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This is a contributing entry for Charlotte's Belmont Neighborhood - From a Mill Village to More Than a Century Later and only appears as part of that tour.Learn More.
In the fall of 1983, Habitat for Humanity built its first Charlotte home in Optimist Park, the neighborhood west of Belmont across from Little Sugar Creek. Habitat is a nonprofit that helps families build and improve places to call home. Habitat supporter President Jimmy Carter was in Optimist Park the summer of 1987 to help build 14 houses in 5 days. In August 1988, the efforts moved to Belmont.

Plant, Flower, Font, Electric blue

For Mother's Day in 1991, Habitat had a bold idea: A crew made up entirely of women would design, plan and build a home for a woman and her teen daughters, who were stuck in a cycle of having to move nearly every year to afford rent. Although the applicant worked in accounting for a local company, her paycheck couldn’t keep pace with rent increases.

Among the volunteers was former first lady Rosalynn Carter and Habitat co-founder Linda Fuller. Women in the trades who had the expertise to handle specific jobs on the project were selected, and they, in turn, taught volunteers how to build a home. Women Build is now a global program of Habitat that builds homes in all 50 states and in 30 countries, but it started right here in the Eastend area of Belmont.

Ultimately, Habitat built nearly 200 homes, not only providing access to homeownership for lower-income families but also increasing homeownership in the neighborhood. One resident indicated she was initially scared to move to Belmont due to the crime. But her desire for homeownership was greater than her fear. Some Habitat homes in the neighborhood are still occupied by their original owners, some have changed hands and have been renovated, and some have been razed to make way for new construction.

Let’s turn around and head back to the east, then turn right, or south, down North Alexander Street to find the Little Sugar Creek Community Garden, a communal food-share effort.

One last item to note as we walk. In the ’90s, residents of Optimist Park, Belmont, Villa Heights and NoDa, collectively called this broader area North Charlotte. They did not call these neighborhoods by their current names. However, the name did not seem to translate outside of the community, as the documented North Charlotte area is generally the current NoDa footprint. A current Habitat homeowner reminisced about North Charlotte and said she just called it home, it's where her children grew up. It wasn't the best area, but they embraced their piece of the neighborhood. Being a Habitat homeowner, she said they weren't really welcomed and has come to realize it was much like when whites began moving into Belmont in the early 2000s. 

As you approach the community garden, look for the medallion on the sidewalk near the entrance.