Where health and hops coexist 

Neighborhood profile: NoDa

Every Wednesday, hundreds of people dressed in athletic apparel crowd the tap room at NoDa Brewing Company. And while wearing bottoms with an elastic waist band makes a certain amount of sense if one plans to spend an evening drinking beer, the anticipation of an expanded midsection isn't exactly the reason for their attire. Wednesday night is NoDa Brewing Run Club night and all those folks donning shorts and sneakers are there to run a 1-, 3- or 5-mile loop around Charlotte's most eclectic neighborhood.

"We get around 250 people each Wednesday," said Brian Mister, NoDa Brewing Run Club founder and neighborhood resident. "Every week, there are 40 to 50 new runners who come out; it's amazing how much interest the run club has garnered since we started a little over a year ago."

This fusion of two seemingly unrelated things — running and beer — is NoDa in a nutshell. Although the neighborhood, traditionally known as Charlotte's Historic Arts District, lost many of its galleries during the recession, it has still managed to support and promote local artists through creative blends and collaborations. Artists show their work in the area's bars, restaurants and concert venues. Hair salons host art openings. And overpasses are transformed into murals — the one on North Davidson, for example, by William Puckett, depicts the signing of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.

But NoDa is much more than just an arts district these days. It has become a destination nightlife district. On any Friday or Saturday night, North Davidson Street is bustling with groups of young folks sipping local beer at any of the three breweries that have opened in the area; couples dining by candlelight at restaurants like Crepe Cellar; and kids and their parents sucking down fresh popsicles handmade a few blocks away at the King of Pops warehouse.

Speaking of popsicles, the NoDa Brewing runners are also big fans. "King of Pops is right next to the brewery," explained Mister. "A lot of times they come out and sell popsicles to our runners; sometimes they even make pops using the brewery's beer."

Surrounding all this activity are condos and houses — NoDa's neighbors, who couldn't be more receptive and open to the mélange that takes place outside their doors each day. And they're not just interested in bringing businesses and high-end developments to the area. At a City Council meeting last October, dozens of NoDa residents lobbied the City to support an affordable housing project in the neighborhood. Home prices have shot up so much that parts of the working and middle class have been edged out. "Put it in our backyard," said NoDa Neighborhood Association president Hollis Nixon, about the project. "We want the teachers, the firefighters, the policemen."

Other than a few minor issues regarding parking, Mister said that the neighbors are happy and excited to have hundreds of people run through their streets each week. This past June, he helped organize the inaugural NoDa 5k along with the Neighborhood Association and said that a bigger and better race is already in the works for next year. "It's a beautiful neighborhood and when we're out running and see people cheering and kids high-fiving us, [that] makes it so much better."

By Kendrea Mekkah

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