Neighborhood names have become an unexpectedly emotional topic in Charlotte. But one name in particular seems to elicit the most visceral reaction — LoSo.
Derived from the phrase Lower South End, LoSo is the kind of name that you feel the need to apologize for using. It smacks of trying too hard to be cool.
But here’s the thing: It’s proven kind of catchy.
And LoSo’s dominion is growing ever wider. Olde Mecklenburg Brewery is the older statesman of the neighborhood, established in 2009. They’ve since been joined by Sugar Creek Brewing, GoodRoad Ciderworks, Great Wagon Road Distillery + The Broken Spoke and Queen Park Social.
Soon, this little patch of land will be home to a collaboration between Southern Tier and Victory Brewing, the corporate HQ of SentryOne and Escape Tactic escape room. Nearby, there’s Doc Porter’s Distillery and Red Clay Ciderworks.
With each of these developments, the LoSo name has become more and more ingrained.
But is it too powerful to be stopped at this point? It might be. Here are seven reasons why it might have staying power (and then a few ways the name could be changed).
1) It’s geographically descriptive.
This part of town is distinct from South End but still close enough to it to be related. People intuitively get where you’re talking about when you say LoSo or Lower South End. The name makes sense.
2) There is widespread adoption among the people in the area.
We now have the LoSo Block Party, the LoSo Neighborhood Shuttle, and every press release I get from businesses in the area uses the name as well. If all these breweries, distilleries and cideries don’t like the name, they ain’t saying so.
3) We love the NoDa name.
It weakens the argument against LoSo when you take into account that one of Charlotte’s most widely recognized neighborhood names uses the same sort of contraction.
What’s the difference, really, between LoSo and NoDa — a name that’s become accepted, and possibly even beloved?
“I think everything sounds a little weird at first,” says Ryan Self, director of sales at Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, the founding member of the LoSo community.
He’s right. The “NoDa” name — derived from North Davidson Street — was created by architect Russell Pound all the way back in the early 1990s but was only used by a handful of furniture stores until much later, once the once-crumbling mill village was well into its rebirth as Charlotte’s “Island of Interesting,” as Our State mag put it. Now everyone northeast of Uptown wants a piece of the name.
4) There have been alternatives — but they’ve gained no ground.
The arguments against LoSo are not new. People have been complaining against it for at least two years.
But no new name has become a serious challenger.
One of the top contenders is Queen Park. It has historical bonafides — a popular drive-in decades back had the name, and its old sign now rests by Queen Park Social.
Agenda development writer Jason Thomas made a compelling case for the name two years ago. But the name never got traction.
[Agenda story: Will Queen Park be Charlotte’s hottest neighborhood in 2018?]
5) Charlotte has a history of declaring a name and speaking it into existence.
People continue to grumble about downtown Charlotte being called “Uptown,” but it too is now widely accepted. The City Council and Charlotte Chamber basically just decided that’s what the name would be in the mid-1970s. And it has been ever since.
At this point, the powers that be at the city and Charlotte Center City Partners have adopted the LoSo name. That kind of civic inertia is hard to overcome.
6) Network effects are in play.
As a journalist, my job is to use terms that are the most widely understood. And at this point, for this neighborhood, it’s LoSo.
The more people who use the LoSo name, the more recognized it gets, and thus the more used it will be in the future — no matter if people like it or not.
7) Charlotte’s growing so fast that LoSo will be the way things have always been.
I can see a future, only 5-10 years from now, where the only people who even remember that the LoSo name was controversial once upon a time are the crochety old timers we’ll be by that point.
Now, if you’re vehemently against the LoSo name, not all hope is lost for you. I can still see a path where this neighborhood adopts a new name. It’s much less likely at this point as it would have been two years ago. But it’s still doable. Here’s what it will take.
1) A prominent advocate. This needs to be somebody well known and with skin in the game. This would either be a business owner in the neighborhood, a prominent landowner or an elected official who represents the area. Somebody with standing would need to lead the charge.
2) Businesses to rally around the cause. The effort goes nowhere unless Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, Queen Park Social, Sugar Creek Brewing and the rest of the gang are on board.
3) The establishment to be OK with it. Marketing dollars are effective. If the Chamber and Center City Partners don’t accept the new name, it likely won’t take root.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard “The Brewery District” floated for this part of town. I kind of like the name. It has its flaws, of course: It’s not a descriptor that’s unique to this part of town. It would take time for people to learn that this grouping of breweries is the one that’s titled the Brewery District.
But I could still see it. Maybe.