Historic Neighborhood: We Are Fighting For Our Survival

CORNELIUS, NC — Another neighborhood in the Charlotte area is fighting to survive gentrification.

We all know how hard it is to find affordable housing in Charlotte while developers flip homes for hundreds of thousands of dollars,
forcing families who’ve been there for generations to scramble for new homes or apartments.

This time, it could happen in the historic community of Smithville. It sits in the Town of Cornelius.

“We are all on fixed incomes. So, we are really are fighting for our survival,” said Ron Potts.

Potts is 72-years-old. His family has lived in Smithville for generations.

He explains, it is one of the oldest African American neighborhoods you’ll find near Charlotte, where newly released slaves were able to own their first homes.

“They were sharecroppers and cotton pickers,” said Potts.

There’s a church slaves started on the corner, a historic school building where only black children could attend.

Plus, there’s a sense of closeness in Smithville so rare, you’ll notice it immediately.

People will wave at you from porches. They grew up together, their parents and grandparents grew up together.
“My whole family lives here,” said Nachela Knox. “If you just get rid of history or delete neighborhoods like this, then you lose something. I mean, it would be heartbreaking to come back five to 10 years from now, and it doesn’t look like this. Because everybody here is just as important as the people who want to move in.”

Most of the people who live in Smithville are 70 to 80 years old. They’re aging, and some tell me they fear they could be homeless in their later years.

“Absolutely. Yeah, unless some of my friends start helping me pay my taxes year, I am concerned about some of those things, and my neighbors, too,” said Potts.

More than 50 residents took that concern to county commissioners this week.

They’re asking for $3 million to help restore homes and build a senior living spot.

The County Manager’s proposed budget would give them $250,000. Commissioners have until June 4 to give them more.

Community leaders tell me they need a total of $6 million.

They need private donors to take part in addition to the county commission.