One day, Elizabeth won’t be the only Charlotte neighborhood known for an active trolley line.
A plan for a revived mile-long trolley route on the west side has been discussed for the last three years and is inching closer to becoming a reality.
Last week Lakewood Trolley, Inc., the nonprofit group dedicated to bringing the project to life, hosted preview rides along the route to drum up support and show the potential of what’s to come.
The future Lakewood Trolley would 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 would 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 has committed it to the Lakewood Trolley project upon completion of the track upgrades.
A firm timeline for the project hasn’t yet been shared and is contingent on a sizable fundraising effort.
Greg Pappanastos, president of Argos Real Estate Advisors and a member of the Lakewood Trolley board of directors, says they will still need 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.
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 last year.