Urban Design

Nov 30, 2017
How can we stop design and planning mistakes from damaging our city? Part 2 in a series of illustrated essays on urban design. Commentary from David Walters.
Oct 12, 2017
How can we distinguish between good development proposals and the not-so-good? First in a series of illustrated essays explaining urban design principles.
Nov 23, 2016
Can lower South End survive the large-scale cookie-cutter development now ravaging South End and NoDa? David Walters offers a way forward, based on lessons from Des Moines. Yes, Des Moines. Commentary.
Jul 25, 2016
What would you tell architects that they need to understand about cities? Commentary.
Jul 05, 2016
As a student in 1974, I had no idea Ron Morgan would have such an impact on my life, the lives of many others, and the trajectory of physical form and civic life in Charlotte and the region. Commentary.
Apr 05, 2016
You probably know places you like. And you probably don't know whether they're MUDD-O, R-22MF or UR-2(CD). A new approach to zoning lets us envision places we like and then come up with ordinances that allow us to build them—without the arcane letters we’re used to. Commentary.
Mar 24, 2016
Most of the ideas about SouthPark from a group of out-of-town development experts were what you’d hope to hear: create connections, try public-private partnerships, build a better public realm. But a few comments might raise questions or even baffle some Charlotteans. Commentary.
Jan 20, 2016
Could Charlotte’s SouthPark mall area grow into a place of city-style rather than suburban-style neighborhoods? UNC Charlotte graduate students envision a different look for the area.
Nov 16, 2015
“You're an architect! Can you tell me why all these new buildings are so ugly?” If I earned $100 each time I’ve answered that question in the last few months, I could treat my wife to a vacation in Tuscany. Commentary.
Nov 04, 2015
A proposal working its way through the city zoning process could create something new for Charlotte: a special kind of zoning designed specifically for one neighborhood, in this instance a part of South End that's touting its gold-mining history.
Oct 02, 2015
When the Common Market leaves its South End spot next year, it will mean the loss not only of the market, which can reopen elsewhere, but the loss of its courtyard—a small spot of urban magic of a sort almost impossible to find in the city any more. Commentary
Sep 11, 2015
Charlotte’s apartment boom plus development in popular areas like Plaza Midwood and NoDa are generating questions by residents about why new development looks the way it does and whether it could be better. Yes, it could be better, but that requires a different kind of zoning ordinance. Commentary
Sep 09, 2015
Ten years after devastating floods, New Orleans is proof a city is a hard thing to kill. Roberta Brandes Gratz, in We're Still Here Ya Bastards: How the People of New Orleans Rebuilt Their City, burrows into the city’s revival and concludes small, incremental, community-led rebirth offers the best hope of success.
Sep 01, 2015
As an important block on Camden Road faces likely development, its recent history reveals a complex narrative of a once-derelict area and a man with a vision, and shows how success changes a neighborhood. Commentary.
Aug 26, 2015
When SouthPark mall was built decades ago, it was a suburban shopping mall at the edge of the city. Today it's a booming area with new, mixed-use projects. So why doesn't it feel more like an urban place? Six tips for how to transform SouthPark. Commentary.
Aug 05, 2015
A dedicated Charlotte urbanist confronts a choice when house-hunting: Walkable urbanity in the heart of town, or affordable homes with the assurance of good schools in an auto-dependent suburban area? Commentary.
Jul 13, 2015
The City of Charlotte is offering an official process for building a parklet—a tiny public space perched inside on-street parking places. It's a form of “tactical urbanism,” small projects aimed at improving city life for residents.
Jun 02, 2015
Although originating in British and European concepts, U.S. land use zoning today differs markedly from other countries. A new book explores how zoning codes reveal American values and prompts concern about coming challenges. Book review/commentary. 
Apr 09, 2015
Public health expert Richard Jackson thinks it’s time to stop blaming individuals for the U.S. obesity problem. The problem, he says, is more systemic, including the auto-centric design of daily life and easy access to high-sugar and high-fat food.
Feb 24, 2015
Is tactical urbanism gaining a toehold in Charlotte? Recent events bode well. (Commentary)
Dec 11, 2014
A new kind of zoning code, called a form-based code, can stimulate development or deter it. Will it make approvals even more onerous, or streamline them? Commentary.
Nov 04, 2014
As Charlotte looks to rewrite its zoning ordinance, there's talk of possibly using a form-based code. We interview urban design professor David Walters about what those codes are.
Oct 15, 2014
Urban designers Keihly Moore and Alex Borisenko are proposing a series of urban design retrofits, many of them nominated by readers. Here, reader Eric Zaverl suggests a mural for the Morehead Street underpass near the Carson Street light rail station in South End.  (Images: Completeblocks.com)
Sep 16, 2014
What would happen if Tryon Street in uptown Charlotte sprouted a series of small parklets? You can find out on Friday.
Aug 27, 2014
It was back-to-school week last week at UNC Charlotte, the 1,000-acre campus that sits in the heart of University City, an area that - if it were a separate municipality - would be North Carolina's sixth largest city. What challenges is it facing? (Photo: Martin Zimmerman)
Aug 20, 2014
Urban designers Keihly Moore and Alex Borisenko are proposing a series of urban design retrofits, many of them nominated by readers. Here is a suggestion for Camden Avenue near popular lunch spot Price's Chicken Coop. (Images: Completeblocks.com)
Jul 30, 2014
Urban designers Keihly Moore and Alex Borisenko are proposing a series of urban design retrofits, many of them nominated by readers. Here is a suggestion for Park Avenue in South End. (Images: Completeblocks.com)
Jul 11, 2014
A proposal to re-design South End's bicycle-walking path beside the Lynx Blue Line into an art-filled series of public spaces has won an almost half-million-dollar grant to support creative place-making. (Image: Charlotte Center City Partners)
Jul 09, 2014
Urban designers Keihly Moore and Alex Borisenko are proposing a series of urban design retrofits, many of them nominated by readers. This North Tryon Street parklet is the latest idea.
