ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Apr 14, 2020
Sitting in a gas station turned into a café and coffee shop along Rozzelles Ferry Road in Charlotte’s Historic West End, J’Tanya Adams, a longtime community activist, spotted a commercial real estate broker who has been working with developers interested in building new homes in the area. The conversation was brief, but packed with news. Adams is founder and program director of  Historic West End Partners, a non-profit which largely promotes economic growth and revitalization. She swapped information with Forde Britt about a potential dog grooming shop and other businesses for several nearby empty buildings along the  street. Such interactions are happening more often in the Historic West End as the historically African American community on the outskirts of uptown Charlotte braces for an anticipated spike in growth and development.
Feb 24, 2020
There’s a growing consensus that if we want to get out of the housing affordability mess we’re in, we need to hear a lot more swinging hammers. Policymakers, developers and housing advocates are all talking about the need to build more, and more of everything: single-family houses, duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes, townhouses and apartments. It’s fast become the conventional wisdom that we need to lower regulatory barriers, streamline the development process and unleash the power of the market on our housing problems by allowing as much density as possible.
Feb 24, 2020
Leaders from across the region gathered Monday in a conference room at Charlotte Douglas International Airport with an ambitious goal: Creating a comprehensive plan for public transit, covering a dozen counties and setting the transit agenda for decades.  Called CONNECT Beyond, the 18-month planning effort by the Centralina Council of Governments is, to put it simply, big. The planning area covers 12 counties, in two states, with 17 different transit systems. Previous transit planning efforts have been focused mostly on one county at a time. The goal here is to come up with a plan to coordinate and prioritize projects, as well as funding requests, across the whole region.  “Twenty years from now, I think everyone is going to look back on this as the jumping-off point,” said John Muth, the Charlotte Area Transit System’s chief development officer. 
Feb 06, 2020
The 2010s in uptown Charlotte were a decade with a split personality, starting with an epic crash and swinging to a huge boom that transformed the skyline and left an enormous mark on the city. At the start of the decade, rusting rebar poked up from the EpiCentre, a reminder of a condo project that never got started. Now, those buildings are full and cranes dot the skyline, picking their way around new towers.
Jan 16, 2020
Charlotte faces a wide range of needs, from affordable housing to more police, bigger parks and better transit, but they all share a similar root cause: growth.  That was one of the main themes at City Council’s annual planning retreat, held this week over four days in Durham at the Washington Duke Inn. There was little anxiety about when the city’s boom might end. Instead, the focus was on ways to manage, change and deal with the side effects of a booming city.  “We’re growing faster than we’re putting in that critical infrastructure around it, and people are feeling the pain,,” said council member Tariq Bokhari. 
Jan 08, 2020
A new, mixed-income housing development is set to take the place of a long-troubled, low-income housing complex in South End.  Brookhill Village is a paradox: An oasis of affordability in the midst of a booming and fast-gentrifying part of the city, but full of run-down units, many of them boarded up and visibly decaying from the street. Developed in the 1950s by the late C.D. Spangler, a wealthy Charlotte businessman, the complex of one-story buildings occupies 36 acres. Less than two miles away, uptown’s skyline glitters on the horizon.
Jan 06, 2020
The Walters-brand piano held a commanding spot for decades in Sue and Dale Riley’s den, on Charlotte’s Wonderwood Drive. They bought it for $75, used, for their daughter Megan to learn on when she was 4 or 5 (she’s 47 now). Even when she was grown and came home on weekends or holidays, the piano, ever in need of tuning, came alive again. Until recently. One bright afternoon on my daily walk, I found the aging upright kicked to the curb.
Jan 06, 2020
HunterWood is fast approaching a tipping point, as new houses replace old. A quick walk around the neighborhood found 76 old houses (built before 2007) and 50 post-2007 houses. On my walk, I found long-time neighbor Jane Stout walking her dog. “The neighborhood is simply recycling. I get it. That happens,” she said. “I just wish the builders could be more sensitive to the surroundings. They seem to be so callous to what a lot of us like about the neighborhood.”
Oct 09, 2019
Development has been sprawling. Places that were once rural now seem urban. Take Fort Mill, S.C., whose population, according to the American Community Survey, has nearly doubled since 2010. Many small towns have grown into bustling suburbs as developers search for large tracts of land to build residential communities. As the population grows, low-cost land and high volume are necessary to meet the regions demand for single family housing.
Sep 24, 2019
Charlotte has a reputation as a car city, but many of its leaders badly want to promote more biking, walking and transit use. That’s one reason an intriguing idea kept surfacing at this week’s City Council Transportation & Planning Committee meeting: Why not take all the cars off a major street in uptown or South End, creating a pedestrian-only space?
