My weekend kicked off with a bang, as the BooneOakley team gathered for Taco Friday. Departing creative, Curtis Petraglia helmed the taco station, while I manned the salsa table. I’ll miss Curtis, but since he’s relocating to Los Angeles, I might see him at some point down the road. You just never know. The tummy-filling fiesta led into a wonderful weekend, punctuated by a screening of Captain America: Winter Soldier on Saturday and a relaxing evening with Wrestlemania 30 on Sunday. (That’s right, I watch wrestling. I’m not ashamed!)
But that’s not what I wanted to talk about today. As I was walking through “Uptown” Charlotte over the weekend, I begin to realize that this city reminds me a lot of Cleveland. Both have a lot to offer, yet when the weekend rolls around, it can feel like walking through a ghost town. That’s because much of their population lives in the surrounding suburbs. However, just by taking a stroll through each of these cities, you can also see they’re making great strides in bringing people back.
From new apartment complexes to redesigned green spaces, Charlotte is not only looking to bring in new business, they want to bring back long-term residents as well. You can’t walk two blocks without seeing the grand opening of a restaurant or a construction crew hard at work on a new facade. Not only that, but Charlotte is also expanding outward to accommodate those who want the feel of the big city, without the noise and congestion. I actually came across several apartment complexes on the city’s borders, each of which offered a café, bar, restaurant or shop on the building’s first floor. When you connect these to the “uptown” area, you create a pathway for people to enjoy all the city has to offer, without having to stray too far from home. I think it’s an idea a lot of people can get behind.
One big accomplishment I have to mention is a retail complex called Epicentre. In my first day here, I was wandering around looking for somewhere to eat. Sure, I’d come across random pizza places and upscale bistros, but nothing was calling out to me. Then, I stumbled upon Epicentre. It was buzzing with life and immediately caught my attention. Almost feeling like an oasis in the desert, it’s a 4-story complex that offers everything from a Gold's Gym and movie theater to a sushi restaurant and bowling alley. I even discovered that it’s connected to the Omni Hotel and Time Warner Cable Arena, making it ideal for travelers and game day enthusiasts alike. I can’t imagine this will be the only one to pop up in Charlotte, as this is exactly what the city needs—options. Plus, if that's not enough, Epicentre even hosts concerts and other events throughout the year. Now don’t get me wrong, “Uptown” has a lot going on, but you can tell that a majority of its clubs and restaurants are either brand new or only a few years old. Epicentre, which brings a plethora of these options together, is merely another feather in the cap of a city that’s on the verge of revitalization.
A similar vision is taking over in Cleveland as well. You can see it in the East 4th St. neighborhood, the redevelopment of The Flats or the soon-to-open “The 9” building. So, while you may not look to either of these cities for their robust nightlife, I feel that’s going to change very, very soon. Both are committed to growing and establishing their downtown areas as the place to live, work and play for years to come.