CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Time is running out for the Excelsior Club in west Charlotte. It is the first black club in Charlotte, NC. It opened in 1944 and closed its doors in 2016. There was a one-year moratorium set from demolishing the historic landmark.
That moratorium is over on June 12. Sources say the city could come to the rescue, but a financial plan has to be worked out. James Mitchell says at Monday night’s city council meeting, he will refer the fate of The Excelsior Club to the city Economic Development Committee. There has to be a consensus from council to make this happen. Until that plan is figured out - some people are getting nervous.
“I think there is still a lot of hope still left in the building,” the Excelsior Club’s former owner’s daughter, Khristina Cunningham, said. “There is still opportunity for us to do something to create a use for the community.”
Cunningham remembers her father, Representative William “Pete” Cunningham, working hard to keep the maintenance of the club. She says her father would spend many weekends at the club making sure it was being profitable. Cunningham says she remembers events that happened at the Excelsior Club that benefited the community.
“Most memorable for me would be the radio-thons that took place here to fundraise for the Anita Stroud Foundation,” she said. “And that foundation was an after-school center. The money that they raised, they were able to create opportunities and had resources to take these children on field trips, camping trips, museum visits, theatrical performances.”
Cunningham is concerned nobody has come with a solid offer to rescue the building from destruction. She says it would be devastating if the 75-year-old landmark was destroyed.
“I think that it’s a piece of our Civil Rights Movement,” Cunningham said. “It was a place where black people could go when they didn’t have any place to go, and when that changed - it became a place where they could come and continue to better their communities - through political action and music and culture.”
In May, The Excelsior Club was placed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation Endangered Places in the U.S. The hope was since the club made the list, it would motivate a buyer to come forward.
State Representative Carla Cunningham is the owner of the building. She inherited the building after her husband passed away. She hired Steve Robinson, owner of New River Brokerage, to sell it. He says there have been a few offers but no proposals after The Excelsior made the endangered list.
“There has certainly been more interest,” Robinson said. “But I have not received any offers at all since it went on that endangered list.”
Robinson says the owner’s desire is not to replace the club with another business, but things could change if a buyer presented an offer the owner could not refuse.
“She has made it very clear to me that she would so like to see the property restored to its original luster,” Robinson said. “To maintain itself as the icon it has been for so many generations.”
The price tag of the club is $1.5 million. Many think that is too much considering the cost it will take to get the building back up to code. Robinson believes the building is worth the more than million dollar price.
“Is it a signal interchange - yes,” Robinson said. “Is it a four lane road - yes. Is the Gold Line Trolley car supposed to go right in front of it - yes absolutely. Is it on a corner lot as with Sanders Street - yes. So all of those features add to just its aspect of value.”
Cunningham says the clock is ticking. The Excelsior Club was known as the place that attracted famous musicians, a US Presidential candidate, voter drives and a place to fellowship. Cunningham thinks the club can reinvent itself and still be a valuable part of Washington Heights.
“To make it a community center,” Cunningham said. “An event center, a work space - something like that - I think that is very beneficial to the people here.”
Cunningham hopes the city or another community leader will be able come forward and save the club. It’s something her father would have wanted.
“I do know that he expected it to go on,” Cunningham said. “He expected it for the legacy to continue. I know demolishing it is something that he would never want to see happen.”