Selling SouthPark


February 1, 2023

by Sharon Smith

If “SouthPark” was the prompt for a word-association game, players might choose words like “shopping,” “restaurants,” “upscale” or “mall.” All good choices, but none conjures up a distinct image of what is solely special about the dining and retail destination that’s also one of Charlotte’s major office and residential hubs. 

That’s the rub — and that’s where the newly-created SouthPark Community Partners comes in. The economic-development nonprofit manages SouthPark’s municipal service district, which the city council approved last year to generate extra tax dollars that go back into SouthPark. Big picture, SouthPark Community Partners will promote and build SouthPark’s identity. From Arthur’s to Steak 48 and Gucci to Girl Tribe, there’s a lot to like within its 1-mile core. Now it’s time for cohesive messaging.

At its first meeting in April with neighborhood business leaders and residents, executive director Adam Rhew shared updates about new restaurants, construction projects and more about SCP’s plan to build brand and connection. About 50 stakeholders attended, from curious neighbors to real estate brokers and small business owners.

Maddie Chase, director of marketing and experience, drummed up the most excitement by sharing plans for a new six-week concert series at Symphony Park, called SouthPark After 5. Beyond the Summer Pops series performed by the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra and occasional community events, there’s not been a regular draw to the large patch of greenspace bordering Barclay Downs Drive and Carnegie Boulevard on the property of SouthPark Mall.

Rhew says leading SCP is a dream job in his hometown. He’s a natural storyteller, with a journalism background and marketing experience at Center City Partners. Comments from our recent Q&A are lightly edited.

You’re building this from the ground up. What are your main goals this year?

I spent most of my first 90 days doing a ton of listening, making sure I have a good understanding of how stakeholders want us to spend our time and resources. The work is ambitious: developing and launching a new brand and marketing strategy, creating events that enhance the SouthPark experience, and partnering on a vision plan that will shape future investment. And then there’s the work of building the organization itself. 

What types of projects can we expect SCP to shape and promote?

Our work is about deepening people’s connections to SouthPark. That takes lots of shapes — from making it easier and more pleasant to get around to creating emotional resonance.

We’ll champion simple projects, like safer crosswalks, and more complex initiatives that will require us to make bold, innovative moves. Completing The Loop, a 3-mile walking trail, is a priority. It’s a great example of the kind of public-private partnership that an organization like ours is designed to champion. 

You grew up in the SouthPark area and worked for Center City Partners previously. Tell us more about you.

My grandparents bought a home in Beverly Woods when they moved to Charlotte in 1964, and that’s the same house where my parents raised my sister and me, so this area is special. My wife, Gillian, and I have three boys — a 7-year-old and twins who just turned 3 — and I’m always amazed when I stop to think about the transformation SouthPark has experienced across four generations of my family.  SP

Photographs: Michael Hrizuk, Stephen Knaack, courtesy Charlotte Symphony, courtesy Adam Rhew

This story was updated on April 6, 2023.

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