CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A growing number of businesses along the Monroe Road corridor are moving into old buildings and giving them new life, according to the Monroe Road Advocates (MoRA) group.

The group, which formed to advocate for and connect people along the corridor, says several businesses in the last few years have turned from new construction to these older structures.

What You Need To Know

  •  Monroe Road Advocates say a growing number of businesses choosing old structures, instead of new construction

  •  Citing increased rent, smaller spaces, and other challenges with new construction, business owners say existing buildings offer a better deal

  •  Trend is even popular with professional sports franchise, as Charlotte FC is using a similar strategy for its new headquarters

“During and after COVID, and so, you know, what we saw is that there was a lot of businesses in other neighborhoods that were being moved out, because of pricing, costs. There was just not enough space anymore,” Liz Koerschgen, chairperson of MoRA, said. 

Koerschgen says as Charlotte has experienced a population boom, real estate prices across Uptown and other parts of the city have exploded. The rising prices led businesses to consider existing buildings in other parts of the city, like along Monroe Road.

For example, Tony Ulchar brought his photography store and studio to Monroe Road last year, selling cameras, lenses and other camera gear. He says part of what drew them to the space was the amount of room, vintage feel and store they could tell within the existing structure.

“I guess the phrase is like, we could see it had good bones. So, we made an effort to preserve it, even with some of the holes and things like that in the floor. We wanted to keep all of that. And as we went through the re-finishing process, it reinforced that decision,” Ulchar said.

The Photo Outfitters moved into what used to be an old furniture store, which has changed hands many times over the years. In addition, the space right next to Ulchar’s is currently undergoing renovations to become a new pizza restaurant. 

The corridor advocates at MoRA say they’ve noticed this trend increasing in the last few years specifically, and guessed Monroe Road would be the next area to rapidly develop in Charlotte, which is why they created the organization.

Nestled in between Monroe Road and Independence Boulevard, the ladies at the Picture Project CLT say they also wanted to pick an existing spot and bring it new life.

“We actually just had a customer over the weekend who’s been in this area for years. And they talked about how this — specifically this location — used to be thriving and it kind of went down. And, they were happy to see our studio using this space and bringing new life to this center,” Sharetha Cooper, a co-owner, said.

Cooper and her business partner transformed the old strip mall store into a photo studio with more than a dozen different themed booths, usually hosting bachelorette and birthday events.

“We’ve been in this location for just about a year. We opened December 2021. Prior to that, it had been an empty shell for at least four years, that I’m aware of,” Cooper added.

Development along the corridor is expected in the future. The Charlotte Football Club is still on tract to move into its new headquarters farther south along Monroe Road sometime this spring, according to a team spokesperson.

The Major League Soccer team, about to start its second season in Charlotte, is also renovating buildings in an existing office park.