READ MORE ABOUT OUR STORY IN THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER ARTICLE "A developer broke his pledge to build affordable housing near uptown, a jury found"
“CHERRY…Since 1891…and Still Leaving a Legacy for Generations to Come!”
Who We Are: The Cherry Community Organization (CCO) is a neighborhood nonprofit serving the historic Cherry neighborhood just outside Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina. We are a volunteer-led organization whose primary mission is to continue our nearly five-decade history of providing safe and affordable housing in the Cherry neighborhood.
Our Goal: Raise $750,000. CCO recently won a large jury verdict in an expensive, years-long lawsuit to preserve the neighborhood, but the Defendant, StoneHunt LLC, has just this week filed for bankruptcy which puts our ability to collect on the verdict at risk. CCO is also fighting to regain ownership of land it once owned in the Cherry neighborhood so that affordable housing may be built on it. (See more below about the legal actions). Donations will be used to pay legal fees and expenses we have incurred and will incur in pursuing StoneHunt and others. This is critical to CCO’s ability to carry out its mission to preserve and protect the Cherry neighborhood by providing safe and affordable housing to long-time Cherry residents and new residents seeking affordable housing in Charlotte. In addition, funds will be applied to the renovation of existing historic and affordable homes CCO currently owns and, to the extent funds are available, to build new safe, quality housing that also is affordable to low-moderate income and disabled people.
Photo: 2018. An empty lot on which we hope to build more affordable housing!
How Does This Work? We are a 501(c)(3) organization, and all donations are tax-deductible. As for specific future plans, we currently own 15 affordable single family bungalow homes and duplexes and two vacant lots. Many of these homes were built between 1912 and 1928, and are in need of some renovation and repair so they can continue to serve as a “home” for low-moderate income families. CCO also has its eye on the future and the generations to come who also will call Cherry “home.” Additional housing is needed. The construction cost of a new affordable housing unit in an apartment-style building is at least $109,000 per unit. Each dollar you donate will make a real difference in CCO’s ability to continue its work! Please, Donate Today!
Who Do We Serve? CCO provides affordable housing to low and moderate income individuals and families. CCO seeks to serve families earning less than 60% of the Area Median Income as determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). CCO currently houses 18 tenants and maintains a long waiting list of people in need of such affordable rental housing as soon as possible. CCO is committed to continuing to provide affordable housing – safe from speculators interested in turning a quick profit through destruction of affordable housing in favor of housing that not many people can afford.
PLEASE KEEP READING TO LEARN MORE ABOUT CCO, ITS HISTORY, THE CHALLENGES IT HAS FACED, AND THE FUTURE IT WANTS TO SECURE.
Why Do We Need Your Support? The Cherry neighborhood is a historic African-American community founded in the late 1800s that is one of the oldest communities and believed to be the second oldest black community in Charlotte, North Carolina. It is the first neighborhood in Charlotte platted especially to provide homeownership opportunities for working-class African Americans. Some of the earliest houses were built in 1888, and in the 1950s and 60s it was one of the few Charlotte neighborhoods where working-class black families owned their homes--at one point exceeding almost 70% owner occupancy. Over time, however, absentee landlords began purchasing houses in Cherry and many houses fell into disrepair.
In the 1970s, CCO was founded to preserve and protect the Cherry Community and provide affordable housing to low-income tenants at below-market rates. CCO did this by purchasing and maintaining many affordable properties, and providing social activities and programming to residents, including our own “Meals on Wheels” program. CCO once owned as many as 125 affordable housing units in Cherry.
CCO tried to keep rents affordable for everyone, but doing so was very expensive. Eventually, in 2004, CCO decided to strike a deal with StoneHunt LLC, owned by Stoney Sellars and Anthony Hunt. CCO agreed to sell roughly 90% of its land and properties (more than 7 acres) to StoneHunt in exchange for some money (far less than the fair market value) AND StoneHunt’s promise to build a specified number of replacement affordable housing units for senior citizens, the disabled, and low-income people as part of a mixed-use development effort. This would allow CCO to keep our mission at the forefront despite inevitable redevelopment in the neighborhood. Although some senior housing was built, in 2014 StoneHunt sold most of the land it bought to another developer for millions of dollars. Existing affordable housing was torn down and replaced with houses that have sold for as much as $850,000 – needless to say, none of these homes are occupied by low-income families.
In 2015, CCO fought back – we sued StoneHunt for its breach of contract and tried to get money damages and a return of the last parcel of land StoneHunt owned that was a part of the agreement with CCO in 2004. In July 2018, we won a two-week long jury trial, wherein the jury ruled unanimously in CCO’s favor, and awarded CCO over $1.6 million. However, we have not yet been able to recover any of the money that the jury awarded us. We also are awaiting the results of a second case which, if we win, could force StoneHunt and another developer to return a very valuable piece of land in the Cherry neighborhood to CCO.
Now, just a few days ago, StoneHunt filed for bankruptcy which will further delay the legal proceedings and could prevent CCO from ever receiving anything despite the jury’s decision in its favor.
These lawsuits have been going through the court system for three years and the cost of the lawsuits has depleted our financial resources. We have legal expenses to pay for the successes we have had so far and we will incur additional legal expenses as StoneHunt continues to try to escape its legal contractual obligations to CCO. It could be years before CCO receives anything from its legal success against StoneHunt.
In the meantime, we still have housing to build. A construction expert testified at trial that building the 17 new units of disabled and affordable housing in Cherry (that StoneHunt promised but failed to provide) will cost $1.86 million. We also need to renovate some of our existing properties to keep them in a safe and rentable condition.
That’s why we need your help.
We don’t want our vibrant community to one day be reduced to a plaque commemorating where a historic black community once thrived and prospered.
THANK YOU to our community members and friends near and far for supporting us in our fight for justice and helping ensure that there is a place for EVERYONE in Cherry for generations to come.
Our community has always been about supporting each other and fighting for what is just and right – it is simply “The Cherry Way.” We have a long road ahead, but we have been overcoming adversity since our founding, and we will continue the fight.
WE CANNOT DO THIS WITHOUT YOU!
SOME OF OUR EXISTING AFFORDABLE HOMES:
Photo: 2018. One of CCO’s affordable properties built in 1926.
Photo: 2018. One of CCO’s affordable properties built in 1917.
Photo: 2018. One of CCO’s affordable properties built in 1912.
Photo: 2018. One of CCO’s affordable properties built in 1912.
OUR HISTORY IS ROOTED IN COMMUNITY
“Cherry is a good place to live. I’ve been there since I was 5 years old and I wouldn’t want to go anyplace else. Cherry has been a nice place to live.” Mrs. Virginia Bynum, 90 years young and a resident of Cherry for 85 years. Mrs. Bynum is the oldest CCO tenant.
“Five generations of my family have lived in Cherry. It is a nice place to raise a family.” Mr. Myron Patton
Photo circa 1990. CCO’s “Meals on Wheels” program delivered hot meals to more than 32 homes and also was used to transport seniors to medical appointments, social outings and other events.
Photo circa 1960s. A seventh-grade class graduating from the Morgan School in Cherry.
Photo circa 1991. CCO Board Members in front of Cherry’s model home. The house was featured in the national publication of Operation Push, headed by Rev. Jesse Jackson. The extensive article heralded Cherry’s story of empowerment and its role as a “National Model” for housing organizations.
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- Courtney Thomas