South End Rail Trail vision gets boost for art

More than two years ago, the idea emerged from workshops sponsored by Historic South End to plan and develop a new system of parks and public spaces along the LYNX Blue Line. As of last month, the idea of creating more beauty and excitement in the area is closer to materializing.

Charlotte Center City Partners  recently announced that the Charlotte Rail Trail  has received one of 55 grants from ArtPlace America for 2014.The grants, partially funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, are given annually to support creative placemaking across the country.

See more images of the Rail Trail concept here and here.

“The foundation donates to funds that help execute placemaking projects, because we are very interested in community growth,” said Susan Patterson, Charlotte program director for the Knight Foundation. “Some of the factors that contribute to the growth of a community are the addition of walkable trails, public places to mingle and share ideas, as well as accessible art and cultural experiences – which are all amenities that a rail trail will provide.”

According to Center City Partners, the $412,000 grant will support the development and execution of public art along the proposed trail, creating an engaging “linear park” that invites the community to discover new parts of the city’s neighborhoods.

 “We have identified 70 underutilized spaces and would like to turn as many of the spaces as we can into activity areas,” said Cheryl Myers, senior vice president of planning and development at CCCP. “We hope to create a unique destination that connects 10 Charlotte neighborhoods for the surrounding community and visitors to enjoy.”

Charlotte Center City Partners received an additional grant of $20,000 from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Community Foundation, an affiliate of the Foundation For The Carolinas. According to CCCP, this grant will help with designing and creating dynamic public art projects along the Rail Trail. After a selection process, the master public artist will create an arts master plan before additional artists will be chosen to complete the project.

A 4-mile Rail Trail Framework Plan, being produced by the local planning firm LandDesign, depicts a network of seating areas, gardens and attractive spaces stretching along the Lynx Blue Line from the Charlotte Area Transit System facility on South Boulevard through South End and uptown, ending at the yet-unbuilt Lynx station at Ninth Street. The trail, which will be through or adjacent to seven neighborhoods, will be designed to draw attention to cafes, bars, businesses, public artwork and the area’s scenery.

Bill Averbach, owner of Pickleville in the Atherton Market, is an eager supporter of the project because of the economic enhancement he believes the trail will bring.  “I am enthusiastic about the idea of the Rail Trail because more cultural tourism will give Charlotte an even bigger bang for their buck,” Averbach said in an interview Wednesday.

Many nature-lovers are supportive as well. Alethea Rose, who lives nearby and was walking Wednesday on the sidewalk next to the rail line, loves to find interesting paths to travel near her home. “The Rail Trial seems like it will provide an engaging socially active environment as well as help stimulate larger interest in spending more time doing outdoor activities.”

Other community members like Lauren Cox, an artist at Paris Tattoos on South Boulevard, believe the public art along the trail will be captivating, but don’t know much about the project.

Myers said more community presentations will be planned.  She said a community meeting will take place in late August to inform community members about the project and get more input and ideas.

The McColl Center for Art + Innovation and the Arts & Science Council will partner with CCCP throughout the process.

More information is at www.charlotterailtrail.org.


Rachel Prude wrote this article while interning at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute in 2014. At the time she was a student at Howard University.

See more images of the Rail Trail concept here and here.