Reader engagement: Nominate places you'd like to imagine transformed

When a place needs a design makeover

A block along Central Avenue in Plaza Midwood, after an imagined makeover. Image:

Imagine a spot in your city or town that you think needs a makeover – only instead of adding a new haircut and stylish clothes, you add trees, sidewalk cafes, bicycle lanes or parks.

PlanCharlotte, with urban designers Keihly Moore and Alex Borisenko, invites you, the public, to nominate places in the Charlotte region that can be improved with some urban design magic.

Moore and Borisenko, both of whom live in Charlotte and work at The Lawrence Group in Davidson, have created a website that shows how simple changes can dramatically improve places. For instance, the image atop this article shows how a sidewalk in the Plaza-Central business district could be made more attractive with the addition of street trees, on-street parking to buffer the sidewalk from traffic, and some outdoor dining tables. At right is the "before" image the designers started with.

To celebrate the second anniversary of the launching of in March 2012, we’re beginning a new feature, called Complete Blocks. That’s the name Moore and Borisenko have given their website:, which will propose a series of urban design retrofits, many nominated by readers.

It combines the idea of complete streets (streets designed for access, comfort, and safety for all users, not just motor vehicles) and the Better Block project, which seeks community input and energy to revitalize neighborhoods, block by block.

“We hope that with the imagery generated, ideas can start flowing to improve places with simple fixes,” they write.

Another example, shown below: the section of East Seventh Street between McDowell Street and Kings Drive, where Seventh crosses over Little Sugar Creek and the I-277/U.S. 74 interchange. Today it’s nothing but concrete, with no protection for bicycles and speeding cars nipping at the heels of pedestrians. Their proposal: widen the sidewalk and add a bicycle lane to both buffer pedestrians and provide a dedicated space of pavement for bicycles.

Here’s how you can nominate places in your town or neighborhood for some urban design makeover magic:

  • If possible, take a “Before” photo.
  • It isn’t necessary but if you like, create your own vision for an improvement, using tools such as Photoshop, sketching or collage.

Then submit your “before” photo (and the “after” image, if you have one) or just your suggestion, in one of several ways:

  • Email with “Nominated for a makeover” in the subject line.
  • Or visit the Complete Blocks website here and add your suggested location (and suggested improvements) to the map. Watch the video if you need instructions for adding spots to the map.

More examples of urban makeovers, all from Complete Blocks

Seventh Street bridge, uptown Charlotte

Add a crosswalk on South Church Street, beside Romare Bearden Park