We asked several leaders in the community, what can make Charlotte even better?

By Cameron Lee

August 18, 2016

What can make Charlotte better? This question continued to resonate in my mind late on a Sunday evening as I scrolled through my Twitter feed. It all started with the familiar question I’ve asked myself several times over the years: how can we make the Charlotte music scene better? There have been a lot of public discussions, meet-ups and forums that discuss these topics, but it’s always difficult to gauge the actual effect it has on the community. How do we reach a broader audience with influential people and community leaders? How do we get more people to ask these questions to create more conversation? Well, I guess we can just ask them, right? So I wrote a list. Wait, I hate lists. But, a recent podcast I listened to discussed how majority of blog readers who say they hate lists, still read them. So, I made a list. This has to be epic, and I have to ask people who I admire and respect, simple but important questions, and it must have readers asking themselves these same questions. An interview wish list quickly turned into an email list, and the emails quickly turned into fervent responses. That list received enough participation that we are now introducing a new article series asking community leaders and notable Charlotte figures, what can make Charlotte better? I guess it’s only fair that I start with myself.

My name is Cameron Lee, Founder of CLTure

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Photo by Brandon Weiner

How long have you lived in Charlotte?
I’ve lived here since 1999. I moved to Charlotte from Germantown, Maryland and, although I hated the city initially coming from a culturally diverse place like Montgomery County, not far from D.C, I’ve grown to LOVE Charlotte.

What do you wish to see more of in the city?
Less eagerness and excitement for new buildings, businesses and restaurants. I’ve lived here long enough to know that a lot of businesses and places with hype have closed down fairly quickly, so it’s kind of ridiculous for people to get super excited about something new, then flip out when it closes within a couple years. It kind of makes people look foolish. Enjoy more places and activities that have stood the test of time and appreciate them a little bit more. There is a lot to discover in Charlotte.

What do you miss the most?
I already miss the Common Market, of course. That place was special to me because it’s where I started CLTure and, in many ways, The Common Market South End inspired it. I also miss Center City Fest. They had some good acts over the years and it was great to see the city come together around music. It had a lot of potential to help make Charlotte a better music city. I hope to be a part of something that helps bring a festival like that back to Charlotte one day. I also miss the Salvador Deli which was like a corner store or bodega for me when I lived in NoDa. Cool patio, and a hot-spot after work and shows from 2008-11.

Favorite Local/Regional bands or rappers?
Well, there is a lot, so I’ll stick with what I’m listening to now: Ancient Cities, Junior Astronomers, Miami Dice, It Looks Sad, Sinners & Saints, Bless These Sounds Under The City, Shadowgraphs, Hectorina, SerfsElonzo Wesley, Sylvan Esso (Durham) and SUSTO (Charleston). I’m a hip hop head so, StereoLoud, Well$, Lute, Deniro Farrar, Erick ‘Lotta’ Lottary, Rapper Shane and Elevator Jay.

Favorite places to hang out?  
I would say Gallery Twenty-Two, Snug Harbor, Triple C Brewing, C3 Lab (always cool events there, also my office) and wherever there is a good concert.

What can make Charlotte better?
I think Charlotte is already great. When I travel outside of the city, I always come back appreciating it more. I do think that diversity is a huge issue in Charlotte. I think companies can do a better job of hiring people with different backgrounds. Breweries and event coordinators can organize more unique and interesting events, and local government, corporations (banks) and organizations can invest more in minority-owned businesses and fun cultural and community experiences. How do we create a healthy community without diversity and unity?

Anthony Hamilton Grammy Award-winning R&B singer-songwriter

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Anthony Hamilton

How long have you lived in Charlotte?
I’ve lived in Charlotte for most of my life. Early in my career, I lived in New York and Los Angeles but Charlotte is always home.

What do you wish to see more of in the city?
It’s always a blessing to have a thriving arts scene. You can never have too much CLTure.

What do you miss the most?
The Coffee Cup! They had good comfort food that reminded me of my childhood.

Favorite local or regional bands/rappers?
Innertwyned is one of my favorite bands on the local scene. They are a great example of the high caliber of talent that you can find in Charlotte.

