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Varick on 7th Opens in Charlotte!


Video by Caleb Leake

The brisk air was filled with excitement in uptown Charlotte on Tuesday morning, March 26, 2024, as the ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the opening of the Varick on 7th apartment building.  A collaborative effort initiated six years ago by the visionary pastor of Little Rock A.M.E. Zion Church, Dr. Dwayne A. Walker, came to a prolific milestone with this ceremony.

Present to witness the opening of the 105-unit apartment building on the Little Rock campus were religious leaders and laity of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church denomination, leaders of Little Rock A.M.E. Zion Church and the Little Rock Community Development Corporation, Charlotte city officials, Laurel Street developers, and multiple community-neighborhood members and financial partners.  Fifty-two units will be designated as affordable wherein no renter will pay more than 30% of their income toward housing. The other fifty-three units will be at the market rate.  The structure consists of one-, two-, and three-bedroom luxury units in a five-story structure.  Amenities include a fully furnished fitness center, a conference room, somewhat private spaces for remote workers, and an exterior entertainment area with two large smoker grills and a glass gas firepit!

Varick on 7th, the Little Rock Cultural Center, and the Little Rock A.M.E. Zion Church are located on three contiguous lots on 7th Street in uptown Charlotte, extending from North McDowell Street through to Alexander Street. The apartments are within walking distance of the Main Post Office (1 block), about three blocks from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg government center and Health and Human Services Department, and about five blocks from the main (Charlotte Area Transportation System) CATS center.

Seeing the need for affordable housing as large tent cities sprang up all over Charlotte, Dr. Walker shared his vision of expanding Zion’s footprint in uptown Charlotte by providing affordable housing in Charlotte.  He met with the leaders of the Little Rock Church and the Little Rock Community Development Corporation (CDC) to agree to ask the city to donate the land adjacent to the Little Rock Cultural Center to Little Rock to build some affordable housing. The proposal was presented to the church membership, who voted in the affirmative, and on to Bishop George E. Battle, Jr. for approval.  Little Rock’s membership voted to input some of the parking spaces at the rear of the CDC building into the project. In great numbers, members of Little Rock filled the chambers of the city council meeting the evening they were to vote on the land gift in 2018. The vote was unanimous and in the affirmative that the city would donate the land to Little Rock with the proviso that affordable housing be included. The next several years were spent performing land analysis, finalizing paperwork, and securing the developer. 

During the development process, the COVID-19 pandemic arrived and caused everything to cease altogether, and then delays caused by supply chain issues ensued. The groundbreaking ceremony to begin construction took place in the spring of 2021.  In attendance at that meeting was Councilmember Malcolm Graham, who stated the city would furnish two of the affordable apartments once construction was complete and the building was ready for occupancy.

After posting the progress of the building until this ribbon-cutting, Dr. Walker declared, “This is the day the Lord has made, and I will rejoice and be glad in it!”  What an accomplishment, as his vision enlarged Zion’s footprint in uptown Charlotte, NC. He offered a Hallelujah praise to God for giving him the vision to enlarge Zion’s territory in uptown Charlotte and the tenacity to make multiple requests for the city to donate the land to Little Rock to build affordable housing. “We are not meant to be silos,” but partnerships were formed to make this a successful venture. He stated this is a day of thanksgiving as his “dream and vision has become a reality.”  Varick is the name of the first bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in 1822. He declared that we stand on the shoulders of giants of the denomination, which include Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglas, and many others who are among the “great cloud of witnesses” rejoicing in this accomplishment.

Rev. G. Rebecca Warren, Executive Director of the CDC, opened the ceremony with the invocation. Laurel Street President and CEO Dionne Nelson welcomed everyone to the event and gave a brief overview of all that has gone into the successful conclusion of this project. She brought on other partners who contributed funds to the project.  These partners include Barings, whose Head of Private Assets is Mr. David Mihalick, Ms. Tiffany Durr, Senior Director of LISC Strategic Investments, and Mr. Lee Cochran, the Senior Vice President of Laurel Street. They all were present and made remarks at the ribbon cutting. Mr. Randy Freeman gave remarks on behalf of Mr. Carl Daniel, Chairman of the Trustee Board of Little Rock A.M.E. Zion Church.  Mr. Freeman is the vice chairman of the Church Trustee Board and a member of the CDC Board of Directors.

Remarks were made by Bishop Darryl B. Starnes (the 96th Bishop in the line of succession), Presiding Prelate of the Piedmont Episcopal District of The A.M.E. Zion Church, which includes the North Charlotte District to which Little Rock belongs. Bishop Starnes commended Dr. Walker and Little Rock for fulfilling the scripture, as the project offers affordable housing to some who might otherwise be homeless. He blessed the work.

Dr. Walker’s father, Bishop George W. C. Walker, Sr. (the 81st Bishop in the line of succession), retired Senior Bishop of The A.M.E. Zion Church, made remarks and closed the ceremony with a prayer of dedication. Bishop Walker, with divine guidance, had appointed Dr. Dwayne A. Walker as the pastor of Little Rock in 2005. Besides this venture, it was under Dr. Walker’s leadership that the church re-purchased the old church structure, now the CDC, from the city of Charlotte, which had used it as the city’s first African American Museum of History and Culture before the Gantt Museum was built on Mint Street.

Bishop W. Darin Moore, the 99th Bishop in the line of succession, the Presiding Prelate of the Mid-Atlantic Episcopal District, and Missionary Supervisor Mrs. Devieta Moore were present.  Bishop Moore stated that he is “excited for Zion, Charlotte, Little Rock, and his friend of more than 45 years” since he and Dr. Walker met and became friends while matriculating at Livingstone College. Bishop Moore went on to say that this project proves that “faith and community are inextricably connected, and it also uplifts the lives of families from different economic levels as they learn from one another.” The church must “make a difference in the lives of people…what’s preached in church on Sunday must impact the lives of people daily from Monday through Saturday.”  He congratulated Dr. Walker and the leaders of Little Rock on this successful venture between the Church, the community, the city, and developers, which will make a profound impact in Charlotte.

General Officers of The A.M.E. Zion church were present, including Dr. George McKain, Director of Public Affairs, and Mr. Darin Kent, Chief Communications Officer. Presiding Elders present were Dr. Wardell Henderson (North Charlotte District), Dr. Andrew Smoke (Charlotte District), and Dr. Kevin McGill (Concord District).  Dr. Vergil Lattimore, President of the Hood Theological Seminary, was in attendance as well. Clergy and laity from as far away as Greensboro were in attendance to celebrate the addition of this monument to Zion-Varick’s on 7th Street in uptown Charlotte.

City council member-at-large James Mitchell Jr. was present, and Minister Corine Mack, president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Chapter of the NAACP, was in attendance as well.

TO GOD BE THE GLORY, Great Things He Has Done!

Little Rock A.M.E. Zion Church, Varick on 7th, A.M.E. Zion Church, Charlotte, NC, Little Rock Cultural Center


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