Sep 04, 2019
You’ve probably heard a few catchy statistics about Charlotte’s explosive growth: For example, the city’s population grew by 47 people a day from 2010 to 2018.  But did you know that over the same period, the city also grew by almost 1.5 square miles a year?
Aug 29, 2019
The Charlotte Area Transit System took another step towards expanding the region’s transit network this week, with recommendations for how to extend the Blue Line light rail about five miles through Pineville to Ballantyne.  At the Metropolitan Transit Commission, staff presented their...
Aug 23, 2019
Charlotteans often lament how many old buildings here have been torn down, but there are still structures worth saving, along with groups and developers willing to put in the work.  On Thursday, the Charlotte Museum of History announced the winners of its 2019 Historic Preservation Awards. The five honorees, from 27 nominations, include a historic high school gym, a hip, repurposed mill, and historic houses. 
Aug 07, 2019
Breweries, apartments, hip food halls, creative offices, coworking spaces: Charlotte developers keep finding new uses for the city’s old mills. As a post-war, Sunbelt boomtown, Charlotte has garnered a reputation for tearing down its old buildings and replacing them with sterile plaques to make way for the city’s glittering new skyline. But while many once-grand buildings have fallen (Goodbye, Masonic Temple and Hotel Charlotte), the humble, sturdy mill has proved surprisingly resilient. 
Jul 31, 2019
Since City Council approved TOD Article 15 - the new Transit-Oriented Development ordinance - last April, land use consultants, architects, real estate attorneys and other insiders have had ample opportunity to sort out these new rules. As for laypersons, gleaning what they need to know from TOD’s eighty-one page assemblage of definitions, rules, standards, charts and graphics can be a real challenge, despite efforts by staff planners to make the document as jargon-free and user-friendly as possible. 
Jul 23, 2019
It isn’t quite “Risk” or “Monopoly” or even “Settlers of Catan.” But city officials are using feedback from a new board game called “Growing Better Places: A More Equitable and Inclusive Charlotte,” as they craft the comprehensive plan and unified development ordinance that are meant to guide the next two decades of growth. 
Jul 08, 2019
Almost one in six Mecklenburg residents were born outside the U.S., and immigrants make an outsized contribution to the local economy and many key industries.  That’s according to a new study that highlights the substantial role immigrants are playing in Charlotte’s booming growth. Immigrants make up big chunks of the local STEM, construction and manufacturing labor forces,. And they’re far from a monolithic group, hailing from countries around the world. 
Jul 02, 2019
Charlotte’s suburbs are starting to look more like urban areas, and a new study is pointing to the value to be gained from promoting walkable, transit-connected, urban-style growth. Real estate experts have said they’re responding to market pressure: Businesses, workers and residents want to get from home to work to dinner without spending big chunks of their day in a car, and suburban-style developments that cater exclusively to drivers no longer cut it. 
Jun 25, 2019
The year was 1955, but the city’s problems would look pretty familiar to its modern residents. Charlotte was confronted with growing traffic, inadequate transportation options, a lack of park space and the fear that growth was running away without a real, comprehensive plan.
Jun 18, 2019
It’s happening across Charlotte: Apartments, office buildings and restaurants are popping up in parking lots, as dense, mixed-use developments, connected by bicycle paths and walking trails, invade suburbia. What’s driving the shift at some of the city’s most iconic suburban centers?
Jun 05, 2019
Smaller cities and towns across North Carolina are hoping an old, familiar sound will spark new life in their downtowns: The crack of a bat. Four new downtown ballparks with capacity for about 5,000 fans are popping up in the state, and officials are counting on them to draw new residents, breweries, restaurants and vitality. 
Jun 02, 2019
Three counties outside Mecklenburg have now expressed formal - though nonbinding - support for bringing a regional rail system of some kind across the border. That would be a first for Charlotte, where rail-based mass transit has so far been confined to within the city limits.
May 15, 2019
The Charlotte region is taking concrete steps towards building a regional transit system, and, in a local first, the proposed Silver Line could run through three counties. But plenty of big questions remain. Chief among them: Who will pay?
May 14, 2019
It’s a familiar story: A new transit line opens, spurring gentrification in nearby neighborhoods and pushing out long-time residents.  But is that always what happens? New research from UNC Charlotte suggests the story is more complicated. 
May 13, 2019
Is Ballantyne about to become South End, or vice versa? Probably not - but lines in Charlotte that were once razor-sharp are starting to get a lot blurrier.
May 08, 2019
Charlotte is like a teenager in a growth spurt, with development transforming chunks of the city and new buildings popping up on what feels like every corner in some neighborhoods. Can an ambitious new comprehensive plan guide its growth over the next two decades? 
