The new owners of the historic Excelsior Club announced this week they are seeking distinguished Black architects from around the nation to participate in the redevelopment and revival of the club, a longtime epicenter of African-American politics and culture in North Carolina.
The Excelsior Club opened in 1944 as a fashionable nightclub that attracted Black professionals and politicians from around Charlotte as members. It remained a mainstay of the community for decades, until its closure in 2016. By 2019, it had fallen into such serious disrepair that the property was named one of the nation’s 11 most endangered historic places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
To ensure it will serve future generations, Kenwood Investments purchased the Club property in January. The Sonoma, Calif., developer intends to restore the Club to its historic place in Charlotte and, over the next two months, will build what CEO Darius Anderson called a “dream team” of Black architects to develop concepts for the remodeling of the existing Excelsior Club facilities. That will include the design of a boutique hotel to be constructed on the property. Kenwood also is seeking equally creative Black interior designers for the project.
This dream team will work in consultation with accomplished Charlotte architect Darrell J. Williams, founding partner and the owner of Neighboring Concepts, one of the largest African-American owned architectural firms in the Southeast.
Anderson noted that, while the nation’s attention is focused on the removal of racist monuments, we must not lose sight of the truly important Black cultural and historic sites that are being lost forever through neglect, decay or destruction.
“We must do more than preserve and protect them: We need to restore them to their places of prominence,” said Anderson, who has served on the board of the Jackie Robinson Foundation for 16 years. “That’s what we intend to do with the Excelsior Club.”
Interested architects and designers will be able to apply for consideration over the next several weeks. They will be selected based on how their professional backgrounds are suited to this kind of preservation work; their vision for preserving history; how they would complement the local Neighboring Concepts team; and how their concept for the new hotel would complement the historic building. Details are available at https://www.excelsiorclub.com/. Applicants should email their interest and qualifications to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Club
The Excelsior Club was established by James Robert (Jimmie) McKee, who oversaw a major remodeling and expansion of the facility in 1952. That created the Club’s famous streamlined Art Deco exterior, along the addition of ballrooms that could accommodate 300 people. In its heyday the Club was listed in the famous “Green Book” for African-American motorists, and hosted internationally famous musicians including Louis Armstrong, James Brown, and Nat “King” Cole. President Bill Clinton made the Club a campaign stop during his presidential run in 1992.
After it closed in 2016, a demolition permit was issued for the building, which Anderson said would have been a “tragic” fate when so much iconic Black history has already been lost.
“Jimmie McKee was early visionary in protecting and providing equal opportunities for African Americans,” Anderson said. “For more than 70 years, it was the place to be for Black professionals, artists, and politicians thinking about running of office. I fell in love with its amazing history and look forward to restoring this for the people of Charlotte and our nation.”
About Kenwood Investments, LLC
At Kenwood Investments, LLC, extraordinary projects are our passion. Kenwood was founded by Darius Anderson in 2000. The company’s investment focus for more than 15 years has been on real estate development, land entitlement, media, tourism and hospitality projects. Kenwood Investments has a track record of developing extraordinary projects that greatly enhance the communities in which its projects are built or operated, and has specialized during its tenure in projects facing complex hurdles of public policy, land entitlement and pre-venture capital funding. Based in Sonoma, California, Kenwood Investments consists of a team of highly talented individuals who have worked with Darius Anderson for years.