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Excelsior Club redevelopment plans, challenges

Wednesday evening, city officials, community members and other West End stakeholders gathered to discuss the fate of the Excelsior Club.

California-based real estate developer Darius Anderson, founder and CEO of Kenwood Investments, purchased the property in 2020.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Anderson shared plans for the building and one major obstacle to its redevelopment: parking.

Plans for the club

The club in the heart of Charlotte’s Historic West End could soon be redesigned. A community update session on the status of the building shared the early stages of what the historic building could become.

Since the club closed in 2016, many ideas have floated around for what the space’s future could look like, including:

  • a boutique hotel
  • an upscale restaurant 
  • indoor/outdoor performance area
  • a neighborhood event space

The real estate developer has said he wants to re-establish the Excelsior Club as a hub for Black social and political activity. 

The Excelsior Club went from being visited by Louis Armstrong and Bill Clinton to being on a list of the 11 most endangered historical places in the United States. 

Due to the building’s state of disrepair, Anderson said the revamp plan would require the real estate development company to “start from scratch,” – something Anderson said is “tragic.” 

However, the new building would be designed to resemble the current one.

The Excelsior Club revamp is projected to be completed in 2026. 

A parking problem

Wednesday night’s meeting addressed one of the biggest obstacles to The Excelsior Club’s redevelopment: parking — or a lack thereof. Anderson said The Excelsior Club is 15 parking spaces short of meeting the city code minimum. 

And without the 15 additional spaces, the club’s redevelopment project can’t happen. 

Anderson says The Excelsior Club survived as long as it did because of parking options at the Water Works across the street. This option is no longer viable due to post-9/11 security reasons. 

“We don’t have enough parking. So we’ve been looking at solutions. We have not solved them all, but we are very, very close,” Anderson said. 

One solution shared was to dedicate the ground floor of the building to parking. 

“Because there are no parking solutions close by, [Kenwood Investments] needed to go ahead and do this,” Anderson said. “It’s very expensive, but we believe it is the right thing to do.”

Kenwood Investments also considered a parking valet system where visitors could park their cars at a vacant lot close to the building. 

Kenwood Investments is currently working with the city council to find a solution. 

“We want to make sure that we make the right decision not only for the Excelsior Club but for that intersection as a whole,”  Council member Malcolm Graham told QCity Metro. 

Graham attended the meeting with other elected officials, James “Smuggie” Mitchell and LaWana Slack-Mayfield. 

“I feel like we’re this close to having the solution, and as soon as we’ve finished that, then we’re going to go full steam ahead,” Anderson said. 

Vintage hotel

Plans for a “boutique hotel” as part of the new Excelsior Club have been discussed before, but the meeting gave more insight into what it could look like. 

Anderson shared plans for a “1950s” look for the proposed hotel. He said this design would have a “narrative” and “tell a story.”

“The rooms and the decor and all the rest are going to be if you were traveling in the green book and went to the club and then had the opportunity in those days to then go to a hotel,” Anderson said. 

He added that the 1950’s style plans come from his desire to protect  “the architectural integrity” of the building. 

Current plans for the hotel include a restaurant with a museum integrated into its design. 

The developer hired a Black, Detroit-based architect to design the space. 

The history of the Excelsior Club

Founded in 1944 by the late Jimmie McKee, The Excelsior Club was a space for Black social life in Charlotte at a time when Jim Crow laws barred Black people from white establishments. 

It was listed in Victor Green’s Negro Motorist Green Book as a safe place for traveling African Americans to visit.

In recent years, the building fell into disrepair, and its former owner, state Rep. Carla Cunningham, filed papers in 2018 to have it demolished. Because of the building’s historic significance, the demolition date was delayed for over a year.

A historical designation by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission saved the black-and-white building from demolition before its $1.35 million sale to Kenwood Investments. 

Still, despite the purchase, many issues remain in place for the building. In addition to limited space and parking, structural problems included a cracked wall that led to rain damage. 

Anderson said that he will continue to work with West End stakeholders and provide updates on the project. 

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