May 06, 2019
We asked a dozen Charlotte community leaders from different walks of life one question: What does the city need more than anything in its new vision for growth? From designing for people instead of cars to building more equitably to not imposing too many regulations, here’s what they had to say. 
Apr 23, 2019
As Charlotte has become more urban and cosmopolitan, grassroots artists and organizations have energized the visual and performing arts. But some say there have largely been two separate arts scenes in Charlotte: One shaped by established arts institutions and the other by a more diverse group of artists and arts organizations emerging outside the establishment.
Apr 23, 2019
As rapid growth and development reshapes Charlotte's urban personality, the cultural arts scene is expanding and becoming more dynamic, as a number of new festivals and venues show. But arts advocates say funding has stagnated, and more is needed to maintain the growth.   
Feb 19, 2019
Nearly five years ago, Amber Lineback bought a bungalow in Charlotte’s Plaza Midwood neighborhood not only to enjoy the eclectic community and its proximity to Uptown, but as a place where her parents might one day live too.
Jan 02, 2019
Journalist Mae Israel spoke with Gravel recently about his ideas for creating more livable cities. His comments have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Dec 31, 2018
As the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2019, we are reflecting on how our history and growth mirror both the region we focus on and the university that nurtures us.
Nov 28, 2018
Imagine it’s 2030 and Charlotte’s popular South End has grown up like other neighborhoods in an increasingly urban and transit-friendly city. What does this area, just on the outskirts of uptown’s skyscrapers, look like? And most importantly, who is living there?
Jul 09, 2018
A new report finds Charlotte and its region are underperforming in many measurements of its local food economy. 
May 23, 2018
As the number of self-storage facilities increases across the Charlotte region, renters can’t always keep up payments. When that happens, their belongings can be auctioned to the highest bidder.
Sep 08, 2017
What would famous urban observer Jane Jacobs advise Charlotte in 2017? We asked local planners and city thinkers.
Mar 29, 2017
If you’re thinking downtowns are dead, you haven’t been paying attention. I recently got an earful of downtown success stories from across the state. Commentary.
Jul 28, 2015
Since I celebrated the launch of Charlotte’s streetcar I’ve cringed as the news media got it wrong and people made fun of it. If more people understood its value to neglected areas and to the whole city’s future, more people would support it. Commentary.
Jun 09, 2015
Is NoDa still Charlotte's main arts district, or has South End overtaken it? UNC Charlotte graduate student Morgan Hamer decided to study the city’s arts clusters. What she found has important implications for the future of Charlotte’s arts neighborhoods. A Q/A interview.
Feb 18, 2015
After three years of citizen engagement, which led to a Regional Growth Framework for the Charlotte region, the CONNECT Our Future initiative moves into implementation, including a set of 31 quality-of-life indicators, now available online.
Dec 05, 2014
We know Charlotte is growing, but where do all these new residents come from? Interactive maps and charts let you explore the answer.  
Sep 22, 2014
This installment of our series of planner interviews heads to Iredell County, where Matthew Todd describes efforts of industrial recruitment, rural farmland preservation and the challenges of planning in a diverse county that includes suburban Charlotte to the south and rural foothills to the north.
Aug 19, 2014
This installment in our series of planner interviews heads to Rock Hill, where Bill Meyer describes how the city has encouraged a mixed-use development at the old Celanese plant site, revitalized downtown and is looking at its long-range planning. (Photo: Nancy Pierce)
Aug 12, 2014
Could downtown Cornelius one day be home to an artsy district like Charlotte’s NoDa or Asheville’s River Arts District? As a tap room prepares to open next month, some local arts supporters are enthusiastic about what they’re calling Old Town Cornelius.
Jul 23, 2014
If Charlotte is a city of neighborhoods, what happens when almost 20 of those neighborhoods spend a half-day at a retreat to encourage goal-setting? (Photo: Mary Newsom)
Jul 15, 2014
Salisbury hopes to draw new residents to downtown, a key to increasing the customer base for stores and restaurants, says Salisbury Planning Director Janet Gapen. The city's other big push: remaking some streets so they are safer for pedestrians. (Photo: Nancy Pierce)
Jun 19, 2014
PlanCharlotte kicks off an occasional series of conversations with planners around the metro region. The first visit is with Keith Wolf of Albemarle, a town dealing with slow population growth. (Photo: Chuck McShane) 
Jun 04, 2014
It's hard to know which of the mountains of housing statistics really matter. To me, two important sets of numbers unlock the story. Commentary from Ken Szymanski. (Photo: Melissa Currie)
Apr 30, 2014
One year after a nonprofit group took over a neglected corner of Garinger High's back lot, the grand opening of the Friendship Gardens Urban Farm welcomed the neighborhood, the school and local food enthusiasts to a celebration. (Photo: Marla J. Ehlers)
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)