Favorite places to hang out?
TCB 54 Hundred Bar & Grill. Good food. Good music.

What can make Charlotte better?
Any city does better when it invests in young people. Charlotte is an amazing place. It will continue to deliver great music as long as we nurture talent at a young age.  

Senator Jeff JacksonAttorney and member of the North Carolina Senate.

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Senator Jeff Jackson

How long have you lived in Charlotte?
I’ve lived in Charlotte since 2010. When I moved here, I didn’t know a single person. I had a small, one-room loft in NoDa with basically no furniture. Bed was on the floor. But I loved Charlotte and I wanted to live here so much that I was just as happy as could be in my little space, in a totally new city. Now I’m married, two kids, and we’ve got an actual house. I took a chance on Charlotte and this city has been incredibly good to me for it.

What do you wish to see more of in the city?
I wish we saw more political engagement. This is still fundamentally a corporate town, and I think that brings a reluctance to express political views. Voter participation is too low, not enough people run for office, and to a certain extent people still treat Raleigh as out-of sight, out-of-mind. That needs to change.

What do you miss the most?
For everyone making lists of things they miss about Charlotte, get ready to update them all over again in about five years. Then again in another five. Then again. This city is going to grow and change is coming to every corner. Best to focus on how to grow smart than get too clingy about any one piece.

Favorite local or regional bands/rappers?
I like our street musicians. Walk down Tryon on a day with decent weather and you’ll be amazed how much musical talent there is. Those folks are pretty much the only reason I still carry cash.

Favorite places to hang out?
Whitewater Center. Forget all the hubbub. It’s a world-class spot, and a lot of fun to just hang out and watch folks in kayaks tackle the rapids. I’d put Olde Meck on the list, too.

What can make Charlotte better?
Charlotte is going to be a major player in the global economy. We’re already a financial, energy, and logistical hub. But if we play our cards right, we can become an innovation hub, too. Adding this piece to our economic landscape would bring a new level of dynamism to our city and it would set us apart from a lot of our peers. We want to be a destination not just for major companies, but also for individuals who see themselves starting companies and growing them. We want them to know that if they move to Charlotte, they’ll be among friends. We want them to know that innovation is part of what we do here.

Maureen O’Boyle – WBTV Lead News Anchor  

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Maureen O’ Boyle

How long have you lived in Charlotte?
Was born here a LONG time ago. Moved away for college and didn’t return until 2004.

What do you wish to see more of in the city?
I’d love to see more affordable housing for families struggling to raise up and out of poverty.

What do you miss the most?
Well, I used to play in the forests that are now neighborhoods; I miss the trees. I also miss the dirt bike trails in the area we now know as Ballantyne (boyfriend had the bike not me). I also miss the super cool mid-century modern homes that are no more, they were the homes I dreamed of growing up and living in one day.

Favorite local or regional bands/rappers?
Anything Justin Fedor is involved in, Ancient Cities, his current band is fantastic! He’s always making sure his music does good for this community!     

Favorite places to hang out?
Aside from my house? Hmm….Metropolitan Ballroom for dancing. Foxcroft Wine Bar for tapas..AQUA e VINO

What can make Charlotte better?
We are such a giving community, as long as those efforts continue. I think honestly I’d like to see more movie theaters that show independent films, I prefer the theater experience to the Sundance Channel. Weird, I know.  

Lute – Rap Artist on Dreamville Records

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Photo by Saloan Rochelle

How long have you lived in Charlotte?
I’ve been in Charlotte all 27 years of my life.. born and raised in the West Charlotte area.

What do you wish to see more of in the city?
I wish to see more preservation of the culture, and more unity as a community, as the city grows, despite your background. Because the fact that we are so different is really what makes the city the melting pot that it is. For some reason, unlike surrounding cities like Raleigh, as we grow, we seem to cover up the history or remove places in the community that makes Charlotte or the community what it is.

Also as an artist I’d like to see more support for one another. Togetherness is very important not only as an artist but among the city as well.

