Smithville isn’t the only African American community in North Mecklenburg challenged with preserving history while confronting redevelopment. The Lakeside community in Davidson and the Pottstown community in Huntersville are also experiencing the same challenges because of area growth.
According to Dora Dubose, the African American Coalition (AAC) of Davidson has been the voice of the Lakeside community since 1994.
“African Americans held meetings here in the 1960s prior to the Fair Housing Act,” Dubose said. The community includes Griffith Street, Sloan Street and Potts Street.
Dubose, who said the town has a history of displacing African Americans, said AAC goals include preservation, restoration, rehabilitation, and revitalization. Another challenge is retaining affordable housing in the community while developers continue to build high-end homes.
US Rep. Alma Adams just announced $400,000 for the Town to fund Hoke Townhomes Development, an affordable housing development. Dubose wants resources to educate and upfit her community to fight gentrification.
The Pottstown community occupies land from Holbrook Road to Dellwood Drive in Huntersville where the original landowners—mostly farmers—built their homes up until about the 1970s.
Like Smithville, Pottstown is home to a Rosenwald School, the Torrence Lytle High School.
From 1937-1966, Torrence Lytle was the only high school to serve African Americans in North Mecklenburg. (Tyson and Regina Bates recently filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the Charlotte Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission. The Bateses say the Commission denied their offer to purchase Torrence-Lytle twice without explanation then quoted lower prices to prospective white buyers.)
“In 2015, the community united to save the gymnasium, the David B. Waymer Center,” Varona Wynn said. In 2019, the county spent close to $3 million to restore and renovate the 17,000 square foot center. The neighborhood was annexed in 1987, however Wynn said there was no infrastructure improvements until the community approached the town for assistance and there continues to be a void in resources today.
She said the community is currently facing “gentrification because of the Valea Village development. “The Town is aware that we do not want the development and we are asking for funds to revitalize Pottstown by repairing old homes and improving roads,” Wynn said.
The group recently asked the Town of Huntersville for a historical designation.
Members of the three neighborhoods are also working with North Mecklenburg Communities United, founded in 2015 to save the David Waymer Center.
The group’s members are former students of Torrence-Lytle School who reside in Cornelius, Davidson, Long Creek, Huntersville, Mallard Creek, North Charlotte and Derita. Other organizations including the Charlotte Mecklenburg NAACP and Unity in Community North Mecklenburg is also working with the communities. (Article originally published in Cornelius Today)