Jun 27, 2014
The city faces important decisions about its Eastland Mall property, and the future of east Charlotte. But the city's vision could be undermined by an upcoming rezoning. Commentary. (Photo: Nancy Pierce)
Jun 18, 2014
When one Charlotte City Council member expressed concerns about pedestrian safety in South End, other council members chimed in with complaints from around the city. (Photo: Nancy Pierce)
Jun 16, 2014
The newly opened Romare Bearden park has some of the best skyline views in Charlotte. The concrete parking deck at the corner of Church and Third streets can detract from those views. This week's imagined urban retrofit, from planner Dylan McKnight, suggests urban wall art for a more interesting view from the park. (Image: CompleteBlocks.com)
May 21, 2014
The Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia area ranks 10th most dangerous metro for pedestrians, according to a study, Dangerous by Design, released this week by the National Complete Streets Coalition and Smart Growth America. (Photo: Nancy Pierce)
May 20, 2014
Burnsville and Morganton beat out Charlotte-area places to become the 2014 People's Choice winners in the APA-NC's "Great Places in N.C." contest. (Photo: Linda Brown)
May 08, 2014
Charlotte's Windy Ridge neighborhood has drawn extensive publicity as an extreme example of a neighborhood "built to fail." In a new article for an academic journal, three UNC Charlotte researchers conclude that one factor in its failure was Charlotte's "growth-machine" culture. A Q-and-A interview. (Photo: Josh MCann)
Apr 30, 2014
From now through May 9, the public can vote from among four Charlotte-area places as part of the Great Places in N.C. contest from the N.C Chapter of the American Planning Association. (Photo: John Chesser)
Apr 16, 2014
When you list the many people in Charlotte who've been prodding the city and region to grow in a more urban way, UNC Charlotte's David Walters should be among those at the top of that list. Next month, he'll retire from teaching. (Photo courtesy David Walters)
Apr 09, 2014
PlanCharlotte.org invites readers to nominate spots in the Charlotte region that need a design makeover. This week's suggestion: re-connect neighborhoods along Independence Boulevard. (Image: Completeblocks.com)
Apr 02, 2014
For PlanCharlotte's second anniversary, we're asking readers to nominate spots in the Charlotte region that need a design makeover. This week, we head north to Davidson. (Image: Completeblocks.com)
Mar 26, 2014
Imagine a Gold Museum, homes, stores, offices – even a bowling alley and skateboard park – in a corner of South End. That's the vision of business and property owners in the area, which they've dubbed the Gold District. (Image: Stephen Overcash)
Mar 25, 2014
For the past two years, PlanCharlotte.org has sponsored neighborhood walks encouraging folks to get to know their places better, in honor of urban activist Jane Jacobs. This year we're expanding into a festival of six Jane’s Walks May 2-4, in partnership with Janeswalk.org and with funding from the Knight Foundation. (Photo: Mary Newsom)
Mar 21, 2014
In honor of our second anniversary, PlanCharlotte.org is asking readers to nominate spots in the Charlotte region that need a design makeover. Last week we highlighted spots in Plaza Midwood, along Seventh Street and next to Romare Bearden Park. This week the action shifts to South Boulevard. (Image: CompleteBlocks.com)
Mar 14, 2014
Imagine a spot you think needs a makeover. PlanCharlotte, with urban designers Keihly Moore and Alex Borisenko, invites you to nominate places in the Charlotte region that need some urban design magic. Image: Completeblocks.com
Feb 24, 2014
We know North Carolina is filled with great places. Here's your chance to suggest places that deserve public recognition and celebration. The N.C. Chapter of the American Planning Association wants nominations from the public for Great Main Street and Great Public Place. (Photo: Nancy Pierce)
Feb 12, 2014
The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan applied research institute offering consulting services and public outreach for more than 40 years. We provide research and information to help the public understand the Charlotte region. Through our websites we offer articles and data on a range of issues that could be useful to neighborhood groups. (Image: Dylan McKnight) 
Feb 07, 2014
Charlotte city planners are moving forward with a plan to look - in stages - at revising the city-county zoning ordinance, hoping to finish that multiyear process by 2018.
Jan 08, 2014
An expert in neighborhood walkability will speak Thursday (Jan. 9) at the UNC Charlotte uptown campus. The 5:30 p.m. event will feature author Julie Campoli ("Made for Walking: Neighborhood Density and Urban Form") and a new group focused on transportation choices. (Photo: Nancy Pierce)
Oct 16, 2013
After nearly three decades of hoping for a new park, the Reid Park neighborhood in west Charlotte may be on its way to getting one designed, not by the county, but a student. (Image: Dylan McKnight)
Oct 10, 2013
A key city advisory committee has put off its recommendation on a proposed rezoning for a large car lot near a planned light rail station in University City. The deferral postpones City Council action to December – and a newly elected council. (Photo: Martin Zimmerman)
Sep 18, 2013
One lucky parking spot in NoDa gets to become a park for eight hours on Friday. Volunteers who’ll transform a space on North Davidson Street will ensure that Charlotte once again joins an international list of cities observing PARK(ing) Day. (Image: Keihly Moore)