What do you miss the most?
What I miss most is community involvement. I remember days where surrounding communities would throw big festivals in the fall just so you could understand what they had to offer or network with those who lived in the area. For example, West Fest as a kid was something to look forward to. And even Hidden Valley had a festival of its own. I can recall days where players from the Charlotte Hornets would come and play pickup games with the kids on the neighborhood courts. People of higher status would pop up in a community despite its problems or issues to show the kids that success isn’t defined by what you look like or where you come from. You can make it right here, at home, if you work hard enough for it. I was the kid looking for that message. I also miss the fact that the city doesn’t seem to pay as much attention to detail anymore.

Favorite local or regional bands/rappers?
I don’t want to leave anybody out but there are a lot of artists around the city and region who are doing incredible things and I have much love and respect for them all. I’ve recently come across a girl named Cyanca and although there’s only two songs on her soundcloud, those two songs have been on the heaviest rotation. When I put people on to her, they always end up thanking me for the new tunes. Keep your ears open, they are out here. It’s very important to support your local artists, you never know who’s the next. The talent here is endless. I love the fact that Charlotte doesn’t have a particular sound because you’re able to get so many genres.

Favorite places to hang out?
Downtown (Uptown) is the place to be.

What can make Charlotte better?
If we actually stopped for a second and took the time to listen. And that goes for everybody, whether it be the government officials listening to the concerns of the citizens or vice versa. Or maybe artists in the city taking the time to listen to other artists. Whatever helps make people in Charlotte listen to one another. Plan with one another, organize with one another. The more together we are, the better off we are. It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, green, gay or straight. A unified community is a hard one to disrupt.

Bruce Moffett – Chef/Owner at Barringtons, Good Food and Stagioni

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Photo by Jennifer Lover

How long have you lived in Charlotte?
16 years. I moved to Charlotte in 2000 to be closer to my son, Christian. I walked into the restaurant where Barrington’s is now, and asked for a job. The owner instead offered to sell me the restaurant. I went back to Boston, changed my mind every day for a month, then decided to take the plunge. At that time, I knew Charlotte had a lot of growing to do, at least in the culinary field, and it’s been wonderful to be a part of it. Since then, I’ve opened two more restaurants, gotten married and had another son. Best decision I’ve ever made, no doubt.

What do you wish to see more of in the city?
Ethnic food. My favorite place is Musashi Japanese Restaurant on Johnston Road. I usually just ask for something off the menu, and they never disappoint. I wish Charlotte had more places like that.

What do you miss the most?
I miss the ocean. Growing up in Rhode Island, water was always right there. And in Boston, it provided a fresh fish supply that chefs dream of. That was one of the biggest shocks when I opened a restaurant in Charlotte. I wasn’t used to not being able to get any fresh fish I wanted. Fortunately, the beaches aren’t too far from Charlotte.

Favorite local or regional bands/rappers?
The Avett Brothers. I’ve been fortunate to see them in concert a couple times at charity events. They put on an amazing live show, and are great ambassadors for North Carolina. Their support of local farmers through the fundraiser for the Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm a few years ago also made me a fan. It’s nice to see them continuing to take care of their community.

Favorite places to hang out?
On my bike, where I spend a lot of mornings, whether it’s around the neighborhood or on one of my longer rides out past the Harris YMCA. It’s my favorite way to start the day before a hectic night in the kitchen.

What can make Charlotte better?
I think Charlotte would be better if we hadn’t torn down so many buildings with charm and history. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that we are growing and that builders and developers are investing in the city, but I wish some of that growth hadn’t come at the cost of unique or historic infrastructure. That’s part of why the city has had a hard time claiming an identity; everything looks and feels so new.

Terrence Richard – Lead Singer of Junior Astronomers

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Terrence Richard

How long have you lived in Charlotte?
I’ve lived here my entire life. It’s been pretty chill.

What do you wish to see more of in the city?
More local support of music and at least one soup dumpling place.

What do you miss the most?
This is more personal but the house I grew up in. It was in Third Ward near Panthers Stadium. My mom had to sell it because they raised the property taxes on her.

Favorite local or regional bands/rappers?
I’ll list a few favorites: Serfs, Lotta, Patabamba, and The Nude Party.

