Pin It
Submit to Reddit
Favorite

Unnoticed Exodus 

Save our middle-ring neighborhoods

When 26,000 people disappear, you'd think someone would notice. In the space of just a decade, that's exactly what happened. Nearly 10,000 white people packed up the moving boxes and abandoned what until recently were solid, diverse middle-class neighborhoods along a four-mile wide stretch of land between Albemarle and Monroe Road. Like clockwork, they were replaced nearly one for one by Hispanic and African-American newcomers. Across the county, in another census tract between Little Rock Road and I-85, another startling transformation took place. In the space of less than a decade, 2,000 white residents fled the solid, diverse middle-class neighborhoods in that area, too.

It's a phenomenon that's occurring in neighborhood after neighborhood in the county's middle ring, the once strongly middle-class suburban space between uptown and the far-flung suburbs. Between 1990 and 2000, a net 26,000 white residents vanished from these middle-ring neighborhoods, a staggering trend that continues today.

It's the classic lead-in to white flight. Just ask the folks in Chicago. First whites fled middle-ring suburbs for far flung suburbs, leaving behind depressed property values and rising crime in the neighborhoods they abandoned. As the blight spread, they abandoned those far-flung suburbs and pressed even further out. Then came blight flight, where middle class African-Americans and Hispanics begin to abandon middle-ring suburbs as well.

So far, nobody here is talking about it, at least not officially. But about a year ago, the Foundation for the Carolinas and the Community Building Initiative began showing a slide presentation to the VIPs around town as part of what they call their "Crossroads Charlotte" initiative. The presentation is basically a load of vague, feel-good stuff about race relations and economic sustainability wrapped around a single graphic that no doubt caused heart palpitations among the old Charlotte types.

That graphic shows the "non-white" population of Mecklenburg County shooting up from 20 percent in 1990 to a projected 45 percent in 2010. Translation: the city is about to hit the white-flight motherlode.

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Parks Helms knows, too. In September, he sent a letter to Joe White, the school board chairman, pleading with him not to add extra seats to Butler High School because it would encourage further abandonment of middle-ring east and south side neighborhoods by middle-class parents concerned about the rapid increase in the number of free and reduced lunch kids at East Mecklenburg High School.

That, however, is only a band-aid, not a solution.

The theory among Charlotte's elite has long been that blight and white flight never befall a city with a strong urban core, and to their credit, they've built a thriving, blight-proof uptown. Problem is, they've all but ignored the suburbs in the process.

Meanwhile, east side residents have spent the last few years begging the city to simply enforce city codes in middle-ring neighborhoods, to no avail. A car abandoned on most uptown streets at 3:30 would be towed by 4:05. Odds are that a car abandoned next to a pile of junk on a front lawn in an east side neighborhood will still be there a year later. I know from personal experience that most neighbors simply give up after about three months of calling city code enforcement with no results.

If you add everything up, the city and the county have pumped over a billion dollars into uptown over the last decade and a half, yet they're currently making a big show of agonizing over a few hundred thousand dollars for a couple of code inspectors as if it will break the city budget. Please.

The fact is that largely ignoring what's going on in middle-ring neighborhoods is already costing us millions, as middle-class whites and some middle-class African Americans throw in the towel and crowd to the far-flung 'burbs in the north and south, then expect us to build them more schools. The phenomenon isn't just some "east side thing." Middle-class whites are even beginning to abandon neighborhoods in census tracts like the one between Monroe and Sardis Roads, which lost a net 508 white residents in the last decade.

If Chicago, Detroit, Boston and Atlanta are any barometer, their next destination will be the suburbs in surrounding counties. As we recently reported, while white enrollment in Mecklenburg's public schools declined by 307 kids over the last decade, in the last four years alone schools in York, Union and Cabarrus counties have attracted an additional 10,000 white children.

The writing is on the wall, folks. At the rate we're going, the middle-ring neighborhoods will be the largely minority, fragile and threatened neighborhoods of the coming decades. With uptown on the rise, we can afford to begin concentrating some of our energy on shoring up the city's middle-ring neighborhoods. Or we can follow in the footsteps of Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta and Boston and wait until it's too late.

Contact Tara Servatius at tara.servatius@cln.com

Pin It
Submit to Reddit
Favorite

Speaking of News_citizen.html, 5.00000

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Creative Loafing encourages a healthy discussion on its website from all sides of the conversation, but we reserve the right to delete any comments that detract from that. Violence, racism and personal attacks that go beyond the pale will not be tolerated.

Search Events

Photo Galleries

» more slideshows
www.flickr.com
items in Creative Loafing Charlotte More in Creative Loafing Charlotte pool

© 2017 Womack Newspapers, Inc.
Powered by Foundation