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Restaurateurs running into roadblocks to move historic South End building



CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — A Charlotte restaurant group is working to save a historic building, but parking problems are standing in the way of their vision.

The Tonidandel-Brown restaurant group wants to move a 120-year-old building from South End to Dilworth. Leeper-Wyatt grocery store is one of the oldest surviving retail buildings in South End, despite constant change and development in the neighborhood.

Jamie Brown of Tonidandel-Brown says the company has experience rehabbing old buildings to turn them into restaurants like Supperland in Plaza Midwood. It also operates Haberdish and Growlers Pourhouse in NoDa.

“We’ve watched it change over the years,” Brown said. “One of the most special things we can do for this city and for the growth that we’re facing right now is to do things in a very mindful way to preserve elements of the past.” 

Leeper-Wyatt is a brick building sitting next to Tyber Creek on South Boulevard. It’s scheduled for demolition before the end of the year and is slated to be replaced by a high-rise mixed-use development.

Brown and her husband transform historic buildings into restaurants. They are currently working on a project at an old church on Cleveland Avenue. The group wants to move Leeper-Wyatt to the parking lot. Charlotte’s development code requires 22 spaces for parking. Brown says that part of the puzzle has already been solved.

“We will net out at 22 because we have a lease in place to be able to host us for 10 parking spots,” Brown explained. “So we will have four on site, eight on the streets and then 10 over in an offsite parking lot so that we still net out at that 22 spots. So I think a lot of it is in the semantics of the new (Unified Development Ordinance).”

Some neighbors disagree; they spoke out at the Charlotte zoning meeting Monday night.

“What we have to do is consider people over places, consider the brotherhood and bonds over buildings and we have to think about the impact not just on the 100-year-old building but on the thousands of people who live in that area,” said Benson Okeiyi, a Dilworth resident. 

The Dilworth Community Association is also against the project.

“The project’s location in Dilworth adds to the parking burden already overwhelming the narrow streets,” said Mark Allen, representing the DCA land-use committee. ”You’ve received emails in support but most people who live in the vicinity do not support this as written.”

Brown is asking Charlotte City Council to rezone the area which would allow them to operate the Leeper-Wyatt building as a business. She says she is open to hearing ideas for how to make it happen. 

“It’s difficult to do these kinds of projects because they are so unusual, and it’s requiring a lot of people to work together,” Brown said. “We’re hopeful that we can find a way to move this building in a way that has the least impact on this community.” 

Council will vote on this project in October.

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