Favorite places to hang out?
My house on Central is pretty tight. My roommate just put in a home studio so we’ve been recording some tunes. We actually just finished recording our 7″ here. That’ll be out in the fall. Besides that, Wet Willies.

What can make Charlotte better?
We’ve come a long way the past few years. I’d say honestly it’s just reaching out to different groups of people and including them in the fun. There’s so many new arrivals in Charlotte that just don’t know what’s going on but want to be a part of what’s happening.

Andy SmithArts Editor at Charlotte Magazine

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Photo by Logan Cyrus

How long have you lived in Charlotte?
Three years. My wife and I are from West Virginia, and we moved to Charlotte on the day after West Virginia Day (June 20) in 2013.

What do you wish to see more of in the city?
Anyone who loves the arts has that big wish list of tangibles: more space for artists, more funding for artists. Aside from that, I just hope people continue talking and rethinking those models of the past. And I’d love to see folks in separate disciplines—and generations of Charlotte culture—in dialogue. What can we learn from an entity like Theatre Charlotte, which now heads into its 89th season? Or On Q Performing Arts, now 10 years old? Even for visual artists (or anyone with a new idea), quite a lot. And of course, more dialogue between artist and audience. All of this is happening already, of course, but more of that. Otherwise: Would love to see more artist-driven projects like Goodyear Arts, using transitional spaces in the city. And keep the public art coming.

And as just a guy who likes cool stuff, I’d like to see more people watch local theatre and bands and dancers and the symphony and other performers and support new festivals. And sorry, I’ll stop now.

What do you miss the most?
Tremont Music Hall and CAST immediately come to mind. But I also long for the places I’ve only heard about and never visited. I think I would have loved The Pterodactyl Club. Or living in NoDa when the galleries were going strong there. When I started writing about the arts in Charlotte, it was important to get a sense of its cultural history and talk to natives or long-timers with perspective. I didn’t want to come here and pretend that nothing happened before I arrived. It’s an exciting time, for sure, but it’s not the first exciting time.

That process gave me a sense of Charlotte nostalgia that I certainly didn’t earn, but it also offered a bigger picture.

Favorite local or regional bands/rappers?
Oh, man. Glad the question is “right now,” because it’s ever-changing. Lately, it’s been The Mineral Girls, Scowl Brow, and Patois Counselors. That Ghost Trees Big Band’s double-7-inch. In terms of hip-hop: Lately, I’ve been revisiting a lot of stuff from Lute, who’s on J. Cole’s label (Dreamville). Love those Pharcyde vibes. Deniro Farrar‘s new one is great, as well.

Favorite places to hang out?
Central Coffee, Goodyear Arts during gallery hours, Legion Brewing, Freedom Park with my wife and toddler, Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find on Saturdays to talk West Coast Avengers with Phil and Brent over and over again, and galleries and museums on the day after a new exhibition opens, so I can really spend time with the work. It’s so much fun to talk to folks at openings, but that follow-up is key.   

What can make Charlotte better?
A natural history museum.

Lesa Kastanas – Writer/Owner at CLTCH

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Lesa Kastanas

How long have you lived in Charlotte?
I’m a native Charlottean, the proverbial unicorn.

What do wish to see more of in this city?
More places to hear more kinds of music. We’re losing our small and medium venues for live music. I also would love to see a vibrant lounge scene in Charlotte, places where you can hear great music and sit and chat with drinks.

What do you miss the most?
Knowing every new place that opens in Charlotte. We’re just too big and too spread out to keep up with all the new things!

Favorite local or regional bands/rappers?
Miami Dice and Rapper Shane

Favorite places to hang out?
I’m a creature of habit, you’ll find me most often at Soul. I also love Bistro La Bon, Central Coffee and the bar at Vivace.

What can make Charlotte better?
Charlotte needs to get better at living with pedestrians and cyclists. There is more neighborhood walking and biking than ever, and in the streets of Charlotte, cars are still king. We just need to get better at cohabitation.

