A version of this story was published in April 2017. It was updated June 14, 2018, with details on the trolley making its way to west Charlotte in the summer.
One day, Elizabeth won’t be the only Charlotte neighborhood known for a trolley line.
A plan for a revived mile-long trolley route on the west side has been discussed for the last four years and is fast becoming a reality.
The nonprofit group Lakewood Trolley, Inc., has just come to a formal agreement to use the historic Charlotte Streetcar 85 along the Stewart Creek Greenway just west of Uptown. The trolley will move to the site in July.
Operation of the trolley line will likely wait for another year or two. The nonprofit will need to raise money to restore the tracks and to build a trolley barn that will be a centepiece of the neighborhood.
But in the meantime, count on Lakewood Trolley to display the streetcar prominently and use it for special events. Last year, Lakewood Trolley hosted preview rides along the route to drum up support and show the potential of what’s to come.
The future Lakewood Trolley will run from Blue Blaze Brewing in the Smallwood/Seversville neighborhoods to Cedar Street in Third Ward.
The route runs parallel to Stewart Creek Greenway, starting at Savona Mill and ending across the street from Draught, located just behind Bank of America Stadium.
It will utilize existing unused tracks formerly owned by Piedmont & Northern Railroad and leased from the NC Department of Transportation.
Unlike the CATS-operated Gold Line Streetcar that runs from Elizabeth to Uptown, the Lakewood Trolley is positioned as more of a historic attraction than a commuter line. It would operate independent of the city’s larger transit system, starting with 3-day service Friday through Sunday.
Five neighborhoods that would be affected by the Lakewood Trolley have endorsed the project — Biddleville, Smallwood, Seversville, Wesley Heights and the Lakewood Community Development Corporation.
The Lakewood Trolley project will pull Car No. 85, a local treasure, back out of retirement.
Car 85, originally retired in 1938, was the last car to run on Charlotte’s historic streetcar tracks. It was later restored in the mid-1990s and ran from South End to Uptown until 2005 when it was replaced by the light rail.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission owns Car 85 and will now be leasing it to Lakewood Trolley.
The project has required a lot of fundraising.
Greg Pappanastos, president of Argos Real Estate Advisors and a member of the Lakewood Trolley board of directors, said last year the effort still needed to raise about $650,000 to complete the project.
That money would cover a depot in Wesley Heights, a terminal at Cedar Street near Bank of America stadium, vehicle preparation, track repairs and equipment and an interior tenant upfit at a Savona Mill building donated by Argos.
It’s unclear how much money has been raised and whether the other parts will come to fruition. Having possession of the streetcar will undoubtedly make that easier.
Lakewood Trolley is part of a larger redevelopment plan for west Charlotte spearheaded by Argos.
The commercial real estate development firm owns Savona Mill, a historic 180,000-square-foot former cotton mill that will serve as the destination hub of the future Lakewood Trolley route. The ambitious vision for the mill and seven other reclaimed industrial buildings on 30 acres includes a market, retail shops, event venues, a kitchen incubator, makerspaces and loft offices.
Blue Blaze Brewing, the Savona district’s first tenant, opened two years ago.