Planning & design

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2020: Four plans coming together next year will guide growth for a generation

Participants left sticky notes with their desires for Charlotte's center city neighborhoods at a recent event. Responses included a transit hub, more affordable housing and more parks. Photo: Ely Portillo Next year’s news cycle is already looking pretty crowded, between big-ticket events like the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, the summer Olympics in Tokyo and, of course, the 2020 presidential, gubernatorial and congressional elections.  But if there weren’t so much else going on, 2020 might be known as something else in Charlotte: The Year of the Plan.

Charlotte is planning a new vision for center city. How’d we do on the last one?

Charlotte Center City Partners' 2020 Vision Plan was adopted in 2011. Planning is underway for the next vision plan, to go through 2040. Photo: Center City Partners 2020 plan cover. Charlotte is a city that loves big plans and heady visions. And since the 1960s, making a new plan for the city’s center has been the most regularly repeated tradition in Charlotte visions. Last week, Charlotte Center City Partners formally kicked off their next planning effort, meant to guide the development of uptown, South End and the neighborhoods just west of Charlotte for the next two decades.

Charlotte’s torn down a lot of old buildings. But one type has staying power.

Optimist Hall, a food hall and Duke Energy Innovation Center, is in a reused mill that dates to 1891. 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. 

Why do old places matter? A Mecklenburg native explores the question.

Piazza Navona in Rome. Credit: Paul Edmondson/National Trust for Historic Preservation Why do we care about old places, and why should we work to preserve them? A Huntersville native and prominent national preservationist takes a look at those questions through a lens that stretches from Eastland Mall to the historic wonders of Rome. 

(Almost) everything you ever wanted to know about TOD but were afraid to ask

Light rail and TOD development make their mark in University City. From this intersection to Uptown by rail takes about 20 minutes. Photo by Nancy Pierce. 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. 

A builder’s perspective: Housing affordability is about more than subsidies

Construction on a new, luxury apartment building in Dilworth. Photo: Nancy Pierce. Charlotte has a problem with housing affordability for many of its citizens. But the solution is more complicated and nuanced than just putting more money into subsidies. The housing affordability problem is primarily a result of the combination of two basic factors: It is getting more and more expensive to develop and operate housing, while at the same time, many families don’t have enough income to meet the required prices associated with these higher costs.  

Turning to a board game for insights on planning Charlotte’s growth

Novel Stonewall Station construction 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. 

Want to know why developers are embracing walkable urbanism? Follow the money.

A Charlotte City Walk in the Belmont Neighborhood. Three structure demonstrate the changes in Belmont: From left: new affordable housing apartments, historic neighborhood music venue now a private residence, a new large house. These are on Harrill Street. Photo: Nancy Pierce. 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. 

How should Charlotte grow? Decades-old study points to some lessons worth remembering.

The cover of a 1955 report that raised some of the same questions about Charlotte's growth we're still asking today. 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.

From Ballantyne to SouthPark to University City, the suburbs want to be more like the city

"Ballantyne Reimagined" seeks to redevelop an office park into a mixed-use hub of activity. 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?