Local business owners, renters react to idea of Opportunity Zones in Charlotte

Local business owners, renters react to idea of Opportunity Zones in Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Businesses around the city of Charlotte are already noticing a lot of change, and preparing for even more.

The city designated 17 areas as “Opportunity Zones," meaning they are eligible for investment funding from the government.

The zones are in areas including East Charlotte, North End and North Tryon, Wilkinson Boulevard and surrounding the airport, Freedom Drive, West Trade Street, Beatties Ford Road and Rozelles Ferry.

Since 1959, Bar-B-Q King has served up fried food on Wilkinson Boulevard.

“There hasn’t been that much change when you really think about it on Wilkinson Boulevard in the last 10-15 years versus other parts of the city,” owner Gus Karapanos said.

He knows change could finally come now that the area is marked an Opportunity Zone.

“New development and new businesses coming on the boulevard," he said. "I definitely think it’s for the better.”

Another West Charlotte corridor could see the same resurgence.

One strip mall along Freedom Drive used to be bustling with business, but now only a few retailers remain.

Maria Labrakis bought the restaurant Beauregard's about 25 years ago.

She's seen Freedom Drive go through ups and downs.

“I think it’s just over the years because of that downfall and things moving out and all of these empty buildings and things that it just gave us a bad reputation," Labrakis said.

Opportunity zones could also affect renters.

Joyce Jefferson is a Queen City native. Her house sits feet away from Wilkinson Boulevard which is making her worry that her rent could go up.

“I wish it wouldn’t go up because it’s already expensive enough,” Jefferson said. “I pay $1,200 already.”

The future is uncertain, but many business owners are seeing the opportunities.

“To do something good with this area!” Labrakis said. “I think it’s absolutely great.”

City leaders are strategizing how to make Opportunity Zones benefit everyone.

Affordable housing is a priority for Mayor Vi Lyles and she hopes to bring it to these areas so people aren’t getting pushed out of the place they call home.

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