Larken EglestonCommissioner at Char-Meck Historic Landmarks Commission and Western NC On-Premise Specialist for RNDC

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Larken Egleston

How long have you lived in Charlotte?
Charlotte since 2004; Plaza Midwood since 2008

What do you wish to see more of in the city?
Better public transportation system (we are making progress w/ Blue Line/Gold Line/etc, we just have to keep it up), more interest in preserving our historic buildings/neighborhoods, more public art, more affordable/workforce housing that is equitably distributed around the city.

What do you miss the most?
The Coffee Cup (R.I.P.)

Favorite local or regional bands/rappers?
Mr. Invisible, Quill, Sun-Dried Vibes, and still hoping for an Evelynn Rose reunion tour.

Favorite places to hang out?
Soul Gastrolounge, Whiskey Warehouse, and Cajun Queen.

What can make Charlotte better?
Just like America, we don’t need to make Charlotte great, it’s already great! If we want to continue to grow and thrive as a city, we need to reverse the regressive policies at the state level that are deterring people and businesses from coming to NC. The only way to do that is to vote for leaders that represent all of us, not just some of us. #RockTheVote November 8th!

Fred Whitfield – President, COO, Minority Owner of the Charlotte Hornets 

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Courtesy of the Charlotte Hornets

How long have you lived in Charlotte?
I’ve lived in Charlotte for the past 10 years and I lived here for a five year period in the late 1990s.

What do you wish to see more of in the city?
I’d love to see more live music venues in Charlotte, much like you see Austin, TX.

What do you miss the most?
The thing I miss most about home is longtime friends that I don’t get to see as often as I’d like.

Favorite local or regional bands/rappers?
I kind of have a local favorite from every genre. I really like Anthony Hamilton, Darius Rucker (Country) and Fifth and York (Jazz).

Favorite places to hang out?
I really like Charlotte’s restaurant scene. Some of my favorites include Illios Noche, Del Frisco’s, Hickory Tavern, The Palm, Sullivan’s, Block & Grinder and Selwyn Pub.

What can make Charlotte better?
Uptown Charlotte has developed so much in recent years and I’d really just like to see it continue. I’d love to see more Uptown Family-style restaurants as well as an increase in Live music/dinner venue options.

Lynn Shanklin Caldwell – Manager at Atherton Mill Market 

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Photo by Aaron Tran

How long have you lived in Charlotte?
I grew up in the area (Rock Hill… I own it) and lived in Charlotte for awhile before I moved to Seattle for seven years. I’ve been back since 1999, and have really enjoyed watching Charlotte transform and grow since then. It isn’t the place I left, and it isn’t the place I came back to.

What do you wish to see more of in the city?
More diversity in our food culture, and infrastructure around food that will provide community resilience. More opportunities for diverse groups to come together and have meaningful conversations. More honest discussions about the effects of progress and gentrification. Less focus on uptown and more on how we take some of that effort and invest into communities east and west of our urban core.

What do you miss the most?
I miss the Common Market in South End already. I miss Café Flavors, the last restaurant I ever worked. I still miss Poplar Street Books. I miss Dilworth Billiards, though I didn’t hang out there much until near the end. I’m sure there are others. I tend to be more of a forward thinker than a wistful one.

Favorite local or regional bands/rappers?
Whew, so many. Katie Oates is my very favorite local singer songwriter. I recently got introduced to Dust and Ashes and I LOVE them. Possibly a little bit obsessed. Love Charlie Elberson and Small Time Joe. And I will always, always seek out Mike Strauss, Bill Noonan, and Bob Graham, no matter what they are doing. And who could not love the Avett Brothers?

Favorite places to hang out?
Earl’s Grocery, Vin Master, Common Market, Evening Muse, The Gallery in South End, 7th Street Market and of course Atherton Market.

What can make Charlotte better?
More risk-takers in every sector, especially when it comes to investing in food-related projects and the arts. More support for small businesses and particularly for food entrepreneurs. More opportunities like Varian Shrum’s Neighborhood Living Room to bring people together, Creative Mornings, and organizations like Playing For Others who make a difference in the lives of young people, who will ultimately determine our future. We all need to think more about who we are, what our gifts are, and how we can give that gift.  

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