Feb 14, 2023 - Development

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles demolishes her McCrorey Heights home

Photo: Laura Barrero/Axios Charlotte

Editor’s note: Demolition began on Wednesday, Feb. 15, on Lyles’ McCrorey Heights home. 

Mayor Vi Lyles is demolishing a home she owns in McCrorey Heights — a move that’s upsetting neighbors given the home’s deep history.

What’s happening: A petition to revoke the demolition of the well-known Heard home at 1623 Madison Ave. was recently created to preserve the property’s legacy in the historic McCrorey Heights neighborhood.

Why it matters: McCrorey Heights rose to prominence as the preferred neighborhood of Charlotte’s Black upper middle class in the 1950s and 1960s, filling with doctors, attorneys, ministers, bankers, politicians, professors and civil rights activists.

  • Businessman and investor Romeo Alexander, Lyles’ father-in-law, once lived in the neighborhood on Patton Avenue.

Zoom out: Lyles’ property was the longtime home of Isaac Heard, Sr., and his wife, Gwendolyn. Isaac Heard was once a prominent engineer and official in Charlotte’s Community Development Office during the 1970s and 1980s, “working to heal the scars of urban renewal,” local historian Tom Hanchett wrote.

  • The home’s carport extension was designed by prominent architect and Charlotte’s first Black mayor Harvey Gantt, per Hanchett. Gantt designed some of the city’s most iconic landmarks.
  • Heard was also involved with local Democratic politics, his son Isaac Heard Jr. tells Axios, including Gantt’s campaign, and they held meetings at the house. When Isaac was around 10 or 11 and supposed to be in bed, he remembers coming into the den and looking into a living room full of people.

Context: In January 2022, Lyles bought the property for $418,500, county property records show.

Lyles says she decided to tear down the home so she can ultimately call it home.

  • After having the home assessed, she noticed there was a significant amount of damage that needed to be repaired. Considering the costs to fix up the home, she realized it was more practical to tear it down and rebuild.

“Change is hard. Think about all these folks that are there. Change is difficult but I know I am committed to this neighborhood. It means a lot to me. I don’t think people have considered that,” Lyles says.

Demolition of Vi Lyles’ McCrorey Heights home on Feb. 15. Photo courtesy of WBTV.

The other side: Heard Jr. tells Axios he sold his father’s home after he died, and he says he chose to sell it to Lyles for less than some of the other offers he received because he wanted someone who would maintain it and be a good neighbor. He said she told him it would be her “forever home” and looked into estimates for some interior renovations.

  • The only major structural issue in the home identified during an inspection was a pillar leaning within the home’s foundation, Heard says. But he says his family had maintained the house all of these years.
  • He only found out about the demolition plans today from a former colleague at UNC Charlotte and Heard Jr.’s son who lives in Virginia and sent him the petition. He said Lyles hasn’t returned a call he made to her about it yet.

“I’m surprised and disappointed,” he says.

“But the house is hers, and I sold the house to her and it’s hers to do with as she likes,” he continued. “But I thought she was gonna do something different, as did the neighbors, because a lot of my concern was for finding a good neighbor for the people who lived around there because my family has been a part of that community since 1957.”

What they’re saying: Many in the community say they’re devastated by the move, given Lyles’ ties to the historically Black neighborhood and her position as the city’s first Black female mayor.

  • “It’s overall sadness. In theory, we feel powerless against greater systems but this is the perfect synopsis of what Charlotte is. We don’t value our history,” McCrorey Heights resident Winston Robinson said.

State of play: W.C. Black and Sons, Inc. filed for demolition days before McCrorey Heights became a historic neighborhood last summer. Under the historic overlay, any demolition of homes must be approved by Charlotte’s Historic District Commission. Now, if new construction is pursued on the site, the commission would need to review the designs and must approve that they’re up to the historic district’s standards.

  • Mayor Lyles excused herself from the public hearing on the McCrorey Heights historic designation in July 2022. She stepped away from the table because, she said, “this is something that is so close to me.”
  • During the final vote in August, she was absent from the meeting.

What’s next: As of now, there isn’t an exact date the demolition will happen, but there are markers outside of the home.

  • According to the permit schedule the process must begin within six months of being filed.
Photo: Laura Barrero/ Axios Charlotte
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