For the past five or so years, we’ve been hunkering down on the other side of the great divide. Don’t get me wrong, we haven’t been sitting inside our houses feeling sorry for ourselves (well maybe a little). We’ve been getting to know everything that the 28206 has to offer. Like the Compare grocery, two Asian Markets, Le’s Bahn Mi, Da Lucky Spot Barber Shop, and the plethora of mom and pop shops and restaurants that are scattered on this side of the light rail.
And we got to know each other. Since we only had two blocks to walk (Ritch Avenue and Benard Street), nearly everyone in our neighborhood has walked round and round and round those blocks for five long years. Until we knew every house, tree, and landmark by heart. And we met our neighbors, which is a good thing. No, actually it’s a great thing. All too rare in today’s busy world.
Then on an early evening last October 25 (I believe it was 6:13 pm, but don’t quote me), everyone’s world changed. On both sides of the great divide.
36th Street was open!!
Say it loud and proud! The Great Wall of NoDa had come down! Hallelujah!
While both 28205 and 28206 residents couldn’t be happier with this reuniting, I wanted to provide a short list of what this monumental change has meant for one resident of the “other side.”
1. We can take evening and weekend walks that are not simply two streets long. For Pam and me, that means seeing, up close and personal, streets and houses that we’d only driven past previously.
2. We can more easily drive to places in adjoining neighborhoods. Whether it’s a quick trip to Food Lion, heading to Amelie’s, or a jaunt over to Plaza Midwood, it’s now much easier to drive 36th Street than to navigate traffic and trains on Tryon Street, Craighead Road, and Matheson Avenue.
3. If we want to go to dinner in NoDa, catch a show at the Evening Muse or The Neighborhood Theatre, have a coffee at Smelly Cat, or attend a NoDa NBA meeting, we don’t have to worry about parking. Our go-to lot had been the YMCA, but that had been a very expensive monthly parking pass. Now we walk.
4. For the first time ever, we’re seeing people walk through our neighborhood from NoDa as well as visitors riding the light rail. While a number of these visitors are just passing through to get to NoDa Brewing, we’re seeing a trickling of new faces wandering up and down our little enclave for the first time. And we love it! Come on over and sit a spell.
5. We’re noticing more and more people following the new NoDa Mural Map (thanks, Matt Alvis) to find the burgeoning mural scene created by Osiris Rain and his artist colleagues at the Hart Witzen annex. If you haven’t been over yet, you’re missing some of the freshest mural art that Charlotte has to offer. And we’re looking forward to a much bigger crowd at the biannual Hart Witzen Gallery Free For All. Again, if you haven’t attended in the past, you’re missing one of the coolest art evenings in the Southeast.
6. Finally, we’ve missed just running into friends while out on a stroll any random evening. There’s something about just happening upon a familiar friendly face while out walking in a neighborhood as unique and beautiful as NoDa.
So as the days get warmer and the sun sets later, stroll over the other side of the tracks and say hello to your Ritch and Benard neighbors. I promise you’ll get a warm welcome.