Charlotte's Optimist Hall: The South's latest food hall

Charlotte isn't a city known as being a stalwart of historic preservation and adaptive reuse. However, Optimist Hall, the latest major adaptive reuse project along the city’s light rail line, is one great exception to the rule.


After the end of the civil war, North Carolina emerged as a textile manufacturing center. In 1892, a mill designed by Daniel Augustus Tompkins was completed just north of Charlotte for the Highland Park Manufacturing Company. The Highland Park Mill No. 1 was one of the city’s largest and longest operating textile mills. Established in 1892, it employed 1,200 during its peak years. After decades of declining operations, the historic industrial site was acquired for redevelopment purposes by Atlanta-based White Point Paces Partners, LLC in June 2016.

The reason for redevelopment as opposed to demolition was a natural one. Characterized by huge open floors, oversized windows, high ceilings, brick construction and thick wood beams, the 19th century space was an authentic structure that could not be replicated.

Following a $60 million of the 150,000 square foot mill, Optimist Hall opened its doors to the public. Now the site consists of 83,000 square feet leased to Duke Energy, 32,000 square feet of outdoor and anchor restaurant space and a 22,000 square foot food hall with 19 vendors, retailers and a brewery. Similar to Atlanta’s Ponce City Market and Tampa’s Armature Works, the mixed use project features elements of the building’s industrial past, including original flooring, fire doors and paint colors.

From Uptown Charlotte, the 650 seat Optimist Hall is located within walking distance of the Blue Line’s Parkwood Station.


Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at