Thursday, December 23, 2021

Revisiting Pearl Street Park

Next time you head uptown, carve out at least a little time to swing by the newly renovated Pearl Street Park. This beautiful space, located along E. Stonewall St. just outside of the I-277 loop (across from The Metropolitan complex) is as striking in its design as it is significant in its historical importance. 

In 1943, Pearl Street Park became the first and only public recreation area for African Americans in Charlotte. Located in what was then the Brooklyn neighborhood, it became an important athletic and social gathering spot for the community. You can read more about the park's history here

Over the years since Brooklyn was demolished in the name of urban renewal, the park space has been poorly maintained and offered few amenities to visitors. Mostly, park traffic was limited to Saturday morning rec league soccer games. 

Recently, though, the surrounding area has undergone a transformation with the redevelopment of the adjacent property.  Fortunately, part of the grand plan included a concerted effort to protect the green space, preserve the area's history, and offer visitors plenty of reasons to stop and play. 

A few weeks ago, a reimagined Pearl Street Park officially opened to the public. The space now includes reconfigured multi-purpose fields, pickleball and basketball courts, a restroom facility, plaza areas, a playground, a stationary workout center, and an amphitheater. You'll also find paved walking paths, public art, and a pretty impressive view of the Charlotte skyline. 

Our favorite features are the "Bamboo Jungle" -- a series of poles that create a climbing obstacle course -- and the rope merry-go-round. 

Importantly, part of the reconstruction included "daylighting" the stream that runs through the park. This not only alleviates flooding, but also restores ecological functions and gives park-goers more opportunities to connect with nature. 

Under the amphitheater pavilion, you'll find placards telling the story of Pearl Street Park and its place in our City's history. Take a minute to linger here. Pivoting from the wall to the park, you might just be struck by the diversity of folks now enjoying the space. 

The last time we went, with the park's backstory fresh on my mind, I marveled at the mix of kids and families -- people of all ages and colors -- playing together on the playground. It was a poignant and powerful reminder of the evolution of the park and what it has meant to its visitors over the decades since it was first built. 

I'm grateful Pearl Street Park has been rehabilitated. It's a true amenity for the area. And to know and appreciate its place in our City's history makes it even more beautiful. I highly recommend a visit. 

As an aside, there's a lovely protected bike lane along Baxter St. If you visit, consider cycling over to try it out. 

How to get there: 
Pearl Street Park is located at 1200 Baxter St., Charlotte, NC 28202. Parking is available on street.   

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