Darnell Ivory was a resident of the Historic West End from 1961 to 1967 during her late elementary, middle school and high school years. She grew up in the McCrorey Heights neighborhood during that time. It was a time of playing hard outside with your friends, hanging out at the Double Oaks Pool, and catching a baseball game at the park. Ivory is now back living in the Historic West End in the Biddleville neighborhood. Although she has fond memories of her childhood in the West End, she did not see herself coming back to live in the West End again. But, the transforming neighborhood and the prospect of building the home she would retire in brought her back.
When she started looking for her current house, her eyes were cast on the Mint Hill, Harrisburg, and Concord areas. Ivory said she just was not satisfied with what they were asking for based on what they were offering. Then her real estate agent made a suggestion that became a light bulb moment for Ivory. “My real estate agent said, why don’t you build on the property you own. So that is what I did. I found a contractor and it took two years to build.”
She moved into her Martin Street property on the lot she had owned for about 20 years in 2016. Owning lots in the Historic West End is part of Darnell Ivory’s family history. The street she lives on is named after her great grandfather James Martin. Martin purchased several lots of land in the Historic West End for his children. Through wills, some of those lots of land have stayed in the family lineage. Ivory’s Martin Street lot is one of them.
Ivory helped to keep the Martin Street lot in the family after overhearing a conversation her mother was having with her aunt. Ivory’s mother was not sure who would continue to maintain the lot and was thinking about selling it to Johnson C. Smith University back in the late 90’s. Ivory stepped in and suggested her mother sell the lot to her. Ivory kept up the lot over the years and saw the neighborhood slowly transform into a place where she could see herself living again. “During the time I was maintaining this property, around 1999, it was not a desirable place to live,” said Ivory. “You could see the drug deals going on. There were unkempt houses that entertained a lot of drinking and gambling. But, things started to turnaround when the gentrification started.”
Had the neighborhood not changed, Ivory would have likely set up a rental property on the lot instead of moving into the neighborhood. She knew it would not be profitable for her to live next to the dilapidated houses with unpleasant and illegal activities going on. She prefers the new house that is being constructed next door. Ivory said, “We have to value what is ours. Sometimes we don’t do that.” Being a stickler for upkeep, Ivory picks up trash around the neighborhood and calls in issues like potholes. She does this because she loves living in the Historic West End and would like to see it look better with upkeep. She would also like to see more amenities come into the area. Ivory explained, “There are not a lot of places for shopping. There is a lack of grocery stores and restaurants. Banking is limited. But, it is better than what it was and there is still room for improvement.”
There are neighborhood associations and neighborhood groups that are working toward guiding these improvements in the community. Ivory is a member of her neighborhood association and is on the board. She often invites her neighbors to come out to the community meetings to share their voice. “Sometimes you have to speak up to hold onto that history (in the neighborhood),” said Ivory. “ Once upon a time I could not live anywhere I wanted. Now that we can live wherever we want to live, so come on and join us. If you can make it better, come on and join us. Just don’t destroy what was already there that was for the good of the community.”