Martin Zimmerman

City Wise Studio USA


Martin is an urban planner, architect, freelance journalist and principal of City Wise Studio USA, a copy writing, copy editing and communications firmHe has published hundreds of articles and reviews on urban development topics in the Washington Times, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Urban, APA Planning, Blueprints Journal of the National Building Museum, the Charlotte Observer, Build a Better, and other print and on-line media. He has served as the first architect to lead the Office of Facilities Planning for the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (1992-2001) during a period of unprecedented growth for the campus. As ED for the Charlotte Area Bicycle Alliance (2003-2012), he campaigned to redirect the arc of Charlotte's travel culture. Martin is member of Sustain Charlotte's Transportation Choices Alliance, the advisory board to Bike Walk NC, and the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. He travels frequently to cities in the USA, Canada and abroad in search of urban innovation models. His 

vehicle​ of choice has two wheels 
and a bell​.


Zachary Gordon

Principal Planner
Town of Huntersville
704 766-2213


Zac Gordon is a principal planner with the Town of Huntersville, where he is responsible for long range land use and transportation planning. A native of New York City, Zac holds a master’s degree in City and Regional Planning from Cornell University and an undergraduate degree in political science and geography from the State University of New York at Oneonta. Zac is involved in a number of regional planning initiatives in the Charlotte area and currently serves on the Executive Committee for the North Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Association as chair of the Communications and Public Affairs Committee.

Chuck McShane

Director of Research
Charlotte Chamber


Chuck McShane is a doctoral student in the Public Policy program and a freelance writer whose work appears in Charlotte Magazine and Our State. Before joining Plan Charlotte, he was a staff reporter and copy editor at several newspapers including the Charlotte Observer and The Herald of Rock Hill, S.C.


Chuck expects to be awarded his doctorate in public policy in 2015. He has a master's in public administration from UNC Charlotte (2011) as well as his master's and bachelor's in history from UNC Charlotte.


Urban policy, urban history, Charlotte history, higher education policy.

Selena Skorman

Director of Development
Arts Council of Oklahoma City


Selena is the current Director of Development for the Arts Council of Oklahoma City. Selena is a former staff member of the insitute and served as an Assistant Social Research Specialist at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute. Selena’s primary focus at the institute is working on the Charlotte Regional Indicators Project by assisting with the regional database. Her research interests include policy analysis and economics.


B.S. in Economics, Sarah Lawrence College

Carolyn Reid

Urban Designer/Planner


Carolyn Reid is a planner/urban designer with CodaMetrics. She formerly worked for the Lawrence Group, a town planning and architecture firm with offices in Austin, New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Davidson. She worked in policy research and consulting in Washington, DC, and Portland, Oregon before moving to Charlotte in 2012.


Carolyn has a bachelors of arts in architectural studies, from the University of Kansas and a master of urban /environmental planning from Arizona State University.


Planning for smart growth, form-based codes, affordable housing, equitable development strategies

Ken Szymanski

Executive Director
Greater Charlotte Apartment Association
704.334.9511 ext. 108


Ken Szymanski is chief staff executive for the Greater Charlotte Apartment Association and has been in the housing and community development fields for 40 years, including 29 years in Charlotte. He is involved with many aspects of both market-rate and assisted housing, including development, operations, member education and public policy formation. He has served on numerous local housing-based boards, including the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Coalition for Housing, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership, and Charlotte Emergency Housing. His formal training is in city planning, land economics and public administration. He  has worked for local governments in San Antonio, Texas, and Toledo, Ohio. He received the “Fair Housing Hero” Award from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee in 2008, is a registered lobbyist in the North Carolina General Assembly and a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners.


Bachelor’s in urban geography from SUNY-Albany and master’s in city & regional planning from Western Kentucky University.


Housing, land use, and community development

Jacob Schmidt

Former graduate assistant
UNC Charlotte Urban Institute


Jacob is pursuing a master’s degree in geography at UNC Charlotte with an emphasis in location analysis. His research interests include site analysis for development, education impacts on professional sports and education performance. He worked for a software firm Azavea in Philadelphia where he helped to create a tool focused on crowdsource mapping the urban forest called OpenTreeMap. He helped to start a home development company in Minneapolis called Envinsulate where he developed tools to target neighborhoods that met company criteria. He was a research assistant at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute until early 2016.


B.A. in geography at Brigham Young University

Susan Patterson

Program Director, retired / Charlotte
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation


Susan Patterson joined the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in July 2001. She was director of the community partners program in 2005-06 and has been program director for communities in Georgia and South Carolina, in addition to Charlotte. She has worked on the Knight Community Information Challenge team. She retired from the foundation at the endof 2015.


B.A. in communications, University of Tennessee


Diane Gavarkavich

Director of Research Services
UNC Charlotte Urban Institute


Diane serves as the director of research services at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute. Diane manages survey, program evaluation, and needs assessment work as well as serves as the primary grant and proposal writer. Her research interests include data-informed decision-making and the social determinants of health.  Prior to graduate school, Diane was an algebra teacher in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.


