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Fat City Graffiti

Posted on 5 Jun 2008 by Jason Keath

This entry was cross-posted at DesignCharlotte.org.

The Fat City Lofts developers are sponsoring “The Graffiti Exhibition” on Friday from 6 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. at 3100 N. Davidson St., Suite 104. Visitors can examine graffiti artists’ conceptual ideas for covering a wall of the residential-retail building and vote on their preferences. Five participating artists plan to paint the seventy-foot-tall wall that faces the Uptown skyline. (Read more in the Charlotte Observer).

date: Friday, June 6
time: 9:30 p.m.

Those of you who remember the old venue of Fat City Deli know how unique it was in character and the culture that it helped to foster in NoDa. As Fat City Lofts (more images below) near completion, I am glad to see their proprietors looking for community involvement in paying homage to the old Fat City.

These lofts are by no means a replacement for the original Fat City, and I am not even sure if they will include anything resembling a music venue. However, I think they will be a value-add to NoDa. More young residents, an attempt to retain some of the funkiness of the neighborhood, and more commercial/retail space will only contribute to continued growth in NoDa.

Let’s be honest: once an area becomes hip and funky, the developers will soon follow. In my opinion, the best thing is to do your part in making sure the culture grows with the buildings.

Five artists, including some who painted the original designs on the building, will display their creative concepts Friday night at a NoDa event where people can vote on their preferences.

No matter which design is selected, [Doggett Advertising’s Heather Coggins] said, the artists will work together to paint the side of the 70-foot-tall building that faces the uptown skyline.

Fat City Lofts, which includes 26 condos and 8,000 square feet of street-level retail, is the latest example of the neighborhood’s transition from restored mill houses to commercial and multi-family development.”

source: Doug Smith, Charlotte Business Journal


  1. christian.ryan 6 Jun 2008 at 8:58 AM

    However, I think they will be a value-add to NoDa.

    Yep — using the phrase “value-add” (a corporate neologism if there ever was) certainly works to prove my theory that Charlotte doesn’t “do” gentrification well. NoDa never got a chance to really develop into the vibrant art/culture space it could’ve been before all the yuppies moved in. Everyone I’ve talked to who used to hang at Fat City resents the developers’ appropriation of what used to be an interesting scene just to sell some overpriced condos.
    There’s a constant debate in the street art scene on whether selling your graf is an ethical move as an artist. The street art at the old Fat City was typical of most street art worldwide — immediate, raw, vibrant, and uncensored. In this instance, hiring some graffiti artists to paint your condo developments seems a little out of touch with what the neighborhood used to be. If they really wanted to pay homage to the old Fat City, they would let any street artist bomb the walls and not paint over it (see: The Milestone Club, West Charlotte.)

  2. laura smith 6 Jun 2008 at 10:11 AM

    Yes.… The “gentrification” of NoDa.… wah wah wah. Anyone who REALLY was actually there and remembers Fat City remembers that the proprietor was a greasy asshole who molested drunk guys upstairs. Most people didn’t even want to go there anymore. I have no idea why they would want to commemorate it. NoDa was never THAT cool, it was always half-assed and mainly a bunch of hippie shit. I don’t understand why people can’t stop crying about the “atrocities” to some shitty artists in a shitty neighborhood. Charlotte IS yuppies. And I bet that is pretty crucial for the appearance of a counter-culture. A counter-culture that is mainly fueled by booze and hair dye. Awesome. Charlotte needs another 10 years. Maybe 20.

  3. Robbie 6 Jun 2008 at 4:02 PM

    Whatever your feelings for KC, Fat City still had a lot of positive things going for it that brought people back — the Mad Cow melt, potato salad, great bands and the patio at night, for starters. The Halloween party with the car fire was the last time I went to Fat City. Up until then, I wasn’t turned off by the place.

    That said, I have to agree with Christian about the graffiti. Though, cashing in on pop culture is the nature of corporate marketing. So, it’s not like I’m all that surprised by it. If the builders had not let the remaining, original Fat City facade fall into the street, then there would’ve at least been some “authentic” graffiti.

    Laura is also correct; there was A LOT of shitty art and dirty hippies in NoDa back then.

    NoDa is comparatively still pretty cool. Yeah, Fat City is gone, but I got over that about 4 years ago.

  4. Rob 15 Jun 2008 at 9:47 AM

    Well said Robbie. Very well said. I moved from Charlotte about 2 years ago in part for a girl (now my wife) and in part because I couldn’t shake the feeling that something big and cool was just around the corner in the social scene. For the better part of a decade I felt that way. In that time, I saw some very motivated folks develop some cool scenes. NoDa was one for a while but it was a flash in the pan. The Thomas street area is another example and it held out. There is a very serious lack of people willing to take part in the creation of these places who actually have the motivation and vision to carry them off well. There is no lack of people willing to moan about how Charlotte doesn’t (my apologies Christian) ““do” gentrification well” I couldn’t shake the frustration. The bottom line in this instance is that no one who lives in that building wants to live in the milestone. I can’t blame them; it is a cool place to hang out and is open to unique shows/parties, but it’s a cesspool of an environment. So which will it be then: Street artists given the strong arm by anyone with money, or street artists given a chance to do something in the name of compromised acceptance? Don’t like the options? Raise the money, vote locally, change the scene to your liking or get the hell out and stop wasting everyone’s time.

  5. Chris Stanley 3 Nov 2009 at 2:47 AM

    I know this reply is WAY late, but.…
    To correct a lot of things others have said…
    I now live in Wisconsin and hope to be back in Charlotte very soon. I was a regular at Fat City and miss it because of the staff. Without Neal, Heidi, “Baby” Chris, Joe, Sleepy, and many others the place would not have been the same. As a gay male, I am frustrated by Laura’s statement. When you say KC “molested” guys upstairs you really sound like a homophobic douche. I came out during my years going to Fat City and spent PLENTY of time with KC. He NEVER molested anyone. I’m not sure if you’re a disgruntled ex-patron or ex-employee, but really.…What Fat City represented was a place where any and everyone was welcome and could enjoy good fun conversation (except on live music nights when it was just plain loud)…How many local bands got their first shot there? Too many to count…The vibe there is something I’ve yet to feel again anywhere. My circle of friends back then included my girl Chasity (the black girl whose big chest made her “Fat city…Women please solicit discretely” shirt REALLY emphasize the “discretely”), Jeff (the 300 pond Nascar fan), Will (the Irish anti-establishment, future IRA fighter), DJ (the preppy top-40 fan), Gus (the “good time Greek”) and many others…We would all go to Fat City at any given time and every one of us had an awesome time. I don’t believe there is another place that existed in Charlotte at that time where my diverse group could have gone and ALL had a good time. We were all made welcome and all accepted. Yes there were hippies there! There were also truck drivers, jazz buffs, mag editors, designers, real estate agents, lawyers, grocery store workers, cable installers, bankers, landscapers and many more. The point of all this is…The group that now controls the old Fat City spot should recognize that what made Fat City great was it’s atmosphere, not it’s facade. How about a bar with local and regional music from time to time? Try a deli. Try a gallery of NoDa artisits only. Try an open patio with open fires at night. The more you welcome off-the-wall ideas, the more you resemble the “REAL” Fat City.