realizes its time for something new, calling Brooklyn Village South “the first step in a long journey.”

“I think that our focus has always been on paying homage to the vibrancy that was historic Brooklyn…something that could approximate what was the city’s main district for Black people,” Peebles said.

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