James Mathis is the director of Historic South End, and it's easy to see that he loves the neighborhood he represents. But with light rail running through the middle of a growing area of the city, what's not to love? Here's what Mathis had to say about South End:
How would you describe South End?
South End is a growing, booming neighborhood that was built on transit and continues to thrive with the new light rail. South End has really found a great niche that we are going to continue to support, which is design and design-related companies. We have over 276 design and design-related companies in South End alone. Those are creative, high-paying jobs that every neighborhood [and] city covets. The really important thing now is that South End was never really a neighborhood. But we're about to open over 1,400 new residential units over the next year and half. No one ever lived in South End really; now we're adding the residents -- and we already have the retail to serve those residents.
What is the most eye-catching landmark in your neighborhood?
People say the "Pink Building," but I'd also say the water tower at the Design Center.
What are the top three places to shop in South End?
I love them all equally, but I will tell you the stores along Camden Road are all very successful and have a good visual following -- from American Apparel to Phat Burrito to the K-9 Café. Then you have a lot of great independent retailers along South Boulevard, like EQ3. Those are some of the sweet spots, but we have them everywhere.
Top three places to eat?
We have too many to choose from. It's impossible to pick just three. It's like a parent with their children. I love them all equally, and it is my job to promote them all equally. But I will tell you, I am particularly proud of Nikko's, Mac's and Sullivan's, our steakhouse. And of course, Price's Chicken Coop has been there for a while, so they should get some love.
Top three party spots?
The combination of, I call it, our entertainment and bar district, are all four right together: you have Jillian's, The Gin Mill, Amos' [Southend] and the Tavern on the Tracks. You can hit all four of them. It depends on what you're doing, and that's the great thing about South End. Pike's Soda Shop is popular with the family crowd, and then you have your bars and nightlife.
What's a little-known fact about South End?
Little known fact about South End, I would say that going forward in the future, you're going to see South End as the epicenter of the green-sustainable, green building, green living. We want to be the leader in this city.
Where is the first place in South End you would take a newcomer?
I would probably go down and hit the Charlotte Trolley Museum, the new Powerhouse Museum. Secondly, I'd walk along the light rail and hit the South End Exchange -- it's an antique consignment store that is really cool.
How has the recession changed your neighborhood?
We're just like everybody. Times are tight, but our retailers are joining forces to stay in business and thrive. We have a "shop local" policy in South End. We try to get everybody, if at all possible, when you go to lunch, to stay in the neighborhood. When you need a present for somebody in your family's birthday, stay in the neighborhood. That's sort of our thing. We're going to take care of our own during this period.
Why should people move to South End?
It's the absolute most fun, vibrant, cool neighborhood that is sitting right where the train goes. It's an urban, hip neighborhood that has the advantage today where you can park your car and take the train.
Name one downside to living in South End?
We need a grocery store. How about that? We don't have a grocery store, and we want one bad.
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