• Part 3: Burnishing the Urban Institute’s reputation, one plan at a time

    When Bill McCoy replaced Jim Clay as director in 1985, UNC Charlotte’s Urban Institute got a seasoned political scientist who knew the region, the university and the institute itself.    More than that, McCoy was adept at making connections – with academics, CEOs, farmers, small-town politicians. McCoy has a talent “for walking into a room, introducing himself, and engendering trust,” says Owen Furuseth, a retired UNC Charlotte geography professor. “There’s no ivory tower, no pretense.” 
  • Part 2: How the Urban Institute changed Charlotte

    Today, amid countless mixed-use projects in Charlotte, the development known as University Place seems unremarkable - perhaps even outdated. But in the early 1980s, when the city’s uptown died after 5 p.m. and shopping malls were everything, the planning that produced University Place – higher density, with a mix of housing, shops, restaurants and a hotel – was unknown in Charlotte. The venture, spearheaded by the Urban Institute, remains the boldest in its history. 
  • The UNC Charlotte campus in 1969 was outside the city limits, on what was recently farmland, and far more rural than urban. It was an audacious location to found an "urban institute." Photo: UNC Charlotte archives

    The Urban Institute turns 50, Part 1: Urban studies on a rural campus

    In 1970, when UNC Charlotte formally launched its Urban Institute, the campus had just nine academic buildings. Cows grazed the surrounding pastures and, on at least one occasion, ventured onto athletic fields.  It wasn’t an obvious locale for urban studies, particularly since the young campus was outside the city.
  • A worker loads food at the Sandhills AGInnovation Center, serving rural farmers east of Charlotte. Photo: Nancy Pierce

    The urban-rural workforce connection

    There’s a not-too-surprising insight about how the labor market is changing across the Carolinas Urban-Rural Connection region, which became clearer from real-time commuter data: out-of-county commuting rates are rising. Many more people work in a different county from where they live. 
  • Drowning Creek, with its distinctive tea-colored water, flows into the Lumber River. Photo: Crystal Cockman.

    Preserving a 'black water' river east of Charlotte: Drowning Creek

    In the far southeastern tip of Montgomery County, where Moore, Richmond and Montgomery counties all converge, a stream with an evocative name flows: Drowning Creek.  Drowning Creek is a high quality stream, which means it has little pollution and good aquatic diversity. The creek flows southward into the Lumber River, which was originally called Drowning Creek. 
  • Construction on the Blue Line extension from uptown to UNC Charlotte. Photo: Nancy Pierce

    The Charlotte region just inched closer to its first regional transit plan

    Charlotte officials moved one step closer to a regional transit plan this week, approving an agreement to hire a consultant and craft a vision for the city and a dozen surrounding counties.
  • A rendering of the Kannapolis ballpark under construction on the site of a former textile mill. Officials expect it to open in April 2020. Courtesy Kannapolis.

    Baseball as a redevelopment strategy? Three cities pin their hopes on it

    In the wake of manufacturing-based economies that once formed the basis for much of the region’s prosperity, three cities in the Carolinas Urban-Rural Connection study area are hoping the crack of a bat will give them a second chance.  Gastonia and Kannapolis were once regional textile powerhouses, while High Point remains an important player in the furniture market. They’re all investing tens of millions of dollars in new, minor league baseball stadium meant to spur adjacent redevelopment and draw people back downtowns that have been hollowed out by the departures of major employers and retailers.
  • Emma Hendel, who co-owns Fair Share Farm in Pfafftown, NC, with her husband Elliot Seldner, working at a food stand. Photo courtesy Fair Share Farm.

    Farm-to-table: A trendy-but-tenuous urban-rural connection

    It’s Monday, and farmer Isaac Oliver begins his week at the computer.  Out on their 72-acre Harmony Ridge Farms in Tobaccoville, Isaac and dad Kevin raise ducks, harvest eggs and grow produce. At the start of each week, Isaac emails his list of available products to nearly 70 restaurants in Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Raleigh and Durham. Over the next few days, chefs text or email him what they want. “A restaurant in Charlotte orders 20 ducks every week and a lot of our eggs are on standing order, but otherwise, it’s week-to-week,” Isaac said. 
  • Mapping out Charlotte’s future: Streets plan accounts for more than cars

    Charlotte planners are trying to change the city’s decades-long focus on building streets solely for cars with an effort to map and plan for future bicycle lanes, expanded sidewalks and more accommodations for alternative ways of getting around like scooters. The first phase of that effort — mapping and planning for the streets along the Blue Line — is nearing completion, with Charlotte City Council expected to adopt the plans Oct. 28. After that, city planners will expand the planning effort to streets along the future Gold Line streetcar and Silver Line light rail corridors, then citywide.
  • Mike Vaughn owns Great Falls Adventures. Here, he guides a tour of Stumpy Pond. Great Falls, S.C. and Badin, N.C., are both hoping to draw visitors, investment and economic revival with ecotourism and paddling on the rivers that flow past what were once thriving textile and steel towns. Photo: Nancy Pierce

    'A wilderness experience': Do rivers hold the key to rebirth for these towns?

    Where the hard rock of the Piedmont gives way to the sandy Coastal Plain, two company towns that lost their companies are looking for economic revival to the rivers that put them on the map. Great Falls in South Carolina and Badin in North Carolina grew up along the geologic fall line beside wild, majestic stretches of whitewater that entrepreneurs harnessed for electricity and for industry, a quintessential American story retold up and down the East Coast in the early 1900s. Now, years after the textile mills in Great Falls quit spinning on the Catawba River and the aluminum smelter in Badin shut its furnaces on the Yadkin, both towns hope to reinvent themselves with a new kind of industry: ecotourism.