Is SouthPark actually becoming cool?

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For years, SouthPark has been the antithesis of hip.

Yes, it has its good qualities — beautiful tree-lined neighborhoods, gleaming office buildings, the Whole Foods. Every business within a three-mile radius wants to be associated with the SouthPark name. But cool? Nah.

Call it premature, but I think SouthPark might be turning the corner in this department.

The obvious example is last week’s announcement that Legion Brewing would be opening its second location in SouthPark — giving the neighborhood its first brewery.


Rendering of Legion’s new space – Go_Daddy_Go/Twitter

But you could make the argument that SouthPark’s transition began a full two years ago when Reid’s Fine Foods opened its second location at SouthPark mall. Nestled between national corporate giants, Reid’s added a new splash of local flavor to the area.

Six months later, SouthPark took another leap forward when Yafo Kitchen opened its doors. The Mediterranean street food fast-casual spot quickly became one of Charlotte’s most popular restaurant concepts. Funnily enough, at one point they were working on opening a second location in one of Charlotte’s more obviously hip neighborhoods — Plaza Midwood.


YAFO – new fast casual restaurant in SouthPark

Earlier this year, Sabor — Charlotte’s hottest Latin food spot — opened in SouthPark after originating in Elizabeth. And now South End’s Golden Cow Creamery is opening right next to it.

The moves make business sense. As a concept gets more successful, it can branch out to submarkets of Charlotte where rent is more expensive but the customer base has more disposable income.

It’s happened before. Ballantyne, for example, has secondary locations of Duckworth’s, JJ’s Red Hots, Sunflour Bakery, Viva Chicken, Bad Daddy’s, Midwood Smokehouse and Famous Toastery.

But what’s happening in SouthPark feels different. It helps that at the same time, the city of Charlotte is preparing to pour $10 million into the neighborhood for projects that will make it more walkable and green.

Unlike Ballantyne, SouthPark has more of a well-defined “main street” centered around Fairview and Sharon Roads. SouthPark also has a lot more going on with mixed-use and apartment development. There’s a chance that a few years from now, SouthPark will feel more human and less car-oriented.

I don’t see SouthPark developing much of an arts scene or nurturing a ton of new food ventures. It will always be more staid and corporate than places like South End and NoDa.

But if you consider a place cool if it’s got a lively after-hours scene, quality places to eat and drink, vibrant sidewalks and a growing population — I think SouthPark could get there before you know it.

I guess it will just depend on your definition.

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Andrew Dunn
| @andrew_dunn |