By: Amanda Caines
Photo by: Arvind Bhandari
Charlotte’s North Davidson arts district’s music venue The Chop Shop is “on the chopping block,” as one writer put it, after would-be buyer and developer Crescent Communities targets the venue’s site for mixed-use development in a March 16 rezoning hearing. According to The Charlotte Observer, the would-be developers have already filed permits for constructions that may include demolition of the existing buildings on that site, including the spaces housing The Chop Shop and The Ultimate Gym. In reality, let’s be clear: the property is not actually sold yet, the plans for new construction are not so clear-cut, and nothing happens until the March 16 rezoning decision. The future of The Chop Shop will be clearer after that.
Members of the music community have been expressing shock and outrage over the Observer article and sharing it via Facebook. Many say that this is just the sort of thing Charlotte does, “ruining what makes NoDa special,” comments Christine Strzepek, a local benefit concert promoter and music enthusiast. Part-owner of The Chop Shop, Tracie Nasta, agrees in a recent statement to The Charlotte Observer:
“I just feel like Charlotte in general is one of those cities where everyone wants to see it grow, and as the city grows, they demand more culture, and then the first thing that Charlotte does is get rid of culture so they can bring more people in and have empty housing all over the place,” said Nasta.
“They just do that to all the small little artsy areas everywhere else. It’s just kind of par for the course for Charlotte, I believe.” — The Charlotte Observer (March 4, 2015)
Many ask questions about what they can do to stop this takeover. Since The Chop Shop rents its space from the property owner, options are limited, but those who wish to protest the rezoning of the property at the March 16 public hearing at the Council Chamber at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center can register to speak at the meeting and say their piece (read instructions on how to register to speak in protest here). Unless someone’s got a lot of cash or a very loud ruckus to make, this deal is highly likely to go through, though, as the NoDa arts district continues its gentrification process. Part-owner Jay Tilyard commented in a recent Facebook post that none of this information has come as a surprise, and he won’t stand in the building owners’ way:
“The land owners gave us a shot with a small window to make something out of an old warehouse. We did. Now the public or money or whatever will decide what happens next. Don’t like it? Vote against the rezoning. I personally won’t stand in the way as the building owners have treated us wonderfully and have held up their agreement to the T. If the community opposes this kind of change then the community must fight for what it wants. NoDa will be just like South End or any other new area with a bunch of modern construction and soon enough a big fat Starbucks. Tis the way of things…”
According to the Observer article, the president of the NoDa Neighborhood Association says the developers have expressed interest in helping The Chop Shop relocate within NoDa, but they have not approached Chop Shop ownership about that subject at this point. Even so, finding a new space that is owned instead of rented might be a better alternative, if available. The Chop Shop’s owners have put tons of work and money into outfitting the space, and it would be a shame for them to have to start over from square one if they don’t get to keep their place on 35th street — there’s always a chance of that with any rental space. Currently the space hosts a cornucopia of local, national, and international talent and events, and musicians and concertgoers, especially, are upset at the idea of its possible disappearance. It is definitely one of the spaces that local musicians love to play. Regardless of whether this sale goes through or not, whether they stay as tenants in the building or not, the spirit of The Chop Shop will live on in some shape or form, says Tilyard:
“If our time comes to an end this year, we will continue on in some fashion or another under this name or another and bring with us the same ideology to a new location or project. nothing is permanent and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to do what i have done and affect so many people in so many positive ways. March 16th will be the determining day… let’s all just wait until we know the facts before we really tear into this subject further.”
This whole business-over-art incident echoes a lot of the anti-musician sentiment of the noise ordinance votes in 2013 that put a damper on live music because of complaints from residents of brand new buildings near decades-old establishments that had patio entertainment. If Charlotte wants arts and culture in its city, which many people claim it does, then its residents must fight to keep these boutique venues and arts outlets instead of demolishing them for parking lots and apartments.