CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The City of Charlotte celebrated the grand opening of The Ritz at Washington Heights on Saturday as a new public gathering space featuring a performance space and plaza, café-style seating, public art, landscaping and a play area.
Officials say the new space is located at Tate Street and Beatties Ford Road, the former site of The Ritz Theater, which was demolished in 1971 after sitting vacant for years.
The Ritz theater is known as the last Black movie theater built in Charlotte during segregation, according to a news release.
Officials say residents of the Washington Heights neighborhood plan to hold movie nights at the new space to commemorate its historic and cultural significance.
“Today’s announcement is proof that the Corridors of Opportunity program is working to resurrect aspects of history and culture along Beatties Ford Road, while gaining support from our private partners,” said Charlotte City Council Member Malcolm Graham, District 2. “I want to thank Lowe’s for the generous grant that provides the opportunity to build a place for families to gather and enjoy a rebirth of arts and culture in this community.”
Officials say The Ritz at Washington Heights was constructed in three months, which is the fastest built City of Charlotte infrastructure project ever.
The project was made possible due to a $200,000 grant from Lowe’s 100 Hometowns initiative and a $50,000 grant from the city’s Corridors of Opportunity program, according to a news release.
Officials say instead of the traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony, the inauguration featured sawing a two-by-four.
“We are proud to be part of today’s project, as it will benefit so many members within our Charlotte community,” said central Charlotte Store Manager Gary McCoy. “This project is part of Lowe’s Centennial celebration and commitment to supporting 100 projects in 100 communities across the nation from community centers and spaces to gardens and food pantries. 100 Hometowns gives Lowe’s an opportunity to demonstrate how we are empowering the possibility of making homes – and communities - better for all, now and for the next 100 years.”
Officials say the transformation of the vacant space into an education and entertainment hub is intended to confront and address social, economic, education, and health disparities as well as preserve the area’s history and culture.
“We are grateful to the placemaking champions – Lowe’s 100 Hometowns Grant and the City of Charlotte Corridors of Opportunity funding, to build an inclusive, innovative, community-driven, equitable public space co-created with residents,” said President of the Historic Washington Heights Mattie Marshall. “We must always remember that any placemaking project must uplift the people with dignity and respect honoring that strong sense of pride and place.”