Planners: Defining community with signs should be first step
by Kara Lopp
When Shelia Mills-Tate was growing up, Crestdale was an active, connected community. And she’s hopeful those characteristics will return.
The 40-year-old moved from Union County to her native Crestdale community in Matthews just two weeks ago. She was among dozens of area residents who attended a presentation Saturday, July 23 at Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church on the future of Crestdale.
The community is the focus of a planning study thanks to a grant from the American Planning Association. Planning experts visited the town last week to engage local residents and interview experts to help establish a new vision for the historic neighborhood.
“When I was growing up, there was always something going on” in Crestdale, Mills-Tate said, noting the community had its own baseball team and groups from other communities would gather to play games on Saturdays. “When I was growing up, everyone knew everyone, too. We used to come together as a whole. Right now we can’t see it, but hopefully we can get all these developments to come together as a whole; as Crestdale.”
But what, and where, is Crestdale?
Those questions came up during planners’ local interviews.
“There were some people who lived in Crestdale that didn’t know they lived in Crestdale,” visiting planner Ryan Scherzinger said, adding the high participation for the project was “beyond expectations.”
Defining the community through a series of signs is one suggestion planners had for Crestdale. They also suggested community gardens and constructing a “heritage trail” from various points in the community to connect to downtown Matthews and the planned sportsplex and Wingate University campus. The trail also would include signs and information noting Crestdale’s history. Planners also suggested residents form a neighborhood association to better define what is important to them and how they want their community to grow.
The group will issue a final report by the end of September, Scherzinger said.
Crestdale, as the visiting planners put it, “is a community in transition.” Local history suggests that the neighborhood dates to the 1870s as a settlement for freed African American slaves and their families. Since the 1980s Crestdale has also become home to Habitat for Humanity of Matthews, which has drawn families with various cultural backgrounds including those from the Congo and the Phillipines.
Resident Vernell Mills, 63, said she’s eager to see the changes her native Crestdale will undergo. She’s in favor of walking trails to provide connectivity and is hoping for a grocery store within walking distance of the community. She now lives in what was her parents’ house.
“I thank God for me to be able to live this life and see the changes that have been made,” she said. “We’re excited about the future.”
Want to know more?
For more information about the Crestdale project and the grant Matthews received, visit: www.planning.org/communityassistance/teams/matthews/