Diane holds her Master of Public Health in Health Behavior from UNC Chapel Hill, graduate certificates in Middle Grade Mathematics from UNC Charlotte and Nonprofit Management from UNC Chapel Hill, and her bachelor’s from Vanderbilt University with a double major in Human and Organizational Development and Medicine, Health and Society.


Diane has five-plus years of experience in program evaluation and applied research focusing on public health and education issues.

Charlotte ranked 10th most dangerous metro for pedestrians

It’s not easy getting around the Charlotte region on foot. It can be deadly, too. 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. Last month, Smart Growth America ranked the Charlotte metro as the fifth most sprawling ** in the nation.

Researchers calculated a Pedestrian Danger Index (PDI) for each of the 51 largest metro areas in the United States. The Charlotte metro’s PDI (pedestrian deaths per 100,000/percentage who walk to work) was 111.74, more than twice as high as the national average of 52.1. The annual rate of pedestrian fatalities in Charlotte was 1.65 per 100,000 people. About 1.5 percent of Charlotte area commuters walk to work.

According to the report, 254 pedestrians died on Charlotte area streets in the decade from 2003-2012. Pedestrians accounted for 14.5 percent of traffic fatalities in Charlotte during the same period, on par with the national average.

The most dangerous metros were in the South or West and experienced most of their growth post-World War II, when cities were designed for the car. Retrofitting roads built during this era can be a challenge for local governments, and that in part explains Charlotte's dangerous rank. The study also groups the city of Charlotte with six of its surounding counties. Over the past decade, the city has worked with state agencies to make pedestrian improvements on major thoroughfares where pedestrian fatalities have occurred. The Charlotte Department of Transportation's Complete Streets program, implemented in 2007, won a national award from Smart Growth America in 2009. The American Planning Association cited Charlotte's Complete Streets program as a model for other cities in its 2010 manual Complete Streets: Best Policy and Implementation Practices.

"Rather than just saying pedestrians and bicyclists were to be accomodated, (Complete Streets) made it so they were an integral part of the plan" for each street, said CDOT Traffic Safety Manager Debbie Smith.

The number of pedestrian fatalities in the city of Charlotte rose from from nine in 2008 to 21 in 2012, but fell to nine in 2013. Charlotte's population increased by almost 100,000 people during the same period. Smith says its difficult to say how much street design impacts fatalities in Charlotte.

"When you look at fatalities, there's just no one clear commonality," she said. "You have lots of contributing circumstances like distracted driving."

The top four most dangerous metros were in Florida, led by Orlando-Kissimmee, where the PDI was 244.28. Tampa, Jacksonville, Miami, Memphis, Tenn., Birmingham, Ala., Houston, Atlanta and Phoenix were all ranked more dangerous than Charlotte. The Raleigh-Cary metro ranked 16th most dangerous with a PDI of 100.35. North Carolina overall ranked the 9th most dangerous state with a PDI of 99.8. Nine of the 11 most dangerous states are in the South.

The safest metros for pedestrians, according to the report, were older cities with compact street grid patterns and a high percentage of people who walk to work. Metros with the lowest PDIs include Boston (18.65), Pittsburgh (25.10), New York (28.43), Seattle (26.81), San Francisco (31.44), Minneapolis (32.15), Portland (32.19), Chicago (32.94), Rochester, N.Y. (33.97), and Cleveland (34.39).

Two differences between the safest and most dangerous metros are street design and speed. Pedestrians hit by cars going 45 mph are 11 times more likely to be killed than those hit at 20 mph. In Charlotte, 67 percent of pedestrian fatalities occurred on streets with speed limits of 40 mph or higher. The report recommends reducing traffic speeds through design changes like wider sidewalks, street parking and lower speed limits. The report also recommends strengthening the federal Transportation Alternatives Program and adopting the federal Safe Streets Act, which would require all federally funded road projects to "consider the safety of all travelers, including those who are walking, taking public transportation, bicycling and driving, regardless of age or ability."

Also in the report:
  • About half of the pedestrians killed nationwide during the 2003-2012 period died on arterial roads – those designed to move high volumes of automobile traffic over long distances at high speeds with little delay. Smith said 71 percent of pedestrian fatalities occured on arterial roads In Charlotte.
  • Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and senior citizens had higher rates of pedestrian fatalities than younger people, whites or Asians.
  • 27 percent of fatalities nationwide occurred in rural areas. These were not included in the study results.

** Correction: An earlier version of this article mistakenly said the Charlotte region was sixth most sprawling, instead of fifth.


The Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia area ranks 10th most dangerous metro for pedestrians, according to a study, Dangerous by Designreleased this week by the National Complete Streets Coalition and Smart Growth America. (Photo: Nancy Pierce)