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NoDa: An oral history of an arts district

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Tuman: I felt like I was in a fishbowl initially. We weren't from the neighborhood. We weren't from North Carolina. The neighborhood matriarchs and patriarchs were checking us out. I would say that took a good year. The neighborhood wanted to see if there was a like-mindedness in lifestyle, in being receptive and accepting of different lifestyles, if we were going to be judgmental or supportive.

Lally: When I moved over here, I was still young, so it was the only thing I could afford and it still be nice. I knew it was a cool place. NoDa is its own neighborhood, and it's set off from everything else. I like Plaza Midwood, but you can't live over there for less than a quarter of a million dollars. I bought my condo in 2005. It was still a little bit sketchy. I had my car broken into a couple of times.

The crime spurred Lally and others to form a neighborhood association and work for better police response, something longtime North Charlotte residents found ironic.

Swanson: You know, back in the day, there were clubs and bars on North Davidson Street, and the police would sit out there waiting and watching us. As soon as you stepped out of the door with a cup in your hand, you'd get stopped. But now, look at NoDa — you see people walking around with wine in their hands all the time. That's not right. All of the things that we were doing in the neighborhood was wrong, but now it's OK.

Today

The recession has shut the doors of many galleries, and higher-priced homes have made NoDa unaffordable for young artists wanting to follow the paths of trailblazers like Lyons and Sires. But for the most part, residents remain optimistic.

Lally: It's still a place for artists. They come in the shop all the time. It's a very tight-knit neighborhood. I think it has the potential to be Charlotte's next up-and-coming neighborhood because of its proximity to Uptown. The rail line will help, too.

Sires: When the light rail goes through and we have a station at 36th Street, that is going to energize that whole corridor, and five years from now there's going to be another conversation about how NoDa has changed. I think it's going to have a super-positive impact on the neighborhood.


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