Charlotte leaders head to Copenhagen

Four Charlotte-area leaders will head to Copenhagen, Denmark, next month on a study tour. Image: Wikimedia Commons/Heb

How did Copenhagen become an international model of urbanism? Four leaders from Charlotte and Mecklenburg County government, philanthropy and real estate will find out next month on a six-day study trip.

Brian Collier from the Foundation For The Carolinas, Assistant Mecklenburg County Manager Leslie Johnson, at-large City Council member Vi Lyles and Crescent Communities CEO Todd Mansfield, will travel to Copenhagen Aug. 23-29 along with teams and individuals from eight other cities.

The trip, sponsored by the 8-80 Cities and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, will include a master class at architect Jan Gehl’s studio. Gehl is renown for designing  vibrant and walkable urban spaces.

The Charlotte group will meet with public officials in Copenhagen and take a day trip to Malmo, Sweden. Malmo, once an industrial port, has in recent years transformed into a high-tech hub.

Cities were selected after the 8-80 Cities Doable City Forum in Chicago in June. That forum focused on practical efforts to improve public spaces and increase residents’ happiness. Judges picked the Charlotte team in part to build on the place-making work of the Charlotte Chamber’s recent trip to Minneapolis.

Teams from Detroit, Lexington, Ky., San Jose, Calif., and St. Paul, Minn., will join, along with individuals from Akron, Ohio, Columbus, Ga., Macon, Ga., and Miami. 

"The Chicago 8-80 conference sparked some renewed interest in making Charlotte a more bikeable and pedestrian friendly city," said Knight Foundation Program Manager Susan Patterson. "How that manifests itself, I don't know yet. We're in the process of exploring possibilities."

The Knight Foundation has funded many recent projects related to urban development and public spaces. This May in Charlotte, the Knight Foundation sponsored a public screening and discussion of a documentary about the Gehl group, The Human Scale. Earlier this month, a team of urban leaders met uptown to discuss the city’s civic spaces.

And in June, the foundation paid to send 10 Charlotte and N.C. residents and government staff to the 8-80 Cities Doable City Forum in Chicago. (Disclosure: UNC Charlotte Urban Institute Associate Director Mary Newsom was one of those attendees.)